Rooting for underdogs!
Elaine Asanaki found a first career on the ice after outings to Rockefeller Center that honed her early talent.
Elaine had the [Rockefeller Center] rink largely to herself that frosty morning. And there, a photographer from The New York Times, Tyrone Dukes, asked Ms. Eberly if he could photograph her daughter. He noted at the time that the young girl maneuvered “with grace and poise amid the fast movement of other skaters around her.” She had been skating only eight months and already looked like a pro. ...
It didn’t happen until almost a decade later on what appeared to be a slow news day. Elaine exhibited a skater’s charm: her petite figure balanced on one leg, eyes focused, pigtails twisting like ribbons in the wind. By the time the photograph appeared, though, Elaine Asanaki and her mother had moved to Southern California, where she began training at 13 with John Nicks, a legendary British skating coach and pairs figure skater whose students included Olympic champions like Peggy Fleming and Kristi Yamaguchi.
Neither Ms. Asanaki nor her mother could know in 1975 that she would have a career as an Olympic-level pairs figure skater. She traveled to Paris, Moscow and beyond, competing as an elite amateur athlete for more than a decade and later as a professional on tour. She competed for Greece (where she has dual citizenship) in five World Figure Skating Championships and in three European Figure Skating Championships. She qualified twice for the Olympic Games, although she did not compete.
Now 55, Ms. Asanaki is a pediatric dentist outside of Boston. But in a recent interview, she reveled in her exploits since those early days at Rockefeller Center. The pandemic has upended everyone’s life, including hers. And these days she has found solace in the familiar: skating.
Between 1992 and 1995, professional skaters were given a one-time option to reinstate as eligible competitors — making it possible for them to compete in amateur competitions like the Olympics. Ms. Asanaki said she called her skating partner, Joel McKeever, and told him she wanted to compete again. She worked out at the figure skating training center at the University of Delaware. And in 1996, the two competed in the World Figure Skating Championships, placing 19th. “You may have to be a little uncomfortable to get comfortable again,” she said. “But you can do it.”
Ms. Asanaki said she had never seen the photograph by Tyron Dukes published in 1983, although she remembered him taking it. “I definitely did not see that,” she said when shown a copy. “Very cool.”