Elena Berezhnaya

Elena Berezhnaya

Infobox Figure skater
title= Elena Berezhnaya

caption=Sikharulidze and Berezhnaya compete in 2001
country= RUS
dateofbirth= birth date and age|1977|10|11
residence= St. Petersburg
height= 154 cm
partner= Anton Sikharulidze
formerpartner=Oleg Sliakhov (LAT)
formercoach=Tamara Moskvina
skating club= Yubileiny Sport Club
retired= 2002

Elena Viktorovna Berezhnaya ( _ru. Елена Викторовна Бережная) (born October 11, 1977 in Nevinnomyssk, USSR) is a Russian figure skater. She and skating partner Anton Sikharulidze were awarded an Olympic gold medal in pair skating at the 2002 Winter Olympics, which the pair shared with another pair from Canada after a notable judging controversy.


Elena Berezhnaya first began skating at the age of six. She immediately displayed talent, but her hometown of Nevinnomirsk offered little opportunity for advanced level skating. In 1990, her mother sent her to Moscow so that she may have an opportunity to capitalize on her talent. Although a Russian, coaches paired her first with Latvian Oleg Shliakov. Soon after, the two moved and began training in Riga to avoid being overshadowed by the ultra-competitive Moscow school.

The two made a splash at the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, where they finished eighth. According to Berezhnaya, Shliakov was an abusive partner, both physically and emotionally.cite book |last=Goodwin |first=Joy |title=The Second Mark: Courage, Corruption, and the Battle for Olympic Gold |year=2004 |publisher=Simon & Schuster |isbn=074324527X ]

The Latvian federation sent the pair to train with Tamara Moskvina in St. Petersburg at the end of 1995. The change did little to tame Shliakov's temper, and the abuse continued. It was at this time that Berezhnaya met Anton Sikharulidze, who was then skating with Maria Petrova, and the two quickly developed a close friendship. Soon after this, Shliakov and Berezhnaya went back to Riga to train.

In January 1996, Berezhnaya was seriously injured when Shliakov's blade sliced into her skull while the pair were practicing a side-by-side camel spin. Following the accident, which required two surgical operations to remove bone fragments from her brain, Berezhnaya briefly lost the ability to speak. During her hospitalization, Sikharulidze heard of the news, and quickly traveled to Riga to be with her. After several days, Sikharulidze took her back to St. Petersburg where she could begin her rehabilitation.

Berezhnaya recovered. Within a year, with the aid of Tamara Moskvina, Berezhnaya began to skate competitively again, this time paired up with Anton Sikharulidze on the ice. They immediately made an impact on the world scene with their speed, artistry, and elegance. Yet, they experienced a disheartening meltdown at the 1997 World Figure Skating Championships. They were in third after the short program, but fell to ninth after the most disastrous free skate performance of their career.

The pair went into the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan as the favorites to medal, after having won that year's European Championship. The pair had two flawed performances with mistakes. Yet, their error did not place them in poor favor with the judges, and they won a controversial silver medal ahead of the reigning World Champions Mandy Wötzel and Ingo Steuer of Germany.

Over the next four years, Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze established themselves as one of the top teams in the world. In the 1999-2000 season, Berezhnaya tested positive for doping. It was one of the first publicly known doping cases in figure skating. Although it was reported that the result was caused by a simple cold medication, Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze were disqualified from the 2000 European Figure Skating Championships after having placed first and were not allowed to compete for three months.

In the 2001-2002 season, Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze developed a rivalry with Canadians Jamie Salé and David Pelletier. Throughout the season, both pairs had traded first and second place at most of the major competitions, and they figured to be the main contenders for the Olympic gold medal. At the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, both pairs skated flawless short programs, with Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze in 1st and Sale and Pelletier 2nd. During the warm up for the free skate, Sikharulidze and Salé crashed into each other.

During the free skate, Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze skated a good program, with a minor mistake. Four judges awarded the Canadians a first place vote, whereas five had voted for Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze. At the end of the night, Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze were awarded the gold and Sale and Pelletier the silver.

The result sparked perhaps the most famous controversy in Olympic history. The president of the International Skating Union, Ottavio Cinquanta, under extreme pressure from the International Olympic Committee, immediately launched an investigation into a possible judging scandal. It was soon exposed that French judge Marie-Reine Le Gougne admitted that she was intimidated into voting for the Russian pair in exchange for an advantage for the French couple in the ice dancing competition which followed a few days later. The scandal resulted in a second gold medal being awarded to the Canadian pair, and the IOC and ISU decided to declare both pairs as Olympic co-champions.

Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze turned pro after the Olympics, deciding not to compete at the 2002 World Championships.

Elena and British figure skater Steven Cousins welcomed a healthy baby boy named Tristyn on October 6, 2007 in London. The baby weighed 5lb, 13oz.


* due to positive doping test

co-champions with Jamie Salé and David Pelletier


External links

*isu name|id=00000277|name=Yelena Berezhnaya
* [http://www.pairsonice.net/bns/ A Pair of Hearts]

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