Trifun Zivanovic, who will turn 30 in April, has written himself into the history of skating in many ways. Born in California, Zivanovic skated for the United States until 2001, winning silver and bronze medals at the U.S. Nationals in 1999 and 2000. He also competed at the Four Continents Championships those years, finishing seventh and ninth respectively, and at the 1999 Worlds in Helsinki, finishing 16th.
But after the civil war ended in Yugoslavia, Zivanovic decided to skate for that country, his father’s homeland. Now renamed Serbia and Montenegro, Zivanovic became the country’s first men’s champion, a title he has held for three years. He has also represented the country at the European Championships and Worlds, finishing 21st and 29th respectively in 2004, and moving up to 17th at Europeans in 2005. “I wanted to skate for Serbia since it’s my father’s country,” he said, “and it gives me a clearer path to compete on the international stage of skating. I’m starting something new now for Serbia and hope to go to Torino to springboard more interest in skating in the country. And it’s a thrill for my family to see me on television on Eurosport.”
Although many skaters have competed for more than one country during their careers, Zivanovic is the first skater to compete in both the Europeans and Four Continents Championships. If he reaches his goal of competing at the Olympics in 2006, he will become the only skater ever to compete in every senior-level ISU figure skating championship.
He started skating at the age of seven as a hockey player, a sport he continued to play competitively for more than 10 years. When he was nine, he took a power skating course to improve his hockey skills and added another dimension to his time on the ice. “I played center and was always the fastest player on my hockey team,” he said. “But the coaches told me I was a better skater without the stick and the puck. My mom bribed me with candy and toys to take figure skating lessons and I started to really enjoy it after my first win. I kept doing both until I was 18, and then decided to concentrate on figure skating. You can express yourself better as an individual.”
Zivanovic has worked with some of the best coaches in the United States, including John Nicks, Gary Visconti, and Scott Williams. He is currently working with Hans Mueller and Oksana Grishuk in California. “I’ve been working with Hans as my main coach for over a year now,” he said, “but he’s always worked with me on my jumps.” Zivanovic used to have a quad toe loop in his program, but deleted the jump in recent years. “I just started landing it again this fall after a long layoff, but I’m hoping to have it in my program for Worlds,” he added. “I’m trying to perfect my triple-triple combinations, axel-toe and flip-toe, and I’m trying to do everything for the new Code of Points.”
“I think it’s a good system,” he noted. “Everyone’s got a lot of work to do to get used to it, but it will be good for the sport. The good thing is that the protocol gives you the information to adjust your program based on your scores and enhance the program. I’m working a lot with Oksana to improve my skating skills and step sequences. I’m trying to become a more complete skater. With the new system, there are endless possibilities to learn and do more, to push the envelope of each component of skating.”
Grishuk and Williams choreograph Zivanovic’s programs, which are both new for the 2004-05 season. He is using Bizet’s “March of the Toreadors” for the short, “Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Phantom of the Opera” for the long, and Queen’s “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” for an exhibition program. “I picked the music for all the programs,” he said. “The short strikes a traditional chord with the crowd and the judges. It’s intense but I think I can pull it off. I skated to Phantom in the past and it worked well for me before so I decided to try it again. I can relate to it inside and tell a story for all to enjoy. That works best for me, to have a theme.” Grishuk did the short program and Williams the free skate. “Scott’s a great guy,” Zivanovic stated. “We have a great relationship and since he lives in town, it’s very convenient. We can get together any time to work on moves.”
He also spends part of the year training in Serbia-Montenegro, where he also conducts seminars for young Serbian skaters. “I’m a pioneer in that part of the world,” he stated. “They had never even seen a triple axel or a quad before.” Zivanovic usually trains for thee to five hours a day, five days a week and spends another 12 hours a week coaching other skaters, from children to adults. “I’m teaching more now than I ever have,” he noted. “I have a junior lady, a lot of kids but mostly adults. It’s good to teach different levels of skating. It teaches you to focus more.” He plans to continue a career in coaching after he finishes competing. He also hopes to do more professional shows.
Off ice, Trifun likes to listen to music and work on his collections. “I like all kinds of music,” he said. “It can be anything from oldies to hard core punk. I like the Beach Boys a lot. It reminds me of summer days. I have a huge CD collection and I even dabble in guitar. I love to go to concerts and I’ve seen a lot of bands at club shows.”
With old friends now playing in professional hokey and baseball, Zivanovic has a huge interest in sports collectibles. “My main interests are baseball and hockey,” he said. “I even speculate in it. I have a huge collection of NHL hockey jerseys, both new and vintage. I’ve been collecting sports cards since 1986 and have tens of thousands of them, including a Wayne Gretzky rookie card.” He also collects Star Wars items.
Zivanovic hopes to qualify for the 2006 Olympics at this year’s Worlds, but stated, “I just want to put out the performance I know I can do. I want to enjoy every minute of my skating. Winning an Olympic qualifying spot is an achievable goal if I skate well.”