Translation of Vaitsekhovskaya’s interview with Julia Lipnitskaya.
Julia was disappointed with her performance in free program. When asked what upset her the most, she said:
Julia: Actually, all happened as I expected. We just didn’t have time to make enough run-throughs on trainings. To be honest, we didn’t skate full free program at all. But if you knew how much I was worried on the eve of these opened skates, it could be even worse. The pressure was strong.
In an interview earlier this year you told me that you even began to feel a fear before performances.
Julia: Yes, it happened. For example, I was very afraid of open skates last year. Although, now when I think about competitions where I will participate, I don’t feel fear. I understand that we will have time to do needed amount of run-throughs, and everything won’t be like it’s now.
Probably, the thing is that it’s first appearance on public, first go out, first show of the programs. For me it has always been very nervous, even in a quite childish age. Because each time I want to show everything that I’ve already worked out. And from the thought that I won’t succeed in this I became so scared that legs cramp.
Although, I can say that we have positive changes. For example, during the free program I tried to fight for every element, even if some of these elements have turned not of good quality. Before, I would just popped the jumps.
Your technical plans for offseason were grandiose, primarily concerned jumps. Did you manage to implement this plans?
Julia: We worked mainly on technique in summer. The offseason didn’t turn out smooth, it wasn’t illness-free. However we did quite a lot. We worked on a different jumps combination, especially on the second jump, and to be honest, it was hard to return these jumps. In the short program everything turned out more or less, though I was very worried for the lutz-toe combination. Free program is very raw, with a completely unprepared choreographic part.
You are ruthless in evaluations.
Julia: Well, whom I can cheat? The main thing is that Alexei Evgenievich (Urmanov) and I know quite clear on what and how we will work in the remaining days before competitions. The first start I will have at Ondrej Nepela Memorial in Bratislava, then Grand Prix in Chicago and Moscow.
I know that in summer you worked with ice dancer Ekaterina Rubleva. Did you like it?
Julia: Yes, very. Somehow we found a common language very quickly . Katya immediately started to work as if I spent all my life in ice dance. Although, ice dancers in figure skating it’s a completely different story. They can work all practice on steps, which I hate with all my heart.
Are you talking about some particular difficult steps?
Julia: I wish! Usual “herringbone” on the straight edge. The basic step in figure skating. In singles is just steps for gathering speed: made – and forgot. In dances it’s the whole story: sit deep on feet, push from the skates, keep the back, do not turn shoulders and hips – to keep the so-called box … until I mastered it I went crazy. Working on it I got exhausted more than after skating a free program. It was much easier to jump.
What this work gave you?
Julia: A more powerful step, different skating. Unfortunately, we haven’t worked as much as we would like to. Katya came to Sochi repeatedly, between work with her dance couples. Sometimes for a few days, sometimes for a week. We don’t have a standing coach for skating skills here in Sochi.
With the new rules it become fashionable to invite experts from ice dance for choreographing steps sequences. At least, this trend is evident. Do you have the explanation for that?
Julia: Dancers don’t waste their precious time on such a “trifle” as jumps. At the same time single skaters devote a biggest part of the training to jumps. Therefore, if a single skater perform dancing step sequence, consists of steps that dancers do every day for hours, that looks unusual. It’s really cool to do a step sequence like dancers. So many try to work on the steps with a specialist from ice dance, to work on steps technique. With the right execution it becomes easy to do even the most difficult steps. It’s become easier to add the work of knee, upper-body, so the step sequence looks more advantageous, began to “play” and you’re no dying on it but feel comfortable.
The step sequence in the short program we did with Stephane Lambiel. In Sochi I simplified it, didn’t do it in full force. I did it deliberately, to do normally all jumps. At the beginning of the season you are always subconsciously saving power at the first part, so it’s guaranteed that you’ll skate the program up to the end. I closely monitor my condition during the performance and wondered how easy it was for me. Because when we put this program it everything was awkward.
How you with your character dealt with this inconvenience?
Julia: When I was a child coaches often repeated: if from the very beginning everything is convenient, the athlete will never grow up. “Inconvenient” elements make you to work on them more thoroughly, and you are growing in technical terms. I remembered this. Therefore, working with Lambiel, I didn’t irritate, but rather was pleased to think: “But I grow up!”
What is the result?
Julia: Now it has become easy and simple. I should be happy, but I’m still looking for the catch, why is so easy? Probably something is wrong with me. Probably somewhere I don’t work good enough.
But you have on what to work?
Julia: Of course. In Sochi, we received a lot of comments after the analysis of the short program. Comments about step sequence, transitions, all coments were rightly and will work on it in the first place. According to free program, firstly it should be skated-in. And then we’ll work on details.
You surprised me with story about working with Lambiel. It is believed that when a former skater involved in creation of the program, he always does conveniently for the skater.
Julia: In fact, I really enjoyed working with Stephane. Perhaps, because he is not the first choreographer in my life and can compare. For example, coaches did program for children, these programs are always convenient, because from the begining they were done for jumping. Nikolai Morozov did very convenient programs. He usually asked to show him some moves, looked carefuly and said: “We’ll put it here, it’s look good here.” And it turned out that the entire step sequence is built on convenience. Marina Zueva tried to add new transitions and choreography, just I got to her at the moment when I didn’t understand myself very well. It’s clear that for stranger it was even more difficult to understand how to work with me. During the season I got used to programs, but in the beginning I felt quite strange.
Stephane is a different story. The music began and he flew away. He is so fond of music and ice that observe his improvisations is an enormous pleasure. But we didn’t come to admire his skating, we came to did the program. In practice, it looked like this: Stefan turns on the music and begins to do some steps very quickly, Alexei Evgenievich and I are standing open-mouthed and don’t understand how he does it. Then I come to, I ask to show again, he begins to repeat – and does all differently, and sometimes he is not even aware of it, because he doesn’t remember steps or their order. So, it’s useless to ask what he’s doing right now. So, I learned to pick out visually some pieces from his sequence and repeat them. I skated after him, staring on Stefan’s feet. He’s also constantly braids his feet in some incomprehensible way. Wrap them, crosses. I’ve never in my life lied on the ice as much as I was lying on the ice in Switzerland, trying to repeat some moves after Lambiel.
So, the end of joint work was a relief?
Julia: On the one hand, I really like this work, and I’d be happy to continue. On the other – Alexey Evgenievich and I realized that we won’t cope with work on two programs at once – too much new information. Although some pieces and steps, which are not included in the short program, we will use in the free.
What about free program?
Julia: For a long time we couldn’t find music. We listen to everything, until came to “Kill Bill” soundtrack. I immediately remembered that already skated to this music in gala, and I thought, why not? In fact I was told that program looked good.
I try to remember but I can’t.
Julia: It was the Olympic season, that program I skated only once – at the “Grand Prix” in Canada. We did it very fast, cut the music not very successfully, so it turned out not as I wanted and imagined. Now I see how it can be developed.
Is it still principal for you that the idea of the program is initially clear and you liked it?
Julia: I began to relate differently to this. If before I brushed aside any idea, that I didn’t understand, but now I try to understand what sees the coach or choreographer in a particular conception what I don’t see. Regarding free program I hadn’t any opposition. It was comfortable, by the way, to do the program at home, when there is no need to comply fully with a stranger’s idea, you feel freer and more comfortable. If you want to change the entry – you change it. If you want to move the elements – you move them.
Over the past summer you were able to get a fantastic shape. Was it hard?
Julia: The weight started to leave before the Russian Cup in Saransk in February. I recently put a number of photos taken at the end of last year from gala at Russian Nationals and those that were made before the test skates at the show in Moscow. I was in shock. I thought then, in December, I look good, that I can already stop losing weight. But in fact, between these photographs are eight kilograms.
Do you put some effeorts to ensure that the weight stays stable?
Julia: Actually no, all returned to normal by itself. As soon as I started to do physical trainings with rubber, in the gym the weight problem disappeared. A set of exercises aimed to ensure that the muscles are strengthened, but not increased. Although, earlier I was afraid of gym to horror.
Julia: We worked there very rarely, but were loaded to the maximum. Because of this I had a feeling that my leg muscles begin to swell, as if the water was pumped into them. This coincided with the period when the weight began to increase, so the phrase “gym” caused panic in my mind: I’m fat and now will be swollen. And this body can’t skate on the ice, a complete disaster. In Sochi everything adjusted somehow by itself, although the first two weeks I went to the gym on shaky legs.
Did you tracked changes in shape in the mirrow?
Julia: Masseurs notice all changes first of all. They began to tell me that I started to have muscles: on back, on feet, we just worried about the back more. I tried to worked on my back before, but, as it turned out, did it wrong, which is why there have been problems with the spine, coccyx, sacrum, nerve endings. Slightly wrong turn and something aches and the leg is not working. To work on back properly it’s generally a problem in figure skating. I think that all skaters face it.
Stupid question, probably, when you have well developed muscles, falling are less painful?
Julia: I would say that when there are muscles, you get up faster. And sometimes don’t not fall there, where could fall. But falls always strongly irritate me.
For the year, spent in Sochi, have you start to feel like a resident of the resort town?
Julia: The fact that the city is really a resort in every sense of the word, you can feel the best on the street, where are crowds crazed from the sun, heat, idleness. When I started to take driving lessons I realised to what extent all relaxed. The instructor took me to a place where a lot of people – to train attention, reaction. There I faced with the fact that people don;t control their actions. You can ride at a speed of ten kilometers per hour, but you are not immune that someone won’t fall under your wheels. Many people in fact don’t think they are going down the sidewalk or on the road. I keep been asking: how do you work in Sochi? Probably, don’t go out of the sea?
Good question, by the way.
Julia: To be honest, last time I was on the sea perhaps a month ago. At first it was interesting, I tried to get out to the beach every day – just to lie down near the water and to have a tan. When the serious loads started, I realized that this must be ended. It is better to sleep an extra hour in hotel, or to learn the driving theory, because I learnt it myself, didn’t go to a driving school. At the weekend I usually sleep until one o’clock – to quickly recover. Or fly to Moscow.
How often you can do that?
Julia: I try often. And by the way, it also helps to recover in spite of the flights, I come back full of energy and desire to work.