Posted on 2023-06-10 • No comments yet
Russian coach and judge Svetlana Lyapina, mother of ice dancer Jonathan Guerreiro, switched her sports citizenships and will represent Australia at the international competitions.
Translation of the article in the Russian press.
A few words about the double standards of the Russian Figure Skating Federation (FFKKR).
The issue of skaters switching flags in the past year is particularly sensitive. Recently, the federation has tightened the rules regarding changing sporting citizenship for top-level skaters. Dario Cirisano, who found a new partner in the Czech Republic after splitting with Irina Khavronina, recently came across this rule change. It is still unclear when he will be able to take part in competitions with Denisa Cimlova. But what about the judging panel?
Just like athletes, all official ISU figures involved in judging figure skaters are also tied to their respective countries. Prior to the start of the season, all federations submit lists based on specific categories, according to the type and function of their roles. To be “appointed” by a country, several requirements must be met. These include attending ISU seminars, passing exams, and having experience working at lower-ranking competitions. There is even an age limit – technical panel members can work until the age of 70, while judges must be between 24 and 60 years old.
Active coaches usually work at competitions only as technical specialists or technical controllers. For the 2022/23 season, three top-level coaches were registered from Russia – Sergei Roslyakov, Petr Durnev, and Denis Samokhin. They were not invited to the competitions for understandable reasons – the suspension from international competitions also applies to officials. However, the familiar surname Guerreiro appeared on Australia’s list. Does it ring a bell?
It is no secret that Jonathan Guerreiro was born in Australia to a family of Soviet former figure skater Svetlana Lyapina and Portuguese Francis. At the age of 13, the family moved to Moscow so that Guerreiro could progress in the sport. It turned out to be a successful decision – in a competitive environment, the young man quickly started making progress and even qualified for the 2018 Olympic Games with Tiffany Zagorski.
Svetlana never coached her son. Throughout his career, Jonathan has had the opportunity to work with many specialists, starting from the duo of Svetlana Alekseeva/Elena Kustarova to Natalia Linichuk/Gennadi Karponosov. Lyapina led her own group of dancers, and sometimes Jonathan helped her with choreography for young duos, such as the shining junior pair of Sofia Polishchuk and Alexandr Vakhnov.
“It’s incredibly difficult. You always expect more from your children because you think they are capable of more, and you don’t understand why they are not achieving it. In my opinion, it’s challenging to combine the roles of a coach and a mother because a mother is a mother, the closest person to whom you can come and talk about your worries, concerns, and things that are not working out… A mother should provide support, find the right words, and not analyze mistakes in the program or give training recommendations. So, for my son, I want to be just a mother, not a coach,” Svetlana shared in an interview with the Russian Figure Skating Federation (FFKKR).
As a technical specialist, Lyapina has primarily worked at smaller international competitions, challengers, and Junior Grand Prix events. However, her career also includes the Four Continents Championships in 2019. After the pandemic, the number of competitions she participated in sharply decreased. In the 2021/22 Olympic season, Svetlana appeared only at the Andorra Open Cup and surprisingly at the Australian Championships (being the only specialist from Russia).
How does the ISU regulate the change of flag for officials? Let’s refer to the rules.
To change the flag, it is mandatory to have citizenship of the new country (dual citizenship is also acceptable) and permanent residency in that country. Additionally, we must not forget about the consent of the “old” federation – yes, it is also required, just like for athletes. If there are difficulties with permanent residency or consent, “the official may only be nominated for inclusion on the list of another ISU member after a period of twelve months following April 15th of the year in which he/she was entered on the list of the original ISU member.”
Another important point: “Exceptions may be granted by the ISU Vice President for Figure Skating if insisting on compliance with all stated requirements would cause serious difficulties for the respective official due to special circumstances of his/her case.”
In general, speaking in figure skating terms, Svetlana didn’t experience any quarantine. There were no problems with permanent residency – judging by social media, the entire Guerreiro family moved to Sydney since last spring. The official social media account of Lyapina’s group is closed with the message: “Unfortunately, our wonderful group is already history.”
Since the summer of 2022, the Vice President of the ISU has been Benoit Lavoie from Canada. It is unlikely that he is favorably disposed towards Russian specialists. While holding the position, he hasn’t made any significant decisions yet, but everyone remembers the controversial pairs competition in Salt Lake City, where Lavoie defended the interests of Sale/Pelletier rather than Berezhnaya/Sikharulidze.
It seems that the FFKKR gave Lyapina permission to work in Australia. It’s a pity that athletes can’t change countries as easily to continue their international careers. By the way, recently Zagorski announced that they are resuming training with Guerreiro. And it’s not certain that they intend to return to the Russian mix. They might want to leave. Will the federation let them go easily?
Related topics: Tiffany Zahorski Jonathan Guerreiro