Before Sochi 2014 and the ensuing dominance of Russian girls in the latter half of the current decade, the country experienced another golden age in ladies singles skating that younger fans might not be so familiar with. In the late 90s Maria Butyrskaya (1999 World Champion) was the face of a rising force of strong Russian female skaters. The young Irina Slutskaya (2x World Champion, 2002 and 2006 Olympic medalist) followed in her footsteps and established herself as a top contender in the early 00s. With Their rivalry taking center stage on the domestic scene, more young ladies rose to the occasion and enjoyed international success, albeit not as grand as the former two, including Julia Soldatova (1999 World bronze medalist), Viktoria Volchkova (4x European bronze medalist) and Elena Sokolova (2003 World silver medalist).
This is a series of short portraits illustrating the careers of ladies who skated shortly before or during this hegemony but are hardly remembered by fans today. With totally different artistic styles and varying technical skills, they all had strong points in their skating, and could have risen to the occasion at one point. Today we take a look at Olga Markova.
OCompetitive Highlights: Europeans (3rd in 1994, 2nd in 1995), Worlds (5th in 1995)
Unlike most skaters profiled on this blog, Olga Markova is not quite forgotten – to this day, she still enjoys a devoted cult following among core figure skating fans. She also enjoyed a considerably lengthier and relatively successful career on the highest stage of the international skating scene. Her main coach throughout her competitive days was Elena Vodorezova.
Olga Markova emerged on the senior scene in 1992, representing the newly formed Russia. Amidst the glory enjoyed by the young Ukranian prodigy Oksana Baiul and the energetic Surya Bonaly as the strongest European contenders at the time, Olga made a quiet debut, finishing only 12th at her first European Championship in 1993.
Without any chance to shine at the Olympics in 1994 due to Russia having no available spots, she still made a steep leap forward the following year when she won the bronze medal at the same championship and closed the top 10 at the 1994 World Championship. In the same year, she had also won the Russian National title ahead of Maria Butyrskaya and the upcoming talent Irina Slutskaya.
The next year she enjoyed a breakthrough season, winning the silver medal at the 1995 European Championship behind Surya Bonaly. Olga was placed first in the short program but ended up in 2nd place after some minor mistakes in the long.
A sensational performance in the short program at the World Championship had once again sealed her position as a major contender for the world title in that year.
Entering the free skate in second place, she could not match the command and ease with which she skated with during the short, and dropped to 5th place overall after a rough performance. Following her breakthrough that season, she could still easily establish herself as a medal contender for the 1998 Olympics
However, the following seasons proved challenging for Olga due to injury and inconsistency problems, and she was not able to live up to her competitive success from 1994/1995.
Despite winning several grand prix medals and skating at the GP Final twice, she did not medal there.
She made two more appearances at European championships in 1996 and 1997, but did not finish higher than 8th place. Being forced to miss the World championship in 1996 all together, she placed only 12th at her last appearance in 1997. Following a disappointing 9th place finish at the 1998 Russian Nationals, she ended her eligible career.
After her retirement from competitive skating, Olga Markova turned professional and skated both in shows and pro-competitions. She finished 2nd at the World Professional Championship in 1998. Ever since, she has also been active as a coach and choreographer, as well as ISU Technical specialist and judge at multiple major skating competitions since at least the mid 00s.
During her competitive career and beyond, Olga captivated the skating community not only with amazing technical abilities but also the pronounced desire to be different and bring dramatic flair and sparkle to a prosaic sport. Every one of her programs stood out with its elaborate and very original composition and choreography; in addition, Olga also brought life to each of her performances with amazing edge control, powerful glide, delicate sense of musicality and balance as well as an exquisite set of moves in the field. Combining energy, athleticism and an unique artistic sensitivity, she managed to bring immense excitement and an atmosphere larger than life to every competition she was in.