Aleksandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin: “We decided that after the break, we would return to competitions because what we achieved in our careers isn’t enough for us.”
Translation of the pre-season interview with Aleksandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin.
source: fsrussia.ru by Olga Ermolina
Two-time Russian champions, European Championships medalists, and participants in the Beijing Olympics, Aleksandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin, returned to the competitive ice after a year-long break. They skipped the previous season due to various reasons but returned with a new team, working with Alexander Zhulin. In an interview, they shared their emotions, responsibilities, motivations, and new programs performed at the test skates.
What emotions do you have returning to competitive ice?
Aleksandra Stepanova: We missed it greatly.
Ivan Bukin: We are eagerly looking forward to it. Over the past year, a lot has happened in our lives, and it was undoubtedly interesting. However, the emotions of training when there are many judges, different pairs, the anticipation of performing in front of the audience – nothing compares to that. It’s impossible to explain the emotions of competing. It’s a kind of habit that’s very hard to let go of. Without it, you feel like something is missing, like something is left undone. And now, to return to all of this…
Aleksandra Stepanova: …to immerse ourselves again in this atmosphere, as Vanya rightly said, is incomparable. It’s different here in any case. Going on the ice, simply coming into the locker room and seeing all the guys, seeing the specialists, coaches, and so on – we missed these feelings.
Ivan Bukin: The sensations are incredible. And we really want to perform. Immensely. Before our break, during our previous career, there were moments when you stood at the start and felt such intense emotions that you couldn’t understand whether you liked all of this or not. But now, we clearly understand that we want this, we want to perform.
Over the past year, when Sasha became a mother and Vanya was on “Ice Age,” did you ever think it might be better to switch to shows and end your competitive careers?
Aleksandra Stepanova: I didn’t have such thoughts.
Ivan Bukin: We discussed all of this when Sasha was still in the early stages of pregnancy, and even then, we decided with absolute certainty that after the break, we would return to the ice and continue. We didn’t lose our desire to skate, and what we achieved in our careers isn’t enough for us. We want to try ourselves in something new, something different, so there were no doubts from the start.
There was uncertainty about when it would happen, when Sasha would recover after childbirth, when she could start training. But everything else was crystal clear. We were confident that we would continue.
In life, there are moments when you want to make a significant change. This season, you’re starting with a new team of Alexander Zhulin. When did you begin serious training, especially considering that Ivan, well, he was on “Ice Age,” and Sasha was occupied with something entirely different?
Ivan Bukin: Regarding the new team, we wanted to start a new chapter in our book.
Aleksandra Stepanova: To try ourselves in a new format. We understood that if something isn’t working, we must first look for mistakes within ourselves. After the break, we decided that we needed to change everything.
Ivan Bukin: When we resumed training, perhaps it was even a bit easier for Sasha than for me. Yes, I was on “Ice Age,” on skates all the time, but getting back into shape was equally challenging for both of us. Of course, Sasha needed time to recover and get back to her old self. In reality, we only recently started to return to the working rhythm we always had. Over three months, we were recuperating what this year took from us. We had two productive months where we practiced, built up, and refined our programs. You could say that now we have a “foundation” to start from.
Aleksandra Stepanova: On this foundation, we need to add new elements, take into account feedback from the new coaching staff. A new team changes something in me and something in Vanya, and we want to show that. But it’s not that simple; there are too many components.
Pregnancy, naturally, leaves its mark. During that time, I gained weight. Although I did some exercises gradually during pregnancy, I didn’t do any specific workouts afterward. I just needed to step on the ice and see what I could do. And it turned out quite well.
Tell us about your new programs.
Ivan Bukin: We choreographed the rhythm dance with the new team (to the compositions “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” and “U Can’t Touch This”). The free dance was choreographed after the Olympic season. Since we hadn’t performed this program yet but really liked it, we decided to keep it. Of course, the new team has made some adjustments and added their vision to it. In general, it’s Max Staviski’s “core.” He choreographed this program for us last year.
Aleksandra Stepanova: The music for the free dance is from the show “Passagers” (Les 7 Doigts – Passagers) by a Canadian circus theater.
Ivan Bukin: And if you listen closely, you can hear the sounds of a train, the opening and closing of its doors… The train, the journey, the passengers – in a way, it’s a metaphor for life.
Aleksandra Stepanova: In everyone’s life, there are moments of joy, anger, bitterness, and sadness… This isn’t a love story. It’s a narrative about the flow of a changing life.
Has being a parents changed your attitude towards work and life?
Ivan Bukin: Definitely. I can speak for myself. Before, I was only responsible for myself, but now you clearly understand that you’re a parent, and there’s a certain responsibility on your shoulders. It undoubtedly affects your attitude towards work and training. If you can manage everything at home because it needs to be done, why should it be any different during training? You see, everything carries over. There’s a plan of work, and it needs to be executed, regardless of whether you like it or not, whether you’re in pain or not. You just have to do it. That’s your responsibility for your child and your family. I don’t know, maybe Sasha, as a girl, sees it differently, but that’s how it is for me.
Aleksandra Stepanova: My sense of responsibility is primarily linked to health – mine, my daughter’s, and my loved ones’. Naturally, my mom helps me a lot now, and my husband is by my side, but I also understand that even with their support, my child only has one mother. This leads to various thoughts and concerns…
The instinct for self-preservation…
Aleksandra Stepanova: Yes, that’s precisely it. I once got on a plane and, for the first time in my life, felt scared to fly. Of course, it was a momentary thing, and it doesn’t mean I’m an “aviophobe” now. But that thought crossed my mind. So, naturally, I’ve become more concerned about my health, my child’s health, and I worry about every little sneeze or mark on her skin… Right now, the most important thing for me is to be emotionally and physically healthy so I can give my child the best – joy, love, care. This leaves its mark on everything.
Ivan, you have a son, Sasha has a daughter. Maybe over time, there will be a new ice dance team?
Aleksandra Stepanova: Of course, everyone is waiting for that.
Ivan Bukin: The new team: Artemii and Kira.
Why not? The upcoming season for our figure skaters will pass without international competitions. Does this mean that you, as the most experienced and accomplished dancers on our team, can “skate through it effortlessly” without much stress?
Ivan Bukin: The fact that this season is going to be like that is actually a big plus for us. Honestly.
Aleksandra Stepanova: Of course, there are many downsides.
Ivan Bukin: But the plus for us is that after missing a season, we can calmly approach the main competitions, prepare psychologically so that the responsibility doesn’t suddenly fall on you all at once.
Aleksandra Stepanova: We can afford not to rush and prepare without haste, calmly peak…
Ivan Bukin: We want to perform. Desperately. And in reality, we are the most experienced among our ice dance team. But we can’t underestimate our competitors. So, “skating through the season effortlessly” won’t happen.
Related topics: Alexandra Stepanova Ivan Bukin