Marion resident is heading to the Olympics—for the second time
Most people don’t have their lives figured out at the age of three—but Konstantin Kostin isn’t most people.
Kostin, a current Marion resident, started ice skating when his mother brought him, aged three, to an ice rink in Riga, Latvia.
This week, he’s headed to Pyeongchang, South Korea to judge the men’s figure skating program at the Winter Olympics.
“It’s a big honor,” Kostin said.
The Latvian native will hold the technical specialist role on the judging panel.
“My duty is basically to watch the skater and identify elements, identify levels, identify falls,” he said. “I basically cannot take my eyes off the skater [as they perform].”
Kostin knows a thing or two about Olympic skating—as a 19-year-old, he competed in the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, France. He placed 20th in the competition.
“It was exciting,” he said. “I was young, I didn’t expect anything.”
Kostin was born in Riga when Latvia was part of the Soviet Union, and said that skating was very popular at the time.
“There were lots of very famous skating schools, especially in Moscow,” he said. “They had try-outs, and I was pretty decent for my age.”
He moved to Moscow with his mother when he was six to start training as a figure skater. He attended a Red Army school that worked in conjunction with an athletic school to provide students with education and training.
“In the morning the whole class would skate,” he said. “Then we’d go to class.”
When he was seven, Kostin’s brother was born. His mother stayed with him in Moscow while his grandmother stayed with his brother in Latvia while his father worked. However when he was 10, his grandmother died and he and his mother moved back to Riga.
“I stayed there until I was twelve, and then moved to St. Petersburg,” he said. “I was on my own at twelve. I stayed until I was fifteen.”
He moved back to Riga again after suffering a serious knee injury, saying he took time off to heal. “Then I started skating again. At sixteen, I was back in Moscow training.”
Kostin represented the Soviet Union in 1992 at the Junior Figure Skating World Championships in Canada, where he won the silver medal. He represented Latvia at the Winter Olympics that same year.
After competing in more international competitions, and placing fourth at the 1993 European Championships, Kostin received an invitation to train in the United States. The Soviet Union had fallen and Latvia’s training resources had become limited, so Kostin decided to take the offer. He moved to South Dennis, where at the time, there was a large international training facility.
“I was well traveled, so it wasn’t as hard for me to move here,” he said. “It was just different.”
While Kostin's goal was to represent Latvia in the 1994 Olympics, an ankle injury prevented a repeat performance.
“My ankle wouldn’t heal, so I had to skip the next Olympics,” Kostin explained, “and ’94 would have been a good season for me.”
The injured ankle continued to plague Kostin. Four surgeries and numerous screws later, he was finally able to compete in the 1997 Figure Skating World Championships.
Then, doctors took the screws out. The ankle broke again.
“There was so much stress and pressure on that foot from landing on it during jumps,” Kostin said.
Eventually doctors decided to do a bone graft, taking bone from Kostin’s hip and transferring it to his ankle.
The ankle (finally) healed well. Kostin started spending one week a month training and coaching in Texas, before deciding to take up coaching full-time.
“I thought maybe that was enough,” he said of his decision to move away from competition. “It was pointless [to keep training]. My window was ’93-’98 and I was injured, so it had kind of gone by.”
Kostin was married in 2001 and moved back to Massachusetts in 2003 with wife Heidi, after receiving an offer to coach at the Yarmouth Ice Club.
Now, he spends his days coaching at the Yarmouth Ice Club and the Colonial Figure Skating Club in Boxborough. Kostin said he likes coaching, and has enjoyed his time living in the United States.
“It’s different, that’s for sure,” he said. “It’s a beautiful place…I moved here during the summer, and it was the time to be here.”
He said now, his goal is to train his students as well as he can.
“I just try to do a good job,” he said. “My focus is on my competitive skaters. If I have skaters make national competitions I’m happy. I just try to work hard and make sure my kids are accomplishing to the best of their abilities.”