Angela Nikodinov Returns to Performing

by Lois Elfman, Special to U.S. Figure Skating Online
Angela Nikodinov
Photo by Paul Harvath

(9/20/06) - Although she has been on the ice coaching virtually every day for more than a year, two-time U.S. bronze medalist Angela Nikodinov said she considers the day last month when she “officially put on my stretch pants” as the day she returned to skating. Her first public performance since December 2004 will be Oct. 8 at an exhibition in Grand Rapids, Mich. She will follow that with an appearance in Michael Bolton Tribute on Ice in Bridgeport, Conn., on Nov. 11. Then, this winter, she will be a guest artist with Stars on Ice, performing in approximately 20 shows.

“I've been going to all these competitions,” said Nikodinov, 26, who accompanied Bulgarian men's champion Ivan Dinev to the 2006 Olympic Winter Games as his coach. “It made me want to be out there again. For me, right now I feel like my heart is in going out there and performing for an audience. I don't think I have it in me emotionally and mentally to be able to train on the level you need to skate competitively a short program and free skate.

“I want to thank everyone at U.S. Figure Skating for supporting me throughout my entire career,” she added. “There have been so many incredible moments. From my first time on the podium in 1997 through 2004 nationals, it was always the most exciting competition of the year.”

It has been a time of healing for Nikodinov, whose mother, Dolores, died in a car accident on Jan. 12, 2005, on the eve of the ladies competition at the 2005 State Farm U.S. Championships. The family was en route from the airport in Portland, Ore., to the hotel where they would stay while Nikodinov attempted to reclaim a spot on the World Team.

After a shoulder injury forced her to withdraw from the 2003 U.S. Championships, Nikodinov came back slowly. She was fifth in 2004 and then won Skate America that October. But all that stopped as she and her father, Nick, dealt with their loss. Nikodinov also needed time to recover from third-degree burns on her right hand.

“Throughout the week of nationals in Portland, (U.S. Figure Skating Senior Director of Events) Bob Dunlop and Dr. John LaLonde were so kind and supportive,” she said. “There were hundreds of competitors to look after, but they were there for me, and it was so comforting. I first competed at nationals in juniors in '94. Skating becomes part of your family, and my family showed their love when I needed it most.”

In the spring of 2005, Nikodinov began coaching Dinev as well as several young skaters, including Tenile Victorsen, at The Skating Edge in Torrance, Calif. It kept her connected to the sport she loves while she decided what she wanted to do with her own skating.

“I feel I'm ready to move on to something new in my skating,” Nikodinov said. “I'm really excited with how it is turning out. I'm anxious and nervous – in a good way – to get it started. I know it won't be easy in the beginning, but it's something I want to do.

“I haven't been on the ice in a costume in front of people in over a year and a half,” she added. “I'm sure the first time is going to be a little difficult, a little bit foreign to me in a way. But I think it will be a good feeling to get back on the ice.”

After skating his final competitive performances in Torino, Dinev is now Nikodinov's coaching partner and he is choreographing her new programs, most notably for the Bolton tribute. She said Bolton was one of her mother's favorite singers, and in fact she will probably spend what would have been her mother's 50th birthday, Oct. 10, making media appearances with Bolton to promote the upcoming show.

With eligible competition now behind her, Nikodinov will get to realize her childhood dream of performing and touring. She will also make her pro competition debut at Ice Wars.

“I can't wait to get back and get into it,” Nikodinov said. “I've been at the boards this past year; I want to be on the ice. For myself, I'd rather skate freely from my heart and for the people.

“I know my mother would want me to do the thing I most love to do. Elena (Tcherkasskaia, Nikodinov's beloved coach and choreographer who died of pancreatic cancer in November 2001) and my mom will always be holding my hand when I step on the ice.”