Translation of big Elena Vaitsekhovskaya’s interview with Dmitri Soloviev.
Over the years you and Katya have developed a style of free dances. It’s always a story on the ice, drama. Didn’t you have a desire to do something different in the Olympic season, unexpected for the audience? To surprise, to amaze, to shock them finally.
– Each season we try to do something new. Therefore this year we attracted to the work new choreographer Radu Poklitaru – a specialist in non-standard views on choreography. When we just started working together, it was difficult for us to transfer some things to the ice, so unusual it was for us. These are not primitive movements and gestures (here is my heart, we love each other, I kissed your hand, you cuddled to my shoulder), but a completely different choreography, a different direction. What we are doing now is completely different movements, which, as turns out, also can told about the relationship between a man and a woman.
The choreography that has always distinguished Russian ice dance leaders was, as usual, very emotional, including facial expressions.
– Yes, so it’d be seen from the 50th row.
I remember the choreo of Antonio Najarro, which he did for Stephane Lambiel, Elena Ilinykh and Ruslan Zhiganshin. He was teaching how to express emotions first of all with the body.
– We also use the upperbody, head, hands a lot. But it’s not correct to forget about face completely. How can you make a comedy and never smile, even for one second?
Do you want to say that the style of your new free program is comedy?
– No, it’s a drama. The relationship between a man and a woman. A story that can happen to any of us.
When will be the premiere?
– In September, at the test skates in Sochi.
Canadian and American dancers tend to show their new programs, not waiting for the fall. It has logic: people want the audience to learn about the program as soon as possible, to start talking about it, create an opinion, on which judges may also rely on. Most Russian skaters prefer to keep their programs in secret for as long as possible. What is the point of such tactics?
– Perhaps it’s natural for us to get in shape later. In the summer the programs are still quite “raw”, basically there is nothing to show.
Don’t you have a feeling that it would be worthwhile to start making run-throughs earlier, since all the strongest do it?
– We discussed this with the coach, but the Olympic season is definitely not the time to change something. It is much more reasonable to do everything the way we are used to. Perhaps after the Games we will return to this discussions If we continue skating together or If I change a partner.
I would like to know more about it….
– There’re no details yet. Katya and I have often talked about this. It’s no secret that after the Olympics she wants to step away a little from figure skating, she wants family, children. I do not know yet, whether I will continue to skate. Will there be enough health, desire, will there be an opportunity.
… whether there will be a partner.
– We also discussed it with Katya. And decided that it’s necessary to try to skate as best as possible this season, and then make decisions according to circumstances.
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After Katya got married last summer, I personally had a feeling that she’s already in a different, not sporting life. And that you, being near, must constantly feel this.
– This is not true. Now figure skating is in the first place for both of us. When we are on the ice, we abstract from everything. Completely immersed in work. A really difficult period for me was only once, when Katya had this nonsense with meldonium. That’s when Katya’s brain scrambled a little. It’s normal for a person who devoted all his life to figure skating, successfully passed the Olympic cycle, goes to the next Olympics, and then again – he is beaten with a bag on his head and told: “You will not skate again”.
Even I can not fully imagine what was going on in Katya’s mind. I tried not to show that I’m worried. Subconsciously still believed that the situation will resolve somehow and we will be able to return. That’s why I was hurt when Katya began to say that we can do shows, or even leave the sport, do other things. Perhaps, for Katya, all these conversations were just a way to protect her psyche, not to lose her mind. But looking at her, I also began to think about the future.
And with what thoughts did you finish the last season?
– I would say that in general the season turned out successful. Maybe we were expecting something more …
Maybe or you expected?
– I’ll be honest, I expected more. Katya has a phrase which she often says commenting on some competitions, that the place on which judges put us isn’t the most important, but clean performance, so that our family and friends, viewers could enjoy watching our skating. I never hide that I want to win, I want to take high places. This is the main thing for me in figure skating. And only then – the desire so that coaches, parents and all the others liked our programs.
Хочу выразить огромную благодарность организаторам Чемпионата России 2016 в Челябинске ! Как я сказал не пресс-конференции – этот чемпионат был проведён на самом высоком уровне ! Да, он ещё не закончен, но уже с самых первых мгновений оставляет только положительные впечатления. Отдельное спасибо за поддержку и самое отдельное спасибо за критику и Ваши "добрые" комментарии. Мы как молот – идём напролом. Трудности нас только закаляют. Конкуренция внутри страны заставляет двигаться только вперёд. Всех с наступающими новогодними праздниками !!!
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And so that no one criticizes?
– I take it easy. Although before the Games in Sochi, some comments hurted me strongly. I thought: Why the world works that way? We work to exhaustion, we break and cut our hands and feet, everything hurts, and people who, perhaps, do not understand anything in sports, categorically declare that our level is the second ten in the world?
And then I realized that I don’t need to react to such things at all. They discuss you? So, there is something to discuss. It’s worse when you are not remembered at all. I react adequately on objective criticism. They say, for example, that Soloviev screwed up twizzles in the short dance at the World Team Trophy and that’s very bad, I can only agree: yes, that’s very bad.
Did you screw up twizzles?
Why? Given that it’s one of your most stable elements?
– Who knows? I began to think of them. I never thought about twizzles – I just did them, that’s all. Perhaps, affected that actually the season was already completed, so you can afford to think how to “improve” some steps and transitions. But as soon as I start thinking about the element, everything starts to fall appart at once. When you “turn off” the head, letting the body unconsciously do the elements automatically, everything turns out much better.
How did you react to the gold medals of team event at the Games in Sochi? What was is like?
– I did not feel any inner joy and jubilation from this championship. Yes, we were given medals, everything was fine, beautiful, but I still had thoughts in my head that the most important competition is ahead, in a week. And exactly there we need to skate like never before.
You and Katya were fifth, although, probably, you could have became third in the personal tournament.
– I don’t think we could. It was hard to realize that, especially as during the season we beat Lena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov. But after we stayed fifth after the short program in Sochi, it became clear that there’s nothing to do about it. That somewhere on the top everything has been already decided. Therefore, going to the final skate, we told ourselves that we should skate for pleasure. But it was the Olympic Games, so everything that was happening was especially hard. Before the start, I saw that Katya’s nerves are at the limit, that there were tears in her eyes, saw Sasha Zhulin’s doomed eyes. When we were already in the starting pose, I felt that Katya was shaking. It would have been psychologically easier, probably, if we had been in the top three after a short program, or at least the gap with the rivals hadn’t been so big. But everything was too obvious.
Do you consider your Olympic result biased?
– I can not judge my own skating. When I look at other pairs, it’s easier to understand who is better, who is worse, whose dance is more interesting. I’m looking at myself and I do not understand this.
From your point of view who was stronger last season – Olympic champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, or two-time world champions Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron?
– It seems to me that objectively now the French are stronger than Canadians.
At the same time Canadians were winning throughout the season. Do you have an explanation for this paradox?
– It is difficult for me to answer such questions.
Do you think this is incorrect?
– Partly, yes.
So, you will not deny that almost every medal in ice dancing always has some subtext. I can be mistaken, but I do not exclude that it was a kind of thanks to Tessa and Scott from ISU for returning to the sport.
– Maybe you’re right. But I would prefer that everything in the ice dances be more objective.
By the way, how much do you agree that at the Games in Sochi Meryl Davis Charlie become champions not Virtue / Moir?
– In my opinion, Charlie was more fresh, or something. They looked more confident, this added energy, their skating was more interesting to watch, drawing attention. Now, analyzing technique after a few years, you start to think: why such levels of difficulty? Why Americans and Canadians are judged more loyally than European dancers? Although, of course, both pairs had something to admire.
– For example, the way they were skating so close to each other all those years. It is very beautiful, when the pair is skating just in millimeters from each other. Everyone works on it, all tend to perform the same twizzles as close as possible, just not everyone succeed: you constantly think that you can crush into each other. Probably, you have to crush a couple of times at trainings to feel the distance. And then bring each step to automatism. But this is the highest class, when two people, do a step sequence in parallel almost not touching each other and not holding hands. It’s breathtaking!
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After Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov came to your group, was there any discomfort in training?
– Until I did not feel any difference. Katya and I, going on the ice, work according to our plan.
Do all Zhulin’s dance duos train on the same ice?
And if your coach had the opportunity to divide pairs?
– I would not want that. It’s motivate me when a strong rival skates nearby. If this happens throughout the season, I will make a huge step forward for myself.
But you can not but understand that working with Sinitsina and Katsalapov it’s a serious challenge for Zhulin. And like for any other coach who has two strong pairs, it should not matter for him which of them becomes first. And it’s not a fact that it will be you and Katya.
– This is ok. I just know Sasha well, I know his approach to work, his principles. He will never play any games behind his athletes’ backs. As for the distribution of coaching time, I do not think that one of us has a reason to feel deprived. And there is no need to motivate anyone, we can motivate ourselves if necessary. It’s not about rivals, it’s about how you are ready to grow and develop. When Katya and I came to Zhulin, we began to discover some new abilities, some reserves, which we are still pulling out of ourselves. And I understand that there is no limit to this process.
Is it possible to be friends when you are in the same group and are fighting for one medal?
– I have many friends who have nothing to do with figure skating. Or Sergei Voronov, with whom we are not competitors.
I’m talking not quite about that. For example, everyone believed that there was a harmony in the group of Marina Zueva, where many years have been training Virtue / Moir and Davis / White. But after the Games in Sochi, it turned out that everything was completely different. That skaters flew to the same tournaments by different planes, in the locker rooms sat in different corners and there were no friendship. How much rivalry can aggravate personal relationships between people?
– We have been training with Vika and Nikita not for a long time, but so far as I can judge, everyone is comfortable with each other both in the locker room and on the ice. I generally like to communicate with people, Katya too.
Don’t you get tired of Katya? You’re spending a lot of time together?
– We feel each other very well. Do not irritate, do not tire. Sometimes we can talk the whole practice, discuss the elements, some other training moments. Sometimes we work in silence and do not say a single word.
Turns out the idea to continue performances in show doesn’t appeal at all?
– The show is a completely different work. It can be very interesting, but I would not compare any show to the competitions. There is adrenaline, there is a special fatigue. Even now I sit and think: the season is coming soon, and I already want to finally show the programs, see the judges’ assessments. In the off-season I always miss this atmosphere.
Are you satisfied with the Grand Prix you got?
– Yes, we got exactly what we wanted: first we go to the Cup of Russia in Moscow, then the week of preparation and competitions in China. Well, then, if everything goes well, we will prepare for the Grand Prix Final.
by Elena Vaitsekhovskaya for sport-express.ru