J. Barry Mittan, the Electronic Photojournalist

Victor, Viktoria by J. Barry Mittan (1999)

In Russian, Viktoria means victory and 17-year-old Viktoria Volchkova has already achieved many victories in her skating career. Her gold medals include the 1999 Junior Grand Prix Final, the Golden Spin in Zagreb in 1999 and the Ukrainian Souvenir and Grand Prize SNP in both 1997 and 1998. She was second in her first senior Grand Prix competition at Trophee Lalique in Paris in 1999 as well as the 1999 NHK Trophy and the 1998 Finlandia Trophy. Her bronze medals include the 1998 and 1999 World Junior Championships, the 1998 Goodwill Games, the 1999 and 2000 European Championships, and the 1998 and 1999 Russian Nationals. Volchkova finished tenth in her first World Championships in Helsinki in 1999.

"The thing I like most about figure skating is the competitions," Volchkova stated. "It's not hard to be a skater, but the hardest part is to cope with yourself while competing. Sometimes I get very tired from practicing and competing and want to rest for a few days, but then I want to go back because I miss it so much."

Viktoria began skating when she was six after her parents heard a radio announcement about skating lessons and took her to an ice rink in St. Petersburg. She wanted to do pairs because of the rich tradition of pairs skating at the Yubileny Rink in St. Petersburg, but she was too tall. After a few years, she moved to Moscow to train with another Victor, Kudryavtsev, who has coached her ever since. When she was a child, Viktoria's idol was Oksana Baiul, who she saw on television at the Olympic Games. Now she admires the skating of Michelle Kwan.

Among Volchkova's goals for last season were to qualify for the Grand Prix Final in Lyon and to medal at Russian Nationals, Europeans, and Worlds. She accomplished everything but the last, finishing sixth in Nice. Eventually she hopes "to win everything including the Olympic Games and the World Championship, but it will be difficult because there are many good girls and there is only one place. It's hard to say how long it will take to get there." If she has good results, Viktoria plans to skate professionally and help coach other skaters.

To improve her chances of winning, Viktoria plans to upgrade her triple toe/triple toe combination to a triple lutz/triple toe. "I'm working on it in practice, but I don't know if it will be good enough to include in my program," she stated. "I planned to do a triple axel one day, but that's almost forgotten now that I have to work on my new programs. My leg has been hurting so I haven't been doing good spirals. And I need to improve my spins."

Volchkova now trains about an hour and a half each morning and evening so she may study in her first year at the Institute for Physical Culture during the day. As a youngster, she thought about becoming a doctor, but gave it up for skating. Now she is thinking about possibly becoming a journalist, so she is studying English and computers at school as well as sports-related subjects. Because her mother is an engineer, they have a computer at home that Viktoria can use for her studies, although she doesn't have access to the Internet. She hopes to get access soon so she can improve her studies.

For this millennial season, Volchkova used Illumination by Hovland for her technical program and "The Summer" by Michel Legrand for the free skate. The music for the long program was chosen by Marina Kudryatseva, her coach's wife. "At first, I didn't like it because I thought it was too difficult, but I got used to it and now I like it," Viktoria explained. She prefers to skate to classical music, but listens to modern popular music by singers like Mariah Carey and Russian pop music when she is relaxing.

Viktoria has most enjoyed her trips to "competitions where I skated well, especially Europeans in Prague and Trophee Lalique in Paris." Her favorite holiday was a trip to Turkey, because she likes to sun herself on the beach. Among the places she would like to visit are other warm spots like Egypt, Greece, and Miami. At home, Viktoria amuses herself by playing with her cat, Mathilda, or her dog, Bunny. She used to collect miniature calendars with pictures of animals on the back, but limits her collecting now to stuffed animals she receives as gifts from fans. She keeps them all, with her special favorites ensconced on a shelf above her bed.

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