Aleksandra Boikova and Dmitrii Kozlovskii: “ISU justifies it with injury risk, but by lowering points for quad elements, the development of pair skating is held back.”
Interview with Aleksandra Boiikova and Dmitrii Kozlovskii. About winning the Russian Nationals, working on ultra-c elements and popularity of figure skating.
source: RSport dd. 26th December 2022 by Andrei Simonenko
Aleksandra, Dmitrii, I want to start with your violent reaction when you saw on the screen that you became the Russian champions. After all, what was it—emotions from overcoming a difficult period without major victories or the fact that you had surpassed your main rivals?
Dmitrii Kozlovskii: I’ll be honest; it has nothing to do with the rivals. We really wanted to win. It’s hard to perform when your goal is not just to skate clean but to win. This puts extra pressure. As for emotions… We had a hard time getting into this season. It was not easy to prepare for the Nationals due to certain illnesses and other circumstances. The preparation was uneven; it was not a full-fledged preparation. Before last year’s Nationals, we had a full-fledged cycle of several weeks, and we approached it in the best shape. This time we overcame ourselves and fought for the elements. We didn’t have the ideal body condition to perform all aspects of our program. And when we realized that we had done it, won, won our second national title in our career, then there was a certain emotional outburst. It’s like a weight fell from your shoulders, and you realized that you had coped and withstood a difficult struggle.
Probably, a hook in a boot that broke at morning practice before a free program also added drama.
Aleksandra Boiikova: Actually, when we went to the start, I completely forgot about this hook. And after the competitions, when we went to a press conference, Dima said to me: “I’ll tell about the hook myself.” I’m like, “What hook?”
Dmitrii Kozlovskii: During the performance, a hook was no longer a problem. I was very happy that it broke in the morning during training. At the competitions, we had other things to concentrate on.
Do you do self-digging as part of your regular training routine? What works and what doesn’t? Roughly speaking, can you think about it until the evening, or did you forget about it when you left the ice?
Aleksandra Boiikova: Of course, we analyze and think. There are good days and not-so-good days.
Dmitrii Kozlovskii: But I wouldn’t call it “self-digging.”
Aleksandra Boiikova: This is an analysis based on which you draw conclusions. For example, you are building your preparation plan for the next week based on the state that you were in today. Relatively speaking, if on Tuesday you had a short program, then on Wednesday you do simple elements, and on Thursday you perform the entire free program. Yes, you think about the process all the time.
Dmitrii Kozlovskii: You know, there is such a thing as the intelligence of an athlete. And it just concerns the fact that it is necessary to analyze and competently build your preparation and training. We are not machines or workhorses whose sole purpose is to plow the field. We must do our jobs to the best of our abilities while using as little energy as possible in order to save it for performances. And for this, we must consider every stage of our preparation, from ice training to the necessary recovery measures (massages, physiotherapy). We try to do all this consciously, trusting the sensations of our body. No one will feel our body for us, but we must listen to it, and it’s very difficult to be able to listen to it.
Why I asked this question: athletes are different. For example, there is the Olympic champion in high jump, Maria Lasitskene, who does only what the coach says and emphasizes that she does not delve into the training plan but only follows it. And there are athletes who themselves participate in the process and actively think about what is happening. And for them, sometimes it happens that analysis turns into self-digging, and unnecessary thoughts can get in the way.
Dmitrii Kozlovskii: For us, this is not self-digging but analysis. Professional analysis.
Aleksandra Boiikova: Personally, I can start self-digging. But then my cat, my friends, and even my university studies help me distract myself because the exams are coming up…
Dmitrii Kozlovskii: Notice that I didn’t even make it to this list.
Aleksandra Boiikova: What do you mean? I said friends! Dmitrii Eduardovich, you are my friend!
Dmitrii Kozlovskii: I thought I would be put in a separate category—the partner category. And here we have a cat going first…
Aleksandra Boiikova: Well, because cat is the most distracting (laughs).
Concluding this topic, with a coach like Tamara Moskvina, you could probably rely on her completely and not think about anything. How does she perceive your participation—as a partnership?
Dmitrii Kozlovskii: She perceives absolutely normally. Tamara Nikolaevna has been calling us colleagues for a long time. And in general, it seems to me that the ability of a coach to listen to their athlete is one of the main qualities of a professional specialist. Only being in the same bond with an athlete, make it possible to achieve great results.
This season, in my opinion, Tamara Nikolaevna, and not you, was the first to say that you started working on a quadruple twist and a quadruple throw. Share whose initiative it was.
Dmitrii Kozlovskii: Ours. We pushed this question very hard—the work on ultra-c elements. And in principle, it seems to me that the initiative to work on ultra-c in pair skating should come exclusively from the athlete.
Aleksandra Boiikova: If you are not confident in yourself, you will never make them.
Dmitrii Kozlovskii: When you don’t feel confident, it’s fraught with very serious injuries, further complications, and problems. In pair skating, the ultra-c element can only be done when both partners say, “I feel we can do it.” There were such days, and it was no longer during the period of study but at the moment of confident execution of the most difficult elements when we came to training, and I said, “Sasha, I don’t have this feeling today.”
Aleksandra Boiikova: “Non-flying weather.” For a triple, this feeling is enough, but for a quadruple, it is no longer enough.
Are you talking about a twist or a throw?
Dmitrii Kozlovskii: Both. It is more difficult for us than for single skaters. There, you are alone, and you can focus. And here I have to feel Sasha’s body; I have to feel my body; all this is very difficult. Therefore, only an athlete can say whether they are ready to do ultra-c or not. The coach does not understand the state of your body and your sensations. Very often, when people look at us from the side, it seems to them that everything is always fine with us. But Sasha and I perfectly understand where everything went wrong when there was a deviation from the ideal performance.
Aleksandra Boiikova: Speaking of the twist, after the break, we can go and start doing it, and we will be uncomfortable. And the coaches will say, “Guys, everything is fine with you.”
Dmitrii Kozlovskii: We look at the video and understand that it looks like a perfect twist, but at the same time we ourselves understand that there is still a moment that we lack.
However, voices are still being heard, such as those of Alexander Enbert, whose partner Natalia Zabijako was seriously injured, and their coach, Nina Moser. They speak out against the quadruple elements. Tell me, as you have already tried, what it is: is it really so scary, or is it real with a competent approach?
Dmitrii Kozlovskii: I think this is the future of pair skating.
Aleksandra Boiikova: It all depends on people, on their physical and psychological abilities. If you anticipate the quadruple element as something terrible, something terrible will occur. Everything will be easier if you approach it more calmly. We had such moments: when we did a quadruple twist after a break, it was terrifying, and the body itself was tense. And the twist turned out worse because of this. Then we began to do it more calmly, without fear, and the element immediately turned out much better. So if you have a psychological barrier, then nothing will work out. It’s just about the approach to the element.
Dmitrii Kozlovskii: All athletes are different, according to certain components of talent and physical data. And if we consider that it is so traumatic, well, then forbid Ilia Malinin to jump his quadruple axel. Forbid quads because this is also traumatic. I think it takes a risk. Look, a number of decades ago, people did double jumps. Then they started doing triples, and everyone thought it was very hard. And now skaters do five quadruple jumps in a free program, and it’s considered normal. Moreover, I want to say that seven years ago, the skater did three quadruple jumps in a free program, and everyone considered this something out of the ordinary. And now we understand that you won’t get on the Olympic podium without four or five quadruple jumps. Pair skating stood in one place for a long time; there was no impetus for development. And I want to believe that now a generation will grow up, of which we will be a part, that will integrate quadruple elements into their programs at competitions.
But athletes need to be motivated to do these quadruple elements.
Dmitrii Kozlovskii: Therefore, the International Skating Union, from my point of view, should consider increasing the base value of ultra-c elements. They justify it with injury risk, but by lowering points for such elements, the development of pair skating as a whole is held back.
Aleksandra Boiikova: It’s a little disappointing when you perform a quadruple twist on the second level and get fewer points than for a triple twist on the fourth level. How is this possible?
Dmitrii Kozlovskii: And this applies not only to pair skating. I think that the same Malinin cannot get as much for a quadruple axel as a skater can get for a quadruple lutz. This is a jump that no one else in the world does, he does it perfectly and gets 12.5 points. The cost of this element should be much higher. The future of figure skating lies in encouraging athletes to take risks.
Everyone is wondering now when you show the quads in programs.
Aleksandra Boiikova: It is very difficult to make plans in this regard. As Dima said, we both need to be in good condition. Now we are deciding whether to do a quadruple twist in a free program, literally on the day of the competition. You just don’t know what state you will wake up in, whether you will get tired after the short program, whether you will “fell your legs well” in the morning or even the day before the free program. So far, everything depends on these circumstances.
Dmitrii Kozlovskii: It will be important to say that we lost a huge amount of time this season, which was not enough for us to steadily start including this element in the program. It’s one thing to do it once in training, but putting it together in a program is a completely different story. We plan to continue intensive work in this direction, and I think that our efforts will be successful.
I want to approach the next topic from afar. You have already spoken about the impression that the World Cup final made on you. The question that is now being discussed quite a lot on the Internet is this: Is the goalkeeper of the Argentina national team, Emiliano Martinez, for you a showman provocateur who ruined the end of the match or a hero?
Dmitrii Kozlovskii: And what did he do?
For example, he threw out balls in a penalty shootout. Many, including myself, believe that the referee should have shown him a yellow card for the very first attempt to influence the striker, and for the second, to remove him.
Dmitrii Kozlovskii: It seems to me that the referee did an excellent job, refereeing moments as a highly qualified specialist, and spoiling the game at such a moment is wrong. The goalkeeper received a verbal warning and then a yellow card. Usually, it seems to me, that’s what referees do. In general, I want to say that the goalkeeper of the Argentina national team had an amazing, outstanding championship. He took penalties, but he threw the balls out or did not. Let’s be honest: when the player put the ball on the “point,” nothing prevented him from scoring a goal. And I believe it is incorrect to claim that a thrown out ball prevented a player from the Dutch or French national teams from scoring a penalty.
But the goalkeeper took the striker off balance …
Dmitrii Kozlovskii: If you’re claiming to win the World Cup and it can throw you off balance so easily, then you don’t deserve to be world champions. They also tried to unbalance the Argentines in the match with Holland. But they survived! There are always some disturbing factors. Winning at a serious level is not given just like that. Athletes who strive for the highest levels of achievement in sports must be resilient any moments. Here you can remember some of our skaters who took doping tests on the day of the free program at the Olympic Games and then went out, skated cleanly, and won. A professional must be able to concentrate when it comes to work. Regardless of who, what, and where something was said,
Then how should we perceive such behavior? As an element of the show, thanks to which everyone is now discussing this?
Dmitrii Kozlovskii: I didn’t see it being discussed anywhere. I want to say that Argentina won deservedly. And I am delighted for the people of this country, who so ardently desired this victory. And besides Messi, I am very happy for Di Maria, who, it seems, filled the entire bench with tears. He just couldn’t watch that final match anymore.
Now, actually, this is what I wanted to bring you to. On Saturday, you were asked at a press conference if it was a shame that the audience came to see the women’s singles first and not the pairs. Don’t you think that maybe pair skating lacks just some element of the show?
Aleksandra Boiikova: I think popularity will come with risk, along with quadruple elements.
Dmitrii Kozlovskii: And what do you mean by “elements of a show”? Scandal?
Dramatic moments, such as your emotions, for example. Sorry, but, for example, I remember you, Dmitrii, shouting “in line” on the ice or Sasha throwing the accreditation at the World Championships. And the fans remember it.
Dmitrii Kozlovskii: Look, these are all natural emotions that are not elements of the show. They are not planned. They are sincere in the moment. And I want to say that if we are talking about sports, then it is necessary to base on the quality of the professional activity that we carry out. Look at tennis, for example. It’s not watched because they’re fighting and throwing rackets. To be honest, no one really cares. I like to look at the beauty and professionalism of the athletes.
Sorry, I’ll try to object—Kyrgios is very popular because of his behavior.
Dmitrii Kozlovskii: Nick Kyrgios is loved for his behavior, but most prefer the way Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, and Novak Djokovic behave on the court. And they are not only true professionals who respect their opponents; first of all, they play first-class tennis. They are stars because they are first class athletes. The same applies to figure skating. We should not think about the elements of the show, but about sports and developing our professional skills. It is the foundation on which everything else can be built.
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