Anna Shcherbakova: “I feel at my best when a good skate of the free program ends at competitions. This is the greatest joy, pride and relief at the same time.”
Interview with Anna Shcherbakova for Elle. About dreams, fears, overcoming and secrets of her confidence.
How did your path in figure skating begin?
Anna Shcherbakova: At the age of three and a half, parents brought me to the rink following my older sister. When I first came to the rink, I really liked it. And this joy of ice, speed and gliding remain with me now. I was never forced or told that “I need to go to trainings.” Everything new has been always interesting for me.
Was there something in your childhood that scared you? Training is not the same as going to Gorky Park on public skating.
Anna Shcherbakova: No. The only thing I was afraid of on the ice was the resurfacing machine. When it started to work, I used to quickly ran away from the rink (laughs).
And when did you start training jumps on the ice?
Anna Shcherbakova: I have always liked jumping. It is interesting to try new elements. I have no fear to enter some kind of jump. Of course, a momentary fear of “what if…” may appear, but then you enter the jump and calm down. You think about your movements and forget about everything.
Do you remember the moment when you realized that figure skating would become something very important in your life?
Anna Shcherbakova: Yes, I realized it when, at the age of nine, I joined the group of Eteri Tutberidze. It was a more serious group, and athletes who achieve results trained there. I looked at them and saw how much work is needed. And Eteri Georgievna, she does not just train, but constantly talks to you – and my attitude has become more conscious over time. In her group, I started to jumps triples and then I started to understand that this was no longer just a hobby, now I don’t just come and do what I like. Now I have a goals set for training, I have to fulfill them, achieve results, strive for my goal.
The training process consists of attempts and mistakes. Tell me what you feel and do when something doesn’t work out for you?
Anna Shcherbakova: Of course, if something doesn’t work out, it’s hard. Everyone has bad practice sessions, but it’s important to focus on what needs to be done to fix the mistake, not your emotions. I always think: “What can I do tomorrow so that this doesn’t happen again? What to fix? Where exactly were the mistakes?” But even when I had injuries, I never had the desire to quit. On the contrary – the desire to fix everything faster in order to return on the ice faster.
How did your injury and recovery affect your attitude to how you performed before and now?
Anna Shcherbakova: Small injuries happen, and this is usual for professional sports. But it was very hard with a broken leg, so I even came to training, sat behind the board, watched everyone skate, because I couldn’t just sit at home without ice. Then I realized for sure that I can’t live without trainings.
After the injury, in my mind I constantly returned to that unsuccessful jump, worried that I was losing a lot of time instead of progressing. After a while, of course, you begin to rethink your workouts.
The recovery period is also difficult, because it seems that “Well, I’m back on the ice, now everything will be fine.” And then you realize that you have to start all over again, everything is different.
At the competitions, there was a feeling that I had missed something in training, that everyone was training, but I was not, so now I am weaker.
It took me a long time to prove to myself that I did return to a high level and that now I compete on an equals with everyone. Now I see that this moment helped me to become more confident in myself in competitions.
How do you prepare yourself for an important competitions?
Anna Shcherbakova: The biggest secret is just to work really hard and feel as confident as possible. The biggest confidence comes when you understand that you do this every time in training, and now you will go and do the same in competitions. If you confidently perform this set of elements in training every day, then it will be easier to get together at the competitions. And before the competitions, it is also important to set yourself up correctly. I warm up, talk to the coaches and listen to music to distract myself and not to hear other people – because the competitions may already be going on at this time.
Tell me, when do you feel at your best?
Anna Shcherbakova: When a good skate of the free program ends at competitions. This is the greatest joy, pride and relief at the same time. When you have done your maximum, you stand in the final pose – and you feel that you have shown everything that you have been working on for so long. This is an even greater surge of emotions than when I stand on a podium with a medal: it is at the moment when the program is over that that very pleasant fatigue came. Perhaps this is happiness.
There is such a stereotype that athletes generally have no life other than sports and training. How do you spend your free time?
Anna Shcherbakova: Studying takes aost of my free time now. Completely free time from training and classes is one day off per week. I love to cook, knit toys, but most of all I love spending time with my pets. My favorite series is Sherlock. I also like to watch comedies, it helps to escape from daily work and cheers up. Sometimes I listen to music, Imagine Dragons and Sia are in my playlist.
Tell me about your style?
Anna Shcherbakova: Sports, I guess! Still, we train every day, so you always need a lot of sportswear. If suddenly you got some kind of jacket in which you can train, which no one else in the group has, then this is very cool! (laughs). As you can see from my Instagram, I also love sneakers in everyday life. Today I’m wearing the Air Max 2090. They remind me of the air itself: transparent materials, unusual futuristic design and they are very light. The model is not on sale yet, and it’s always nice when people in the topic note what kind of sneakers you are wearing today. But for formal occasions, I pick up something more elegant, for example, a dress and heels, on which I am just learning to walk and not stumble.
Do you have a favorite talisman that you always carry with you?
Anna Shcherbakova: I can’t say that this is a talisman, but it turns out that I always carry a napkin holder with me, which they gave me in Japan …
Anna Shcherbakova: Yes, it is with me everywhere in training and at competitions. Recently, I made friends with a girl from Japan who sends me packages with various souvenirs, bears dressed in dresses from my programs that her mother sews herself. She also makes decorations for my napkin holder to match my dresses and programs. And for every competitions, I put them on a napkin holder.
Do you have a dream?
Anna Shcherbakova: There are a lot of in sports, but these are rather goals. I set myself tasks for each workout, for example, to make a good run-through and work on some element. The task can be for a week. There are more global goals for the year. Of course, there is a dream to compete at the Olympic Games and do it well.
Do you want to win? (the interview took place before the Olympics – ed.)
Anna Shcherbakova: Sure! Every athlete wants to win. Everyone says about the Olympics that this is a special competitions, so I really want to perform there too.
And besides figure skating, do you have any dream? Or some big goal?
Anna Shcherbakova: First of all, get a good education and find my place in life. In the future, I would like to be able to help homeless animals. I have a lot of respect for the people who do this.
Do you think figure skating has changed compared to when you started and now, especially women’s?
Anna Shcherbakova: Of course, it has changed a lot. In principle, no sport stands still. In figure skating, everything is changing very rapidly, and what was good before is no longer enough now.
And now the turning point is when the athletes began to show quadruple jumps in competitions. Everyone is performing at their best. You need to learn something new and strive to show it at competitions, develop and move on.
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