Full name: Inola Hawkins
Division: pairs, eligible (with Maxim Reznikov)
Representing: United States
Coach: Tom Ashdown
Choreographer: Caelan O'Connor
Best skating element: Inola has an extraordinary flexibility, giving her a special talent for unique and creative lifts and other moves. An adrenaline junkie, she loves headbangers and other challenging, dangerous-looking moves. She and Maxim have collaborated in creating several new moves, such as a throw backflip and a split death spiral. The pair prefer to match rock music to their exciting, on-the-edge style.
Hometown: Tulsa, Oklahoma
Birthdate: September 24, 1975
Height: 5' 4"
Hair color: brown
Eye color: black
Physical description: Although physically very strong, Inola looks deceptively petite. Her skin is a warm bronze-brown, reflecting her mixed heritage. She wears her hair short, and usually straight.
Family: father, Leon (construction worker); mother, Tsula (waitress).
Personality: Inola is spirited, decisive, and fearless. She doesn't let anyone push her around, and goes after what she wants aggressively, often taking risks in the process. She looks for honesty and respect from friends, and gives the same in return. Her attention span is rather short; she can be turned off by something she can't pick up on right away, but will work tirelessly at whatever she does choose to put her mind to.
Hobbies/interests: Jogging, Native American culture and art, crime novels/mysteries, Mexican food.
Personal history: Inola was born in Oklahoma to a Cherokee mother and an African-American father. Her father left home when she was six years old, leaving her to be raised by her mother; she would not reconcile with him until almost twenty years later.
Her mother's efforts to teach her about her Native American heritage were met with disinterest. Inola's first ambition was to become a veterinarian, since she grew up around a number of animals. She first discovered skating at age nine, when her class took a field trip to an ice rink. Her initial efforts to stay on her feet in skates frustrated her, and she was prepared to write off the activity, but a friend encouraged her and kept talking her into visiting the rink. It took time, but she grew to love skating as she got better at it, her own interest even outliving her friend's.
By the time Inola began to show real promise as a skater, money for her lessons was getting scarce. The setback only stiffened her resolve, and she set a new goal for herself: to become the first Native American skater to win a world championship. It was on this basis that she and her mother gained support from the Native American community. In response to the generosity of her mother's people, Inola even found herself learning more about their culture--and herself as well.
At fourteen her attention shifted to pairs skating, when she developed a crush on Robbie Warden, a young pairs skater who was looking for a partner. The relationship never became serious, but they had a number of junior pairs successes. They split up by mutual agreement after three years, when he left the sport to devote himself to college.
After a few interim partners, Inola developed a lasting partnership with a skater named Mark Brandis, and they skated together for eight years. In that time, they won five U.S. championship medals--two silver and three bronze--and competed at Worlds four times, where their best placing was fifth. They finished out their partnership with the Olympics in 2002, placing eighth. Mark had gotten engaged, and left skating to begin his married life. Inola turned to skating in small ice shows, but she still had a hunger to compete.
When she learned that Maxim Reznikov, the 2002 Olympic bronze medalist and a former competitor of hers, was looking for a partner, she decided to try out with him. She had once been warned against involvement with him by Maxim's former partner Hannah Zahavi, an acquaintance she knew from past competitions, but she chose to take the risks. She recognized that Maxim could be manipulative and ruthless--but she also knew that he was a skilled skater, and that she was tough enough to stand up to him.
Her mother's name, Tsula, means "fox" in Cherokee--so it was with a certain humor that she was named Inola, which means "black fox".