Anna Shcherbakova: “I don’t support when children have a goal to win the Olympics. Goals must be realistic. But often it comes from adults and children don’t understand what needs to be done to achieve it.”
Interview with Anna Shcherbakova. Anna told that “steel girl” is a compliment, about the right to feel emptiness after the victory and absence of a childhood dream of winning the Olympic Games.
source: mk.ru dd. 28th February 2022
Anya, in Beijing you said that it was a load off you mind. Because you showed your maximum in the right place and at the right time. And then there was a celebration ceremony in Moscow …
Anna Shcherbakova: I needed it so much! When I found out that they would meet us, thoughts flashed: after the plane, a long road, it’s hard. But when we went on stage … these are such inexpressible emotions, such a feeling of incredible pride! Exactly what I really missed in Beijing. A huge hall, such energy of the audience, which nothing can replace. I just love this feeling.
Did you meet Alexander Bolshunov (a Russian cross-country skier) before the joint raising of the Russian flag in Moscow?
Anna Shcherbakova: I saw him at the airport, I say to Daniil Markovich (Gleikhengauz. – Ed.): “Take the phone, take a picture of us, please!” I just admire him! And Bolshunov, when he saw me, said: “What a miniature you are” …
Anya, you are often called a figure skater with nerves of steel, in other words, a steel girl. You don’t mind?
Anna Shcherbakova: I think this is a pleasant compliment for an athlete, because one of the most important components for performing in any sport is to cope with excitement and nerves. So, I’m pleased.
In Beijing, you admitted that you wanted silence after the victory. But a day after arrival, you resumed training.
Anna Shcherbakova: Yes, I started training on the February 23rd. And a few days after competitions there was an absolute emptiness inside. No thoughts, no emotions. I realized that, probably for the first time in my life, I could spend a whole day without thinking about anything at all. I usually have some sort of internal dialogue. And for the first time, absolutely nothing. Complete emptiness.
Did it scare you?
Anna Shcherbakova: No, I didn’t try to fix it. I didn’t even try to convince myself that I should feel something. I didn’t force myself to be happy or sad. I decided that it was better just to give myself time: there are no thoughts in my head, well probably this is how it should be now. And I think it was right. I needed this time. Thoughts are coming back. And now I can think about everything with peace of mind. I’m completely back to my normal self, so to speak.
Like any athlete, you had to overcome different things in your career. At the age of 13, for example, there was a broken leg. When an athlete has already reached some heights and returns after an injury, this is understandable, but how can you return yourself through overcoming when there are no such victories yet?
Anna Shcherbakova: I do not agree. Like most people, I started doing figure skating at the age of three and a half. Therefore, by the age of thirteen you have spent almost your entire life on the rink, you do not know another life. Perhaps, when you are an adult and have titles, you just have an understanding that there is something else in life besides figure skating. And at 13 you know that you have been skating all your life, waiting and dreaming about senior competitions. Therefore, you don’t even have a thought about quitting. Everything important has not yet begun, you have been going, going and … quit? I did not convince myself that I would skate, I just have never thought that my skating would remain in the past.
But was it scary to look at the leg?
Anna Shcherbakova: Well, the leg was in a cast, what’s the big deal?
No, after cast …
Anna Shcherbakova: Yes, it was … All the muscles were completely asleep, the leg did not look the best. So to say.
Big sport is a completely different way of life. Starting from getting up at 4:30 am…
Anna Shcherbakova: Yes, I remember how for several years we started training on ice at six in the morning. And before that, it was necessary to get there and warm up, so I got up at 4.30. If now I had training at six in the morning, then I would get up, of course, much earlier. Because now the warm-up is longer, you approach everything more responsibly.
But, you know, in fact, for a child, this is not that hard at all, because his regimen adapts. He goes to bed at seven in the evening, gets up early, it seems to him that this is an ordinary morning. But mothers … My mother, of course, a hero, adjusted her life to figure skating, drove and took care of me and my sister.
Many athletes keep diaries. Not only sports one. Have you tried it?
Anna Shcherbakova: I tried, but, probably, it’s not for me. I can’t sincerely put everything I feel on paper. It’s easier for me to think about everything inside, I don’t even share my feelings with anyone, it’s easier for me to regulate everything with myself …
You appeared in the group of Eteri Tutberidze in the Sochi-2014 Olympic season, Yulia Lipnitskaya was preparing on the ice then, you were nine years old. Do you remember your feelings?
Anna Shcherbakova: I remember not my training, but how I watched others, including Yulia. At that moment, I didn’t have any success at all, the days were routine and monotonous, I was working on triple jumps. And without much progress. Of course, I admired the elders. For the first time I got on the ice with athletes of such a level. And I didn’t even know how to behave properly on the ice. It comes with experience.
How not to get in the way?
Anna Shcherbakova: Before that, I skated on the ice, where there were 30 small children, this is a completely different speed. And here there are about 10 athletes, everything happens at great speed, and I didn’t know when I would get in their way and when not. As a result, of course, I constantly interfered with everyone, I could not understand what to do, how and where to hide on the ice.
Now all this is happening automatically: someone goes on the jump, you see it, you know where you need to go. And then I didn’t understand. But even today, with foreign athletes, of course, you need to be a little more attentive in joint training. When our people skate, then we know: the entry on the jump, the trajectory, the program, who and where will go.
Journalists take a second computer on long business trips. Is it usual for you to take a second pair of boots with you?
Anna Shcherbakova: No, I took it for the first time. Typically trips are three to five days long. And for such a period, with all the desire, no matter what happens, it will not be possible to replace the skates. And here – we were leaving for a training camp in Krasnoyarsk, then two weeks of training in Beijing, so a spare pair was needed. It was clear that something could happen in two or three weeks, and there would be time to fix it somehow. And you need to be ready for this.
And the boots, which by the time of the short program you’ve been skating for three days, have they been broken into?
Anna Shcherbakova: No, they were absolutely new.
Is that also the norm? You put them on and skate calmly?
Anna Shcherbakova: Well, not so calmly. I think it was clear from the training that some kind of process was underway. I was surprised by something else: to wear new boots for the official training. At Khrustalny, I’m used to going on the ice and starting to work – all the coaches are aware that I have new boots, but I try to do the full amount of work. And I have the opportunity to go on additional ice, that is, to skate for many hours in one day. And in Beijing, it turned out that I had literally thirty or forty minutes in training to break into new boots. And at the same time, there was an official training, with music, which, of course, was a bit stressful. Although I was ready for this and just calculated the time before the free program in order to get used to the new boots. The first days everything was not going in the best way, but I knew that it would be so, it was important to bring everything back to normal before the free program.
Was this the first change of boots in the season?
Anna Shcherbakova: No, I change boots more often than I would like to, so at the end of the season I will try another model. This is the problem of recent seasons: as soon as I started jumping more quadruple jumps, the boots began to break more often, now I have to change them five or six times a season. This interferes, of course, with the training process, but during the Olympic season I did not experiment with the model.
You came to Beijing at the peak of your shape, did you realize this?
Anna Shcherbakova: I am always very attentive to my sensations. And I roughly imagined how I would get in shape, after each training session I noted to myself: how correctly I was moving towards the goal in order to show the maximum.
Anya, what if you had to perform three quadruple jumps in a free program at the Olympic Games?
Anna Shcherbakova: I have no idea if it’s necessary or not. I took into account my abilities.
Not only steel, but also the good girl, this is the image. Is that a compliment too?
Anna Shcherbakova: I don’t like it when people exaggerate or idealize a person. I don’t pretend to be anyone. And I do not try to seem like an angel or an absolutely perfect person. I don’t try to pretend to be someone else. But at the same time, only from an interview, people cannot fully understand what kind of person I am. Moreover, at first I was generally shy to give interviews.
School is ending this year, which university are you going to apply?
Anna Shcherbakova: I plan to study to be a coach and continue to skate, it is not so easy to combine studies and a sports career. I haven’t decided on the future yet, but maybe it will come in handy for me. And then I’ll try to find myself. Unfortunately, there are no clear preferences yet. I guess figure skating takes so much place in my life that so far nothing else interests me so much.
In Beijing, you unexpectedly told that you have never set a goal to become an Olympic champion as a child. And emphasized that you speak honestly. I will ask a popular question: was it even possible?
Anna Shcherbakova: I’ve been thinking about this for a long time. And I don’t support it at all when children from an early age say that their goal is to win the Olympics. Sometimes this sincerely comes from a child, but more often from adults who inspire that the Olympic Games are the main goal of any athlete. A child listens, listens, and, say, at the age of three or four, sets a goal for himself, without even understanding what needs to be done to achieve it. What will it cost him? What will be his path? In my opinion, this is wrong.
Yes, there should always be goals. A child at this age may dream of winning the competitions among his age. He can dream of mastering a new jump – double. But he still cannot understand what is hidden behind the dream of becoming an Olympic champion. Goals must be realistic. What will happen to this child, no one knows. And how much pain and disappointment there will be from the fact that a childhood dream did not come true.
What is sport for you in general?
Anna Shcherbakova: Not mentioning that this is my life … Then this is my opportunity to realize myself. Because at the age of 17, not every person has the opportunity to realize their ambitions, potential, find a business in which he feels at ease. And not just to realize himself, but also to get the opportunity to show it to a huge audience that can follow performances, successes or defeats, my sports path.
You say that you don’t come to competitions feeling like a favorite to win, but you leave as a champion…
Anna Shcherbakova: So I’m doing everything right.
Laughing, but you’re right. And what many call the “skating of your life”, you have managed to show more than once. And can you compare in emotions, for example, a phenomenal performance in Chelyabinsk at the Russian Nationals and in Beijing at the Olympic Games?
Anna Shcherbakova: No, I wouldn’t compare. I would say that at the Russian Nationals isuch a cinematic dramatic story turned out. And in the end, I could not believe that after those difficulties there could be a happy ending. After the end of the performance, there were incredible emotions that I did the impossible, there was some kind of unreality of everything that was happening.
And in Beijing, probably, everything just happened happily. There was no drama, I’m talking about myself personally, just a celebratory moment: day after day I worked in training, tried not to pay attention to the difficulties. I was on the rise, gaining shape, and at the right time everything worked out. Rather, it is a happy story without drama. And after the performance, there were still other emotions – absolute happiness, joy.
They say, a lot of Bin Dun Dun Duns settled in “Khrustalny”.
Anna Shcherbakova: I tried to bring it to everyone who asked me. Yes, they gave one per person, but there was a little secret. Figure skating is very popular in China, when we came, all the sellers asked for an autograph, a photo, and this was the right moment to beg for more mascots. Therefore, I got the maximum number of Dun Duns that fit into the suitcase.
The brightest impression from Beijing?
Anna Shcherbakova: Free program and … a few seconds after. The most unforgettable. Before leaving the ice.