You can see quite a few bi-national Ice Dance and Pair Skating couples in the world of Figure Skating, however, Russian Ice Dancers Tiffani Zagorski/Jonathan Guerreiro probably set the record when it comes to a multi-national background: Tiffani is originally British, then first moved to France to train and compete before coming to Russia. Jonathan’s mother is Russian and his father is Portuguese, but he was born in Australia as his parents were working there. He then moved with his family to Russia to pursue his skating career. So that makes five countries: Russia, Great Britain, France, Australia and Portugal. “I think with the two of us combined you don't get more nationalities,” Zagorski joked. “If you count backgrounds, you've got also Polish and Irish.”
The Skaters feel that they benefit from this influence from different cultures. “They always say, the kids that have the opportunity to grow up in two different countries have an interesting view, a different perspective on life,” Guerreiro said. “Maybe that kind of translates also to what we do on the ice.” Zagorski agreed: “I think it just brings a different spice to everything, even just in the way that we connect to each other. Having trained in different countries and the opportunity to see so many different cultures gives you a broader perspective on things. We have maybe a different way of interpreting different things. And we have just our own style and energy.”
Their positive mindset helped the Ice Dancers to navigate through the challenging 2020/21 season and they feel like they managed it well, even though they both caught Covid-19. Zagorski/ Guerreiro won the silver medal at the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating - Rostelecom Cup and at the Russian National Championships and placed 10th at the ISU World Figure Skating Championships 2021. “The pause with the first wave of the pandemic gave Tiffani especially a great chance to take care of her body and fix these injuries,” Jonathan shared. “It also gave time to really kind of take a break from what you do as a routine and not learn to love what you're doing again, but to re-evaluate, what you doing, why you’re doing it? For us keeping both programs was interesting. We were able to really venture out and make them much stronger.” The Channel One Team Cup in Moscow was another experience the couple enjoyed. “It was an amazing opportunity to bring a bit of a different range of people to Figure Skating. A lot of people that would never follow skating went and watched it and it was really a big thing actually in Russia,” he explained.
Zagorski/Guerreiro concluded their season at the ISU World Figure Skating Championship that was another highlight for them. “Everybody was waiting so much for it to happen and a lot of our fellow athletes didn't have the opportunity to compete. Everybody was in different places with their training and with the quarantine, I think everybody just came together to celebrate a great event,” Jonathan noted. “People didn't quite know how it was going to work, but the ISU put together an amazing event together with the Swedish Federation and everybody felt protected and safe. Honestly, as cheesy as it might sound, it was a celebration of Figure Skating. I am grateful that this was able to happen and hopefully, this season everybody stays safe and everybody is able to have all of those events,” he continued.
“The whole of last season, was not your typical pre-Olympic season when most people are all focused on getting ready, preparing themselves mentally,” Tiffani added. “Last season gave us a different perspective and I think everyone's probably coming into the season with a much more enthusiastic view on actually being able to compete, hoping that all Grand Prix and everything will happen. I think that it just gave that kind of pause that some people really needed and didn't know they needed.”
By now the focus is on the Olympic season. Zagorski/Guerreiro went to Great Britain in July to work with ISU Lifetime Achievement winner and Ice Dance legend Christopher Dean on their new Free Dance. The Skaters had already worked with him in the previous years. It was not so easy to get to Great Britain, though. First Guerreiro got sick with Covid-19 for the second time end of June and quarantined for two weeks. When travelling to England, the Skaters had to observe another mandatory quarantine before they were able to get out on to the ice. “Basically I didn't skate for almost three weeks,” Jonathan recalled. “Then we made the program with Chris. I was slowly getting back into the rhythm. Obviously, we are professional athletes, we're not just doing this for fun. You have to take care of your body and everything has to have the correct plan. Everything has to be done at a certain amount of time. We're not rushing, we're trying to make sure that we are prepared for when we need to compete. At the moment we may be a little bit behind but we're doing everything we can and most importantly, the material that we have we are very happy with.”
The ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating - Rostelecom Cup silver medalists want to keep the music still secret, but they are ready to share some information. “I can say that we stuck to something that we feel comfortable with in terms of style, but it's still something new. We ventured out of the box but not entirely,” Zagorski said. “Chris envisioned us in different ways and I think this year he's been able to - as he said - capture our essence,” Guerreiro added. “He really felt that we hit the nail on the head. This year, there's not just the skating, not just the music, not just our interpretation, but we've built in a story line within the four minutes of our performance and for us that is actually very unusual. We usually have our own story line in our head of what we are trying to project to each other and to the public, but it's very abstract. Here, we actually want people to understand. It will be very interesting.”
For their Rhythm Dance, Zagorski/Guerreiro worked for the first time with a new choreographer, Russian Hip Hop dancer Andrei Sherstnikov. “Let's put it this way - I don't think anybody is expecting what we are going to pull out. We just had this idea, we went with it and it worked,” Tiffani said. “Everybody was kind of been venturing around the idea of Hip Hop and when we heard Street Dance, we had an idea for a concept that we really wanted to do for a long time. So we decided to bring it to life this year,” Jonathan continued. “Our new choreographer is amazing, we love to work with him.”
The Ice Dancers plan to debut their new programs at the Russian test skates on September 11 and 12 in Tcheliabinsk. Before going to their ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating events Skate America and Internationaux de France, they want to compete in one or two international events to get going for the season.