A Natural Fit
Skoblikova was born March 8, 1939, into a large family in Zlatoust, a small mining town in the mountains of Siberia in the Soviet Union. Her father worked as a metallurgical engineer, a position that gave his daughter the chance to pursue skating and be educated in the Soviet system. With the area's long, cold winters and many rinks, skating was an obvious choice of recreation, and Skoblikova spent many hours on the ice. By the time she was twelve, her talent and fondness for speed skating took root, and she became serious about the sport.
In 1957, the 18-year old set the women's Soviet records in the 1,500 meter and 3,000 meter distances. That same year, she married her trainer, Alexander Skoblikova, who later placed her under the charge of a series of other trainers when he devoted himself to teaching at the Chelyabinsk Pedagogic Institute near Zlatoust. His wife supported the career change, explaining to Israel Shenker of Sports Illustrated, "I think it's better not to be married to a skater. You have more to talk about." This attitude reflected her broad base of interests, including music and literature. Soon, she too became a teacher at the Chelyabinsk Pedagogic Institute, concentrating on physiology.
Although Skoblikova was not single-minded in her pursuit of speed skating glory, she did want to be the best. Along with her teammates, she undertook a strenuous and innovative training regimen that included gymnastics, running, and an early form of in-line skating for times when ice was unavailable. She was driven to work harder than anyone, telling Shenker of Sports Illustrated, "If anyone else runs 20 times 200, I can do 40 times 200. And at faster speed."