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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Wax Guru is Russia's Skiing Secret




NAGANO, Japan -- By now, everyone should know how strong the Russian women's ski team is. Out of three events so far at the Snow Harp Hakuba Ski stadium in Nagano, the Russians have claimed four gold and two silver medals.


Who most people don't know, however, is an important person behind this success.


Probably the best kept secret at these Games is Russian waxing guru Alexander Voronin, who spends endless hours preparing skies for Larisa Lazutina and Olga Danilova -- the two Russian women who have three golds and two silvers between them.


Indeed, as two-time Olympic champion Lazutina put it, "[Voronin] has hands of gold."


A former top skier himself, Voronin, 48, began coaching after retiring from active competition in 1979. He knows all the ins and outs about ski preparation, having been on the national team coaching staff since 1985.


"During the competition, we're usually up and working long before dawn, at about 5 a.m.," he said. "And we often go to bed at midnight or even later. We sleep no more than two to three hours per day."


Voronin, who has worked with both Russian men's and women's teams, said that it's probably easier to train the women skiers.


"Well, if a female skier has complete trust in you, then it's probably easier to get along with someone like Larisa or Olga," he said.


Voronin certainly has Lazutina's trust.


"I can trust him with my life, let alone doing my skies," said the gold medal winner in both the five-kilometer and 10-kilometer races.


If you want to have Voronin as your waxing expert, though, you must trust him because he rarely lets anyone look at his work before it's done.


"He never lets anyone close while he's working on a pair of skies," Lazutina said. "He does everything himself."


Of course, the skier also plays a role in the process.


"It's always much better when you have really good feedback from the athlete on how well the skies are doing," Voronin said. "But I do like to work by myself. Of course, after the race, we all sit down with Norwegian, Swedish and other coaches and discuss some of our technique. But you can't be too open because everyone has his own secrets."


The Sakhalin island native who now lives in Moscow said he is paid in an unusual manner.


"It's not like in professional tennis where most coaches have written contracts with players on how much they get paid," he said. "With us, it's more like a handshake. It's up to the athlete to give some of his money back to the coach for his work."


Even so, he said he would still coach the ski team if it didn't pay anything.


"It's like a hobby," Voronin said with a smile. "If you're willing to work for so many hours and you love your job, the money is never the most important thing in your life."