Tiffany Scott and Rusty Fein have a lot in common. They’re both serious university students; they’ve both trained near one another for years; they both jump counterclockwise; and they both were National Collegiate champions in singles. So it’s not too much of a surprise that they ended up skating together as a pair. But they took vastly different routes to their partnership.
Scott began skating when she was four because both of her brothers were on the ice playing hockey. She wanted to play too, but her parents insisted that she take figure skating lessons instead. After 15 years in singles, Scott decided “I took it as far as I could and then decided to try something new. I wanted something more thrilling, so I decided to try pairs.” So she began skating with Philip Dulebohn in 1996. The pair won the U. S. pairs championship in 2003, placed third at Four Continents in 2000, and was seventh at Worlds and 13th at the Olympics in 2002.
Fein was a late bloomer, not skating until he was eleven, and even then it was from an accident of nature. “The lake near my house froze that winter and school was out,” Fein recalled. “So I borrowed the figure skates that my sister received for Christmas and went out on the lake to try skating. The only other alternative to risking my life on the thin lake ice in white skating boots was reading from the collection of Harvard Classics, as television was prohibited and friends were inaccessible due to the snow. That may be indicative of my affinity for literature. My sister never did use the skates. I liked skating so much that I started training six days a week.” He landed a triple salchow within three years and had all the jumps up to the triple lutz. Fein competed in singles for several years, finishing fifth in juniors at U. S. Nationals in 2001 and winning the National Collegiate Championships in 2000, but never reached Nationals as a senior without a triple axel.
After knee surgery in the fall of 2004, Fein knew he couldn’t keep competing in singles because his knee wouldn’t take jumping as much so he looked for another option. After U. S. Nationals in January 2005, Scott was also adrift when Dulebohn retired from competition and went into coaching full time, having accomplished all that he could in the sport. Scott wasn’t sure what direction she should take.
Both Fein and Scott were training near one another, Fein at the Philadelphia Skating Club & Humane Society and Scott at the University of Delaware. Both were studying at area universities, where they are both seniors. Scott is studying nutrition at the University of Delaware, while Fein is at the University of Pennsylvania with a major in economics and a minor in history with a plan to become either a lawyer or investment banker after going to graduate school. During the summer of 2004, Fein had already asked Scott, who coaches skating for about two hours a day, about the possibility of learning pairs moves from her.
When he found out that her partnership with Dulebohn had ended, Fein came up with a unique way of asking to be her new partner. “I wrote a ten page proposal, entitled ‘On Continuing Tiffany’s Success’, outlining the advantages of Tiffany’s continuing her pairs skating career and the reasons why I would be a good partner,” he explained. “I researched everything including partners dissolution rates and the fact that we both are lefties for jumping and presented it to her.” “I thought it was nice that he put so much work into the proposal,” Scott noted. “I figured he would put the same kind of effort into skating. My only question was how soon he could learn all the pairs moves.”
“We started out doing five pairs sessions a day, forty minutes each,” she continued. “It took two months to get Rusty through all the pairs tests. The only time we took off was for my wedding and a short honeymoon before my husband went back to medical school.” The couple still does five sessions a day, plus another two hours a day of off ice training. “We don’t plan to lessen the schedule until all our elements are on a par with the other pairs,” Fein added. Ron Ludington coaches the couple.
“Rusty’s very willing to learn,” Scott stated. “He devotes all of his energies into skating. When he goes home, he’s watching videos and doing research on new moves. Every day, he has new ideas for upgrading our levels and using the new system. He’s very focused and driven.” “Tiffany’s got a lot of experience and she’s both a hard worker and able to deal with the frustration of starting with a novice like me,” Fein said. “We’re trying to be trailblazers in using the new judging system because most teams are doing the same things. Once we learn something, we’re constantly trying to make each move better.”
The couple started out at the Liberty Open, competing only in the short program, where they finished second. Next, they finished fifth at the Indy Challenge, the premier pairs event during the summer season. That got them an assignment to the Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany, where they finished fifth against a strong field. They won the Eastern Sectionals and are headed to Nationals. “We’ve been very pleased with our results overall and with how well we’ve been received,” Fein stated.
That’s given them hope of making it to the Olympics in 2006. “It’s a long shot to make the Olympics but we won’t be crushed if we don’t go,” Scott said. “But we definitely want to be in the top four at Nationals. My skating has come a long way artistically in the last few years. That’s my main reason to keep skating. I want to continue at that high level.” “There’s nothing wrong with having a dream,” Fein added. “We want to see if we can continue to improve and have an impact at Nationals. But most importantly, we want our skating to be considered seriously, as seriously as we consider it, by judges and spectators alike. We realize there has been immeasurable skepticism of our partnership from the start. But we have beaten many of the odds thus far, and hope to continue doing so.”
Selecting the music for the programs for the new team was a very complex process, Fein stated. “We were very meticulous in our search,” he noted. “We were looking for something different and provocative that would distinguish us from other pairs. I had heard some music that Surya Bonaly used in 1994 and had researched it for a potential short program. But it’s hard to find great skating music in the United States and I eventually had to get it from a place in Denmark.” The short program music, “Cries of Beirut”, turned out to be ideal for their short program, which was choreographed by Gwendal Peizerat.
“We wanted something powerful and strong for the long program,” Scott continued. “We want to be known as a powerful team, so we were looking for something that help us skate with power. But we didn’t want something that was overly used. We were still looking for music the day that our choreographer came with the basic choreography for our long program when we finally found the right piece.” Shanti Rushpaul choreographed their long program, which is skated to Verdi’s “Force of Destiny”.
Off ice, Scott said, “I like to go see my husband at medical school in Philadelphia. On weekends I like to do landscaping and work in the yard at our house. I also like to do a lot of arts and crafts.” She also has two new kittens to play with. Fein does a lot of reading, plays chess, and spends a lot of time working with the University of Pennsylvania Figure Skating Club, of which he was the founder.