Andrei Novoselov: When I saw a message from Stolbova I thought that someone decided to play a trick on me
Elena Vaitsekhovskaya’s interview with Ksenia Stolbova’s new partner Andrei Novoselov. About his career, skating with Ksenia and upcoming season.
by Elena Vaitsekhovskaya for rsport.ria.ru dd. 28th August 2019
A year ago, when I talked with Ksenia about how your pair appeared, she refused to tell anything, citing the fact that you haven’t received a permission from the French Figure Skating Federation (FFSG) to compete for Russia yet. At what point, did you become a Frenchman?
– Probably, I need to start with the fact that in 2009, when I was skating with my first partner Sabina Imaykina, we qualified to the junior Grand Prix Final, we became fifth there, despite the fact that we have been skating together for only two years, but we failed to get to the junior worlds that season, lacked a couple of points. It seemed to us that if we continue to progress, we will be able to reach a very high level. But I was invited to Moscow.
– Yes. They suggested trying to skate with another girl – Tanya Danilova. I agreed, because I understood that if I stay in Perm, I won’t have big prospect.
Didn’t feel like a traitor to your first partner?
– On a human note, I did. But sport in this regard is quite a cruel thing, sometimes for the sake of result you have to step over some things. I will always be very grateful to my Perm coaches Valentina Fedorovna and Valery Nikolayevich Tyukov, who gave me a completely amazing base for pair skating. Just the experience of so many pairs from Perm showed that even when they win the junior worlds, that’s all. I really wanted to skate. And I perfectly understood what awaits me if I stay.
Natalia Pavlova invited me to Moscow, who at that time had two leading pairs – Anastasia Martyusheva / Alexei Rogonov and Lyubov Ilyushechkina / Nodari Maysuradze. Everyone else trained in the second group and she didn’t pay too much attention to us, although I met with amazing coach Inna Utkina, she helped Pavlova at that time. It seemed that my partner jumped well, and I jumped, and we did all the level forth elements, triple throws, twists, but somehow it didn’t work out at the competitions. Then Tanya got a serious shoulder injury, the same as Yuko Kawaguti had. And, since the shoulder periodically flew out of the joint, she had to have a surgery.
And you began to look for a new girl?
– I waited six months, although I understood that it would be difficult for us to return to the previous level, not to mention progressing further. Six months later, doctors said that recovery would take another six months, and possibly a year. And I decided to go to Nina Mozer’s team, they were looking for a partner for Tanya Novik. Utkina went there too. So began my third saga in pair skating.
Which, like the first two, was not very successful?
– Yes. I quickly began to understand that participations in the stages of the Russian Cup was our maximum, in the best case – getting into the finals of these competitions, that is, by and large, the career is over. Then I got an idea to start skating for some other country. It seemed to me that at least it would be possible to get to the European, World Championships, and big competitions are a completely different work in training, a different motivation. When you compete only at Russian competitions, nobody sees you, as if you don’t exist. By and large, there is no difference how you skate at this level and what you do.
Did you plan to change your sports citizenship with your partner?
– We quickly realized that it was almost impossible to do if both partners had Russian passports. Just at that time, Bruno Massot finished skating in France with Daria Popova to team up with Alena Savchenko. At one time Dasha and I skated together in Pavlova’s group, knew each other well, and so we decided to try out. In six months we learned the elements, did programs, performed at the test skates in France, the National Figure Skating Federation was very pleased with us, but they set the condition for me: to need to from Moscow to Paris.
Do you want to say that the conditions for training there were better than at Moser’s school?
– There were no conditions. The only pair coach was Claude Thevenard, who once coached Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres. Claude herself was a single skater and later became a coach of single skaters, but took a lot of internships for pair skating, including in Russia and Canada. That is, she knew the basics of pair skating, but this wasn’t enough. In six months we lost almost all the elements, and Dasha decided to quit sport. She said that she sees no reason for herself to continue.
How did you take her decision?
– As the completion of a certain stage of life and the beginning of a new one. The leaders iof FFSG almost immediately suggested me teaming up with Lola Esbrat, and we agreed that if I later find a stronger partner, I can start skating with her. In the meantime, it will be useful to everyone if I start training with Lola and teach her. They organized us summer training camps and promised that in a couple of months they would try to resolve the financial issue. But at that time I understood that Lola and I didn’t have a lot of prospects, because it’s impossible to progress in pair skating if you don’t have a good coach.
What did you think of yourself as a skater at that time?
– That, perhaps, I’m still lucky to meet a partner with whom we will be able to reach a really high level. I even tried to talk with some girls who did singles, but no one wanted to do pairs. With Lola, we slowly progressed, in three months we learned two throws, a triple jump, a double twist, our progress was quite suitable for the federation, but they didn’t invest too much in our pair. It was the same with Morgan Cipres and Vanessa James. The French didn’t start to finance their training immediately.
However, with Esbrat you become national champions.
– At the championship we won, there were almost no pairs. Vanessa and Morgan withdrew from those competitions, so besides us, there were only juniors, we placed ahead them with quite a weak skate. Personally, I had no big illusions about that victory. By that time, the FFSG had already made it clear that it was very interested in me, as a coach, and even offered to take necessary studies. I was interested, there was a Russian-French junior pair and I began to coach, combining this work with my own trainings. For this, the skating rink refund me some household expenses, and the FFSG paid for housing. But in the summer of 2018, Lola began to lean toward the decision to quit skating. Although, she changed her decision several times, but these hazitations only strengthened the thought that I want to start working as a coach as soon as possible.
And here Stolbova wrote you…
– That is exactly what happened. Ksenia was at the training camp in France with Nikolai Morozov, she was recovering from an injury, and somehow she got the information that Esbrat and I were no longer skating together. When I saw the message on WhatsApp, I honestly didn’t believe it. I thought that someone decided to play a trick on me. By that time, I had already moved my wife and child to Paris, so we discussed everything at home, and my wife said that I should at least try to take this chance. Otherwise, I will regret for the rest of my life that I didn’t dare.
Was it a bit scary to make a decision, admit honestly?
– Rather interesting. I really wanted to understand whether I was able to continue progressing as a skater, after almost ten years of standing still, or not. So we tried. Ksenia’s leg still ache a bit, but she could do some elements.
What was this feeling?
– Very unusual for me. I have never skated with such a partner and at first didn’t keep up with Ksyusha at all. Neither in strocking, nor in elements.
Isn’t it quite humiliating for a man. Did you fight with this feeling?
– Sometimes – yes, but it also added motivation. Every minute of training was a challenge: can I, or not? A couple of months I was constantly catching up. Now it also happens that in some ways I’m lagging behind the level that Ksyusha sets, but the motivation is only stronger.
When did you realize that you passed the exam?
– Two days after we started working. The three of us sat down, talked and realized that we need to continue.
Who motivated you more at the beginning of your joint work – partner or coach?
– They are very different in this regard. Kolya is very good at explaining what he wants and how it should be done. And explains so that it doesn’t offend, but, on the contrary, motivates. And Ksyusha … I don’t even know how to say it. She is a terrific fighter. She is one of those athletes who will do everything they should, even if they balance on the edge.
I know that when Rodnina and Ulanov started to skate at Stanislav Zhuk, and the training sessions were especially difficult, Irina shouted to her partner: “Put your hands up, I will jump myself!”
– Initially, we had the same story. I knew that Ksyusha was able to do 90% of work without my participation, so the primary task was not to interfere with her. And help if possible. It seemed to me that I completely understand how Ksenia feels skating with such a partner, since for ten years I’ve been doing the same function, skating with other girls – I pulled the whole program myself.
For quit a long time the FFSG didn’t want to let you go. How was this conflict resolved?
– This issue was resolved between the French and Russian federations, so I just don’t know the details. I didn’t get involved in any controversy, just waited. I understood from the experience of Bruno Massot that insoluble situations connected with the transition of athletes from country to country simply do not exist.
How did you manage to re-learn the most problematic element for Ksenia – a triple twist?
– It was hard. Re-learning some technical things in adulthood is generally not easy, especially since I also had certain difficulties with the twist, so we divided the task into several stages. For several months we didn’t work on the twist to “forget” previous skills. Then we began to work with various specialists, including Stanislav Morozov, who once worked on twist with Tanya Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov, and then with Zhenya Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov. Stas immediately told us what exactly needs to be changed and we began to work purposefully. Moreover, unlike most experts, Morozov didn’t allow us to deviate from the proposed scheme even slightly – he demanded the thorough implementation of all his recommendations. Many coaches think like this: an element turns out – well, okay, it doesn’t matter that there is some kind of mistake. Stas has his own training system for twists, the whole range of exercises designed for about a month of training, and I can say that this system works and works great, despite the fact that the first couple of weeks we balanced between “bad” and “very bad” according to the trainer’s assessment. Now we feel that the element is becoming more and more confident every day. Sometimes something doesn’t work out, but this is normal for such an element: it is impossible to quickly bring it to a completely new level by changing the technique.
Did throws turn out quickly?
– We also had to adapt to each other. Ksyusha has a very specific technique of throws.
Can you explain?
– She makes a throw herself. In fact, this is the same triple jump, just with a larger amplitude.The vast majority of pairs do throws differently: the partner directs, throws, determines the height, twists and the girl’s task is only to band in time and land on one leg. Now my task is to help the partner as much as possible, but at the same time not to hinder her, not to knock her out of her own actions.
Have you already decided in which competitions to participate?
– To a certain extent, it depends on how we show ourselves at the test skates. It is clear that we need a certain number of competitions in order to get the right to compete at the Russian Nationals, we already have some thoughts on this subject, but it’s too early to talk about them.
How do you think, the leadership of the Russian Figure Skating Federation takes your pair into account?
– A year ago, it seemed to me, the attitude was more skeptical, although after two months of working together we showed all the elements except the twist. On the other hand, I perfectly understood the position of the leadership of the FFKKR: to execute elements individually or in small combinations is not at all like skating the entire program with them from beginning to end. And we weren’t capable of that then. Although back then we choreographed the short program that we were going to skate this season – the blues. For the free program we took classics in a very interesting modern arrangement. It seems to me that none of the skaters have used this version yet. This year, the president of the FFKKR Alexander Gorshkov, the general director Alexander Kogan came to Novogorsk, looked at both programs, noted where we had progressed and what else we needed to work on, and said that the federation was ready to help us with costumes and equipment. This, of course, is a great help. Although now everything is much easier. The Perm Federation of Figure Skating helps us a lot to solve all sorts of everyday problems, we represent this region, and I really hope that our cooperation will continue further.
When the season begins, you will find yourself in a completely new environment. Does it bother you?
– Bother is the wrong word. Rather, it intrigues and motivates. I want to be in this company, I want to show what we are capable of.
So, do you like competitions?
– If I hadn’t loved them, I would probably have ended my sports career long time ago.