An Aussie in Moscow

Articles, Articles by Barry Mittan

Ekaterina Riazanova and Jonathan Guerreiro

It’s not often that you see a skater from Australia in the top ten at an ISU championship but Sydney-born Jonathan Guerreiro was in that elite group at the 2008 World Junior Figure Skating Championships with his partner, Ekaterina Riazanova, both 17. And they were competing for Russia!

The couple finished sixth at Junior Worlds, capping a successful season in which they won a bronze medal at Russian Nationals, silver medals at the ISU Junior Grand Prixs in Miercurea Ciuc, Romania and Chemnitz, Germany and placed eighth at the ISU Junior Grand Prix Final. In their first season in 2006-07, the dancers placed fifth in Russia, fourth at the Golden Lynx and ninth at the Harghita Cup.

The unusual pairing was possible because Guerreiro has dual-citizenship for both Russia and Australia. His mother, Svetlana Liapina, is Russian. She won a bronze medal in ice dancing at World Juniors in 1984 with Gorsha Sur and a silver the following year. His father is from Portugal and was a tour manager for Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean for over eight years.

Guerreiro traveled with his parents on the tour. “I was too little to remember it,” he said. “However I’ve seen a lot of pictures from then and had a nice email from Jayne and Chris after the Junior Worlds.” He was born in Sydney in 1991 while his parents were working there and remained until the family moved to Moscow in 2005.

Guerreiro began skating when he was six, while he was still in Sydney. “I always have been around ice skating,” he remembered. “My mother used to take me when I was little and I loved it. I played other sports for fun but ice skating is the only serious sport I took up.” He never competed in singles. “I always wanted to do dance,” he explained. “I was never interested in singles.”

Riazanova started when she was five. “I went once to ice skate open air with a friend and that was the start,” she recalled. She competed in singles when young but never placed higher than fourth in a district competition. “My coaches said I was more suited to dance,” she added. Both skaters started dancing at eleven.

She first competed with Kiriil Ivakhnenko, placing sixth at the open Moscow championships four years ago. Guerreiro previously competed in Australia with Rachael Reading, placing first at the junior level state championships. In Russia, he formerly danced with Daria Panfilova for two years, winning two regional competitions. Riazanova and Guerreiro started skating together two years ago. “Our coaches suggested I try out with Katie because she seemed more suited to me,” Guerreiro explained. “Katie and I skated in the same group.”

“We started skating together in the summer of the 2006-2007 season,” Guerreiro stated. “We have been very good friends since I first came to Moscow with my former Australian partner, Rachael Reading, and since then we have been very good friends. And when our coaches decided it was best for us to team up, we were both ecstatic.”

Elena Kustarova and Svetlana Alexeeva coach the dancers, who train in Moscow. They train for three to four hours a day, five days a week and have ballet a couple of times a week. They also run and swim.

Kustarova choreographs the couple’s dances. “Our coaches pick the music because it suites our styles and what we want to express.” Guerreiro said. “We both agree that our favorite style would be romantic and drama. However we make the most of each program we have and love every one of them.”

Last season, the couple did a gypsy dance to music from the soundtrack of “Tabor Goes to Heaven” for their original dance. Their Latin free dance was to “Perfidia.” For next season, Guerreiro said, “Our original is based on the 40′s with a blend of swing and our theme for the free dance is that famous English spy.” They will be using “Goldeneye” from the James Bond film of the same name.

Off ice, both skaters like to listen to rhythm and blues music. Riazanova also likes hip-hop. Neither plays an instrument, but Guerreiro would like to learn the piano.

To relax, both skaters enjoy going out with friends. Both of them also like to use the Internet for messaging and watching movies. Both of them like comedy movies while Riazanova also likes horror films. They also have a website at http://www.ice-dance.com/riazanova-guerreiro/.

Riazanova likes to read modern romances while he prefers fantasy books like the Harry Potter series and some teenage books. Both of them watch the Russian versions of Skating with the Stars and similar shows. “I love them,” Riazanova said. “It’s a must,” Guerreiro agreed. Riazanova, who also enjoys travel and photography, has three pet cats.

Guerreiro also likes going to the beach He was involved in football, swimming and cricket when he was in school and now plays soccer, basketball and table tennis. Riazanova limited her off ice sports to volleyball.

Guerreiro is unsure where he’ll reside after he finishes skating. “It depends first how my skating career unfolds,” he said. “I still have friends and family back in Sydney so I will definitely go back for a visit, but it will all depend on what I will be doing Russia is so much busier than Australia. Australia is quiet and peaceful. But I enjoy living in both countries.”

Riazanova is at university studying physical culture. “But skating is my number one priority,” she said. Guerreiro is a junior in high school, where his favorite subjects are biology and languages. Neither skater has developed any firm plans for the future.

Both skaters indicated that it was too early in their careers to list specific goals. “Our goals are to skate our best skate through of each dance and improve from each competition,” Guerreiro said.

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