Alena Leonova: If I try quad it’ll be my last jump
Interview with Alena Leonova who has recently celebrated her 25th anniversary of sports career.
by Marina Tchernysheva-Melnik for matchtv.ru dd. 1st October 2019
Alena, you’re on the ice a quarter century. Do you remember your first time at the rink?
– Honestly, no. I know more of that period from the stories of my parents and grandmother. It all started when my mother saw an ad about figure skating group for children. I was taken there and I liked it. True, at first training sessions I fell a lot, and my grandmother cried because of this in the locker room. While my parents worked, it was my grandmother who often took me to the rink. My brother and sister were also engaged in figure skating. Now they are working in different fields, but for me ice has become a matter of life.
When did the first successes come?
– At about 5 years old. Local competitions were often hold for children, and there I always stood on a pedestal. It was a lot of fun when the whole group was given a program to the same music. They turned on a song or a melody and we danced on the same ice. Simultaneously, but each tried to show something of his own, depending a mood.
When did you realize that you skate not only for pleasure, but also for victories?
– Probably from the moment I began to train with Alla Yakovlevna Pyatova. She coached me in juniors and brought me to seniors. I had a goal to show my maximum.
Can you highlight the most valuable moment in your career?
– Silver medal at the World Championships in 2012. It was happiness, and still is my main medal. A title that will forever remain with me.
How do you think, what is better – to go all your path in sports with one coach or to work with different specialists?
– The first option is better, and in Russian figure skating there are such examples which are worthy of admiration. But it doesn’t always work out as you want. For example, I moved from Pyatova to Nikolai Morozov. At a certain moment I realized that I needed a new approach, momentum. The main thing is that we didn’t quarrel with Pyatova, she supported me and continued to go to competitions with me for some time, was the second coach. Now Pyatova and I have even better relationship than when I skated with her. Then I had to part with Nikolai Morozov, again, for objective reasons. He moved to the USA, but I couldn’t do that. There were no financial opportunities, and in a distant country everything is alien, I would hardly adapt. Therefore, I returned to my hometown, and thanks to Evgeni Rukavitsin for accepting me in his group! So there are several coaches in my career, but it’s important that I kept a good relations with everyone. When you leave because of circumstances it’s normal. It’s bad when an athlete runs away from a coach after the first unsuccessful season and blames him for everything. The causes of defeat should always be sought in yourself.
You are in sports for so long, you continue to fight at competitions, although you could have started earn money in shows long ago. What is the limit of your passion and loyalty to figure skating?
– So many people constantly ask me about it, but I can’t answer this question. I don’t know. I just really love my job. As long as I have health and enthusiasm, I will skate. I like to give people joy and myself enjoy it.
Isn’t it sad to lose to girls who are almost two times younger than you?
– Of course, it hurts when you perform cleanly, but because of the insufficiently highly technical content, you can’t get high scores. And the girls are already doing quadruple jumps and doing more complex combinations. Plus rating plays a role. At the last Russian Nationals, I was upset about 12th place. Although I skated both programs perfectly. My mood quickly got back to normal, after all I did everything I could. In general, I try to think less about competition, only about my performances.
You are still in sports, while Radionova, Pogorilaya and other girls, who are much younger than you and sparkled just for a couple of seasons, left.
– Yes, I’m amazed how I outskated everyone. Perhaps these girls lacked strength and patience at a certain stage. Maybe they are not so committed to figure skating and found themselves in something else. I was also lucky that during my entire career I haven’t had serious injuries, fractures. I skate without violence over my body.
In Russia, there is a crazy competition in ladies’ single skating, there won’t be enough spots in the national team. Why girls, who can and want to skate, do not try pairs or ice dance? After all, there are partners longing for victories: Rogonov, Soloviev.
– Now this rarely happens, because it takes years for two different skaters to get used to each other and to the new style of skating. You need to start at 12-13 years old, certainly not at my age. And I’m also a single skater, I’m used to be responsible only for myself on the ice. By the way, recently Alina Solovieva, who was training with Mishin, has switched to pair skating.
After all, you also had the experience of doing pairs – with Alexander Smirnov.
– That was a long time ago, before he paired up with Yuko Kavaguti. All our groups trained in Yubileiny ice rink. I was sent to pairs for a while to learn how to jump at a speed. For a week, Sasha and I skated together. But the height of the lifts was daunting, and I quickly realized that this is not for me.
Why there are no such fan wars in pair skating and ice dance as we have now in ladies’ skating? There’s also a competition, some duets are coached by one coach. But everything is calm.
– Because girls have a revolution now: fragile girls jump quadruples, which a few years ago seemed unrealistic. Fans keep track of who will complicate elements earlier, who will make more quads in one program, whose will be cleaner, whether skating will beat technique and so on. That is, all the time there is some kind of intrigue in a good sense of this word, all the time records are updated. In pairs, there is no such progress, new elements. Top pairs skate at about the same level, and in ice dance there is the same unconditional leader for several years in a row. When pairs begin to do something special, for example, the Lutz-loop combinations, like Zagitova, then the others will try to keep up. And then the battles will begin. Plus, many were inspired by the rivalry of Zhenya and Alina in the Olympic season. People like to talk about justice, give arguments, empathize. On the one hand, this is a human factor, but when the discussion turns into vicious attacks and almost curses against athletes and coaches this is inadequate.
How was the idea of your program to the nocturne “La Separation” by Mikhail Glinka born? What was the idea of the choreographer?
– My choreographer Olga Glinka found the music. I remember she sent me this music, I listened and disappeared into it. But, to be honest, at first it was scary. I’m used to a dynamic music, and here everything is smooth, dramatic libretto. My heroine is a noblewoman, the time of action is the nineteenth century. Her beloved goes to the war, she misses him, all the time imagines that he’s near…In the finale, he returns and I’m happy. Designers made a dress in the style of that time. Many said that it is aging me. But then there was a certain design of clothes, and a costume is part of the image and era.
Why didn’t you keep a successful program for the new season?
– If I had skated this story for a long time, I would have got tired of it. Better keep the desire to show this program again. And in general, I think you should always change programs for the new season, short for sure.
Tell us about your new programs. –
Our team thought for a long time, listened to different music. In the summer, I got an idea that I want Irish dancing. Riverdance is generally rarely taken in figure skating. Valentin Nikolayevich Molotov found two music pieces that we successfully combined into one program: Ronan Hardiman “Warriors” and fiery “Reel around the Sun” by Bill Wilan for the step sequence. And for the free program we chose the famous “Seven nation army” performed by Haley Reinhart. With a focus on jazz and blues.
In the spring, you said you work on the triple axel. How is it going?
– Yes, I tried in the offseason. Just at the end of the season, I have such a state: my shape is good, I jump, because I competed recently. There is time to work on new elements. But now I can’t devote enough time to the axel. It is necessary to prepare new programs.
Have you ever thought about quadruple jump?
– When I was a teenager, quad wasn’t necessary. This is now the girls at 10 years old do quadruple jump. It’s too late for my body, if I try to jump quad, it will be my last jump.
In your opinion, what is more valuable for a skater – technique or artistry?
– Personality is important, your style, like Carolina Kostner has. She has charisma, individuality. Do you know many athletes similar to Carolina? Now, due to the complexity of the technique, there is often a race from one element to another, and the skater’s style is lost.
Who do you like in other figure skating disciplines?
– For sure Nathan Chen. Everything is harmonious about him – both technique and artistry. In pairs, I’m rooting for Ksenia Stolbova. I liked both of her programs with a new partner. I want to believe that she will still show herself in sports. I don’t really follow ice dance, I like our two leading pairs. The French duet doesn’t touch me, there is no particular interest in watching similar elements to a different music.
When the sport ends, there remains a need to be in the spotlight. It is difficult to live without this energy from the audience. Have you thought how will you deal with this? And what plans do you have in general for life after sports?
– I’m interested in the work of ice choreographer, especially since I already have experience of doing programs for children. This is right for me! I would like to do more complex programs, to bring athletes to competitions. I also plan to do shows when I’m free from a tough schedule.
Definitely my new life will be connected with figure skating.
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