Ice dancing coach can’t choose between gold, silver

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SOCHI, Russia – Marina Zoueva loves her job. She wouldn’t change it for the world. She actually thinks it’s easy.

Monday night inside the Iceberg Skating Palace the St. Petersburg-born Michigan resident will watch as her two star ice dance teams battle it out for the gold medal, four years after they did the same in Vancouver in 2010.

“I just wish for a good sleep and to be ready for tomorrow,” Zoueva said when asked if she would have a difficult time sleeping Sunday night. “I love my skaters skating – I can’t wait to get up and work again. They are beautiful, both teams. You can see they have different skates, different approaches. I truly enjoy it.”

It’s one of the many confusing intricacies of the figure skating world that baffles and awes us every four years: coaches, even those of the highest-caliber athletes, train skaters who oftentimes compete against one another, including on Monday in ice dancing for Olympic gold.

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Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White hold the lead over Vancouver gold medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada, the two teams coached by Zoueva in the same suburban Detroit rink, a situation unfathomable if you put it this way: What if the U.S. and Canada played again in the gold-medal hockey match? And were coached by the same coach?

“They never try,” shrugged Zoueva. “Maybe they should try.”

What Zoueva has tried to do herself the last four-plus years is explain how it works, coaching the two best teams in the world. Sunday night she shuffled between the two, first watching Virtue/Moir skate their short dance, sitting in the Kiss and Cry with them before walking back across the far end of the rink to a warm-up room where Davis/White were prepping for their own skate.

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“Marina does an incredible job,” Davis said at the short dance press conference. “If you want to delve into it, the two teams have very different styles and approaches and strengths. She’s an incredible coach. She knows a lot about life in general and she brings that to the ice with her. When those complexities arise between the two teams she does a wonderful job implementing necessary solutions.”

“I just do my job,” said Zoueva, simplifying the situation. “I have two talented – extremely talented –  teams and I just do my job properly. It’s not hard.”

Other prominent coaches have faced similar situations in figure skating. At the Sochi Games, former Olympic medalist Brian Orser was on the boards for two medal contenders: Yuzuru Hanyu (who won the gold) and Javier Fernandez (who finished fourth).

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But no one at these Games has faced what Zoueva will on Monday.

“I always so much enjoy for the team that wins and am very sorry – sometimes cry – for the team that lost,” Zoueva explained. “For me they are individuals, I keep in my heart both of them.”