Olympic dreams come true thanks to unlikely partnership
This former singles skater and veteran pairs skater have only been competing together for five months.
Less than a year after teaming up, Evgeni Krasnopolsky and Paige Conners head to Pyeongchang to represent Israel in pairs figure skating. It will be 29-year-old Krasnopolsky’s second Olympics – he skated with Andrea Davidovich at the 2014 Games in Sochi, Russia – while 17-year-old Conners is making her Olympic debut. Israel will send its largest delegation ever to Pyeongchang, a total of 10 athletes competing in four sports.
PHOTOS: Israel at the Winter Olympics
Krasnopolsky was born in the Ukraine and moved to Israel with his family when he was 3 years old. He started skating at 8 in his Israeli hometown and was a three-time silver medalist at the Israeli National Championships before switching to pairs skating. Conners is his fifth partner; he’s also formerly skated with Danielle Montalbano, Arina Cherniavskaia and Adel Tanakova, a member of the 2018 Israeli Olympic Team competing in ice dancing.
“Skating for Israel means a lot coming from a small country, a very small city where I grew up, with a dream of becoming an Olympian one day. And now, just days from my second Olympics, I still can’t believe it yet,” Krasnopolsky told From the Grapevine.
Still a high school student, Conners was born in Pittsford, N.Y. She started skating at 3 years old, leaving preschool early to head to training. When she missed out on the qualification event for the U.S. figure skating team due to an illness, her mother, an Israeli citizen, suggested she take advantage of an opportunity to skate for Israel.
“I never thought I’d be doing pairs,” she told a local TV station.
Before teaming up with Krasnopolsky in March 2017, Conners represented Israel at the 2017 World Junior Championships in Taipei, Taiwan, where she finished in 27th place.
The two train with coaches Galit Chait and Anton Nimenko in Hackensack, N.J., alongside Israeli singles skaters Alexey Bychenko and Daniel Samohin. (Bychenko works with the pair as a technical coach responsible for jumps.)
Conners and Krasnopolsky say their confidence level is extremely high going into Pyeongchang. They made a commanding impression in their international debut as a pairs team, placing fifth at the 2017 CS U.S. Classic last September. They followed that up with a top-10 place and Olympic qualification at the 2017 CS Nebelhorn Trophy in Germany and went on to earn a bronze medal in October at the 2017 CS Minsk-Arena Ice Star in Belarus. At the 2018 European Championships in January, they placed ninth.
“It’s not something that usually happens," Conners said. "We’re so lucky that we really connected."
They skate their short program to the soundtrack of the movie “Ghost” and the long program is set to music by John Williams for “Schindler’s List.” The two are known for the strength and power they bring to their skating.
There will be 22 pairs teams in Pyeongchang. Among the favorites will be the U.S. team of Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim – a couple both on and off the ice – Aliona Savchenko and Bruno Massot of Germany and reigning World Champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong of China. The competition will be fierce, but Krasnopolsky and Conners say they will skate their best and aim to make it to the finals. After that, it’s up to the judges.
“We are a very solid, strong and powerful pair team,” Krasnopolsky told us.
The 2018 Winter Olympics is just the first major competition for Conners and Krasnopolsky this season. Keep an eye out for the pair at the ISU World Figure Skating Championships in Milan March 21-25.
More Winter Olympic coverage on From The Grapevine:
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