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Skaters mourn a mother

Death of competitor's mom in crash casts pall on U.S. championships.

By Associated Press
Published January 14, 2005

PORTLAND, Ore. - Elite figure skaters are a tight-knit bunch, spending thousands of hours together training, traveling and at competitions. In their isolated world, competitors are more family than foe.

So as word filtered out late Wednesday night that Angela Nikodinov's mother had been killed in a car accident on the family's way to the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, the competition didn't seem so important.

"That is devastating," said John Baldwin, who was second in the pairs short program with partner Rena Inoue. "Her mother is always in such good spirits. She always came to the rink with Angela, she was always real proud of her. She was enjoying her daughter's success. That that's cut short, it's not right."

Delores Nikodinov, 48, of San Pedro, Calif., was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash. Nikodinov, a two-time bronze medalist at nationals, and her father Nick were treated at Legacy Emanuel Hospital and released.

Nikodinov's coach, Igor Pashkevich, was kept overnight for observation.

Nikodinov withdrew from the competition. The women's short program was Thursday night.

"Her parents are her life. She's incredibly close to them," said David Baden, Nikodinov's agent. "Angela and her mother had the most infectious laugh. The same laugh. That that voice is silent is so shocking. No one deserves this."

Portland police said the Nikodinov family was in a shuttle from the airport a little after 9 a.m. Wednesday when the lime green minivan collided with a Volkswagen Jetta as the van merged onto Interstate 205. The shuttle hit a cement barrier, and the right front tire blew out.

The van flipped onto its side and skidded along the pavement for a short distance before coming to a stop, said Sgt. Brian Schmautz, a spokesman for the Portland police. Delores Nikodinov was sitting next to a window that exploded, and Schmautz said she died of head trauma.

"It's our understanding it was more of a fluke, just simply because of the victim's position in the vehicle," Schmautz said. "Had the van not rolled or had she been in a slightly different place, the accident may not have killed her."

The driver of the car, Melisa Kirkpatrick of Vancouver, Wash., was not hurt. The driver of the van, Sergey Anikin, was taken to the hospital as a precaution and released.

On the ice, meanwhile, defending champions Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto won the original dance and earned four more 6.0s. They had already earned one perfect mark for their compulsory dance.

In pairs, none of the top couples was clean. Katie Orscher and Garrett Lucash only made one mistake - she fell on a throw triple flip - and that was good enough to put them first.

For Nikodinov, 24, her mother's death was just another in a series of hardships. She lost her beloved coach, Elena Tcherkasskaia, to pancreatic cancer in November 2001. Skating in the Olympic trials a few weeks later, Nikodinov finished fourth, barely missing a spot on the Salt Lake City team.

Then the next few years were a blur of injuries.

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