Article by Karen Frank
In 2002, coach Jerry Santoferrara saw something in ice dancers Lindsay Cohen and Evan Roberts. Though they weren’t skating with each other at the time, he believed that together, they could be something special. Five seasons later, his instinct seems to have proven correct: in an era where partnerships are formed and dissolved from Nationals to Nationals, Cohen and Roberts are still together, and growing stronger. Last season they competed on the NAC, then the JGP, and qualified for US Nationals. This season? “We would like to, once again, compete on the junior international circuit and receive a high placement at Nationals.”
It takes more than just two skilled skaters to make a successful team. But Cohen and Roberts have a lot on their side. They train at the University of Delaware, under coaches Natalia Linichuk and Gennadi Karponosov, and their rink mates are their role models, World Champions Albena Denkova and Maxim Staviyski. The atmosphere is competitive, but that’s what takes a team further along the path. “Having high level teams around us is motivating and keeps us striving to push ourselves farther — meaning a better training atmosphere,” says Evan. “Lindsay agrees. “Skating with teams like the Bulgarians every day is amazing. You get to learn so much from people like them”. The education isn’t just on ice either. “They are the perfect example of good people,” Evan says. “They are friendly and outgoing and always took time to joke with us while they trained at U of D. They set a great example to follow.”
At the “UDel” center, the team has access to some of the best training in the country. “Working with Natalia and Gennadi is challenging. They are extremely talented. They push us beyond our limits and really know how to get the best out of us. They teach us to be ourselves on the ice and to express from our hearts. They have also greatly improved our skating skills,” Lindsay said, while Evan adds, “They push us to the farthest point, and then another mile and a half. It’s hard work but is completely worth it.” Training at an elite center not only gives Cohen and Roberts exposure to high level coaching, but also gives them access to top-quality facilities, both on and off the ice. “The rink provides everything you need to become an elite skater,” said Evan, “a workout room, ballet room, and of course two ice rinks.”
Having access to great coaching and great facilities is not an automatic guarantee that a team will be successful. There’s usually something more that helps get them to the next level. For Cohen and Roberts, that extra ingredient would be their relationship with each other. Clearly both skaters are confident that they have the best partner possible. “Lindsay is a great partner; she is always in a good mood so we never have any disasters on the ice. She is an amazing skater and is extremely talented, and yes we are dating so that only adds to our connection on the ice and our ability to perform to the highest level.” Ask Lindsay, and her feelings on the matter are the same. “Skating with Evan is like working with your best friend. He is so talented, not only in his skating, but in his ability to put a smile on my face on those rough days. Evan and I have been dating for just about as long as we have been partners and we feel that it really compliments our skating. We find it easy to relate to each other.”
This relationship has contributed to the longevity of the team (which in turn, contributes to their continued improvement through the years). Says Evan, “we connect on a whole different level than many other teams. Also we both have personalities that allow us to cope and deal with each other and give and take to make some of those tense situations work out.” Or, as Lindsay puts it, “enjoying the time you spend every day with your partner helps. We have great chemistry together.”
Serendipity? Maybe. Smart coaches? Definitely. “A lot of thought was put into our partnership by our coaches,” says Lindsay. “We were always taught that longevity is an important part of ice dancing. Working through any ups and downs would only make us stronger.”
Respect for each other, a solid work ethic: both of these are essential ingredients for this team. What also helps is a love of the sport, something that happened to each of these skaters before they even met each other. For Lindsay, learning to skate (at the age of five) was a natural progression, because her brothers knew how to skate. “My brothers were major ice hockey players so I was constantly in the rink. I eventually asked my parents if I could skate too. I began in freestyle. I started learning ice dance to improve my freestyle skills. I immediately fell in love with it.” It took Evan a little longer to find his way to an ice rink – he was eight. “I went to a public skate one day and decided I enjoyed being on the ice more than the average person. I proceeded to look into learn to skate classes and moved on to private lessons later. I started as a free skater. I was approached by my ice dance/figure skater coach who asked me if I wanted to try ice dance with a partner he found, I decided it could not hurt and tried it for a year, only to find it was actually more enjoyable than freestyle.”
When it comes to enjoying specific on-ice moves, Lindsay and Evan have different elements that they name as their favorites. Lindsay prefers working on lifts. “I love doing lifts. Our lift coach, Vitali Popkov, is great with experimenting and creating unique lifts that we can call our own.” Evan however, puts something else at the top of his list. “As dumb as it sounds, twizzles are my favorite. I can always go into a twizzle combination with confidence knowing I will survive it.”
Last season, their hard work on all of the elements paid off. After solid finishes in their events at Lake Placid, they were assigned an NAC event and a JGP. Being placed on the USFSA’s international team, gave them the confidence and motivation to continue striving for their goals. “Of course, receiving these assignments was our goal last year. Our JGP in Romania was a fantastic experience. We feel we did very well considering it was our first international assignment,” says Lindsay. “Now this year we are motivated to do even better. Competing internationally is a totally different experience in every way so we are definitely hoping to receive another.” Evan adds, “It has shown us that we really are capable of all the things we thought of as goals in the past and gives us even more motivation to reach the new goals we set for years to come (like worlds and even the Olympics).”
Unfortunately, their 2006-2007 season didn’t conclude with a positive experience. At Nationals, Lindsay came down with the flu. “The timing of my illness was very bad. The day of compulsories I could barely dress myself to compete. I woke up with a 101 fever and couldn’t keep any food down. Some people thought that I should withdraw but there was no way I would do that. I was at NATIONALS and I was going to skate! I just went out and did the best I could. Unfortunately, I don’t feel that what I showed was really what I was capable of doing.” She looks at the bright side. “I was thankful that I stayed in the competition. I guess it showed some determination from both me and Evan. I have to thank him for helping me through it.”
While both Lindsay and Evan have elected to postpone college for a year to concentrate on their training, they do have plans to continue their education in the future. Lindsay plans to become a veterinarian while Evan is interested in becoming a sports or wildlife photographer. In the meantime, they have plenty to keep them busy. Still, they do try to set aside some time to relax and pursue other hobbies. “I spend most of my time off the ice with Evan,” Lindsay says. “We love going out to eat (our favorite restaurants being The Melting Pot and P.F Changs.) We also enjoy going to the movies and spending the day at the beach. When I’m not with Evan I have very close friends at UD and friends whom I grew with at school who I love spending time with.”
Evan’s off-ice hobbies include motorcross, video games, and especially music. He plays guitar in a band called, “Our Satisfaction,” and his fellow band members includes some names that may familiar to skating fans. “My band is composed of Kyle Herring (junior ice dancer), Traighe Rouse (senior free skater), and Shaun Rogers (senior free skater). So it is all skaters, which is pretty cool. We are trying to make it a serious venture and I think we are succeeding.” Already, they were booked to play a show at the Trocadero club in Philadelphia. “We play a mixture of Rock/punk and considering we practice very little because of our skating we sound pretty good.”
Hopefully, not TOO good, because it sounds like an “Our Satisfaction” tour would seriously deplete a couple of the fields at Easterns.
Rock and Roll dreams aside, Cohen and Roberts seem have found a recipe for skating success that works for them: two talented skaters, world class coaches, elite training center, role model rink mates, and a strong personal relationship that keeps them going through good times and bad.
Sounds like a plan.