Thursday, February 11, 2010

Savchenko, Szolkowy struggle to revive dreams

If Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy win gold in Vancouver, they will do it their way: with very little comment and without pandering to the press or judges.

After the 2008 and 2009 world champions had their first practice on Olympic ice, they avoided journalists gathered in the mixed zone and hastily exited through a back door.

Savchenko and Szolkowy are not the only skaters who eschew the media, but their domineering coach, Ingo Steuer, is famous for his lack of cooperation before, during and after events.

"Please understand they do not want to answer questions now," said Elke Treitz, vice president of the German Skating Federation and the press contact for German skaters in Vancouver. "They fully concentrate on the competition. Their goal is to win a medal."

Steuer's ill will with both the press and his government's sports officials stems back prior to 2006, when Germany's Olympic committee determined his distant past as an informant for East Germany's Stasi secret police disqualified him from accompanying his skaters to the Torino Olympics. After legal wrangling, the coach prevailed and was on hand for his team's sixth-place finish.

This time around, Savchenko and Szolkowy plan to give just one press conference, to be held at Vancouver's Deutsches Haus (German House), the headquarters of the German National Olympic Committee, sometime this week.

Representatives for the Olympic News Service were able to follow the skaters, and later circulated some information saying they arrived in Vancouver fit.

"We felt well on this Olympic ice during our first practice," Savchenko, 26, said. "The ice quality was good and I like the extremely strong light in the arena.

"We came yesterday from Germany and despite [a 90-minute] delay of the plane and the time difference of nine hours I slept very well."

She likely needs the rest. It's been a nightmare season.

With the successful return of two-time World champions Xue Shen and Hongbo Zhao of China, the Germans have fallen from heavy favorites for Olympic gold to underdogs. The popular Chinese team, winners of Olympic bronze medals in 2002 and 2006, easily surpasses them in both scores and likeability quotient.

Full article.

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