J. Barry Mittan, the Electronic Photojournalist

Soldatova Realizes Mother's Dream by J. Barry Mittan (1999)

When Yulia Soldatova's mother used to skate, she often dreamed of having a daughter who would become a figure skater. With Yulia, her mother's dreams became reality. Her mother started Yulia in lessons when she was only four and still drives her to the rink in Moscow every day, but didn't pressure her to compete. "I was impressed with Katarina Witt as a child, but there wasn't any special time that I decided to compete. I really just like to skate. Actually, I was also a swimmer when I was young and one coach suggested that I be a diver, but I was afraid because it was too high." Diving's loss was skating's gain.

All Russian skaters start as single skaters, but if they cannot progress in jumping, they become pairs skaters or dancers. "I was the last one in my group to do a triple jump," Yulia remembered. "I did a triple salchow when I was 13. If my coach had not taken me for his group, I would have dome pairs since I was small and the pairs only did toe loops and salchows. The triple salchow is my favorite jump. The double axel is the hardest for me and I am not trying a triple axel. I will do a triple-triple combination like last season."

Yulia enjoys training with other top skaters in the group with Elena Tchaikovskaia and Vladimir Kotin. "When one is skating better, it pushes the rest to get better," she said. Every day, Yulia trains for 2-3 hours on ice and an hour off ice doing choreography, balletics, and conditioning. "I used to just jump, but now I'm focusing more on choreography and skating to my music. I like to skate to slow and soft music. The long program ("El Dia de mi Quieras") is something I've wanted to do for a while. For the short program ("Heart in the Arms"), I had something else but I changed it. Usually, my coach finds music and suggests it to me and I choose. Then I work first with my coach on the moves, then with my choreographer for polishing."

The 18-year-old is in her second year at the Institute for Physical Culture, but has no special plans for the future. "It's too far away," she said. But coach Kotin noted that there is and old Russian saying that "only a very bad soldier does not want to be a general," alluding to Yulia's desire to win championships. He said that "Soldatova means soldier in Russian and Yulia is a good fighter when it comes to competition."

Her favorite competition is "Russian Nationals because they are the hardest. The silver medals meant a lot to me." Yulia has finished second the last two years after winning the Junior Worlds in St. John, New Brunswick, Canada in 1997. he also won the 1998 Junior Grand Prix Final, the 1998 Golden Spin of Zagreb, and the 1997 Hungarian Trophy. Last season, Yulia finished second at Europeans and third at the World Championships in Helsinki. "I didn't change when I won the medal at Worlds," she said, "but I like it when someone recognizes me and asks for my autograph."

This season, Soldatova finished second at three Grand Prix events (Skate America, Skate Canada, and the Cup of Russia). She also competed in the Keri Lotion Figure Skating Classic in Orlando and the Evening of Champions at Harvard University to benefit the Jimmy Fund. "I liked the Keri Lotion Classic because it was something different. I was more nervous because it was something new."

Yulia likes to "do other things to get my mind off of skating. I like reading mysteries, especially Sidney Sheldon. Watching television and listening to music. I also read historical books. I don't play other sports, but I like tennis a lot and I'd like to learn how to play." She enjoys holidays everywhere. "I went with my family in the summer to Disney World, Universal Studios, and other tourist highlights. I don't like to go into the sea, but I like to lie in the sun." Yulia collects stuffed animals, especially teddy bears, and has a Siberian longhaired cat named Misha.

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