Here's why figure skating is definitely not your average nine-to-five job

Oksana Kazakova (SUPPLIED)

If you have been lucky enough to see the world-class ice shows Mamma Mia on Ice and Peter Pan on Ice that the Dubai Events and Promotions Establishment (formerly the DSF Office) has brought to the emirate then the triple flips, twists, death spirals and layback spins performed by the figure skaters must have taken your breath away.

Well, it is not surprising as most of the players in these two ice shows are professional ice skaters who have represented their country at national and international championships. Some of them have also participated in the Olympics and brought glory to their country.

Emirates Business talked to them to find out a little more about the lives of these stars of the ice who have dared to follow their heart and are living their dreams.

Oksana Kazakova


Nationality: Russian

Medals won: Gold at the 1996 European Championship and Gold at the 1998 Olympics

Show: Mama Mia on Ice

Role: Sophie

Kazakova, born in St Petersburg in Russia, began skating at the age of four-and-a-half. The only child of a Russian armyman, Kazakova was introduced to the ice-rink by her mother who thought that it would be a good exercise for her daughter.

Little did she know that her little daughter would become so enamoured by the sport that she would one day lead her country to glory and win the highest honour in sports, a gold medal in the 1998 Olympics in pair figure skating.

Kazakova told Emirates Business: "I just loved the sport from the word go. For the first few years I used to skate for fun, but later on I decided to get into competitions."

By the age of seven, she was participating in figure skating competitions for singles and for pairs at 13.

At 22, Kazakova won the coveted gold medal at the 1998 Olympics with her partner Artur Dmitriev.

Talking about the experience, Kazakova said: "We used to practice two hours off the ice and three to four hours on the ice. Off the ice it used to be warm-ups, lifts, jumps, choreography, ballet moves and on the ice it used to be new steps, elements, jumps, leaps, spirals, throws, twists and lifts.

"The fact that I was working with Champions on Ice at that time helped a lot because they have the best figure skating coaches and choreographers with them and I gained a lot from my association with them.

"As all I ever wanted to do in my life was to do figure skating it was a good career move for me. For the Olympics, I and Dmitriev were coached by Tamara Moskvina and we trained at Yubileiny Sports Palace. Our choreographers were Alexander Matveev, David Audish and Moskvina.

"All our hard work was worth it as I felt that I had achieved something," she said.

Kazakova has been with Champions on Ice for more than 12 years now and even though she sometimes misses those days when she was the pride of her country and her name was on the lips of every Russian, she likes her work in the theatre on ice as it is different from championships and is more fun.

"Professional figure skating for a live audience on any day is better than skating for the judges. It gives us a lot of pleasure and freedom and I just love the interaction with the audience."

However, Kazakova wishes that her government had done something more for her than just give her a medal and some money.

"Even though it was a great honour getting a medal and prize money from the President of Russia, I do wish they had done something more for me. I do have that feeling deep down within," she said in a retrospective tone.

Future plans: Kazakova wants to skate for a few years more and then settle down and look after her husband and child. She also wants to coach young children.

Romain Gazave


Nationality: French

Medals won: Bronze at the 1994 International Grand Prix of Slovakia

Show: Mama Mia on Ice

Role: Father of Sophie, Bill Andersson

Gazave, born in Bourg Saint Maurice in the French Alps, first set foot on the ice rink at the age of five. But Gazave, who also taught himself to play the piano at six, became hooked to figure skating only when he saw champion Canadian figure skater Kurt Browning doing his moves on the ice rink.

Gazave told Emirates Business: "I was totally mesmerized by the leaps, twists and jumps that Kurt Browning was doing on the ice rink as I stood there watching him perform. It was the most beautiful thing ever and then on I decided to become a champion figure skater too."

Born to a doctor-nurse couple, Gazave moved to the regional sport centre of Annecy, at 12, where he trained for three years. He obtained his free skating gold medal at 15, and spent a year between Amiens and Dunkerque in France, becoming a member of the national team.

He won a silver medal at the French junior national championship and his last five years as a competitor were spent at the national Olympic training Centre of Colombes and won a bronze medal in the International Grand Prix of Slovakia.

"In the skating world it is like winning the world cup of football and I was very proud of my achievement," he said.

However, after that he decided to stop competitive figure skating and concentrate on his other passion piano.

He started taking piano lessons at the Cortot music school of Paris.

Gazave said: "I loved both music and figure skating so I decided to fulfil both my passions and started doing a show where I could play the piano and also figure skate in the same act."

And the rest, as they say, is history. Since then Gazave has performed around the world, for many big show productions such as Art On Ice, Stars On Ice and TV shows such as Buzda Dans and got rave reviews for them.

"There is a lot of difference in performing for the judges in a competition and performing for a live audience. It is more enthralling as you get to interact with them, you get their admiration and it is more fulfilling for me as an artist."   

Talking about how he happened to perform for Champions On Ice, Gazave said: "The producer of Champions On Ice, Sergio Canovas, used to come to France when I was a teenager as he was the agent of a famous skater at that time. I met him then and we became good friends as he was a skater too. He was an interesting combination of businessman and figure-skater. So when he asked me to work with him I agreed because I love what they do and also really appreciate the fact that I am working with someone who understands figure skating."

Future plans: Gazave wants to open his own production company and create his own show that will have ballet, music and figure skating.

Andrey Chuvilyaev


Nationality: Russian

Medals won: Gold at the Student Olympics in Poland and Italy

Show: Peter Pan on Ice

Role: Captain Hook

Chuvilyaev, born to an auditor father and a schoolteacher in Moscow, is a happy man. He became a father just one month ago and is waiting to finish his tour in Dubai so that he can be reunited with his one-month-old daughter.

Chuvilyaev told Emirates Business: "I have been on tour for the past eight months and I just went home for a little while when my daughter was born. I want to finish this tour and go home so that I can hold her again."

Chuvilyaev started skating when he was four at the Spartak sports club. He was a member of the Russian Senior Team for the past eight years, competing in the World and European Championships as well as winning several major National competitions. He won the Student Olympics in Poland and Italy twice.

After deciding to quit competition figure skating, he joined the Wild Rose company three years ago and is happy being part of the company and performing on stage for now but he knows that life holds a lot of promise for him.

Chuvilyaev said: "In Russia, figure skating is a big thing. The government does a lot to support us and as a coach you get paid very well. After I won Student Olympics in Poland and Italy twice, I was approached by sports companies to endorse their products. But as by that time I had decided to quit competitive sports, I turned the offer down. For now I am happy with what I am doing and I want to work in these ice shows at least for many more years before I try my hand at something else."

Future plans: Even though right now he is happy with what he is doing and wants to keep performing in shows for as long as he can.


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