Alena Kostornaia: “If you compete in seniors, you are already an adult. Maybe in life – no, but in sports – yes. If you have adult privileges, then you are responsible as an adult.”
Interview with Alena Kostornaia. About leaving Eteri Tutberidze and working with Elena Buyanova, about new programs and friends in figure skating; about weighing, diet and health problems; and about many personal things that no one had ever heard from her before.
source: sport-express.ru dd.9th June by Andrei and Pavel Lapyshkins
Alena, have you already received 100 thousand rubles for the interview? (One of the leaders of the sports TV channel spread the information that Kostornaia’s PR manager requires 100 thousand rubles for an interview. – ed)
Alena Kostornaia: Of course! Just heard a message on the phone. We can start. (joke)
How long have you had this habit of asking for money for interviews?
Alena Kostornaia: There are moments when I’m categorically against any comments and interviews, and when people don’t understand that they are being refused in a polite manner, and they start to press, then all methods are used to make them understand. If it doesn’t work out even this way, such situations happens.
You often change your image, hairstyle. Why?
Alena Kostornaia: It’s interesting to see what happens if you do something differently. You can try a new style in clothes, the same with hair. I’m curious to see from the outside how I will look. I always have a win-win option – blond. But sometimes it gets boring – many have blond hair. And when you come with a huge red head, you differ and add colors to life. I love being different. Non-standard solution of issues, appearance.
Do you like how you look now?
Alena Kostornaia: I always like the way I look.
Do you agree with this wording – “Kostornaia is the main rebel of the country”?
Alena Kostornaia: I’m still far from the country level. But in general, why not? If I’m not afraid to take risks and independent of the opinions of others.
Let’s rebel in figure skating. Is there anything about it that annoys you?
Alena Kostornaia: No, not really. It’s a sport, and it’s not me who writes the rules. But I would add more theatricality, which is forbidden. It’s not about glitter on the eyes, no. For example, props cannot be used, for example chairs – only for exhibitions. You can also start the program from the doard only at the exhibitions. Such trifles would improve the development of figure skating. They promised to make an artistic program, where there will be only two jumps and a lot of choreography. They think, they think, but still haven’t done it. It would be very interesting.
What do you like most about figure skating?
Alena Kostornaia: I like it not as a sport, but as an opportunity to realize myself, to show my “I” through programs, as an art.
If you are a rebel, then Anya Shcherbakova has a crystal-clear reputation. We know you are good friends. Is she the same in a non-public life?
Alena Kostornaia: I will not reveal all Anya’s secrets, she herself will do it someday. I will say that in the circle of close friends, any person behaves a little differently. But how much different, I won’t reveal.
Who else are you friends with in the world of figure skating?
Alena Kostornaia: My close friends are Anya Shcherbakova, Dasha Usacheva, I’m very good friends with Mark Kondratiuk, Arthur Danielyan, Karolina Kogan. Only a handful of people are my close friends. Eight or nine people, no more.
Isn’t it time to announce new programs?
Alena Kostornaia: No, usually this is done at the training camp, when the main work on the programs begin. So that no one repeats the music. Because sometimes you come to competitions, and there 20 people skate the same “Oriental”, then 20 people skate the same “classic” in the same arrangement, and you think: “Guys, what is this?”
Did you have something like that?
Alena Kostornaia: Sasha Trusova and Dasha Usacheva have exactly the same Romeo and Juliet. Sasha skated an evil rock, and Dasha – the Juliet, but music was the same.
Did they discuss it among themselves?
Alena Kostornaia: I don’t know whose idea it was. Whether they specifically tried to do it or not, I can’t say. But it’s a little weird.
Let’s get back to your programs – maybe you could at least hint what it could be?
Alena Kostornaia: The short program is something fiery and bright. And the free program is my favorite, “touchy-feely stuff”. I’m telling a serious story.
Why they are your favorite?
Alena Kostornaia: Because there are two different images. One is so bright, bold and sharp. The second is radically different, absolutely everything is different. I love being different.
What is your favorite program in your entire career?
Alena Kostornaia: There actually will be a lot of them. This is “My Way”, I really liked “Twilight”. Short program to Vivaldi. Billie Eilish – love it so much. It’s easier to count the programs that I…well not like them less, but rather got bored.
Alena Kostornaia: I skated Angel for the second year in a row, and it was insanely hard, despite the fact that it looked beautiful. The same thing for the second year in a row, there was no such euphoria as before. “Stella”, my first program at the group of Eteri Georgievna (Tutberidze) – I also didn’t understand it. Just a program, and no more emotions from it. And all the rest took a piece of my soul. I love it when, for example, we work on a program and they tell me what hands should be. And the rest I do myself, as I like. I put a part of myself into this image, program. And it turns out much better than if I just go and repeat.
Do other skaters have programs that you like?
Alena Kostornaia: Yes, there are. I like more than half of Dasha Usacheva’s programs. Her programs are always so sensual. I really like Anya Shcherbakova’s “Perfumer” and “Master and Margarita”. Also a piece from Beethoven. Also Yuzuru Hanyu, Carolina Kostner. There is no favorite program, they all seem to be masterpieces. Elena Radionova, I grew up on her programs. Therefore, when comparing records where we skate the same thing, the movements are extremely similar. She was one of my idols, I tried to copy her until I found my own style.
How and when did the idea to work with Elena Buyanova come about?
Alena Kostornaia: When I was sitting with a broken arm, and was almost back on the ice. I almost finished the recovery, perhaps the last week remained. I realized that, probably, it makes no sense to continue cooperation (with Eteri Tutberidze). Well, and the coaches have repeatedly said that it’s over. The Olympic season is over. To pull each other for another four years – what’s the point? And I realized for myself that, most likely, I will change a coach. Then I went on the ice, we met with the coaches, they told me the same thing. And we decided that, probably, everything should be stopped. And that I will go to try out to Elena Germanovna.
Is it true that before working with Tutberidze, you were thinking about moving to the CSKA school?
Alena Kostornaia: I was very small then, even before the first transfer to Tutberidze, long before that. I was 10 years old, and I had a try out to the group of Inna Germanovna Goncharenko. Senior athletes trained there, and there was simply no time left for me. They told me: “Came when you grew up.” Then, at the competitions, I got into the same warm-up with the girls of Eteri Georgievna, and somehow everything moved in that direction.
Did you consult with one of the athletes about the transfer to Buyanova?
Alena Kostornaia: Of course. Everyone knew about it, and I honestly asked for opinions – where, how, why. Up to the schedule. I thought through everything in advance to avoid any mistakes.
How did the transfer happen?
Alena Kostornaia: Right after we parted with Eteri Georgievna, I called Alexander Kogan (general director of the FFKKR), explained the situation. Anyway, I made a decision. It was on Saturday, he asked to take a break until Monday. On Monday, I was sitting in a hair salon, they called me, asked me to call Elena Germanovna. Listen to what she has to say. Elena Germanovna already knew at that moment that I would call her. We talked, and after a week and a half I went on the ice.
What was your first emotion when you started working with Buyanova?
Alena Kostornaia: A very pleasant person to deal with. At the same time very demanding. If I especially screwed up, then I get for it. I don’t get away with everything. It was said to me clearly: “Alena, don’t piss me off. I’m now so kind and fluffy. I then thought to myself: “Okay, if she is kind, then what will happen when she is unkind?” But it’s all fixable, because it’s easier not to screw up. But there are force majeure, and somewhere I’m being stupid. But just like that, no one will scold me for nothing.
What are the main differences between Buyanova and Tutberidze and Plushenko?
Alena Kostornaia: Everyone is very different in how they communicate, approach the training process.
You said that Buyanova is very demanding. Is she really more demanding than Eteri Georgievna?
Alena Kostornaia: Any coach is demanding of his athlete if he wants to get a result. Eteri Georgievna is a charismatic woman, at some point she starts to explode, and it comes very quickly. A thin line, when a person literally walks along a thread, along a blade. Elena Germanovna will endure. I don’t know how much we reworked the same pose with her. It seems that we stood with her for an hour and a half and did it. I have already managed to get tired a hundred times, be reborn like a phoenix and get tired again. And Elena Germanovna all this time monotonously tried to explain to me what they want from me. And it’s not like I did something wrong on purpose. I really did not fully understand what they wanted from me at that moment. Eteri Georgievna at that moment would have probably exploded three times for sure. Because I can’t do the most simple, basic movements. Elena Germanovna calmly explained everything. Then, at some point, I stood up like a doll, so that she would move me herself, show me. And without shouting everything was decided. Everything is fine.
What do you think is your ideal coach?
Alena Kostornaia: There is no perfect coach. Elena Germanovna suits me very well, I realized this almost immediately when I joined the group. The concept of “ideal coach” – it does not exist. We are all human and we all have our flaws. It doesn’t happen that there are only positive qualities. Well, the same exactingness – after all, it can be understood in different ways. You can tell what a demanding person. And on another day, taht they just shout at you for nothing.
Did such happen?
Alena Kostornaia: Of course.
Is it true that as a child you had complete indifference to figure skating?
Alena Kostornaia: There was hatred. Absolute indifference.
How did love appear?
Alena Kostornaia: At competitions. Sometimes dad came to the competitions. It was very rare, maybe two or three times. But I was still very inspired. And they also threw soft toys on the ice, it was so nice. They throw something, it’s a new toy!
Do you have at least one toy left?
Alena Kostornaia: I think no. My mom calls soft toys dust collectors and tries to get rid of them all the time.
Do you stand up for your soft toys?
Alena Kostornaia: Some special ones – certainly. For the last five or six years I have been giving away most of them, but I definitely save one or two from each competitions. We are bringing these huge bears from the events, I keep them in my room at the country house. There are already a bunch of these bears, and I fought for them. In general, I like it more when they throw little ones, but there are a lot of them, and you get a whole waterfall of these toys. It’s something, indescribable feelings.
What do you expect of the next season? Do you believe that the Russians will be allowed to participate in international competitions?
Alena Kostornaia: The season that will be next year, 2022/23 – no. It’s a shame that this is happening. But we cannot influence this in any way. We have our own planned competitions, which will be held for sure. And there are quite a lot of them, I’m pleasantly surprised. And there is no point in saying anything more about it.
Now the federation is discussing the composition of the national team for the next season, whose training will be funded. Do you have concerns about not being included in this list?
Alena Kostornaia: I don’t think I’ll get into the main team. Hardly. Maybe I’ll be on the bench. It’s necessary to assess the situation soberly and call a spade a spade. I didn’t compete at the Russian Nationals, and this was the main criterion. Therefore, there is nothing to be offended at all if I end up only in the reserve. This is fine.
Who will be in the main team?
Alena Kostornaia: Well, all the same girls. Anya Shcherbakova, Sasha Trusova, Kamila Valieva, Liza Tuktamysheva, Maiia Khromykh, probably. And one more place. Maybe one of the newcomers to senior level will claim it. One of the little ones, someone who just showed herself. I don’t know, I can’t say for sure. I have listed the candidates who should be 99% on the list. And what a federation decides, it’s now a question to me.
How not to lose motivation when there is neither the World Championships nor the European Championships?
Alena Kostornaia: We will have our own competitions. Therefore, it is not like during quarantine, when we did not prepare for anything. We already have a competition plan. When you know what to prepare for, there are no questions. If you are doing what you love, why look for motivation if you like it?
Have you thought about changing the national team?
Alena Kostornaia: No never. I have never thought about it and never will, because I have determined my place.
Was there a moment when you thought about ending your career?
Alena Kostornaia: During quarantine, when we sat at home and did nothing. I got used to this routine, that I have lessons in the morning, then a tutor, and on weekends I go to the country house. Happy running and jumping – for the first time I tried what it’s like to live the life of an ordinary child. But at some point it became a little boring, I was lacking adrenaline, excitement, all the trips. Then when I was back on the ice I re-ignited with a desire to skate.
Do you want to become a coach?
Alena Kostornaia: There has never been such a desire. If this is some kind of forced measure, then it is possible. But I hope that I will have a completely different field of activity.
Were there overly annoying fans who paid too much attention to you?
Alena Kostornaia: I didn’t suffer from it at all. Sometimes it was awkward, but not because the fans are too annoying. Rather, there is a feeling that you owe something to someone when you are given too expensive presents. I don’t like this feeling, I’m very embarrassed, but then they tell me many times that it’s just a gift. Then it becomes calmer, but still the feeling is doubtful.
What was the most expensive gift given to you?
Alena Kostornaia: iMac, purple. This is Kostonation, a fan group, the second official account. As I understand it, they cooperate with both Russian and foreign fans. The admins wrote to me: “Alena, we have a gift for you, where and when can we meet?” I called the date and time, we found a convenient time for each other.
You said you didn’t watch the Olympics. Why?
Alena Kostornaia: I understood that if we exclude some factors from my life, I could have been there. And not just to hold the gate, to bring napkins and not just to skate for a place in top-20, but to fight for the highest places. I could at least fight. But life had other plans for me.
Eteri Tutberidze said that you could have taken part in the Russian Nationals before the Olympics. What were the emotions from her words?
Alena Kostornaia: I was extremely offended, because this is what I don’t like in people when they devalue other people’s problems. I had a heavy large cast, only two phalanges of my fingers were free, I could do absolutely nothing with my right hand. Because of the cast, the arm itself didn’t bend to the end. And all our dresses are thin, I wouldn’t shove a cast anywhere. It outweighs me, I can’t jump. Not because I don’t want to, but because it is dangerous, I could fall and break my arm more seriously. God forbid, a larger fracture, a longer recovery and treatment, spokes, surgeries. I don’t need it, it’s not worth it. I was offended that the coaches thought that I had “a broken finger”, I quote. Although there was a real fracture.
The Olympics left many questions. If underage athletes compete as adults, should they be treated like children or not?
Alena Kostornaia: If you compete in seniors, you are already an adult. Maybe somewhere in life – no, but in sports – yes. If you have adult privileges, then you are responsible as an adult. How is it when you are a child here, I don’t want here, I can’t, do it for me, but here I am an adult? This is absolutely wrong. If you are a child, then you compete with children, you have children’s rules. If an adult, then adults. And, accordingly, the level of responsibility for oneself, for one’s words and actions.
After the emotions of Alexandra Trusova at the Games, many supported her, while others said that this was misbehavior.
Alena Kostornaia: You can’t say misbehavior or not, you can understand both points of view. A person has gone so much, was sure of something, but it didn’t work out. Naturally, any person will have a reaction. But why was it filmed, I could not understand? Question for the people who did it. What did a piece of Sasha’s breakdown give them? I don’t understand this as a human being.
It got broadcast.
Alena Kostornaia: Could you somehow move the camera, switch it, couldn’t it be done? Switch to Anya Shcherbakova. For some reason, the Olympic champion sat sad and alone. This was strange too. They could start asking her about some emotions, while Sasha would come to her senses and realize the situation. Is there really so little information that people need to be told about obvious things?
Did you somehow support Sasha?
Alena Kostornaia: I congratulated Anya. Personally, I didn’t say anything to Sasha, because I understood that in such a situation I would have pissed off at those who support me. I waited out this moment, then, when we met, I said: “Sasha, okay, everything is fine, you have been going so long to your five quads. In principle, you have fulfilled them, the goal has been achieved. But now there is motivation to continue skating.” She replied: “Yes, in fact it is.” Now everything is fine, the main thing is that the breakdown does not affect her future fate in any way.
Many consider figure skating the most scandalous sport.
Alena Kostornaia: Well it’s a bit. Sometimes there are quite insolent people, this doesn’t even apply to athletes. A lot of information is being spin out of nothing. It happens that terrible things are written, although in fact only three words are said. Absolutely different thoughts, but it’s all turned upside down. Of course, a huge number of fans – the fight begins, who is rooting for whom, who cheers for this athlete, and who does for another, this one is better or this one. This is a big mess, and therefore there are scandals.
How did you react to the YouTube shutdown from monetization?
Alena Kostornaia: I didn’t have much time to monetize it. A code should have come, and to a regular mail. When it came to me, I already asked for three others, everything went wrong there. And then they tell me that monetization is disabled, I’m like: “Well, great, I won’t do it.”
Will you continue your blogging activities?
Alena Kostornaia: Yes, I’m recording a new video soon. But due to the difficult situation around, it would not be very correct to start constantly posting something. I’ll post this one, but I won’t do the rest once or twice a week, as originally planned. Maybe two or three a month.
The other day you posted on social networks: “I am sitting in my Dubai, doing nothing.”
Alena Kostornaia: As always.
Seriously, what do you do in your free time?
Alena Kostornaia: I was given a week off before training. This, of course, is very little, but nothing terrible. I will try to squeeze maximim out of these days and do what I do not have time to do in my training life.
What was in that mug in the photo?
Alena Kostornaia: Tea.
Many wrote that this is beer.
Alena Kostornaia: Where? Firstly, this is a state institution, a skating rink. Where can there be beer? No one will bring it, we are athletes in the first place. Secondly, it’s a lack of culture, disrespectfull to take beer there. It’s tea, of course, because it’s cold on ice. Drinking something hot is okay.
There is a theory that with that photo you responded to the criticism of Alexei Zheleznyakov.
Alena Kostornaia: It’s not a theory. Yes, that’s how it is. I don’t understand why so many things are always pouring on me. There is nothing at all in my actions. Yes, I don’t understand why not my coaches are trying to say something, advise or put something in my responsibilities. My work will be evaluated by my coach. Whether they’re satisfied with me or not, it will remain between me and the team. And the fact that I’m given some comments by people who are no one for me now … I can’t characterize this person in any way. Maybe it’s good to hype on my name? Joke.
Is he not the same in real life as he is in social networks and comments for the media?
Alena Kostornaia: Alexei Valentinovich is one of those people who are not very different in life and in what he talks about.
Would you prefer to limit contact with him?
Alena Kostornaia: Well, I don’t communicate with him, I don’t need it. Why do I need communication not with my coaches, this is the same as wasting energy and strength on people from the street.
Tell me about your diet. Is it hard to control how you eat in figure skating?
Alena Kostornaia: This is important for any sport. It is necessary to receive a certain amount of all nutrients. Naturally, no one thoroughly monitors grams, there is no need for this. I don’t have such, especially in the off-season. My favorite phrase: “I’ll be fat, but I’ll be happy.” Because then I will start training, there will be a load, and I will not have time to go somewhere to eat or even cook.
Diet and constant weighing is …
Alena Kostornaia: It’s terrible and disgusting. Diet – it’s completely wrong. There should be a well-balanced nutrition, with no restrictions. It is clear that a person will not eat chocolate non-stop. But there can be sweets and some kind of harmful chips, you just shouldn’t eat a whole pack. For example, after half a can of chips, my mouth irritates due to the amount of spices, so I can’t eat anymore, it hurts. I love chocolate very much, I can eat it for weeks, but then I still want to eat normal food. Even buckwheat.
Diet is disgusting. As soon as you set a limit for yourself, you immediately want to eat everything. The Forbidden fruit is sweet. Constant weighing – the same. You are constantly weighed, given a comment. It can be once or twice a week, this is normal, but if it is several times a day, then this is not normal. It’s hard to unlearn from that. I know this, I had a quirk when I always got on the scales – after water or an apple. If you gain 300 grams, then you immediately think that you are fat and you won’t jump in training. It’s hard to overcome an unhealthy attitude.
Were you forced to weigh?
Alena Kostornaia: There was a moment when they weighed. You do it yourself in the morning first. Then, before the morning workout, the coaches weigh you, watch your weight so that you don’t go on the ice and break your legs. We need to dose the load. Then lunch, after which you watch it yourself again, because you understand that before the next workout there will be a weigh-in again. If you add more than a certain amount there, they will scoled you, they will say: “How can you be so negligent about yourself, your health, your sport? In fact, your legs feed you, and you, with your overweight, will go to break them.” The only thing is, with a over weight of 400 grams, you won’t break your legs. And what is a dinner of 400 grams? A glass of water is already 250. Then you still weigh yourself after the second workout to see how much you can eat for dinner. If there was not enough, then in addition to the main cool down, there was also walking, running in films, in everything possible, in order to rid your body of water and everything possible, so that you could eat something adequate.
Running in film?
Alena Kostornaia: You wrap the usual film for cooking on your skin. The pores close, it works like a thermo.
Did coaches force you to do this?
Alena Kostornaia: No, we did it on our own. Someone needs to dry out and stuff like that. I know that there could be big problems with the heart because of this.
What if there were consequences?
Alena Kostornaia: They were. Now everything seems to be fine, but still a holter (tracking the indications of the heart work) is often on me.
And what were the consequences?
Alena Kostornaia: When I skated in the Angels of Plushenko for a year, they did not give me permission. I was conditionally admitted to all competitions, because there were big health problems, we tried to restore it. But they were so global that you kind of treat one thing and harm another. Some of the permitted drugs help one thing, but it is harmful. And we chose what exactly is needed now. There was a moment when they didn’t give me permission because of my heart. The doctors said: “What if we give you a permit now, but something will happen to you, and we will be responsible for it.” And you can understand me that I want to compete, and you can understand them, because it is a responsibility.
They say that you earn 200 thousand rubles a month. What are you spending this money on?
Alena Kostornaia: The amount is subject to correction, of course. Which way is a secret. I spend on the same thing as ordinary people. I set aside part of the amount for transport. Then food and stuff. I also have pets. Hay for rabbit, sawdust, something else, dog food. Necessarily draw sheets, because I am at the skating rink for a long time and cannot walk with a dog during the day. Sometimes, of course, I go back and forth specifically for this, but mostly there is a draw sheet. Ordinary household expenses.
Alena Kostornaia: It depends. In general, my wardrobe is breaking down from the amount of clothes. I bought the jacket that I’m wearing six months ago and never wore it. Oversize, you can wear it everywhere, but I don’t want for some reason. And I have so many things lying around.
Is there any envy or resentment towards Russian football players? Top skaters like you are much more popular than many of them, and you earn much less.
Alena Kostornaia: Of course, it’s a shame. I do not want to say anything like that, but it could be corrected somehow. Our federation is trying, there are sponsors, various companies and brands. So in general, everything is fine, just a little insulting. Football is also quite popular in our country, but as a sport, and not as specific individuals. And we are all individual. Probably that’s the point. But we don’t complain too much.
What are your favorite clothing brands?
Alena Kostornaia: I don’t have any. There are sports ones, but there are no casual brands. I am very short and skinny for all stores. Sometimes the 2XS is too big for me. It’s terrible, you have to hem everything. To buy jeans and not hem them – I need to try very hard. I now wear one that I didn’t hem, this is a case of one in a thousand.
Do you do it yourself?
Alena Kostornaia: Of course not. Why spoil things? Before the closing of large stores, I dressed everywhere. Somewhere a cool blouse, somewhere a scarf. I combine all this and sometimes it turns out very cool.
What are you doing after the closure of some brands in Russia?
Alena Kostornaia: You can find analogues, or order online. Due to the fact that the stores are closed, I just ordered online. Maybe it’s leftovers from warehouses. But if you are not tied to a particular brand, you can always find something.
And the last question. Can you say that you are happy now?
Alena Kostornaia: Yes!