Interview with Natalia Zabijako and Alexander Enbert. Translation.
Recent European Championships brought your first bronze at the competitions of such level. And you won the medals with the minimum possible gap – 0.01 points. What did you feel when you saw these scores?
Natalia: It turned out so that at first we saw the figure “3” – the third place. So, of course, we were very happy. At that time we didn’t know what was the gap.
Alexander: We were standing in the mixed zone at that moment, and there was no possibility to follow the scores. We only saw that we are the third and the French (Vanessa James / Morgan Cipres) are the fourth. “0,01” we saw only after medal ceremony, when euphoria has already faded a little. Well, rarely but it happens. We were surprised, but reacted to this calmly.
Some fans who love conspiracy theories began to write on the Internet: “The judges calculated with surgical accuracy,” although, in my opinion, it is impossible to create such a gap intentionally.
Natalia: Of course, this is the total score for both programs, in the free program the gap was different.
Alexander: I am not so familiar with the judging system to say whether it is possible or impossible, how much time it takes and how it is generally done. Of course I know what the marks are given for, but the nuances are unfamiliar. Perhaps in the future it will interest me.
Natasha, you performed at the European Championships in difficult circumstances – with an arm injury, so this medal is for sure is very valuable for you now. And you had such a season, too many fourth places. But now you have a tangible reward.
Alexander: I was also very happy to get the small silver medal. All the season we skated the short program cleanly, just didn’t turn out to take higher places. But here we got good scores, season best. And, of course, the overall result – it was very cool. We have been waiting for this for a long time and were very happy.
Natalia: I had to endure pain, but injury did not affect our preparations for the European Championships.
You got it before the Russian Championships, right?
Natalia: Yes. It was more difficult at the Russian Championships. At the European Championships it was more or less ok.
We’re having our conversation on the eve of the Winter Olympics, where you will go for the first time in your career. In this regard, the question – what are your first memories of something like this, Olympic?
Alexander: It’s hard to name something concrete. Rather, since childhood, there was understanding that the Olympics is something to which everyone aspires, what you are aiming for. All the wishes that you make, when you rub something, eat a piece of paper or go around something, are connected with the Olympics. Well, if to say first that comes to mind, then it’s confrontation between Alexei Yagudin and Evgeni Plushenko at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City. It was very interesting to watch and cheer for the guys. I remember their Olympic programs.
Actually, then everyone was cheering for one of them.
Alexander: Probably, I cheered for Zhenya Plushenko a little bit more. Yagudin then moved to Moscow, but Zhenya I saw every day in the “Jubilenyi”, in St. Petersburg, where he trained. There was a feeling that he’s ours, from Petersburg. By the way, I don’t know for whom I would have cheered now. Recently, I have rewatched their performances – it was an equal beautiful fight, both were very cool.
At your skating rink there also were Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze.
Alexander: “Jubilenyi” is a fount of talent. I was fortunate enough to skate on the same ice with Tatiana Totmianina and Maxim Marinin, with Maria Petrova and Alexei Tikhonov.
And how did you look at them when you trained together?
Alexander: I just started doing pair skating, and they were preparing then for the Olympics. Can you imagine that difference in levels? I remember that 90% of the time we stood near the board (laughs). But I’m very glad that I was lucky to see then how they work, learn something from them.
Natasha, you were close to getting to the Olympics in Sochi, when you skated with Alexander Zaboev. But you did not go there because your partner did not have Estonian citizenship.
Natalia: Yes, we qualified for the Olympics in Sochi, we were preparing for it and found out that we will not go only a few weeks before the Olympics. Disappointment was very strong.
Then came the decision to change the place of training and citizenship?
Natalia: I thought about it often, but the decision came after that incident, yes.
Do you remember the moment when you started to skate together?
Alexander: Of course. It was the end of the season-2014/15, light training, basically just steps. It was already decided that I no longer skate with Vasilisa Davankova, and Natalia does not skate with Yuri Larionov. We began to train little by little, did crossovers, simple side by side jumps. Well, how little by little – in the summer, in June, at the training camp in Sochi, we tried 3axel throw (laughs). This shows that our sensations of co-skating and tempo are very well matched. And already in the autumn, at the test skates we realized that we can fight for something serious. Of course, we realized that we would have to go a very long way, spend a lot of time on all sorts of small things. We consider that 80% of the work is done in 20% of the time, and the remaining 20% of the work is done in the remaining 80% of the time. So it turned out – we spent a lot of time on getting the elements into +goe zone, on getting the levels.
I tried to count how many partners you had up to the present moment……
Alexander: Natasha is the fifth.
Natalia: Sasha is also my fifth partner.
How does this happen at all – change of partner?
Alexander: I forgot. And I do not want to remember (laughs). In fact, it’s hard every. No matter whether you showed the result or not, whether you have prospects or not it is always difficult, personally for me. Usually the change of partner took place in the off-season, late spring. This period – spring, summer and early autumn – is the most difficult for me. It seems you’re an experienced athlete, you did triple throws, twists, elements on the fourth level, and then you have to spend a huge amount of time on the simplest things. Single twist, double throws, simple lifts, repeat them a million times … Of course, now, after four years together, there is already a muscle memory aimed at good execution. But the time that goes into working out this muscle memory is very hard. Psychologically, first of all, you come to training as to a routine job. And as for the relationship in pair, I always managed to find a common language with my partners. With each of them it was easy to skate.
There is pair Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov in your group, where she is explosive and he is calm. You, it seems to me, are both calm.
Alexander: We try to come to training with a good mood. We do not swear. I feel comfortable, we have progress in the results – probably because what we do, we do right. But I do not want to say that our example is the right one. Someone needs to explode to start work. I need a calm atmosphere. I feel it. I think Natasha, too.
Haven’t you had a quarrel, at least once?
Not for five minutes? Not even for two minutes?
Alexander: Really, we don’t have quarrels. Sometimes we have different points of view, then we talk. Although this happens rarely. And if you ask me to remember when, I will not remember. Our coach Vlad Zhovnirsky is also very calm, like Nina Mikhailovna Moser.
Do you, as in ordinary companies, practice “team building” – barbecues, or let’s say joint vacations?
Alexander: It happens that our whole team go somewhere together. After the competitions, for example. Recently in Italy Nina Mikhailovna invited us all to the restaurant. Yes, something like this happens, but spontaneously.
So you don’t need to rest from each other?
Natalia: We have enough rest from each other.
Alexander: We spend our vacations in different places, but if we suddenly book the same hotel – none of us will not move to another. By the way, it happened.
The last question is: why are you going to the Olympics in Pyeongchang?
Alexander: Good question. Natasha, why do we go there, have you thought about it (laughs)? I want to go there, but I do not know why. Just kidding, of course. We will go there for good results, to fight, to show what we can. We will go there for the victory. For our own victory.
by Andrei Simonenko for rsport.rai.ru