Anna Shcherbakova: Victories are reflected in memory by the price you paid
Big interview with Anna Shcherbakova. About past season, cancelation of World Championships, new programs trainings and Birthday on self-isolation.
by Anatoli Samokhvalov for rsport.ria.ru dd. 13th April 2020
European champion Dima Aliev told how he knocked down furniture as a child, showing Alexei Yagudin’s Olympic program “Winter” in the apartment, repeating each movement. Did the Firebird often flies in your house during the quarantine period?
– We are at the end of the season, there will be no more competitions, and there is no sense to work on the programs, but I knocked down furniture at home, training jumps and trying to warm up. I don’t have much space in the room, but one jump at a time turns out. True, when I put my foot out to a landing position, I bump into something.
I hope you don’t do jumps with more than three revolutions?
– Two and a half, three, no more.
Was the lutz also triple?
– It’s harder to do lutz on the floor, it’s harder to push off, but I can do triple axel, which is not as good as quads on ice for me. Although I have been doing axel on the floor for a very long time, I think, from the time when I’ve just learned triple jumps.
As I got from your Instagram, you haven’t pick up music for new programs. But maybe the direction was discussed?
– We didn’t talk about anything concrete, but I always want to try something new and diverse.
You have a style of a pretty girl on the ice. Even “The Story of a Murderer” was told by you, as Tatiana Tarasova said, with “tenderness and strength.” Horror and lyrical – do you like such a cocktail?
– The artistic image in the program has always been very important for me, and this season I liked my short program not because I skated it with a smile or with a sad expression on my face, but because I put my soul into it. I enjoyed it, especially the steps sequence, the complex of movements and emotions that I showed. They were sometimes smooth, sometimes sharp.
To combine incompatible?
– Not really incompatible, just different, which would look together unusual and cool. And of course to reveal yourself from new sides. I haven’t shown all that I can yet, not even close.
In what unexpected artistic image we have not seen you yet?
– If you recall all my programs from childhood, then there were many different images: I skated an Indian and Dreamcatcher … By the way, I was noticed and remembered after this program, I also liked it very much. And “Perfumer” this year is my first experience of a program with such a serious story. I have never skated jazz or blues, I don’t even know whether I will ever have it, and if so, now or later.
Jazz or blues is very interesting.
– Yes, but there are skaters whom these styles really suit, but I still can’t imagine whether they will suit me.
To try the jazz, do you need to work with a new choreographer?
– No, Daniil Markovich (Gleikhengauz)and Eteri Georgievna (Tutberidze) created enormous number of artistic images for skaters. If I didn’t skate jazz, it doesn’t mean they haven’t put such programs.
Completely different specialists – Inna Goncharenko and Irina Slutskaya – admit that you have significantly grown in class this season. I also think so. Do you agree with us?
– Of course, we train every day and work out a lot of things. I am pleased that I am improving and making progress, but still this must happen. The main thing I noticed for myself this season, I became more confident in competitions. This is what affected the result, and for me this is really the most important achievement of the season.
And the consequence of this confidence is the symbiosis of clarity and lightness that you achieved in the second half of the season?
– I was more focused and confident in myself, so I was able to concentrate more on the program – not only on jumps, but also on what is in between.
It seemed to me that in the period from the Lombardia Trophy to the Russian Nationals, there was a final and irrevocable farewell with junior skating.
– “Lombardia Trophy” was the first competitions of the season, with an easier content, with more excitement, with a not-so-prepared program, and the Russian Nationals was the most successful competition of the year for me, with the most difficult content. And with this drive from good jumps, from confidence, the free program looked good.
The audience always applauded for your quadruple Lutz, but then, in December, Tarasova was amazed with your spins.
– Actually, for this I can be scolded a bit. At the Russian Nationals, the final spin with a billman before the final pose wasn’t my best. I can’t say that I relaxed, because the whole program was at its maximum, but if I had a chance, I would redo this spin.
I was told that your first victory at the Russian Nationals was a joy for the whole “Chrystalny”, because it was overcoming after a serious injury, and after unsuccessful competitions. Did you consider that gold, won in the company of not only Alena Kostornaia and Alexandra Trusova, but also Alina Zagitova and Evgenia Medvedeva, as a feat?
– I still can’t realize that gold. I went to the championship not understanding my goal at all. Before that, I had a very unsuccessful start at the Grand Prix Final (Anna took the fifth place among juniors), so in Saransk the most important thing for me was to overcome myself, to show the maximum. I just had a thought that it would be nice to get into the national team, for this I needed to be in the top six. I skated the short program well – became the fifth. I was pleased, I thought that I had achieved a good intermediate result and now there is a chance to stay in the top six. I haven’t even thought that I could get into the top three or win. I didn’t have sch thought even after the free program. Sitting and watching other performances, I very gradually realized that a medal was coming closer and closer to me. “And I’m still holding on,” I said to myself in surprise. “And I’m still holding on,” I thought, looking at the scoreboard after the next participant. When I got the gold medal, the most important feeling was overcoming. I overcame myself.
Are you already familiar with the winner psychology?
– In general, I did not feel the additional pressure from understanding that I could win. After the “Lombardia Trophy” and Grand Prix stages, after technical complication, the feeling came that I could win not because of someone’s mistakes, but because everything was in my hands. I am glad that self-confidence remained with me until the end of the season. And I’m glad, because a year ago and earlier, I always had the feeling that I was catching up with someone, trying to keep up, but still lagging behind. At competitions I never had full confidence in myself, it seemed to me that I was worse than the rest. But the Russian Nationals in 2018 was a turning point. Interestingly, I did not immediately realize this, but analyzed my condition not so long ago. I asked myself a questions “Why did I have breakdowns that should not have been? Why am I less nervous today than yesterday?”
You were chasing everyone after a serious injury, but before it, you were an obvious prima in your age category. Then the world was delighted not with the ladies’ quadruple jumps, but with the 3-3-3 combination performed by Medvedeva. And in the younger group, Anna Shcherbakova was the first who also did this 3-3-3.
– During the setbacks, I recalled the time you mentioned, and told myself that before, I was going on the ice and showing everything I can, because it should not be otherwise. And after recovery, I saw the rest jumping, but I couldn’t do that. And it made me feel like I’m weaker now. I spent a lot of time to get rid of this feeling.
Each great athlete has a moment when he says to himself: “Yes, I did it!” Have you said this in your career?
– I haven’t said these specific words, but there were moments of joy after overcoming. The first one is when I skated the program clean at the local competitions after an injury. Then I was glad. And then everything happened gradually, there was no start, after which I said: “I did it!”, Because this season there was no final competitions. All season I performed with the thought that this is only the beginning, and the main competitions will be later. After the competitions, I immediately switched and thought about the next training and competitions. Therefore, this year some final point is really missing.
Only the Worlds can be that final point?
– In this case, yes. If we had been told before the European Championships that it would be the last competitions, probably everything would have been different. And the preparation would be different, and the mood. But since we knew that there was still a major competitions ahead, I still don’t have a feeling that the season is over.
But the most important competitions are Olympics. Are they psychologically always present in your head?
– Sits somewhere, but don’t show up a lot. It is very strange to present your work, thinking about what will happen in a year and a half or two years. I train, I perform elements and I can’t argue that this is exactly what I am preparing for two years to come. Thoughts about the Olympics are too global, it’s easier for me to set goals and imagine what will happen, for example, in a month.
And when the news comes about the next sanctions by WADA, the International Olympic Committee, threatening to ban our team from getting to the Olympics, what feelings do you have?
– Speaking personally about me, I still have a lot to do to qualify for the team. But, of course, these talks are very scary, and I always want to believe only in the best, that there will be no sanctions.
What do you think of Kamila Valieva’s gold in the Junior Grand Prix Final, which she took after the fracture, beating the American Alysa Liu, who has a quadruple lutz in her arsenal?
– I saw how Kamila was recovering, and I understand how difficult it is, and I was very happy for her. Frankly, I did not expect such results with Alysa’s good performance. But Alysa made mistakes, and Kamila won fair.
Please tell me, how can a person recover so quickly?
– In my case, the recovery was not quick, and at that moment it seemed endless. I didn’t at all for three months, but I went on the ice, for a long time I wasn’t allowed to jump. At that time I didn’t compete internationally, didn’t have to qualify, so my recovery was quiet. And they were waiting for Kamila in the Grand Prix Final.
Your favorite Nathan Chen also got a fracture on jump, by the way at the exhibitions, Rafael Harutyunyan scolded him a lot for that.
– I heard about that. But I didn’t perform any super jump, it just happened after a summer vacation, and this period is always especially difficult for me. It takes a lot of time for me to prepare the programs, and the coaches know about it. They don’t hurry me up, but remind me that I need to work as hard as possible to start the season faster. It is no coincidence that at the test skates in September I did only one quadruple.
I saw a headline in Cosmopolitan under Alina’s interview: “Now I owe nothing to anyone.” There is another option for a similarly beautiful answer: “I have proved everything to everyone.” Experienced athletes say so, often even venerable coaches. What do you think, at what point does a person ready for such confessions?
– Probably in Alina’s case. At the moment when you realize that you have won all the competitions and there is none of them where you haven’t proved that you are the best. And if the athlete has some competition, where he did not succeed, this gives a feeling that you need to fix something. And if you really won everything, then you can probably say that you owe nothing to anyone.
Do you count your victories?
– I can’t say that I count. I can’t name their number. But many of them are very valuable to me. Victories are reflected in memory by the price you paid, not with a tick in a notebook.
Is Russian Nationals in the the first place?
– Sure. Both last season and this one, I had the most successful performances at the National Championship.
Do you think the Russian Nationals are harder than Worlds, which hasn’t happened in your career yet?
– It’s a very controversial issue. There are many strong skaters in Russia, and there are only three spots. Miss them and you won’t get to the Worlds. But there are also strongest athletes at the World Championships with whom I did not even compete during the season, therefore it is incorrect to compare. I would really like to perform at the World Championships, because for me it still will be the most significant competitions. And probably there will be more excitement because of the realization of its importance.
When the news came about the cancellation of the World Championships, I contacted ISU Vice President Alexander Lakernik, who was very upset. Did you have a desire to catch a flight to Montreal or fears for your health?
– The day the World Championships was canceled, we had a day off. It so happened that the season ended on the weekend, which is even more strange. I saw the news that it could be canceled about an hour before the official announcement. It was published much earlier, but I saw it in the evening. I did not have a long waiting. I thought this was untrue. Fake news. Then I began to read in various sources and began to realize that a decision was really being made. But inside there was a feeling that it would not be canceled. I was sure that we would go anyway. At that moment I did not know how serious everything was. In Russia, I have not heard about any cases (coronavirus infection), so when it dawned on me that in March there would be no Championships, I did not understand what had happened. I could not believe it. I was in such a state the whole evening, then went to bed, but could not sleep. I lied without sleep all night, thinking. I didn’t have sadness, I was lying with one thought: “How so? I was preparing. I have to go to trainings tomorrow. I’ll have to do a run-throughs of the programs. Polish the elements. And soon we are flying to Canada.” In the morning, I also did not understand anything. And in the afternoon I went to training, and we don’t have a task to skate programs, we just jumped on the ice that afternoon. And then frustration rolled over me. I wasn’t myself for a couple of days. I overcome this also, now it let me go, I realized that the situation is really serious and health is above everything else.
What is it like for an athlete to understand that he has lost a practically guaranteed medal?
– Preparation for the Worlds was difficult. After Europeans, at some point, I had a big decline. There was a strong discoordination, which, in my opinion, has not happened to me before. We worked very hard to recover and reach peak shape in Montreal. I felt this overcoming again, but I was getting momentum, there was an improvement, and a few days before our planned departure I really reached the peak shape. I jumped, everything worked out for me! It’s a pity. But now I have even more desire to fight next season. I don’t concentrate on the fact that I missed something.
I remember the atmosphere of the European Championships in Graz, when you, Alena and Sasha won all the medals, but the conversation was mostly about the discoordination and other post-New Year problems.
– There, I probably wasn’t at the peak of my shape due to winter rest, but this is not what happened after. Although the performance at the European Championships was difficult for me both mentally and physically, it was not bad. There were some cons, but I was almost happy with myself – after the first combination I did a flip. Despite the fact that they called it underrotated, for me it was a step forward. After Graz, I think I will do it more confidently. And then we returned to Moscow, I began to break into new boots. Then, getting the programs together, I did not understand what happened … It began very difficult to jump. Or they didn’t work out at all. The coaches work a lot with me, I myself was in an incomprehensible state. Every day I wondered what I had done wrong. But we overcame all the difficulties. It happened for a reason, this is also an experience. But the World Championships did not happen. “That’s not all, the main is ahead,” – with this thought we lived the whole season and reminded ourselves of this after each competitions. Even now – it let me go, but there is no feeling that the season is over.
In Russia, many say that it’s better to cancel World Championships than to hold it in October.
– I read a lot about it. At first it seemed to me that the best option was holding, let it be later. I thought hold it at any time, I always agree and always ready. When I read people’s statements that it’s better to cancel, I thought: “How can you say that if I’m an athlete and I’m ready? I’ll go!” But time passed, many began to say that postponing is a very strange thing, and I also started to wonder, how would it really be? So I haven’t decided on this matter yet, I just have such a great desire to perform there that it seemed to me that I would be ready to do it anytime, anywhere. But if the Worlds takes place at the beginning of the season, it will be really strange.
These are functionaries, coaches, former skaters who say so. It’s not them who could take medals there.
– The fact is that we all have completed the preparations for the March championships, and if it is postponed to another term, it is not known how to organize the training process. I’m usually getting shape quite hard and it takes a long time. But this question does not depend on me. If they tell me that I need to go, I will go with pleasure. If they cancel, then for me it will not be the end of the world. I will prepare for new competitions.
Imagine, test skates in September, Grand Prix in October, then this conditional World Championships, Grand Prix Final and Russian Nationals in December, putting new programs, European Championships and the next World Championships. Will you withstand such schedule?
– New programs for the World Championships – this, of course, is not an option at all. Because you are skating them, skating and by the end of the season they become as good as possible, and if something is done in a hurry, it is not very serious. But can I stand such a regime? It is easy to reason theoretically. To understand, you need to actually check.
Now the world of figure skating is divided into those who support the age of eligibility for competing in seniors and those who are against. Are you interested in the topic?
– I am interested in all the news related to figure skating. I am an active athlete so it wouldn’t be right for me to argue about the rules. I compete according to the rules that have been for a long time, and nobody adapted them for us. We adapt to the rules.
Rafael Harutyunyan support this measures, but his position is deep in meaning. He says: “I do not want these girls to finish at the age of 17 because the younger ones are coming.” Do you personally need a long career, or are there many interests in life?
– While I can not imagine when the end of my career will come. Definitely, I haven’t said everything in figure skating yet. In my opinion, it is necessary to quit when there is a feeling that you have done everything you wanted. When misunderstanding comes to me, why should I continue training further, then the time will come to finish. Otherwise, why torture yourself if you don’t like it and you don’t need it anymore? But when there is still a motivation and health allows, we should continue. There is no certain age in figure skating when you need to say goodbye. If you can, skate even till thirty years old. But in our country this is difficult due to the great competition. If you do not show a high level, then you can not go to the main competitions. In some other countries it’s easier, there you don’t have to show an extraordinary result, you can still participate in the Europeans, Worlds and Olympic Games. It also decides a lot.
You have a fantastic content. Quadruple lutz and flip. But, do you think, is it possible for a skater with triples or quad toe loop and salchow to compete with a sportswoman like you? Is such a program balance possible?
– To begin with, if you jump the quadruple toe loop and salchow, then this is already a very high level. If a person can do two quadruples, then he has a very strong program in any case. And if we are talking about those who jump only triplets, then with our rules everything turns into mathematics. Quadruple costs a lot, but it’s also a big risk of mistake. I learned the quadruples, but I won’t say that it’s easy to perform them. If I have these jumps in the program, this does not mean that I will win without any problems. To jump quadruple at competitions, you need to jump it thousands of times in training and fall as many times. And only then something will start to work out for you. For example, last year I had many competitions, where on quads I lost more points than got. At the Grand Prix Final, I fell from two quadruple lutz, and in the protocol my quadruple at best costed as a double.
In Graz, I asked Gleikhengauz if it was possible for Sasha Trusova to add a triple axel in a free program. And he replied that with five quads there was no room for this jump.
– In a free program – yes, but in a short triple axel gives a huge advantage, so now this element is already necessary, and I understand that.
How many quadruples can you squeeze into a free program to keep the balance of the program?
– It’s extremely difficult to do without losing balance. But we work a lot for this. When I go on a quadruple, sometimes I think: “Well, who need all these steps, I would better gain speed!” But the coaches watch and give me a rocked on time. Because just imagine: the end of the training, free program, I go on the third quadruple. There is only one thought: “The main thing is to do it. Now I’ll gain speed… I’ll miss a couple of steps.” But the signal from the coaches does not give you the opportunity to simplify. Quad is quad, but in training you need to work on difficult patterns, so that in competitions you wouldn’t have any thoughts to remove any steps.
It was always believed that childhood ended at age 16. What did you feel on March 28 this year?
– A fun topic for conversation, given that this happened in quarantine. Many thanks to my family, they made a holiday for me. In the morning I woke up and saw balloons, gifts. Everyone congratulated me. I felt that I had a holiday, but I can’t say that at 16 I felt something special. “16 years old! You’re already an adult!” But no cardinal changes did not happen for me.
Birthday on self-isolation how is it like?
– This is such a purely family holiday. I opened gifts, then breakfast. Now we are at the country house with the whole family, and also with my aunt and cousin. In the afternoon we played football in the yard, if you can call so what we did. In the evening we played boarding games. I also joked on Instagram that I was waiting for guests, to post photos of all my animals.
With your success, life begins on glossy covers. Are you inspired by such photo shoots?
– This is a new experience that I like. But I understand that this is not an easy job. You come, shoot all day and not always you do everything as you want. It happens that one photograph is taken for a very long time. You’re tired, but you definitely need to make such a natural face, as if you accidentally just appeared here. Since this happens quite rarely with me, I like it. But the special pleasure of the result is when you see very beautiful photographs.
One more season of dominance of your trio with Alena and Sasha, and TSCK will already become a brand. Like some band as Spice Girls. Have you ever dreamed of performing in a musical band?
– I’m not good at singing. It seems to me that I have ear for music, but my voice is not very good.
With singing it is clear, but your dancing in the classroom with Alexei Zheleznyakov was excellent. Have you ever wanted to dance in a ballet or in some modern performance?
– I didn’t look so far ahead, but I really like to dance, because when you dance, you can easily change artistic images, move in completely different styles. In my childhood, I had a choreographer, Julia Krasinskaya, who taught us to move each part of the body individually. This is very important because, as you grow older, you better feel your body and more easily perceive different styles. I think now it helps me.
Which style is closer to you?
– Lyrical and something like hip-hop, well a lot of things.
Chen’s hip hop was cool this season.
– Oh yeah! He really impressed me. For figure skating, he came up with something very unexpected and performed it perfectly, combining it with his complex technical content. I did not expect that it’s possible to do that so cool in a free program with such a content.
Has someone in the group asked Daniil Markovich to do a hip-hop for her?
– I didn’t notice that one of the girls was eager to perform hip-hop on ice. It is really hard to make it look really cool.
By the way, TSCK or Triple A?
– TSCK we do not like at all. And Triple A looks very funny in spelling. When I first saw this, I thought that they were writing about a triple axel, and did not understand what they were talking about. I don’t know, but definitely not TSCK.
Who are your inspirational heroes? Hanyu – Plushenko, Zagitova – Alina Kabaeva, Elena Ilinykh – Frida Kahlo …
– Since childhood, I have been rewatching many of Mao Asada’s programs and now I understand that she performed very beautifully, and for many years she performed the triple axel at a time when almost no one did such complex elements. It inspired me. It takes a long time to put an axel on the ice, and I’m upset by the inability to train, also because now is a very good period to work on these three and a half revolutions. I’m in a good shape, no competitions, end of season. The chances of learning a new jump at this time are much greater. But I understand that now you need to stay at home now.
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