SHAWNEE, Kan. - A former Olympian is now in Kansas City, teaching young figure skaters the sport she loves.
Marina Eltsova represented Russia at the 1998 Winter Olympic Games in Nagano, Japan. She and her partner competed in pairs figure skating.
Eltsova started skating at a young age. Her parents enrolled her in figure skating lessons and gymnastics because she was such an active child.
“One day my mom said I had to choose because we couldn't keep up with both at that level so I don't think I thought longer than 30 seconds,” said Eltsova. “I decided it would be skating because I was terribly afraid of those cartwheels, or where anything goes over your head.”
As Eltsova grew, so did her skills. She became more competitive, eventually rising to Olympic level.
“Skating is so broad a sport,” she said. “It involves so many different things and aspects. You do ballet, it's very graceful. You also do training with athletes where you run and you jump, you throw balls. So it's really developing you in many different ways.”
Eltsova not only trains her students to figure skate, she also tries to teach them valuable life lessons.
“I try to teach them how to deal when they lose a competition, how to become a stronger person,” said Eltsova. “Learn from your own mistakes and move on.”
Natalie Lischwe Mueller has been studying with Eltsova for several years.
“At first I didn't know, but then I was like, ‘Oh she was in the Olympics, I can Google her and watch her skate,’” said Lischwe Mueller.
Though, Eltsova said the sport is very different now than when she was competing.
“I'm glad I'm not skating at that level anymore. Look at those girls, doing not only triples, but triple axels so it’s amazing.”
Watching the young women skate today is difficult for her.
“It's hard for me to watch, I have tears in my eyes when I watch,” said Eltsova. “I don't know why it's still very emotional for me.”
She reflects on her experience and her days of skating competitively.
“You can come to the Olympic games and be sure 100 percent, but things happen,” Eltsova said. “There's pressure, an amazing pressure people have and that can really ruin sometimes.”
While Lischwe Mueller does dream about Olympic gold, she also focuses on more immediate goals.
“My dream is just to make Marina proud, and my family,” she said.
And that is a dream she has already accomplished.