On her own
Marina was born in 1975 in Moscow. Her father, Viacheslav Anissin, was a hockey player and her mother, Irina Tchernaieva, was a pairs skater and placed 6th at the 1972 Olympics. Marina started skating at the age of 4, and at the age of 9, she decided that she would be a champion one day. She chose ice dance, because her mother, who had experienced back injuries because of repeated jumps and spins, thought it would be better for her health. Marina's parents divorced when she was 15 years old, and she has always lived with her mother since then, and she has been a very big support for Marina in her career. Marina tried different partners before she teamed up with Ilia Averbukh. The pair was coached by Natalia Linitchuk and was one of the most promising ice dance teams in the junior ranks. They won Junior World championships twice, in 1990 and 1992. However, Ilia Averbukh fell in love with another ice dancer trained by Linitchuk, Irina Lobacheva. In 1992, he decided to skate with her (and he would later marry her),and Marina was left on her own. Marina had to find another partner, so she watched dozens of videos with her mother to find the perfect partner for her: "Mum thought it wouldn't work, but I didn't have another solution", she said. Two dancers caught her attention, Victor Kraatz from Canada and Gwendal Peizerat from France, because of their "good style and technique". She sent a letter to both of them, but Victor Kraatz never got it.

A new partner, a new life
Gwendal was born in 1972 and started skating at the age of 3. His father was a sports teacher. He skated with Marina Morel until the age of 20, and never ever imagined skating with another partner. Marina was like his sister, he went to school with her and had always skated with her, and if she was going to stop skating, he would stop too. Together, they were a very promising team in ice dance, and their main rivals were... Anissina & Averbukh, who beat them at Junior Worlds. In 1992, when Gwendal received the letter from Marina Anissina, he didn't really pay attention to it, but kept it. However, in 1993, Marina Morel was having troubles with her skating, she took a lot of weight and it became obvious that she wouldn't be able to go on. Marina and Gwendal split, but Gwendal remembered this letter he had received from Marina and he called her. Then Marina came in France to make a test with Gwendal. "I thought I would just stay one week to make this test and then convince Gwendal to come in Russia with me. I thought the best coaches in the World were Russian", she said. Finally, Marina stayed in France. She and Gwendal were making a good and balanced team, and Gwendal's family was ready to take care of her. But it was difficult for Marina: "they took care of me as if I was their daughter. They were wonderful, but it was difficult. I was only 17, and I had left behind all my family, my friends, everything. And I didn't speak one word of French. Sometimes, I would go out to cry. I didn't want to cry in front of them because they would have thought I was ungrateful." However, Marina & Gwendal were improving very quickly. They won their first competition together. At the end of 1993, while waiting in the airport , Marina decided to dye her hair in red, a symbol for the beginning of her new life.

Champions of the future
The pair placed second at French Nationals in 1994, but Marina didn't have French citizenship, so they had to miss Olympics. "Gwendal was frustrated, but I wasn't. What would have we earned from that? A 10th, 12th place at the Olympics maybe? There was no interest. I was much better in front of my TV", Marina said. Anyway, they qualifyed for Europeans and Worlds that year, where they placed respectively 12th and 10th. They made another incredible improvement the year after, placing 5th at Europeans and 6th at Worlds. At that point, Marina & Gwendal were seen as very probable champions for the future.

Hopes and disappointments
In the 1995/1996 season, as their teammates, World bronze medallists Sophie Moniotte & Pascal Lavanchy had to withdraw from all the competitions due to an injury, Marina & Gwendal won their first National title with a very demanding latin dance, another big step in their improvement. With that routine, they were hoping for a medal at Europeans and Worlds. Their main rivals were the Canadians Bourne & Kraatz. At Skate Canada, Marina & Gwendal had a very good chance to beat them, but Gwendal fell in a step sequence at the end of their program. The Canadians won, and it was a very big disappointment for the French pair. TV showed Marina crying backstage, with Gwendal trying to console her. Fortunately, they had more success in their other Grand prix events: in Trophée de France, they placed second only behind the Olympic champions Grischuk & Platov, and they won the NHK Trophy, in front of Bourne & Kraatz, which qualified them for the first Champions Series Final. But first there was the European championships, and the pair was hoping for a bronze medal. They were third after the compulsory dances, but a little mistake in the paso-doble, the original dance, put them down in fourth place, behind the Ukrainians Romanova & Yaroshenko. Despite a very good free dance, they weren't able to go up a place and win the bronze medal. Romanova & Yaroshenko did, and Marina & Gwendal felt like they had been robbed. After that big disappointment, they decided to make little changes in their free dance before the Champions Series Final. Despite a fall from Marina in the original dance, Marina & Gwendal won the bronze medal in the final, beating their Canadian rivals. Then, the bronze medal at Worlds looked more likely for them. However, in Edmonton (Canada), with a big support from the crowd, it was Bourne & Kraatz who won the bronze. Marina & Gwendal placed fourth, this time in front of the Ukrainians by some way, but still behind the Canadians.

The pre-Olympic year
The 1996/1997 season started on a good note as Marina & Gwendal won their second National title, in front of Moniotte & Lavanchy who were making their come back. Marina & Gwendal had a new, more mature free dance to "Ahla Leila", a very powerful arabian music and they were hoping again to get on the podium at Worlds. But the Canadians had improved too, and they beat them at Skate Canada. There, Marina & Gwendal were criticized a lot about their costumes for being too theatrical, and just "over-the-top". Furthermore, Marina's skirt was just fringes and Gwendal was wearing fake boots. Still, the pair won Trophée Lalique the week after. But in NHK trophy, they were beaten by Moniotte & lavanchy, who were improving consistently. Then, Moniotte & Lavanchy beat them at Europeans to win the bronze medal, and at Worlds, they placed fourth while Anissina & Peizerat were fifth. It was the pre-olympic year, and it didn't look like Marina & Gwendal were going to win a medal at Olympics.

Ready for the Olympics
Marina & Gwendal had been dreaming for the 1998 Olympics for years and had built evrerything on that dream. Their fifth place at Worlds was not going to discourage them. On the contrary, it was a motivating factor for them to improve. They prepared very difficult programs for the new season. Their original dance, the jive, was probably the most difficult and intricate one. But most importantly, they had completely changed their style in their free dance. Skating to "Romeo & Juliet", the pair had found a new, dramatic and emotional style, and for the first time, they created what would be their trademark in the future: reverse lifts, where Marina lifts Gwendal. The program was based on Shakespeare's story, but they started from the end: the start pose represented Romeo (Gwendal) lain, while Juliet (Marina) was holding a dogger. The routine enabled Marina & Gwendal to win their first bronze medal at Europeans.

Making the dream come true
On February 16, 1998, Marina & Gwendal did it: they won the bronze medal at the Nagano Olympic games. But it wasn't easy. Despite the obvious difficulty of both their original and their free dances, their bronze medal was criticized... by the people who aimed at it and didn't win it. Bourne & Kraatz, the Canadians, who had won the bronze medal in 1996 and 1997 at Worlds, thought that the bronze medal at Olympics would be theirs. And actually, they were the favorites to win it. But they placed only 5th in the first compulsory dance, and a small mistake at the end of their original dance put them in 4th place. With their coach, they complained, tried to convince everyone that they deserved the bronze through press conferences and discussions with the judges. And in fact, the judges put them third in the free dance, but it was not enough to beat Marina & Gwendal who had been ahead of them in the first two rounds. Furthermore, Sophie Moniotte & Pascal Lavanchy, who were coming back after injuries with high hopes for the Olympics, placed only 11th; Sophie Moniotte then said that Marina & Gwendal won the bronze medal only thanks to the French Federation. She said that the the Federation made a deal with the German federation so that Winkler & Lohse could place in the top 10 in front of Moniotte & Lavanchy, but in return, the German Federation would help Anissina & Peizerat to win the bronze. Of course these were stupid reactions and almost everybody agreed that Marina & Gwendal more than deserved their bronze medal. And a few weeks later, Marina & Gwendal won the silver medal at Worlds, with a much better performance than at Nagano, this time placing ahead of the Canadians in the free dance.

"We want to become World champions"
The 1998/1999 season arrived quickly, and with it new goals for Marina & Gwendal. Their new free dance was a wonderful combination of drama, originality, and technical difficulty. The music, "The Man in the iron Mask" soundtrack, was powerful and intense. Marina & Gwendal unveiled that new program at 1998 Skate America where they won the gold medal and the hearts of everyone. After an even better performance at Trophée Lalique some weeks later, Gwendal said: "we've made this program with one goal: we want to become World champions." Looking at how successful the routine was at NHK Trophy and at French Nationals, where they got several perfect 6.0s, and how the modern "drums routine" of the Russians Krylova & Ovsiannikov had been criticized in the first half of the season, Marina & Gwendal arrived at Europeans as good favorites. They had decided to change their music for the original dance, because "Waltz masquerade", the music they had used before, was used by many other teams. As it was the first time they performed the new routine, they were a little slow over the ice and were given 2nd place by all judges. But Marina & Gwendal knew that their strongest point was their free dance and still had high hopes. In the free dance, Krylova & Ovsiannikov skated first in the last group of skaters. Their program was difficult and innovative, but they didn't really look comfortable and the routine looked very cold. the judges gave them cautious but good marks, around 5.8. Then came Marina & Gwendal, who skated their best performance of the season so far and got a standing ovation from the thousands of spectators. Everyone thought they had done it, and in fact 4 judges put them in first place... but 5 judges put them in second place, and they actually finished in second place. Marina & Gwendal, as well as thousands of fans were disappointed, but that performance gave them even more hopes for Worlds.

Drama at Helsinki
Marina & Gwendal's hopes were all leading to Worlds, but before there was the Grand prix Final, where they had to skate against Krylova & Ovsiannikov again. Marina & Gwendal weren't expecting anything from this final: first, it was taking place in Russia, and whatever the results would be, they wouldn't mean anything for Worlds. Marina & Gwendal had improved their Waltz, and nearly beat the Russians in the original dance. But their free dance was not as secure as it had been before, the Russian crowd was kind of cold with them, and Marina & Gwendal later complained about the fact that the music was deliberately played very low. The Russian won, but it was not a done deal yet. The 1999 Worlds were taking place in Helsinki, and Marina & Gwendal still had hopes for the gold medal. However, the first compulsory dance was already full of drama: Marina & Gwendal placed 3rd behind Krylova & Ovsiannikov, and Bourne & Kraatz. They felt that the judges tried to keep them from winning the gold, and in the short time between the first and the second compulsory dance, there were rumors that Marina & Gwendal wouldn't even skate the second CD. Fortunately, these rumors didn't prove correct, and Marina & Gwendal gave their best in the second CD to move up to second place. However, they had placed third in the first CD, and if they wanted to win the gold, they had to place first in both the original dance and the free dance. It looked almost impossible to many people, but Marina & Gwendal believed in it. And in fact, they skated their best Waltz of the season and placed first in the original dance! Then, their hopes of gold were even higher, and everybody already saw them as the champions. Despite the immense pressure that had been put on them, Marina & Gwendal skated a wonderful performance at Worlds, probably their best free dance of the season, and received quite high marks. But the Russians had improved their routine a lot since Europeans, and they skated their best performance too at Worlds. It was very close again, but the Russians won the gold. The French federation officially complained about the fact that the Chinese judge, who had placed Anissina & Peizerat in first place, changed his marks in the last second to place Krylova & Ovsiannikov in first. The marks had already been given to the referee, but the referee (who was Russian) allowed the Chinese to change his marks. In the end, the ISU said that he had the right to change his marks because the marks had not been announced yet.

"We'll be ten times better"
Marina & Gwendal had faced one of the biggest disappointment in their lives, but they said: "if we have to be ten times better than the Russians, then we'll be ten times better." So they decided to work even harder on new programs. Jayne Torvill & Christopher Dean came in Lyon to coreograph their routines. Chosing a new theme was difficult: first, Marina & Gwendal wanted to play slaves, but they didn't find the right music to do it. Then, Gwendal thought about Carl Orff's Carmina Burana, and a few days later, he received an e-mail from Jayne Torvill who had found the right music: Carmina Burana! "I thought: that's a sign!", he said. Marina & Gwendal trained hard on new and more difficult steps and lifts. They soon learnt that Krylova & Ovsiannikov were also working hard on a new program to... Carmina Burana.

Highs and lows
Their first competition of the season was Trophée Lalique. It would be a test for their new programs. The original dance that season was a latin combination. It is not the kind of dance that suits Marina & Gwendal well, but they had put up together an ambitious and original program. However, at Lalique, their OD didn't have a lot of success, and they even got out of synchronization in a step sequence. On the contrary, the Italians Fusar-Poli & Margaglio, who had a natural feel for the latin dance, and who had made dramatic improvement, skated a very good OD. Marina & Gwendal were still in first place but it was very close between the two teams. The Italians then skated a difficult and entertaining celtic free dance, and got marks as high as 5.9 for presentation. Marina & Gwendal, who skated next, had to give everything to beat them. They unveiled a powerful and technically very difficult routine and got a standing ovation from their home crowd, as well as a 6.0 from the british judge and won the gold. Still, the program looked a little slow over the ice and not very polished yet. But Marina & Gwendal worked hard to be better at NHK Trophy a few weeks later. They made changes in their OD, and worked on their speed in their free dance, and it paid off: both routines looked much better. Their next competition was French Nationals, and there was no doubt that they would win easily. However, Gwendal injured his hand before the competition, and during the free dance, his boot came loose suddenly and they had to stop at the middle of the program. Still, they skated a magical interpretation of Carmina Burana and were given several 6.0s and the gold medal.

Champions finally
One year after their disappointing silver medal at Europeans, Marina & Gwendal entered the 2000 championship as red hot favorites. Indeed, their main rivals, Krylova & Ovsiannikov, had to withdraw due to a very serious back injury. There was a lot of pressure, but Marina & Gwendal had won all the competitions they had entered that season, including the Grand prix Final in their hometown, Lyon, they had changed their original dance and had polished their free dance to perfection. Europeans didn't start on a high note for them, since they hardly placed first in the Yankee Polka compulsory. In fact, they looked very nervous and the dance looked messy. Still, their Tango compulsory was without a doubt the best. They placed first in the original dance, with a very good performance and great marks from the judges, although it was very close again between them and the Italians. But Marina & Gwendal knew that their free dance was the best and were confident. They skated wonderfully, and received 6.0s again. There was no doubt that they were the champions, and it looked even more likely that they would win the gold at Worlds. At Worlds, the pressure was even more intense, as Marina & Gwendal skated in France. Sure, they had the crowd behind them, but on the other side it was very difficult not to disappoint them. They had the hopes of a country on their shoulders. They skated two wonderful compulsory dances that put them way ahead of the other teams. But in their original dance, which they had changed again, Gwendal nearly fell in one of the required step sequences. The judges had to make a deduction, and as the Italians skated perfectly, Marina & Gwendal dropped down to second place. It was a big disappointment for them, and they knew from that point that they had to skate perfectly in the free dance if they were to win. The crowd was extatic even before Marina & Gwendal skated their Carmina Burana routine. "It was hard to keep concentrated", Gwendal said. But they skated wonderfully, even though there was a small mistake on a lift. The judges gave them four 6.0s, and finally, Marina & Gwendal became World champions. "Winning in my home country is a dream come true," Gwendal said, "I will never forget it."

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