by Anne Calder | photos by Daphne Backman
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” (Robert Frost)
Tiffany Zagorski & Jonathan Guerreiro spoke with ice-dance.com about the roads they traveled and how each made a difference in their skating careers.
Zagorski was born in London, England in 1994. When she was two, she moved to Cardiff, Wales and began skating.
“My first coach was my father; he taught me most of my basics, for which I am extremely thankful,” Zagorski disclosed.
At age ten her passion for skating grew stronger, and she relocated to Sheffield, England to train with higher-level athletes and elite coaches. For the next three years she won Solo Dance gold, silver and bronze medals.
When she was 13, Zagorski and her mother moved again, this time to Lyon, France, where she learned the language and became a French citizen.
“I was lucky to be accepted at the training center where Olympic, World, and European Champions were coached by Muriel Zazoui and Romain Haguenauer,” Zagorski noted.
In April 2008, she became the French Novice Solo Dance Champion.
“I believe skating Solo until quite a late age enabled me to really improve my technique before starting in couple skating,” Zagorski said. “Also, seeing the different techniques of each country helped to adapt my style.”
Over the next five years she travelled many roads and along the way hit several bumps including two disappointing French partnerships and frustrating years searching for another training mate.
“Just as I was thinking about quitting, I was told that Jonathan Guerreiro was looking for a partner,” Zagorski explained. “I was very interested in trying out with him because he was a very good high-level skater and also happened to be nice and tall.”
“I sent him a message, and we organized a tryout in Moscow,” Zagorski continued. “I came for one week, but after a few days, we felt we matched each other well and wanted to skate together.”
Jonathan Guerreiro was born in Sydney, Australia in 1991 to a Portuguese father, Francisco Guerreiro, and a Russian mother, Svetlana Liapina, a former Soviet Union World Junior medailst with her partner, Gorsha Sur.
“I started skating there with my mom as my first coach,” Guerreiro said. “When I was 13-14, we decided as a family that to pursue my skating career seriously it would be a good idea to move to Moscow. I was lucky enough to start training with my mother’s coach, Svetlana Alexeeva and her daughter, Elena Kustarova.”
Guerreiro teamed up with Ekaterina Riazanova in 2006. The team medaled at several Junior Grand Prix events, the JGP Final, and the World Junior Championships.
When the partnership ended in 2009, Coaches Irina Zhuk and Alexander Svinin invited him to join their training group and arranged a tryout with Ekaterina Pushkash.
From 2010-2014, Pushkash and Guerreiro traveled many roads, some smooth – some bumpy. They left the familiarity of Russia and moved 7500 miles away to the US to train. They also switched coaches three times. After winning silver at the World Junior Championships in 2011, the couple moved up to seniors.
During that period, their coaching teams included Natalia Linichuk and Gennadi Karponosov, Nikolai Morozov, and Angelika Krylova and Pasquale Camerlengo.
“I trained with a lot of amazing coaches, but after a disappointing couple of years, I decided something had to change,” Guerreiro explained. “Also, my partner was ready to retire and go to the shows.”
“That’s when the opportunity arose to skate with Tiffany,” Guerreiro continued. “From the first time we had our tryout, everything clicked. We had the same kind of energy both on and off the ice.”
A New Partnership
Zagorski & Guerreiro began training with Coach Alexander Zhulin in June 2014. However, it was just the beginning of more bumps on the road.
“When Tiffany first came to Russia, we weren’t even allowed to compete, even nationally because she didn’t have a release from the French, and you are bound by their rules,” Guerreiro explained. “The first year, we ended up being in a very weak situation until she got the release. Then, in order to be part of the Russian team, she had to get citizenship. It was painful.”
It took 16 months to get the release. In December 2015, they won gold in their international debut at the Santa Claus Cup in Budapest, Hungary. The following April 2016, she received her citizenship.
Zagorski & Guerrero were finally allowed to compete for Russia. They medaled at three Challenger B Series Competitions – Ondrej Nepela Memorial, Finlandia Trophy and Warsaw Cup. They were fifth at their one Grand Prix – Rostelecom Cup.
“Actually, 2016-2017 was our first [full] international season together,” Zagorski said.
A Second Beginning
In May 2017, Zahorski & Guerreiro left Zhulin and returned to Svetlana Alexeeva and Elena Kustorova.
“Coming back to my original coaches has been an easy adjustment,” Guerreiro said. “Svetlana (Alexeeva) coached my mom, and my mom was my first coach, so the technique is pretty much the same. Also, the majority of my junior career I was with them, so being back there has nothing awkward about it.”
Their main goals for the season were to show their progression with their new coaches, to have solid and consistent performances, and try to improve on their placements from the previous year.
“Changing coaches and styles has been interesting,” Guerreiro explained. “We’ve also had the opportunity to work with Peter Tchernyshev who conceptualizes in a very abstract way. He cuts the music for the elements – note especially our twizzles.”
The duo was awarded two 2017 Grand Prix assignments – Cup of China and Skate America. Neither had been to China, but both had skated in the US.
Guerreiro trained in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Michigan. Zagorski was the 2007 Lake Placid Novice Solo Dance bronze medalist her final year representing Great Britain.
“It was my first international competition at 12 years old,” remembered Zagorski. “It feels surreal that I’ll be going back after ten years, but I couldn’t be more excited.” (Lake Placid is the site of Skate America)
Zagorski & Guerreiro chose “Exogenesis Symphony Part III”, “Exogenesis Symphony Part II” and “Ruled by Secrecy” by Muse for their free dance.
“The program has been evolving from the moment we started it. We’re always trying to find new musical highlights and nuances in the transitions,” Guerreiro said.
The team’s 2017-18 international results have include: Cup of China (4), Skate America (6) Golden Spin (6), and Ice Star (2). They were third at Russian Nationals and earned a trip to Europeans in their hometown of Moscow January 15-21.
As an addendum to the Zagorski & Guerrero story, ice-dance.com would like to share a few little known tidbits about them – in their own words.
Zagorski on her hair color choice: “Yes, I love my red hair. This summer I dyed it blonde for a change and after a few months just didn’t feel like me, and as soon as I brought it back I felt my fire again! My hair is naturally a strawberry blonde, and when I was competing in my first year junior we had a program to the Fifth Element. I decided to dye it like her as I had the white costume with the bandages. After the first season everyone loved it, and I decided to keep it red for the time being, now 8 years later it’s still as bright!”
Guerreiro on choreographing programs for others: “I made the Black Swan program for the Junior Grand Prix Final bronze medalists, Sofia Polishchuck & Alexander Vakhnov. The team trains in Moscow with my mother (Svetlana Liapina). She took them to Lake Placid in July 2017, where they skated their program.”
“My mom makes the short programs, and I do the free for them. That has been going on for almost five years. However, I can’t for the love of me choreograph for myself. It’s really difficult because I second-guess myself all the time,” he laughed.
Editor’s note: When Jonathan ends his competitive career, he wants to coach, but that is in the future – way down another road!