Aleksandra Stepanova: “I have always dreamed of motherhood and I knew I would come back to sports.”

Posted on 2023-04-19 • No comments yet


Interview with Aleksandra Stepanova who has recently became and mom but plans to return to competetive ice.

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source: TASS dd. 19 April 2023 by Veronika Sovetova

Aleksandra Stepanova, who competes in ice dance with Ivan Bukin, spoke to TASS about their transfer from coaches Irina Zhuk and Alexander Svinin, with whom they worked for 16 years, what motivated her when she decided to return to sports after becoming a mother, and what goals the athletes set for themselves in the near future.

Do you remember your last performance on the ice before going on maternity leave? What was it like? Did you skate then?

Aleksandra Stepanova: It was already difficult to call it skating. It was still at the ‘Dream’ ice rink (Ice Palace in Moscow – ed. TASS) in December, we went out on the ice then for a photo shoot with our coaches.

How did Ivan react to the news that your duo would have a long break?

Aleksandra Stepanova: We both wanted to take this break, to take a breather after four years and to recharge our batteries. I am very glad that Vanya switched, got involved in different shows, and was able to participate in ‘Ice Age’ on Channel One.

At that time, he had just become a father himself, and so when I told him about my plans, he understood my desire. And when I announced my pregnancy, he was very happy for me.

I always wondered: when you realize that you are preparing to become a mother, do you feel fear of the ice? After all it is still a dangerous activity. Even in ice dance.

Aleksandra Stepanova: I don’t. Especially when I skate with Vanya. But everyone else was scared.”

And the first time on the ice after the birth of your baby?

Aleksandra Stepanova: It was a mix of feelings. On the one hand, there were many changes in my body, in addition both Ivan and I started skating in new skates. But everything gradually, slowly. We are not just skating now, but doing exercises with the comments of our new coaches. We are trying to combine breaking into new boots and some new things for us.

To be honest, the story of your duo changing coaching staff surprised me. Because you and Ivan trained at the ‘Dream’ from a very young age, and everyone thought it would always be that way. And you didn’t really have much contact with Alexander Zhulin and his group of specialists before.

Aleksandra Stepanova: Indeed, we have been working with our coaches for 16 years. It’s a long period of time during which a lot has happened, we have won many things and gained a lot of experience. We are grateful for everything that we have succeeded and for what we haven’t.

From the outside, we could observe how Alexander Zhulin’s team works. And in the end, we decided that it was still an option for us. The thing is that we don’t have much time left to skate, not many competitive seasons.

The fact that over these 16 years you got used to certain voices, certain characters, does that bother you? Everything is different now: voices, characters, words, intonations, point of view.

Aleksandra Stepanova: Really, absolutely everything is different. From the people, some external factors, group, locker rooms down to the smallest details. But the decision is made, there is no other choice, we need to learn to love it. And so far, we like the training sessions that we have already had. Even though everything is different there.

We are very interested. And we have a strong desire to show something else in sports. And this exceeds all the emotions I have mentioned.

Alexander Zhulin is one of the most colorful coaches in Russian figure skating, and he won’t hold back his words. Did you find a common language with him?

Aleksandra Stepanova: It’s pretty easy to communicate with him. Ivan has already worked with him on “Ice Age”, and when I asked him how it was, he said it was very easy, that he’s easy to get along with people. And it really turned out to be so.

How many training sessions do you have now?

Aleksandra Stepanova: This week we were just breaking in our boots, and now we’ll be skating twice a day. It will be somewhat different work.

Are you taking your little girl with you?

Aleksandra Stepanova: I think it’s not right to do it now, she’s still very young. So now I leave in the morning and after training, I rush back to her. Thank God, grandmothers are helping for now.

When a figure skater returns to the ice as a mother, does her attitude towards sports and everything related to it change?

Aleksandra Stepanova: I can’t say yet that I’ve returned to sports, it’s too early to say that. Although I have a strong desire, but for now, I’m just trying. Personally, I can say that I have always dreamed of motherhood and I knew I would come back. It was my inner attitude. I think my expectations did not deceive me.

Now there is additional responsibility and additional motivation. And most importantly, perhaps, there is someone for whom to do all this.

You will now have a very large group – including Elizaveta Khudaiberdieva and Egor Bazin, Liza Shanaeva and Pavel Drozd, and Sofya Tyutyunina and Andrei Bagin. Star upon star.

Aleksandra Stepanova: It doesn’t look like that yet. In the past, only we and a Hungarian pair were seniors in our group, who relatively reached this level. Now, all of Zhulin’s pairs are seniors, all have already shown and proved themselves in the previous season. Lisa Shanaeva, by the way, also moved to Zhulin’s group, and she used to be in our group. In general, there are many people on the ice now, of course.

Will you feel comfortable in such an environment?

Aleksandra Stepanova: I remember when Anya Yanovskaya and Adam Lukash, who performed for Hungary, skated in our group, we always looked at each other, at our programs. Internal competitions in the group have always been interesting for me.

Do you plan to participate in the test skates in September?

Aleksandra Stepanova: Yes, we plan to participate. We’ll see if we can make it. Going back to the first question – if we talk specifically about skating, the last time before the break, I skated in Sochi.

I understand that this is a difficult question, but how painful was the decision to switch coaches?

Aleksandra Stepanova: We grew up with them, Irina Vladimirovna and Alexander Vasilyevich raised us, took us from children to more or less mature people. We established ourselves with them as athletes, as people. And all the merits that we have appeared thanks to our joint work, our coaches, our team.

It was difficult to leave – that’s true. It was not easy to come, talk, look in the eyes, communicate. This was probably one of the key and difficult moments. It doesn’t go away without a trace. It’s not like you leave, forget, and everything is fine. We will never forget this time and will always be grateful for it. But we needed to move on. We want to change, we want to move forward.

And at the same time, you are embarking on a new phase in your career at a time when international competitions are under question? How to work hard, create new programs, and improve with this understanding?

Aleksandra Stepanova: We just hope and believe. Like all other athletes. No more, no less.

Did you follow the last World Championships in Saitama?

Aleksandra Stepanova: I watched it, but only the top three: American pair Madison Chock and Evan Bates, Italian pair Charlene Guignard and Marco Fabbri, and Canadian duo Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier. Chock and Bates impressed me even more this season than in the Olympics.

I think many people would be interested in seeing you compete against Olympic champions Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron in the future.

Aleksandra Stepanova: Well, that’s unlikely. They are certainly brilliant. The French have already won everything by today. Although anything is possible.


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