Team USA ice dancers Molly Cesanek and Yehor Yehorov overcame a language barrier to become a formidable team
By David Fawcett
In ice dancing, the key is to find a partner that matches you in style, skill, and passion. Yehor Yehorov, a native of Ukraine, was searching for one. On the advice of his coach, he traveled to Virginia for a tryout with Warrenton resident Molly Cesanek in April, 2018. His coach’s instinct to pair the two was spot on, and it turned out to be career-making, life-changing advice. Not only did he find a partner he “clicked with” professionally in Molly, he is now applying for US citizenship. “Even though we didn’t know each other, or even of each other, trying out together was incredible as we just meshed together really well and our techniques matched beautifully as well,” said Molly.
Even so, initially there was a disconnect at first. The key was solving it.
The two struggled in their first few months to overcome a language barrier. Yehor spoke Ukrainian and Molly English. The miscommunication created tension at times as they worked on technique to increase their comfort level with each other as partners in ice dancing.
But no matter how frustrated they got, they refused to quit. The two Warrenton residents shared a passion for skating and were both intense competitors. If they could bond in those areas, they could figure this out. All it took was some patience and speaking from the heart.
Once that occurred, they realized something important: They were saying the same thing without knowing it.
“We learned to listen,” Molly said.
Everything clicked from there. Since 2019, the two have placed no lower than sixth twice in a combined eight national and international ice dancing competitions.
Most recently, they won the 2020 Enga Dance Trophy in Italy in February.
“We were ecstatic about our win at Italy as that is the position we wanted to be in all season,” Molly said.
Their gold medal helped soften the disappointment of finishing fourth in January at the 2020 U.S. Junior Figure Skating National Championships in Greensboro, N.C.
After completing the rhythmic dance portion, they were in second going into the free dance competition. Based on their execution, Molly and Yehor believed they were in position to at least stay in second. But they fell to fourth after judges deducted points for being too far away from the boards at the beginning of their choreographic step sequence.
“This technical call most likely cost us a trip to the junior world championships which was our season goal so it was very emotional for us,” Molly said. “But we have a belief that we must go experience these challenges because they prepare us for bigger opportunities we have in front of us and launch us even further with more motivation required to fulfill the dreams ahead.”
As they continue to encounter success, Molly and Yehor’s main goal is to represent the United States at the Winter Olympics. Yehor must first become a U.S. citizen, something he’s working on. In the meantime, he is living with Molly’s family in Warrenton. “This is the perfect place for me,” Yehor said.
Before the coronavirus shut athletic facilities down, the two trained in Rockville, MD twice a day, six days a week for four to five hours each day.
Molly said one of the main questions she always gets is why she and her family don’t move closer to Rockville. Molly, 19, who grew up in Fauquier County and graduated from Wakefield School in The Plains, has no intention of leaving here.
“I am a Warrenton girl,” said Molly, who in May finished her freshman year at American University. “This is my home.”
Both became skaters at an early age. Yehor, who is 20, began skating at age 7 in his native country after noticing an ice rink next to his school while walking with his mother.
Molly was five when she began skating. Since she loved to dance, her parents wanted to find a way to combine her energy level with her artistic bent. Ice dancing was the eventual answer.
While individuals can perform in ice dancing, they cannot perform solo in the Olympics. Only partners can. It took some time for the typically shy Molly to embrace the idea of skating with someone else, but she overcame her fears.
“As I got older, I realized this was not so daunting if you are doing it with a good friend,” Molly said.
Although the two have skated with three previous partners each, this combination has superseded them all.
“We have a system of communication that we knew would work,” Molly said. “We have such an interesting story. This happened for a reason. It’s not something we expected, but we knew we had to sort it out.”
Besides working on their skating moves, the two received help in other ways.
Molly, for example, is teaching Yehor English. She admits the sessions test her patience sometimes as she tries to get Yehor to understand her point, but the end result is always worth it.
“I’m very thankful to Molly,” Yehor said. “She gives me homework. She will tell me this is a verb and this is a noun. She’s very supportive.”
Molly, in turn, is thankful for her support system, starting with her parents and grandparents followed by so many others at Wakefield who have adjusted their schedules to help her realize her dream. Without them, it would have been a challenge for her to manage school and skating.
Despite their bumpy beginning, Molly is also thankful she and Yehor stayed the course.
“It’s not easy finding a partner, let alone a good partner,” Molly said.
Follow Molly and Yehor on Instagram: instagram.com/mollycesanek_yegoryegorov