Alena Kostornaia: “The only thing I regret is not getting to the Olympics.”
Interview with Alena Kostornaia. About switching to pair skating, difficult periods in her career, missing the Olympics and romantic relationships.
source: Lenta.ru dd. 14 March 2023
In November 2022, you assumed that one day you would switch to pair skating, but you weren’t sure yet. And in January, it was officially announced. Was it a spontaneous decision?
Alena Kostornaia: Back in October, as soon as I left the hospital (Alena underwent hip surgery), I messaged Elena Germanovna [Buyanova] that I was ready to do both. I needed to learn pair elements for the show. And then at some point I realized that I had more prospects in pair skating. It took me a month to decide. All the right people knew from the beginning, but it was too early to tell officially.
How is the work going? Where is more comfortable: already in pairs or still in singles?
Alena Kostornaia: As a singles skater, the desire to go and jump all the time does not leave me, especially if something does not work out. But I’m not alone; we need to do everything together. At such moments, a nightmare begins (laughs). But it gets better and better all the time; I’m not the same as I was at the beginning.
What elements can you already do consistently?
Alena Kostornaia: We do spins, side-by-side jumps, and double throws well. I’m still falling from triple ones. We do a double twist on the floor; we tried a triple – it’s also good. Not excellent, as if we had been training for ten years, but tolerable.
In 2020, you explained the return from Evgeni Plushenko to Eteri Tutberidze as follows: “I don’t perceive a male authority. For me, it is not an authority. I rely more on life experience, some knowledge, or something else and not on patriarchy.” Now your coach is a man. What changed?
Alena Kostornaia: Well, on some issues, I still need a feminine look. For example, I discuss a new costume with Betina Popova and not with Sergei Sergeevich [Rosliakov]. At the same time, now I perceive the coach more as an assistant, a person who wants me to become better and achieve results. It’s my business whether to listen to him or not.
How did you perceive before?
Alena Kostornaia: As a person who will stand over me with a stick and force.
It seems that everyone has already spoken about your prospects in pair skating. And what do you think?
Alena Kostornaia: There are chances; we need to use them.
A few years ago, you said that you dreamed of the Olympics. Do you still have such thoughts but already in pair skating?
Alena Kostornaia: Sure. I just wanted to be there. My mother told me, “Even if you open the board there and shout to me through the screen, “Mom, I got to the Olympics!”, then I will already be happy for you.” And if I also skate there, it will be great.
But these are dreams. Whether it succeeds or not is another question. Only time can show.
Anna Shcherbakova says she is afraid to even watch pair skating, not to mention try it. Do you have fear?
Alena Kostornaia: Sometimes I post videos of my pair elements to the chat with the girls from single skating, and they ask if I’m scared (laughs). But I’m fine. Something may be uncomfortable or unusual. But I can’t say that this causes a protest in me or that I have to persuade myself.
When was the last time you were scared in your life?
Alena Kostornaia: It is usually associated with planes. For some reason, our flights from Italy are always terrible. How many times we flew there – everything is fine, but back – terrible. Once we landed, we already started to stop, and then suddenly accelerated and took off again at a very low speed. I thought that I would turn gray; it was very scary. Or we fell into air pockets such that we were pressed to the floor. I thought it was the end.
I also have claustrophobia, but I only feel it in an MRI machine. I start shaking, panic, tears flow.
You have been posting a lot of photos with Georgi Kunitsa lately. What reaction did you expect from the fans when you made the relationship public?
Alena Kostornaia: Usually, when you post photos with a hint of some kind of relationship, everyone immediately starts writing and saying that this is the end of a career. Probably a quarter of all messages were about this.
At first, such comments offend. And then you think, “What can these people do?” Nothing. This is my Instagram, and I post what I want.
Do you think that in any business, it is useful to work side by side with a partner?
Alena Kostornaia: It’s very individual. I won’t name names, but in figure skating, there were cases when it really hindered some pairs.
What was the craziest thing you did?
Alena Kostornaia: I don’t think I’ve ever done really crazy things. I really want to bungee jump in Sochi, but I’m still forbidden. At first, I was too young, then there had to be a surgery, and now, after the surgery, it is also impossible. They say it’s more interesting than skydiving. By the way, I haven’t tried this either.
You are often called the most extraordinary figure skater in Russia. How do you feel about this?
Alena Kostornaia: I like it because, at some point, it was my goal to be different from everyone. And I get it. Of course, sometimes the stories around me are overblown. I am a public person, so all my actions, including mistakes, are given great publicity. And sometimes, if you figure it out, I don’t do anything special. It’s like the scandals around Olga Buzova: well, a person had a fight with someone; who cares? But she is famous, so everyone is discussing it.
At the same time, I definitely like to be the first, and I am pleased that they repeat after me. This applies to changes in appearance and sports. For example, at competitions, I put glitter on my face. Naturally, before me, this was done at some concerts, but in figure skating, no. Or there was a situation at the show recently. I flew on a loop: you accelerate, you are lifted and lowered, and you need to do a couple of acrobatic elements. After some time, other athletes have already tried it. As my friend says, no one steals bad ideas.
Is the desire to create a daring image something that you have always had since childhood?
Alena Kostornaia: No, it comes with age. I used to be taught not to stand out too much. And if you stand out, then only with something very good. And when I got older, I realized that any PR or excitement around you is not bad. But if the occasion is good, it is doubly pleasant.
I am a very difficult person, and I was a difficult child. When my mother tells me something, I think about my behavior and say, “I would kill for this.” Sometimes I work with children, and I have been creating programs for two years now. I understand that I won’t be able to endure such a child as I was in childhood. There were always some problems; I could run somewhere and forget what needed to be done, setting up a lot of people. How did the coaches agree to work with me? How did Elena Vyacheslavovna Zhgun lead me from the age of 7 to almost 13 years old? And we still managed to succeed. We are on good terms now; I can turn to her on any issue.
Is such character in sports good or bad?
Alena Kostornaia: If you send it in the right direction, then good. I don’t think I’ve fully come to this yet. Only a couple of years ago, I began to approach work consciously; I learned to force myself. I can work by myself without control; the coach does not have to stand over me. And before that, it was like this: there is no coach in training; you can do nothing. And the motivation was more material: if I win something, I can buy something for myself with the prize money.
Were there any moments in which a lack of endurance prevented you from achieving something?
Alena Kostornaia: No, there were no global omissions precisely because of my character. Perhaps, in some separate training sessions, I could have achieved more if I had not started to sob and cry in hysteria when something went wrong. But these are isolated cases that, by and large, did not affect my results. Such moments, of course, I would like to minimize.
The only thing I regret is the Olympics. But I did not get there because of a broken arm. With plaster, no matter how much you want, you can’t jump. It hurts even if you don’t move your arm. Well, it’s a pity about the World Championships. But then there was quarantine, again not my fault.
What is the most valuable medal for you, except for the gold from the European Championships?
Alena Kostornaia: It is impossible to single one out; each is valuable in its own way. It is always fight, tears, and joy.
What period in your sports career at the moment is the most difficult?
Alena Kostornaia: It was very hard every time I entered the competition after changing the coach. An incredibly oppressive atmosphere, constant questions… Everyone is waiting for something and wanting something from you.
I tried to ignore it all, but it didn’t help. No matter how strong you are in public, at home, alone with yourself, you are broken. Of course, the coach supports you, but you don’t need to dwell on this; this is a very personal story.
You started figure skating at the age of four. What would you say to that four-year-old girl if you had the chance?
Alena Kostornaia: You are doing everything right. Go your own way, but don’t forget to listen to your loved ones.
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