Nikita Volodin: “A year or two ago, I wouldn’t have believed that I would compete at the World Championships, I would have said it’s unreal.”

Posted on 2024-02-08 • No comments yet


Translation of the interview with pair skater Nikita Volodin.

original source: RSport dd. 18th January by Vlad Zhukov

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Here’s a translation of the interview with Nikita Volodin who currently competes for Germany in the pair with Minerva Fabienne Hase.

Q: I constantly hear that there’s a shortage of male partners in Russia. How did it happen that you couldn’t find a girl?

Nikita Volodin: It’s just that there are different times in sports. When I started training, there were plenty of girls and a shortage of boys. But now, there’s neither. And that’s a problem because all the good girls are already skating in pairs. You either have to wait for a lucky moment or take a girl from single skating but I didn’t want to do that for the third time because it takes a lot of energy and time. You don’t develop yourself at that moment. So, I didn’t consider that option for myself anymore.

Q: Were you afraid to change countries?

Nikita Volodin: Of course. It was the first question on the agenda when we decided to skate together – why Germany? Plus, the situation was not easy – 2022, June, it was difficult to come to the country. Borders were closing, ticket prices were crazy, especially with a connection fligh in Turkey, when everyone rushed there. There were a lot of questions, but we decided to go all the way. By the way, I finally got to Minerva after all my shows only on the fourth attempt. The first time, the bus was canceled at the Finnish border, and my tickets “burned” – I was supposed to fly with a European airline, and they told me that they wouldn’t refund money to a Russian card.

The second time, I wasn’t allowed through at the Russian border. I thought, well, I’ll try through Murmansk, and then to Norway from there. I went to Murmansk – there, they didn’t let me through again, they said I needed to contact the military enlistment office, as it prohibits everyone from leaving. And I was a student back then, everything was allowed to me by law.

In the end, I returned to St. Petersburg, got a note, and decided to go through Turkey just to be sure, and only then did everything work out. So, as you understand, the decision to skate with Minerva was completely conscious. All these trips took about two weeks, and from October, we started working full time.

In general, we hoped that I would get a release already in December 2022, so that we could immediately go to the European Championships and start building up our rating. Unfortunately, this did not happen because we did not know the rules – that if you were in the Russian team, you had to quarantine for two years. But now I understand that it was for the better. We had time to skate, work on programs, and from this year, we are more prepared. Last season, we would have shown something raw.

Q: Did the Federation try to keep you? Judging by the words of the Acting President of the FFKKR Anton Sikharulidze, now they have become more skeptical about transfers.

Nikita Volodin: They tried to offer me partners in Russia when I had already decided to leave. But at that time, it was too late because I had made a decision. And the girls were nowhere near Minerva’s level. Perhaps if there was someone good, I would have considered this option. After all, it’s easier for me to train in my native St. Petersburg, be with family… But for results, you always have to sacrifice something.

Q: Are you already used to Berlin?

Nikita Volodin: In principle, yes. This used to be the GDR, there are a lot of Russian-speaking people here, which makes life more comfortable. I went to the dentist and he speaks Russian. I talked to him, and I no longer feel like I’m abroad. And in the group where we skate, half of the guys are Russian-speaking, so if there are any communication problems, they help me.

I came to Berlin without knowing either English or German. But now I feel somewhat comfortable, I’ve gotten into the rhythm, started speaking English, improved it in a year. Now, however, I’ve switched more to German, it’s a priority for me because of the passport. I need to study it more deeply.

Q: What surprised you in Berlin?

Nikita Volodin: Firstly, the abundance of Russian-speaking people. Also, of course, that nothing works here on Sundays, everyone has a day off. I’m still surprised by this. The conditions for athletes also impressed me – I heard that in Europe, they don’t pay for anything, everything is expensive. But we have everything: a masseur – please, a SPA – please. The dormitory for athletes surprised me. After all, we know perfectly well what dormitories are like in Russia, and here it’s completely different. Everything is new, everything is there. A cleaner comes every day to make sure everything is clean. It’s not even a dormitory, it’s more like a hotel. Everyone has a separate room, there’s one big kitchen, everything in the fridge is in individual compartments. There’s a laundry room next to the gym downstairs. And the training process itself is completely different. There’s no pressure on the athlete here. If you want – train, if you feel bad – rest. Not like in Russia: “This is your duty, you have to do it in any condition.” No, of course, you can also take a day off here, but it’s, let’s say…

Q: Not welcomed?

Nikita Volodin: Yes. When you’re really sick, with a fever – then yes. If you’re just tired – absolutely not, you need to keep working. In Europe, they are more lenient towards athletes in this regard. Moreover, I’m already an experienced skater, I know when to rest and when to push. Although, you know, European skaters, as it seems to me, sometimes neglect this leniency and just slack off. So, everything has its pros and cons.

Q: Does the German federation pay for training conditions?

Nikita Volodin: I’m not very familiar with the details because Minerva handles that. She acts as our manager because she speaks fluent German and knows the system from the inside out since she’s been skating for quite a long time. But I understand that the Berlin club and the federation contribute, and the necessary amount is obtained.

Q: Is the possibility of giving yourself a small break when necessary the only difference between the European approach to sports and the Russian approach?

Nikita Volodin: Actually, the most notable thing is that Europeans never skip school. Their schedule is adjusted for studying. If, for example, they have six lessons one day, then they’ll sit through them first and only then go to the rink. Or they skate during breaks between classes. It’s not the same for us. I remember always being told to choose – study or practice. Well, I chose the rink, of course.

In Russia, guys are a bit lost in this regard if something doesn’t go according to plan in their careers. Only a few succeed, we all understand that. And here, no one gets lost, they get an education without problems because they didn’t abandon their studies from childhood. But, in my opinion, this can be considered both an advantage and a disadvantage. Ideally, you should come to a middle ground – you shouldn’t abandon school at all and live on the ice, as we do, and sports results shouldn’t be considered secondary either.

Q: Is there a feeling that it’s easier for foreign athletes to adapt to normal life? It seems to me that Russian athletes, in this regard, have a slightly harder time – after sports, it’s unclear what to do next.

Nikita Volodin: Yes, life ends after sports. Here, people immediately go to study and generally seamlessly integrate into everyday life. For example, the guys in our group are all studying somewhere, and they already know exactly what they will become in the future. And it’s often not related to sports.

Q: Have you learned to cope with failures in the European, let’s say, way?

Nikita Volodin: I think I started to come to a calmer acceptance of results even back in Russia. After all, this is a sport, anything can happen, and you can’t control everything. But nevertheless, sometimes self-criticism arises. Take, for example, our first Grand Prix stage in Finland, where we skated quite messily. We won, yes, but still felt like something was missing – that’s how we feel about not-so-great performances.

And Europeans – they celebrate everything more. If they win – they’re happy, no matter how they skated. We can’t do that. Many pairs come here just for the participation itself, they like the atmosphere, they enjoy being here. This applies to me too, of course, but at the same time, I’m here for the result. Ideally, we should take the best from our approach and the European one – maintaining the intensity for a good performance but approaching everything calmly. Excessive anxiety won’t lead to anything good.

Q: In Germany, are you already expected to deliver results?

Nikita Volodin: Perhaps it’s more of an internal feeling – we’ve already started showing results, and we don’t want to slow down. Our season was building up, there was a slight dip at the European Championships in Kaunas. And at the German Nationals, too, we had a lot of support, many people came, which is quite surprising – figure skating isn’t very popular here. But after our victory in the Grand Prix Final, people became a bit more active, they often write words of support.

Q: At the World Championships, you’ll be among the main contenders. What’s it like – going from a show performer without clear prospects to becoming a favorite at major competitions in just a couple of years?

Nikita Volodin: I would say more – even going from Russia to compete at the European Championships seemed unreal to me, the competition was too fierce. And in some way, this probably helps me pull myself together – here’s my chance. As for the World Championships, a year or two ago, I wouldn’t have believed it at all, I would have said it’s unreal. And now – here it is. So dreams do come true if you dream well.

Q: How do you assess the level of European pair skating from the inside? Personally, after the European Championships, I got the impression that things aren’t as bad as they’re often portrayed.

Nikita Volodin: I think the European Championships were definitely interesting to watch. All pairs were very close, there was real competition, not like when one pair constantly wins everything and brings in 50 points each time. And in Kaunas, Italians won (Lucrezia Beccari/Matteo Guarise), which was unexpected. In Europe, they try to protect athletes. Junior pairs only do double twist, and they are consciously advised to hold back on triple twist on the ice – saying it’s dangerous, injuries could happen. And I was already learning triple twist a month after I started doing pairs.

They try to minimize injuries and thus somewhat restrain progress, which is why the level is lower. Few juniors learn triple throws, and it’s harder for them in seniors because of that. In Berlin, for example, there’s a pair that only started learning triple throws and triple twist after transitioning to the senior level – and I just can’t wrap my head around that.

But, of course, the lower competition plays into their hands. In Russia, you have to constantly be on your toes, constantly improve. One mistake – and you’re overtaken.

Q: Does criticism from Russia bother you? Even your friend Sasha Galliamov posted on Telegram: “Read a joke in the morning, but didn’t understand anything: 199.19. What could it mean?” Clearly hinting at Beccari/Guarise’s result.

Nikita Volodin: Well, the fact that Sasha could have competed here for medals is undeniable. But if we judge purely by technical content, then Minerva and I have roughly the same content as Russian pairs. We are also competitive. In my opinion, you can’t say that Russian pairs will come out now and start winning everything in a row because the overall level is still rising.

No one denies, of course, that Russia is the standard for pair skating. Russia is a country of pairs, after all. But I can’t say that the level in Europe is low. I’ve read that European and international competitions are interesting to watch even for spectators from Russia. People watch, although many deny it.

Q: I also think that European pair skating is even slightly ahead of Russian in terms of choreography. They’re fresher, more dance-like, aren’t they? There’s less chasing after elements.

Nikita Volodin: I agree, in Europe, they don’t chase after elements. If you look at, say, the Russian Nationals – you’ll see about ten pairs with equally difficult content. But here, if a pair doesn’t jump something, they don’t put it into the program, they simplify the technique. But more time is devoted to presentation, performance.

Again, I’ll emphasize – the top three places in Russia are consistently excellent. But still, in Russia, there’s this chase after elements – quadruple twists, throws. In Europe, there’s none of that now.

Q: Meanwhile, you and Minerva are among the few who say they want to compete against the Russian team.

Nikita Volodin: Absolutely, we are preparing to compete against the Russian teams. We want to compete with the strongest athletes from around the world, and Russian pairs simply cannot be excluded from that list. We just have time to prepare now.

Q: Did you dream of the Olympics before moving to Germany?

Nikita Volodin: That was and still is the ultimate dream. Now, of course, it all seems more realistic. You could say it’s not just a dream anymore, but rather a kind of goal. There are chances and prospects; it just takes a bit more work. I’ve been on skates since I was three, so that’s 21 years in the sport. Waiting a couple more years is nothing.

Q: Are there any problems with obtaining citizenship?

Nikita Volodin: The Germans are very clear about it. I was told that I need to pass the German language exam at level B1, there will be some questions about history, but there will be fewer difficulties with everything else. If we show good results and the country is interested in us, everything will work out.

Q: Germany is a fairly conservative country in this regard, as I’ve read, obtaining a second citizenship there is very difficult, often requiring renunciation of the first. Have you figured out how to solve this issue?

Nikita Volodin: There won’t be any problems with this because I’m not planning to renounce my Russian citizenship. Because how is that possible – do I need to get a visa to come home? I won’t be able to get used to that. Of course, it will be dual citizenship. It’s easier now in Germany because a law was recently passed with relaxations in this regard. So now it all depends on us.


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