When six-year-old Tatiana Mikhailova asked her mother for ballet lessons, her mother suggested ice skating instead, since there was a rink nearby their home in Ekaterinburg, Russia. Starting with group lessons, Tatiana, (or Tania as we call her,) quickly progressed in freestyle and figures and began competing. Ballet soon followed building stamina and grace, and it wasn’t long before she began succeeding in many national high level, freestyle competitions in Russia.
In high school Tania began ice dancing with coach, Oleg Epstein, and continued up to her last year of Sports College in 1985. With her heart set on Olympic competition, Tania practiced six hours a day. In 1985 she won the bronze medal in the Winter Russia Cup with ice dancing partner Alexi Gorshkov. The two became two-time silver champions of Russia in 1986 and 1987. It seemed that nothing could stop them, but then during her senior year of college, Alexi announced that he wanted to stop competing and become a coach.
Not one to be derailed, after graduation, Tania auditioned for the Leningrad Ballet on Ice where she had several solo parts including the lead in Swan Lake. In several roles she skated with partner Oleg Bliakhman who became her husband in 1990. Together the couple toured Russia, Poland, Greece and France with the ice company. Then three years later, they joined Holiday on Ice touring Europe from 1993 to 2001.
While they were with Holiday on Ice, Tania and Oleg’s first child, Dennis, was born in 1994, and the couple continued to tour until Dennis was ready for first grade. Friends who had emigrated to the United States encouraged the family to settle down there. So when Michele Hopkins, then President of the Essex Skating Club, invited them to become coaches at Codey Arena, Tania and Oleg seized the opportunity in 2001. Home became Lake Hiawatha, NJ, and daughter Angelika was born in 2006.
Today Tania teaches children and adults in all disciplines of skating, specializing in choreography. “All of my students are different. Some need more encouragement than others to stay motivated. Some have different abilities; I modify my teaching accordingly. My greatest joy is seeing the progress they make,” explains Tania.
As a couple, Tania and Oleg are a powerful creative force here at Codey Arena. Together they run Codey Arena’s summer camp where students work on edges, jumps and spins. Off-ice they learn ballet, strength training and improvisational dancing.
Also to their credit, the couple began the Theatre on Ice program at Codey Arena. These are regional and national competitions where familiar stories are interpreted on ice, complete with music, props and costumes.