Anna Shcherbakova: “Few people will calmly miss one of the most important events in their lives. My experience has shown that I did the right thing at Russian Nationals.”
Interview with Anna Shcherbakova and her mother. About last season Nationals, World Championships and raising a figure skater.
source: Karavan istorii magazine, online version
At the 2021 World Championships, you took gold, Elizaveta Tuktamysheva – silver, Alexandra Trusova – bronze. This has not happened for a long time: Russian athletes took the entire podium! How did the preparation proceed?
Anna Shcherbakova: For the first time in its history, the championships was held under severe coronavirus restrictions. The skating rink and the hotel were located in the same building, it was strictly forbidden to go outside, competitions were held with empty stands. The audience was especially lacking – I always feel the huge support of my fans, but this time they were not there … But I learned from the social network that people watch the performances, worry about us, write warm words. Of course, this was nice.
For the first time I’ve flown to competitions without my mother, she has been with me in figure skating since childhood – we used to get up together at 4 am and go to training. Order is very important for my mom: everything should be on schedule, no excuses are accepted. This is probably what taught me to be responsible.
Mom went with me to all the competitions. Dad – on the most important or interesting ones. Despite being busy, he tried to come for at least one day. His support is also important to me.
My mother and I were constantly in touch – I called regularly after training and performances. Firstly, I am used to sharing with her everything that happens in my life, and secondly, I knew that she was worried!
It turned out that by the time of the World Championships there was a decline in shape – emotional and physical. Due to the pandemic, many competitions were canceled, there were no international competitions at all for a year. Therefore, not only for me, the event turned out to be difficult, for all sportsmen it was difficult.
Ambition also hindered me a little: sometimes it seemed that if I don’t skate the most complex set of elements, why am I here at all? I had to convince myself that I need to show the best of what I can at the moment, and come what may.
Having received gold, you probably burst into tears of happiness?
Anna Shcherbakova: I was incredibly happy and for a long time could not believe that I won. But tears … no, there were no tears. I understood that I fought to the end and did everything in my power.
The women’s competition ended a day earlier than the men’s one, so I was able to watch an exciting fight of figure skaters. And you know, sometimes it seemed that I was worried about the guys more than about myself! Yuzuru Hanyu, Nathan Chen, Boyang Jin and many other wonderful skaters took part in these competitions.
At the World Team Trophy in Japan, the situation was already calmer. In Osaka, at least we were taken to a skating rink by bus and we could see the country at least from the bus window. No matter how strange it may sound, even this is already a variety.
Do you have any lucky talisman?
Anna Shcherbakova: I take the bear napkin holder to all trainings and competitions. It was gifted in Japan at my first show.
How did figure skating appear in your life?
Anna Shcherbakova: I have been doing it practically all my life – from the age of three. I got on the ice, one might say, by accident – my older sister started to skate, she really wanted to, and at first we went to training together.
Later, Inna lost interest in figure skating, but I stayed in figure skating. I made good progress, the coaches praised me. At the same time, I did not set the goal of becoming a professional athlete. At the age of nine, the question arose: either I continue to do it professionally, or I just train for general development. I chose the first option and went to the group of Eteri Tutberidze. At the age of eleven or twelve, I started to participate in qualifying competitions, entered the junior team. Eteri Georgievna taught me to apply all the strength that I have (and even those I do not have) in order to strive forward, constantly achieving the best result.
Professional sports are all about overcoming and hardship. What do you have to sacrifice?
Anna Shcherbakova: If you have been doing sports since the age of three, you practically do not remember your life before it and you cannot understand whether you have lost something. I have never felt slighted. I think that any person who is seriously keen on, not only sports, has to give up something, to limit himself in something. But this is not a sacrifice, but rather the happiness of doing what you love. I was incredibly moved by the support at the Russian Nationals. I am happy that I did not disappoint those who believed in me and thus led to victory.
Are you a winner by nature?
Anna Shcherbakova: Probably … I strive to win not only on the ice. Let’s say I play ping-pong on vacation – and the excitement immediately wakes up in me. Although I’m not strong in table tennis. The very fact of victory is important, this applies to any games – checkers, scrabble, petanque … Since childhood, it has been hard for me to accept defeat.
Sport helps in this sense: on the one hand, the desire to win is very important. On the other hand, if you have not achieved the desired result, you need to look for the problem in yourself, and not in someone else. It means that you yourself did something wrong, did not work well enough.
Sport teaches us to treat victories and defeats right, since it is impossible to be always the first, ups and downs are inevitable.
By the way, about the falls. After all, you had several serious injuries – a broken leg in particular.
Anna Shcherbakova: This is an old story. It was not easy, but I had enough time to recover. It is much worse when serious injuries occur in a senior career. The competition in our sport is enormous, you may simply not return.
There was also a pneumonia, because of which they tried to persuaded you to withdraw from the competitions. However, you didn’t – and you won.
Anna Shcherbakova: Few people will calmly miss one of the most important events in their lives. And my experience has shown that at that time I did the right thing.
Your performance and result brought Eteri Tutberidze to tears. Apparently, she was very pleased.
Anna Shcherbakova: Eteri Georgievna said: “This is about sports.” I think such words are the best compliment that can be heard from a coach.
I will ask a question to your mother, who has come with you a long way to the top. Julia, do you often have moments when you feel so sorry for your daughter, just to tears?
Julia Shcherbakova: It is probably wrong to talk about this too frankly. If you deliberately stay in professional sports, then there is nothing to complain about. Including me, because, first of all, a parent is responsible for his child and makes important decisions related to his future fate.
Some people believe in such a sign: what the expectant mother does, so will her child be interested in. When you were expecting Anya, maybe you went to the skating rink?
Julia Shcherbakova: To be honest, I hardly remember the second pregnancy, because I was completely focused on the eldest daughter – the difference between Inna and Anya is less than two years. We walked a lot, went to music lessons for kids, drawing, to the pool … The skating rink appeared much later.
A month before Anya was born, I got Ph.D. If you believe that activities of a pregnant mother will affect the future of the child, then Anya is destined to study at Moscow State University. Although hardly to be a geologist. Or physics, like my husband. All our daughters – Inna, Anya and the younger Yana are more inclined towards the human sciences. So the omen is unlikely to work …
In relationships with children, I always try to follow my own intuition. However, I was interested in research in child psychology. I realized that for better contact with the baby, you need to talk to him while sitting, so that your eyes are on the same level.
I don’t think it’s right when parents act as harsh mentors. I myself have a rather authoritarian character, but I try to restrain it, listen to the opinions and desires of children – as the girls grow up, give them more freedom.
I attached great importance to all children’s activities. I tried to instill a respectful attitude towards the kindergarten, then towards school and lessons. This made it possible to stop controlling children early enough. So our children are purposeful and hardworking. I am happy that I have three such wonderful girls.
As for Anya, she is truly a leader by nature. But having an older and younger sisters, from an early age she had to learn to negotiate, to look for compromises.
What did Anna took from you and what from her dad?
Julia Shcherbakova: It is difficult to say which qualities were given from birth, and which ones appeared over time. I spend much more time with Anya than dad, and I can say: we look at many things the same way. But it seems to me that my daughter is more ambitious than me. This is from dad and from the coaches, of course. Much depends on the mentor, it is the coaches who support Anya in her sports ambitions. I am very grateful to them for that.
Figure skating is an individual sport, it lacks team spirit. In such an environment, it is easy to raise an egoist. But we are not obsessed with sports, we did not expect great success from Anya. We did not set the task of raising a champion. There was a desire to understand what the children themselves are interested in, how to create a comfort zone so that the child can move towards his goal more easily. I believe that sports achievements are not the main thing – there are a lot of other things in life, no less, and sometimes even more important things.
Anya, after winning the World Championships, has anything changed in your life?
Anna Shcherbakova: Nothing has changed. As soon as you leave the podium, life returns to its usual course and you just go to the next workout.
At the Russian Nationals, which will be held at the end of December in St. Petersburg, it will be decided who will go to the Winter Olympic Games. The fact that I have already participated or won at major international competitions does not give me any advantages in the selection.
Even if you have already achieved something, you still go through this path again every time: you need to prove that it is you who deserve this place at the moment. Nothing new – just train, train, train.
Next year you graduate from high school. Where are you planning to study next?
Anna Shcherbakova: In the Institute of Physical Education. I can’t imagine my life outside of figure skating, so I want to get a specialized education. I also think about the second one, but I haven’t decided yet.
Does your older sister regret leaving figure skating?
Anna Shcherbakova: In my opinion, not at all … Inna is studying law. She, it seems to me, is more calm than me. The youngest, Yana, is trying herself everywhere: she studied music, drawing, chess, goes to dances …
Mom and Dad always say: “There are many interesting roads in the world, it is important to choose your own.” And your own road is the one that you like.
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