Translation of an interview with Alexandra Nazarova and Maxim Nikitin who recently won gold at the Universiade.
How long have you been skating together and how did you team up?
Maxim: We have been together more than 13 years. Although I started to skate when I was 4, but I think that I started to do figure skating seriously only when we teamed up with Sasha. Before that I skated just for health.
Alexandra: I got to the rink accidentally. My brother was engaged in hockey and my mother and I were attending his trainings. I just could not sit still and kept asking my mother when we’ll go home. So she decided to engage me also, at the small rink nearby. Just a month later I switched to ice dance. I was 7 years old.
Was it difficult in that years to do figure skating?
Maxim: We trained at the arena “Jubileinyi”, at that time it was the only ice rink in our city (Kharkiv). There were no shopping malls with ice rinks yet. We were teamed up by our first coach Galina Churilova. We still maintain a good relationships. She always helps us. She went with us to the Universiade. Perhaps we can not even say that she is our former coach. She will always be our coach.
Alexandra: We try to consult with her on any serious question: choice of music, costumes.
Are you also a pair off the ice?
Maxim: No, we’re not a couple. Just it’s not cheap to live in the USA, we can’t live separately for financial reasons.
Have you already settled in?
Maxim: Yes, we have been here since last July. Here we rent apartment. Sasha loves to decorate it, to buy something for the interior. Because initially there was absolutely no furniture, even a bed. We rent an apartment together with another skater, our good friend, she represents Korea.
Alexandra: We have already got used, grow roots and consider this apartment our home. But of course we miss our relatives.
You have worked in Ukraine, then in Moscow, now in the United States. Are overseas training conditions different from the European?
Maxim: I would even say they are incomparable. These are two completely different schools with different approaches. Here in the States, we have a system of individual lessons. We have a large group, but every day we have a different schedule, we have individual lessons with each coach. In Ukraine, like in all post-Soviet countries, we have the system, when coaches and all the team work with the whole group at once. For us, I think, the American approach is more suitable. But there are people who, on the contrary, believe that system that works in Ukraine is better. It depends on the athlete, on what he needs and what helps him to develop.
How does your trainings process go? For example, do you pick up music yourself?
Maxim: Here we are like one big team, or even a family. When we are looking for music, everyone works on it: we, coaches and even there were moments when our fans sent their options. With regard to training, our first practice just finished (at 11:00 am US time). Now we’ll have a little break and then we’ll be back on the ice, the whole working day is ahead. Everyday we have a different schedule, but on average we spend about 5-6 hours on ice.
When you were moving to Alexander Zhulin, you told that he was “a coach from TV” for you. Igor Shpilband ia a new level?
Maxim: When we lived in Ukraine, our parents loved to watch the show “Ice Age” and we watched it with them. We saw Alexander Zhulin mainly in the TV show, he is more a media man. And we got to know Igor already at the competition, by his results.
Alexandra: I would say that this is a new stage in our lives, because they both have the same level, they are both strong coaches and great professionals. They are just different. Igor Shpilband was the coach of our idols, so we have always wanted to work with him, to see how they train, to look at them, wanted to be like them.
And who are your idols in figure skating?
Alexandra: Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. They have recently returned after a two-year break. Throughout our career we followed their cue and consider them the best athletes, perhaps in the history of figure skating.
How do you define your style? You’re called “extremals on the ice”. Do you agree with this definition?
Maxim: Yes, totally agree. When we start to do programs in the offseason, the first thing we do – we look for some new elements, transitions, something interesting. We always have a task to do something new, something that nobody has ever done. And sometimes we have a task to do something that no one could repeated.
How do you think, did you succeed?
Maxim: I think that usually yes. At least, a lot of experts point out what we do on the ice.
Current season can be considered a preparation for the Olympic Games in Korea. Are you aiming at the Olympics?
Maxim: Of course! This is our main goal of this season to qualify for the Games. All previous competitions of this season were just preparation for the World Championships, because for us, it may be the most important competition of our career.
How do you rate your chances at Worlds?
Maxim: We don’t have any particular task, to take some place, to get some points. We have only one task – to qualify for the Olympic Games and, of course, to show two our programs in the best possible way, not to let down our coaches and team.
Have you ever received offers from other skating federations to represent their countries?
Maxim: No, nothing like that. And, frankly, we haven’t even thought about it. We simply do not see any sense. We have a great team that does everything for us to show best results. Figure Skating Federation of Ukraine provides support.
How do you spend your free time?
Maxim: Frankly, it’s pretty hard to do something else besides training in the midst of preparation for the championships. Unfortunately, we live quite far away from our rink and when we get home, there is time only for dinner and go to bed. Over the weekend, we spend time with friends from our group.
Alexandra: Recently I’ve started to do yoga. It helps in recovery. Also I like reading and cooking. But we haven’t determined my signature dish yet.
Maxim: She cooks very tasty. She cooks breakfast, lunch and dinner for me, and I’m very happy. But pastries and desserts turn out best.
by Dmitri Koval 2day.kh.ua