The skatemoms in the above picture would like to say Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there– and to all the caregivers who have ever filled that role in someone’s life.
Before they would agree to pose for this picture, these skatemoms made me promise to tell you that they do not, in any way, fit the stereotype of the pushy skatemom from hell. They also want to make it clear that they are not the skatemoms from Red Flags. Indeed, it would paint a false picture to show the Red Flags skatemoms standing in a row at an ice rink together. In the book, the American skatemoms never meet the Soviet skatemoms, who are not allowed to travel outside the country.
So, without further ado, here are the skatemoms from Red Flags, in order of appearance…
Lyudmilla Belkina Lyubovskaya, also known as Milla, is Larissa’s mother. She gets pregnant with her only child at the age of seventeen, by which time she is already showing symptoms of a mental illness that grows progressively worse over the course of the novel. Unable to care for Larissa, the two switch roles. But whenever Larissa appears on TV, it is Milla who spots her “baby” first.
Zoya Alexandrovna Panova performs most of the heavy-lifting skatemom duties during the early part of Larissa’s skating career. An elderly neighbor who is not blood related to Larissa, Zoya was close to Milla’s late mother and feels a deep sense of responsibility toward the child. Like most Russian women of her generation, Zoya has had a hard life. She is the one who teaches Larissa how to survive.
Marina Turchenko, another non-relative, forms the female half of the husband-and-wife coaching team at Larissa’s hometown skating rink. I will leave it up to the reader to determine how much of Marina’s gentleness and warmth is sincere and how much of it is contrived to manipulate Larissa into performing well on the ice.
Gladia Rathbone is beyond the stereotypical skatemom from hell. She and her daughter, Cassandra, are the first Americans Larissa encounters when she starts competing internationally. Although Cassandra is older than Larissa and her skating is more artistically refined, Gladia still views Larissa as a threat and treats her accordingly. But Gladia is at her worst with Cassandra; the other American skaters compare them to Joan and Christina Crawford.
Elinor Brown, a minor character, is another American skatemom who views Larissa as a threat to her daughter. But unlike the raging Gladia Rathbone, Elinor is high-strung and jittery. She has to live separately from her husband so that her daughter, Ellen, can train at an elite skating club in another state with a coach who (hopefully) knows how to deal with Ellen’s eating disorder.
Dmitra’s mother is the only skatemom Larissa encounters at the athletes’ dormitory in Moscow; the other parents live too far away to visit their children. Larissa scoffs at the way Dmitra’s mother babies her daughter, yet she is secretly jealous. At the age of thirteen, Larissa recognizes that Dmitra has a family to protect her while she, Larissa, is on her own.