By: Casey Van Hefty, U12 Skier from Lakeland Nordic Ski Club
On June 12, 1966 in Sverdlovsk, Russia, a very intelligent boy, Igor Badamshin was born. Igor had a very successful, but short life. Spending most of his time in Russia he also made his way to the U.S. and Wisconsin. In his life he coached for many teams and was a legacy with all of them. He developed a relationship with the Central Cross Country Ski Association and was a huge part of the program.
Igor Gayniakhmetovich Badamshin was born and grew up in Sverdlovsk, Russia. His name in Russian is actually written as Игорь Гайниахметович Бадамшин. His father’s name was Gainiahment Badamshin and in my research I could not find his mother’s name. He also had a twin brother, and younger sister. Most of his family is still known to live in St. Petersburg, Russia. Igor began skiing at an age of 13. Before that he was really into basketball. He skied with his family at first, but then at 14 years old skiing became more competitive for him.
As a young man Igor became a very well known, world class cross country skier in
Russia, and was known mostly for his long distance skiing. Several of his achievements included a podium position of second place in the 50km classic at the Calgary World Cup event in 1989. He was a member of the Russian 4 x 10 relay team that took the bronze medal in the 1993 World Ski Championship in Falun, Sweden, where he also took 5th place for his 30kim individual classic race. Before that he also placed 5th in the 1989 World Championship race in Lahti, Finland for the 50km individual freestyle race.
While in Russia he also won the Soviet 50 km title in 1988, 50 km, 70 km and relay titles in 1989, a 15 km title in 1990, and CIS 50 km title in 1992. And most impressively, he placed 14th for the Men’s 50k in the 1994 Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway. During this time, while living in Russia , and being very involved in his ski career, is when he met and married Nina Gavrylyuk. Nina was a three-time Olympic gold medal winner herself, and actually took home more medals and higher rankings than Igor. Also while they were living there their daughter Jenia was born. It was documented that he retired from being a professional skier in 1997, but he never stopped skiing.
In 2003 he was asked by a wealthy family to move to Gunstock, New Hampshire to privately coach their daughter. He made his decision to move to the United States for this position and moved with his wife and daughter when she was in 8th grade. Eventually Nina and Igor began coaching a team in this area and they began to quickly rack up top finishes in races.
Many of the athletes they coached went to Junior National Championships and college races. At first it was difficult to coach because of the language barrier but it became easier after awhile. Nina would always take on the serious role and Igor would always make sure everybody got enough games and fun in for the practice. During this time the new Central Cross Country Ski Association (CXC) that was developing in the Midwest caught his attention. He made the decision to move to Wausau, Wisconsin in 2007 where he became the head coach for Knicker Nordic. His wife and daughter decided to stay back in Gunstock.
As time went on he became very involved in the CXC program first volunteering and then becoming a high performance advisor. He also developed and became a coach for the CXC junior development program, and elite team. He even held a development camp right here in Minocqua with his friend Coach Jim Mullen who said he was known to have an incredible amount of energy with children of all ages, and never made practices seem like work. A close friend of Igor’s, Bill Pierce, said when working with kids, you could often hear Igor say “keep moving, moving, moving…and have fun too!”
On Friday January 24, 2014 Igor Badamshin, age 47, was in Seeley Wisconsin, spending time on one of his favorite cross country ski trails. He was training alone on the Birkie trail for an upcoming local race, when he died unexpectedly of a heart attack, while doing something he loved. The news spread quickly among the cross country ski community, and special gatherings were held in many communities that Igor touched, in honor of celebrating his life.
Almost immediately, close friends of Igor’s created a cross country ski event to honor their friend, and named it the Igor Legacy Camp. The camp was a summer ski camp for young athletes, and the first one was held in June 2014 at Iola Winter Sports Club. Kids from all over met to work on movement, balance, meet new friends and most important, to have fun. The camps have continued and this summer there are four different camps planned to honor Igor. I had the chance to go to one last summer, and that is where I learned about Igor and what he did for cross country skiing.
In Igor’s lifetime he coached many children of all ages to inspire them to do their best. He coached them through tough levels of training and travelled with them to races across the country. He always had a good attitude and a smile on his face. He never got discouraged or talked about how good he was at skiing and about his medals he won.
I got the chance to talk to some of Igor’s closest friends. Bruce Manske said this about Igor, “By sharing his happiness and joy of Nordic skiing and LIFE, Igor made a huge impact on a lot of kids during his short life.” His friend Bill Pierce said, “Igor was a great coach, trainer, and skier, but he will be remembered most for his love for playing outside.” And his good friend Dennis Kruse shared a story with me and said “ I said to Igor one time when I was thinking about the medals Igor had won, and how good of racers he had competed against, “Igor you were really good back in the Olympics.” Igor just smiled and said “Yeah, I guess I was a little strong.” Some of Igor’s best friends didn’t even know about the medals he had won and how good of a skier he was, that is the kind of person he was and why he will always be remembered.
Casey Van Hefty is from Minoqua, WI and skis for the Lakeland Nordic Ski Club. This essay and presentation was a part of a ‘Wax Museum’ project at his school. Casey is an awesome skier who competed in many of the CXC Youth Cup races. He placed fourth overall in the U12 age group, during the 2015-16 season!