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Happy Birthday To Fort Lee's Anton Sikharulidze

Anton Sikharulidze, shown here with his longtime partner Elena Berezhnaya, turns 40 on Tuesday.
Anton Sikharulidze, shown here with his longtime partner Elena Berezhnaya, turns 40 on Tuesday. Photo Credit: Russia-InfoCentre Facebook

FORT LEE, N.J. -- Happy birthday to retired pairs figure skater Anton Sikharulidze, who's turning 40 on Tuesday. He lived in Fort Lee for a few years while he trained at a facility in Hackensack.

Sikharulidze was born in Leningrad, which is now known as St. Petersburg. He began skating with Elena Berezhnaya as part of her rehabilitation after she suffered a skating injury with her prior partner.

Her coach said they had an immediate chemistry. "They're a natural pair," he told Time in a 1998 article. "They've got it -- something magical."

In 1998, the pair, skating for Russia, won the European Championship, claimed silver at the Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, and took gold at the World Championships.

They also won the 1999 World Championship -- and relocated to New Jersey after their facility in St. Petersburg closed for renovations.

Sikharulidze and Berezhnaya won gold in the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, though it was a squeaker. Following a judging controversy, the silver-winning Canadian pair was ultimately declared co-champions and awarded gold as well.

They retired from competitive skating in 2003, and each then made appearances in various skating shows and events.

Sikharulidze has now turned to politics. In 2007, he was elected to St. Petersburg's Legislative Assembly and later that year was elected to the State Duma, the lower house of the Russian legislature. He chairs the Duma's Committee for Physical Culture and Sport.

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