Russia on ice 

With an incredible flurry of throw double sow cows, split double-twists, drape lifts and even a death spiral, Kalispell ice skater Willie Traeger and her Russian partner, Konstantin Emshanov, dazzled the crowd at a holiday ice show at Whitefish’s Stumptown Ice Den Saturday, Dec. 18.

The audience may have witnessed a performance by future Olympic skaters.

That’s the dream, anyhow, according to Traeger and Emshanov, and with Australia’s 1980 Olympic Winter Games pairs skater Peter Cain coaching the duo daily at the Dr. Pepper StarCenter in Dallas, Texas, it’s a goal that Traeger never would have imagined she’d be reaching for when she began skating in the Flathead at age 10.

Traeger, 20, originally explored solo ice skating, since there were hardly any male skaters to pair with in the Flathead when she was growing up.

Starting at 10 makes Traeger a late bloomer in comparison with Emshanov, 22, who began skating when he was “3 or 4.”

“This is normal for Russia,” says Emshanov, who is, to the best of his knowledge, the first Russian pairs skater ever to come to the U.S. to professionally compete with an American partner.

Coming from different sides of the world, Traeger says, the team has been challenged to adapt, since skating styles differ between countries more than one might think.

“We’ve had to mesh the two styles together,” Traeger says.

With the Whitefish performance behind them, the pair will return to training, preparing for sectionals in November 2005 and, if they achieve a top-four finish, nationals and Olympic qualification in January 2006.

Emshanov sums up their chances: “Everything is possible. You can do everything. You just have to keep working.”

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