Anna Shcherbakova: “It may sound strange, but winning the Olympics was not my childhood dream.”
Interview with Olympic champion Anna Shcherbakova. Anya told what happened at the Games, what feelings and emotions she experienced during these 17 Olympic days.
source: fsrussia.ru dd. 24th February 2022, by Olga Ermolina and Tatjana Flade
Anya, right after the competition, at a press conference, you admitted that you had not realized yet that you had won the Olympic Games. What about now?
Anna Shcherbakova: There’s no awareness yet, but the understanding is gradually coming that the competitions have passed and went well for me. There is satisfaction from the work done, a clear understanding that I coped with my task. Of course, I experienced strong emotions during the award ceremony, when I stood on the podium. At that moment, I probably didn’t fully understand my title, but I definitely felt pride.
Is it a heavy Olympic medal, literally and figuratively?
Anna Shcherbakova: Yes, as for the weight, the medal is very heavy. I knew about it, but I still was very surprised. If we talk about my path to this medal, I would like to say that it is rather not dramatic for me, but, on the contrary, very bright. At these Games, I repeat, I coped with my task, approached the Olympics in good shape, so I probably have nothing to complain about at all. Everything went well for me here and ended just fine. Therefore, for me, this is an absolutely happy story without any upheavals.
But what about the story with broken skates?
Anna Shcherbakova: For me it was not a shock. To be honest, I can’t even imagine how all this got into the press. I wouldn’t talk about it at all, because it didn’t stop me from performing, so there was no point in discussing it.
How so? Your skates break during the Olympics and you compete in new ones.
Anna Shcherbakova: During the season I change about 6 pairs of skates. I have to do this quite often. It is not normal. I will try the new model at the end of the season. I didn’t experiment in the Olympic year, I had a model which I knew uses to break very often, so I had a couple more with me just in case.
I already had to break into new boots during training. Not so close to the competitions, but I’ve already had such experience of training in new boots and doing my job fully from the first trainings.
The only difference at the Olympics is that there was no unlimited ice, as we have at Khrustalny. I had to keep up with 30-40 minutes of training. But I did it, so it wasn’t that hard.
Had the new boots been already broke into?
Anna Shcherbakova: No, the boots were absolutely new. But when we installed them, I measured them, they were very comfortable on the leg, which is very important. So everything went off without a hitch.
How did you set yourself up for the free program, because it is more complicated than the short one? You were second after the short program – new skates, tension, no one knew how the competition would end …
Anna Shcherbakova: After the short program, it was more important for me that I have showed a clean skating rather than the place I took. This gave me confidence that everything was going according to plan.
Before the short program, I wasn’t nervous at all, I skated it well and realized that I did everything right, the mindset was right. Before the free program nerves have already appeared, because the free program is much more difficult than the short one, and this is the end of competitions. Of course I was nervous. But, as it seems to me, all this was not much different from other competitions in which I participated.
It seems to me that because we were here for two weeks before the competitions, the competitive mood disappeared to some extent. At the first official trainings, I felt more competitive adrenaline than later in the competitions. It is difficult to say whether it’s good or bad, but maybe because of this I still cannot fully realize that the competitions are over. On the other hand, I was less nervous about it.
You have repeatedly proven that you know how to get ready at the most necessary moments, showed your ability, which in sports is called “plus start”. There is a saying: character is destiny, what character traits help you?
Anna Shcherbakova: If we talk about performances at competitions, then all this came to me with experience. I didn’t always perform better than I did in training. For example, in my first junior season, I jumped quads in training, maybe even much easier and more consistent than now. However, the whole season could not cope with these jumps at the competitions. I could not cope with the excitement, to find the right mindset. And just by using a method of trial and error, I started to look for the ways to set myself up better. The next season, I learned to show at competitions what I can do in training. And then, at some points, I already started to gather at competitions and show better skating than it was in training. It’s all can be learned.
As for the main character traits, probably prudent and… Let me think. And decisive. Because competitions requires self-confidence. Even to set yourself up correctly, you should act decisively. You can correctly analyze your feelings, but then you need to make important decisions for yourself: how I perform, what content I skate with … And you have to approach all the jumps decisively. Yes, most likely, the main features are prudence and determination.
Due to health problems, you started the Olympic season late, not everything worked out right away, and, for sure, there were moments of despair when it seemed – “I don’t have enough time”.
Anna Shcherbakova: Yes, I had such. And at some point, I can’t say that I resigned myself to the fact that I wouldn’t go to the main competitions, but I understood that it was absolutely real that this could happen. Therefore, so that later there would be no irreparable disappointments, I thought that I would do everything possible that depended on me, but if it didn’t work out, then so be it, life would not end there. In principle, at some point I accepted it for myself.
But this did not mean that I stopped working in training for my goal. I knew that I would do everything I could. But inside I realized that there is such a possibility that, perhaps, this season I will not be able to go to the main competitions.
And when everything began to work out, did you reacted calmly? Like ok, keep working?
Anna Shcherbakova: Yes, I did not have dramatic ups and downs in the season. I was going very slowly and slowly getting in shape. I knew everything was going according to plan. And when I started performing at competitions, I never had complete despair. Gradually getting in shape, I came closer and closer to my goal and, in the end, everything happened just as smoothly. In general, there were no sharp changes or shocks during the season.
You must have dreamed of winning the Olympic Games since childhood. Was it like you imagined?
Anna Shcherbakova: No matter how strange it may sound, winning the Olympics was not my childhood dream. Perhaps because my parents did not send me to figure skating with the expectation of professional sports, no one told me about major international competitions, our family never had discussions like “You will become a champion!” I just skated. I had dreams, for example, to win the championships at our rink. I was told that there would be competitions at the rink, and I had a desire to win. But I never looked that far ahead. Not that I didn’t want to, I just didn’t think about it. It seems to me that my dream appears only when the understanding comes that it is real.
This season, when I already understood that I got in shape, that I could qualify for the Olympic Games, at this moment, of course, both goals and dreams appear. Closer to the Olympic Games, of course, this has already become my dream, because I understood that this is real.
Did non-participation in the Olympic team event add motivation, sports anger before individual competitions? Olympic champion Adelina Sotnikova said after the Games in Sochi that she had it like that.
Anna Shcherbakova: To be honest, it did not motivate me at all and did not add strength. Rather, on the contrary, at some point everything seemed to collapse, but there was enough time to step back and get back to work for the individual competitions. Many cited Adelina as an example to me, her words, but no matter how hard I tried, I could not understand how to take something positive from this situation.
Did the tense situation that developed around figure skating at this Olympics affect you?
Anna Shcherbakova: No, it didn’t affect me at all. Of course, the situation with the team event affected to a certain extent, because it directly affected the training schedule. Additional performances, preparation for them. Then, at the last moment, the realization that now we need to prepare again for individual competitions, which will be a little later. It was like the start was delayed, and this affected the preparation schedule.
But in general, what happened in the press didn’t affect me, my training in any way. The same passages through the mixed zone went without any emotions, absolutely calm. I guess I was ready for it. Perhaps because this is my third season as a senior, and there were many different competitions. And here, throughout all the competitions, I felt that I was ready for the Olympic Games. For me, nothing was a stress, surprise, shock, there was not a single situation that would unsettle me. I approached these competitions absolutely prepared mentally.
At the gala, you perform an amazing program where you appear as an angel. This is probably not accidental – anyone can envy your angelic patience.
Anna Shcherbakova: I wouldn’t call myself an angel. But as a program, I think this image suits me very well. I like to show it on the ice, I really like the music, and in general, such a gentle and at the same time strong artistic image. Daniil Markovich (Gleikhengauz – ed.) came up with. It seems to me that this gala program suits me a lot.
How will the title of Olympic champion change your life in the future?
Anna Shcherbakova: I want this not to affect me in any way, so that my attitude to competitions, training, figure skating, to those around me does not change in any way. But otherwise, probably, something in life will change, after all, winning the Olympics is what every athlete strives for.
When we skate, we do it for the audience, and the more the audience supports us, follows us, the more pleasant it is. Of course, when we win major competitions, there is increased attention. Shows, interviews, it may seem difficult when you combine it with training, but this is also a pleasant part that you deserve with your performances.
You have won almost all the titles that athletes dream of – Olympic champion, World champion, two-time European vice-champion, three-time Russian national champion, not counting the medals of other competitions. Won’t the desire and motivation to continue disappear?
Anna Shcherbakova: While I can say that my motivation has not changed at all. It has not become less motivation because I have reached the top, and I have not fully realized this yet. I hope all this will only add to my desire and motivation.
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