My name is Elena Betchke. I grew up in Leningrad (St.Petersburg), USSR. It is just Russsia these days. I grew up with an old fashioned communism life style. It was great to have everything (skating, education, medical, etc.) free. I loved my country when I was growing up. I did not know any better. I thought it was the only way of living.
When I was young, my parents had to take me to the rink and pick me up. We did not have a car. The hours were tough: 6am to 11pm. We took the subway, bus, and train in 30 degree below freezing temperature. It was ugly! As I got older (10), I started going to the rink alone 2 times a day most of the times. It was very hard. I did my homework as I traveled to the rink and back home. I started traveling away from my hometown when I was 8. At first it was short trips. Later on it turned into months away from home. I learned how to manage without my family really quickly. I was very independent when I was 12. I think the hardest thing for me growing up was…. hard training. I think it was the worst when I was 14-18. My first partner was kind of tough on me. Those were not the happiest years of my life. I remember that I was pretty miserable tearing myself apart between school and skating.
We trained 6 hours a day on ice and off ice. If I had to do it all over again……….I would do it again 100%. I would do it differently though. I would be smart and take care of myself instead of killing myself. I wasted a lot of my energy on some unimportant things.
When I was growing up, my dream was to be the best in the world, to be on TV, to win medals. I am a type A personality and I have always been this way. When I got older (14-16), I really started pushing myself all the way. I knew then that it was the only way to become best of the best. My coach kept me motivated. Russian skating federation also kept all of us motivated: You better be good or there will be some problems to solve. My coach of 23 years was a wonderful person. She is only 4’11” tall but she had so much power in her that you could not even imagine. She was tough on me at times but it was all good. She was fair……..most of the times. She was a great leader of the pack.
When Denis and I made the Olympic team, it was not that really hard to train. We were already fine-tuned, in great shape, and trained to go there and win. It was mostly mental work. It took a tremendous amount of mental stamina to get through the pressure of my country telling me to win a medal and the actual competition. That was tough. I had a few sleepless nights over the mental stress, but we won the silver!!!!
Traveling with the Stars on Ice was fun for the most part. Sometimes we all felt homesick or just tired. I guess it was a part of the deal. I loved Kristi Yamaguchi for her consistency, Scott Hamilton for his 100% effort every show, Kurt Browning for his never ending energy, and the list goes on. I think 7 years with stars was the best time of my skating career.
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North Carolina Figure Skating Coach
1989 World Bronze Medalist
1992 Olympic Silver Pair Medalist
1996 World Professional Champion
Stars on Ice Performer 1993 – 2000
Coaching since 1995
Sports Academy College, St. Petersburg, Russia
Sports Science and Theory of Physical Education.
PSA, ISI, and USFSA Member
Coaches in Garner and Cary Rinks.
North Carolina, USA