The real-life story of Elena Berezhnaya, Anton Sikharulidze, and Oleg Shliakhov could easily pass for a fairy tale. It has all the elements: an innocent beginning, jealousy, a climax, and a happy ending.
Elena started out as a talented young skater. She was partnered with Oleg Shliakhov, and the pair showed much promise, becoming the first pairs figure skaters to compete for Latvia. Elena and Oleg also fell in love with each other.
Soon, their relationship began to fall apart. Oleg was enraged when Elena began to become close friends with another skater: Anton. Reportedly, he would also become angry, even violent, if Elena made a mistake in her skating.
Oleg was frustrated with Elena seeing Anton. He brought her back to Latvia in order to train for the 1996 European Championships alone. On January 9th of 1996, Oleg and Elena were practicing side by side camel spins. Somehow, they drifted too close to each other and Oleg's skate blade pierced Elena's skull by accident. She was rushed to the hospital where she underwent surgery to remove bone debris. Because her motor skills had been damaged, Elena's speech was virtually unintelligible.
Elena no longer wanted to skate with Oleg. Her relationship with Oleg was deteriorating; some called Oleg abusive. The accident happened to be the last straw.
Anton, who had broken up with his partner due to a dispute, came to Latvia once he had heard about what had happened. As soon as Elena was well enough to travel, he and coach Tamara Moskvina took her back to St. Petersburg where Elena rehabilitated and cautiously took the ice once again. Slowly at the beginning, she and Anton began training under the supervision of Moskvina.
Even though this story concerning Elena and Anton is dramatic, it's most likely not what they would like to be remembered for. I am sure that they would rather be known for their skating. Elena and Anton have the jumps, throws, lifts, and all of the technical ability of champions, but that's not what sets them apart. They are incredible artists. Elena and Anton have great speed and flow on the ice. When you watch them skate, one of the first things you notice is that they seem to move as one and flow smoothly from one element to the next.
After a few rocky competitions, the new pair's success grew. Just two years after her accident, Elena and Anton won silver medals at the 1998 Nagano Olympic Games and recently became the 1998 World Pairs Champions. No matter what lies in the future for Elena and Anton, they will always be champions in the hearts of their fans.
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