While the Russians seemgingly have half or more of the sports all time greats in pairs, dance, maybe even mens, their weakest discipline by far over the years has been the ladies. Nonetheless they have had some successful women. Share your thoughts on some of the Soviet or Russian ladies skaters past. I started this thread since the rivalry thread was getting off topic discussing Maria and Irina imparticular. Here are my thoughts on each:
Irina Slutskaya- by far the greatest Russian female skater ever. Her achievements are head and shoulders above any other Russian lady skater. The only one that for periods somewhat dominated the sport and who was consistently a threat to win and for sure to medal at major championships. Her skating wasnt always my cup of tea, I did not find her especialy polished or artistic at times. She was an extremely technical and athletic skater who used command, personality, and speed to sell her overall presentation and performance.
Maria Butyrskaya- the first Russian lady to win Worlds. Was a contemporary of Irina but took a back seat to her more celebrated countrywomen virtually her entire career. An overachiever who maximized what was once viewed was very limited potential coming up. She was not even on the radar screen as a teenager or junior skater, but persevered and continued proving people wrong. Some said at point she would never make it back to Worlds, then that she would never medal at a Worlds, then that she would never win a Worlds, and she succeeded in each. Her only missing link was not winning an Olympic medal which she narrowly missed in 1998 was a nervy performance. She was consistently a contender for medals from 1996 to 2002, but less strong of one than Irina most times, and only for a brief 2 year or so window was she considered a possible gold threat.
Kira Ivanova- the first Russian or Soviet lady to win an Olympic medal. She was considered the Worlds best compulsory figures skater from 1985 to 1988, a huge part of the sport back then. This aided her a great deal to be in contention for medals at European and Worlds on a consistent basis. Ironically she placed only 5th in figures at the 84 Olympics where she won her bronze. Came very close to winning the 1985 Worlds where she had the competition of her life, settling for silver behind Witt. Was runner up at the Europeans 4 years in a row, often came close to winning there but couldnt quite do it. Wildly inconsistent skater with very strong but inconsistent jumps, strong footwork and basics, painfully weak spins, and presentation that was not everyones cup of tea. Retired unhappy and past her prime in Calgary.
Anna Kondrashova- very beautifully artistic skater on the ice, one of Peggy Fleming's all time favorites it seemed. Not one of the more athletic skaters though, and very nervous and inconsistent in competition. What one might call a practice skater probably. Won silver at depleted 84 Worlds with strong figures and short program and a subpar free skate. Came fairly close to winning the bronze at the 84 Olympics. She would be a consistent medalist at Europeans as well, always the bronze except for 1985 where she took 4th. Interestingly Claudia Leistner usually beat her in World and Olympic competition but not usually at Europeans. Like Kira she would eventually find herself dropping down the standings, unable to hold off an improving field with skaters like Thomas, Manley, Kadavy, Ito, and Trenary all pushing upwards.
Elena Voderezova- a true teenaged prodigy who was one of the first women to really push womens jumping to higher levels. Appeared at the Olympics at age 12 and was noticed by virtually everyone. Was already considered by many the Worlds greatest free skater as a 13 and 14 year old in 1977 and 1978 but compulsory figures kept her from major event medals. However her career fell apart with illness and injury from there. Returned from 1982-1984 greatly improved in figures but much weaker in free skating. Won her lone World medal in 1983. Was in possible contention for the 1982 World title and a medal at the 1984 Olympics but was unable to keep it together.
Olga Markova- the one the Russians supported as their #1 in 1994 and 1995 before Irina arrived. Make her biggest impact at Europeans- bronze in 1994 in a stellar field and silver in 1995. Was 2nd after the short program at the 1995 Worlds ahead of eventual gold and silver medalists Chen and Bonaly, but faded to 5th. Was more of a short program skater. Had major consistency problems, especialy in the long program. Her career really went downhill after the 1995 Worlds with injuries.
Julia Soldatova- blech, somehow won a bronze at a poorly judged Worlds, changed citizenship to Belarus and plumeted down the standards like a shooting torpedo. Last time I noticed her was sitting in the kiss and cry after her short program at the 2002 Olympics which they used for a fluff piece on Michelle, and to show Michelle skating around and preparing to skate while analyzing what Kwan was about to face some more. I still remember her annoying bumblebee music of her long program at the 99 Worlds and how many arms gyrations she tried to pack into each little movement or beat of music.
Elena Sokolova- a very promising junior whose career had many ups and downs but remained a solid skater from 1998 to 2006, and peaked in 2003 nearly winning Europeans and winning silver at Worlds. Her strength was her very strong jumps when she was in form and her bubbly on ice personality.
Viktoria Volchkova- had some of the most beautiful jumps I ever saw. Had a checkered career as well. Was the one the Russians thought was their next big thing but never really materialized. Best season was 02-03 where she beat Cohen to win Cup of Russia, won bronze at the Grand Prix final, and placed 5th at Worlds.