Getting to Know: Lorraine McNamara & Anton Spiridonov

This week, we checked in with the new team of Lorraine McNamara & Anton Spiridonov who will make their Grand Prix debut at Skate America this week. 

Tell us about your individual skating journeys?
LM: I began skating just before I turned three years old. When I was four years old, my coach Elena Novak told us that she and her husband, Alexei Kiliakov, were starting a skating academy for young skaters like myself. In 2004, I joined the Wheaton Ice Skating Academy. In 2005, I began skating with Quinn Carpenter. Over the course of our career together, we were two-time U.S. National Junior Champions, 2015 Junior Grand Prix Final champions, and the 2016 Junior World Champions. When we moved to the senior level, we were three-time silver medalists on the ISU Challenger Series, the 2018 Grand Prix of Helsinki bronze medalists, and the 2019 U.S. National Championships pewter medalists. This past spring, Quinn retired from competitive figure skating. I am now very excited to embark on the next chapter of my skating career with Anton and show the world our passion for the sport.

AS: I come from a family with a history in figure skating of which I am immensely proud. My mom, Elena Garanina, is the 1981 World Universiade Champion, 2-time Skate America silver medalist, USSR National silver medalist, 3-time Junior USSR National Junior Champion. My father, Valeriy Spiridonov was a USSR National bronze medalist and Grand Prix circuit competitor. My brother, Maxim Zavozin is the 2006 Four Continents silver medalist, 2005 Junior World Champion, 2004 Junior Grand Prix Final Champion, and a two-time U.S Junior National Champion. My family’s achievements inspire me, they also serve as a constant motivator and hunger for success. 

I was drawn to skating at an age considered to be quite late to start skating, but I was able to catch up pretty quickly as my parents were very keen on my skating development. A year later, I started skating with my first partner, Yana Buga. We had a lot of short term success, but we soon ended our partnership. Soon after Alexander Zhulin invited me to train with his group in Moscow. This was a life-changing experience, the style and technique was very different to what I considered the norm, I then moved to the USA and had the opportunity to train with both Igor Shpilband and Marina Zoueva. Once again, I was amazed by the difference in technique, but it wasn’t just that.  Each coach had their certain view on performance, mentality, competition readiness, and everything in between.  

I am ecstatic to be representing the USA with Lorraine in our new journey together and I am proudly bringing all of my valuable experiences and family background with me. I know we will achieve a lot together, and I am confident that the path only leads forward from here.

What drew you to ice dance? 
LM: I started out in ice dance from the very beginning of my skating journey. I immediately fell in love with the artistry, musicality, and athleticism the sport brings forward, and it was not long before I was hooked. I love being able to connect to the audience and express myself through movement and expression.

AS: I loved skating very fast and interpreting the music that my mom would play during practice. The next thing I knew, I was skating with a partner. I felt I was able to express myself through movement and doing it on the ice just seemed amazing to me.

What are your earliest skating memories? 
LM: My mother would bring me to the rink with her while she skated, and it was not long before I was anxious to get out on the ice too. I started out just shuffling around the ice, but eventually, it was time to get me started in lessons. It feels like just yesterday that I was introduced to what would become my whole world.

AS: Well, my earliest memories that are associated with skating would be going to Lake Placid for the first time. I wasn’t skating yet, but I remember the unique atmosphere of the competition. That first time I was there, I met the Soviet pair skating legends Ludmila Belousova and Oleg Protopopov, I got to spend some time with them while my parents were attending to their students. I didn’t realize how special that was at the time, and I really regret not getting my photo taken with them back then.

Tell us about how your partnership started (tryout, etc.)?
Just a short time into our tryout, it was very easy to tell that it was the perfect fit. There was absolutely no hesitation and we knew right away that we wanted to move forward together. Our instant connection and shared passion for the sport was evident from the start, and we began training at full speed.

Who are your coaches?  Tell us about your training location.
We train with the Wheaton Ice Skating Academy, coached by Alexei Kiliakov, Elena Novak, and Dmytri Ilin. WISA includes a wonderful collection of seasoned professionals with many different backgrounds of expertise that combine to make a perfectly well-rounded training experience. This summer, WISA began training at ION International Training Center, which is a stunning new facility in Leesburg, Virginia. The staff at ION provides a wonderful training atmosphere for its athletes and stays in tune with us to ensure we have the best environment possible.

Tell us about your training challenges during the pandemic.
This unprecedented time required getting creative with our approach to training. When the rinks were completely shut down, we were provided with the opportunity to work virtually and build many new skills that translated onto the ice when the rinks reopened. This time has also given us the chance to take a step back, reflect on and refine our basic skating skills.

How do you approach this season as it is still very unpredictable?
While this season is still very unpredictable, we are approaching it as we would any other season. Every time we get on the ice, our main goal is progression from the day before. We want our daily performance to show improvement and strength. Though we are a new team, we are confident we are capable of skating amongst the best.

If you could have a lesson from any ice dancer past/present, who would it be? 
LM: I would absolutely love to have a lesson from Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. Their genuine presence on the ice is unmatched. Their ability to connect to each other and draw in the audience is always captivating and inspiring. 

AS: I must say that i’ve been extremely lucky to work with so many amazing ice dancers already, however I would choose Elena Ilinykh. I worked with her before, and without hesitation I would want to work with her again. She kept it very real with me, she gave me what I needed, and shared her experiences on and off the ice with me. She is one of the few coaches that genuinely cared for me prior to this partnership with Lorraine.

What is it that you already like about your new partner?
LM: Anton’s eagerness to work and sunny demeanor is infectious to everyone around him. Every time I walk into the rink, I am excited for all that lies ahead. I am so grateful to have him by my side as I pursue my dreams and goals, and I would not want it to be anyone else. 

AS: A lot of things actually! But if I was allowed to only choose a few, then I would say that Lorraine’s confidence and competitiveness is truly inspiring, her positive attitude, passion, and complete devotion to the sport is unmatched. I think these are amazing qualities, and it’s rare to see someone that has all of these.

What do you like most about skating with your partner?
LM: Anton’s determination and drive at the rink is palpable. His enthusiasm and excitement is something I look forward to every time we step on the ice. The energy he carries as a skater is a partner’s dream, and every time our music comes on, performing with him is so much fun.

AS: The energy that Lorraine brings to the ice is beyond anything I’ve ever experienced in a skating partner. I feel super-charged every time we step out onto the ice. I am able to dive into the music fully “live” the program skating with her, it’s truly an amazing feat when you’re able to do that with someone you’ve known for a very short amount of time. I look forward to skating with her everyday, and go home wanting more no matter how exhausted I am.

Is there anything you would like our readers to know about you as a team?
Anton and I want everyone to know that despite a brand-new team, we are out to make a name for ourselves and are beyond excited to show everyone what we’ve been working on. We know we have to offer as a team and ask that you follow us on our journey, because we are a force to be reckoned with.