Betina Popova and Sergei Mozgov: Guillaume Cizeron can be an example. But not for us
Interview with one of the brightest and most creative ice dance teams Betina Popova and Sergei Mozgov.
by Alexandra Romanova for news.ru dd. 10th March, 2019.
In the spring of 2018, you joined the group of Angelica Krylova. Why her? Are there no others coaches and specialists in Moscow?
Sergei: There are and there are not.
Betina: Each coach has a formed team of both athletes and specialists. And something didn’t suit us in certain groups. Someone has a lot of leading athletes, so they won’t be able to to give us time and attention. And Angelica was forming the group from the beginning. She wants to work, we see and know that. She is trying to do something in Russia, to show herself. We are pleased that we can help her in this.
Has something changed in your technique after moving to Krylova’s group?
Betina: Oleg Volkov works with us on the technical side. In fact, we have become calmer.
Sergei: Softer, more confident.
Betina: We began to push better. We spend less energy on skating. Everything goes more naturally and smoothly. Before that, for example, I had athletic technique. Sergei had a lot of coaches, so he knows various techniques. He adapts to anything. Like a chameleon (laughs). And I was stopping the horses on the move. But now I’ve become much calmer. Physically it became easier to skate, and externally I look more refine.
You both have an explosive temper. How do you manage to come along together?
Betina: We often swear. But we calm down quickly. Very quickly. We just know: If I shout, he’ll calm down, he shouts, I’ll calm down.
Sergei: There is no such thing that we shout at each other and then don’t skate for three days.
Betina: We’ve shouted, and in a second we are laughing, everything was fine. We never take offense at each other.
How close are you?
Sergei: We spend together most of the day.
Betina: Yes, working in pair on ice.
Do you work individually?
Sergei: Almost never.
Betina: It’s boring to skate alone. We generally do not understand how single skaters train.
Skaters often come to ice dance from single skating. How did you get into this discipline?
Sergei: I don’t remember. But I was always told that I was a bad single skater. Too tall, awkward. In general, I started unsuccessfully. In childhood, I was kicked out of the group of single skating and I immediately switched to ice dance.
Betina: He also wanted to do pairs.
Sergei: But they didn’t take me…
Betina: Because they are fools! (laughs)
Have you tried?
Sergei: Of course, but they told me that I was too tall for a pair skater. How is this even possible?
Betina: Apparently, they wanted to refuse tactfully. In my case, I was a terrible single skater. I didn’t like to fall, constantly cryed because of that. But I loved to dance. Therefore, it was decided to switch to ice dance.
Do you work in the dance class?
Betina: Constantly. We work out our programs, modern trends, ballroom dancing. Jazz, and hip-hop, even vogue.
What style do you prefer?
Betina: Sergei perfectly dances vogue. I’m serious! When we tried, I didn’t succeed but he was cool. I was shocked.
Sergei: I can do vogue and modern well, but the rest is not very good.
Betina: We always struggle with classics.
Sergei: It’s boring.
Betina: But we understand that classic is necessary, so we have to skate it.
Sergei: It is necessary, therefore, we work on it. But in fact, this is an extremely boring work, where there is no progress and development.
You are known for your gala programs. Where do ideas come from? For example “Power Rangers”?
Betina: From our heads. We didn’t know what to do for gala. We understood that all these boring performances, when you skate your free program having changed a couple of steps and music – that’s not for us.
Sergei: We wanted to do something fun, interesting.
Betina: At this moment my friend Liza Tuktamysheva undressed during her gala program. And we thought: “What can we do with a costume?”
Sergei: We didn’t want to undress.
Betina: Yes, and at that moment we found strange costumes, which, by and large, predetermined our roles. It was inconvenient to skate wearing them, we couldn’t see anything, costumes were slippery. It was a disaster. But as soon as we came to the gala practice, Japanese television ran up to us and began to ask questions: “What are you?”, “Who are you?”. In fact, we want to make the audience laugh.
Sergei: It is much more fun, more interesting.
Betina: Because there are people who will skate all this boringness without us. We want fun gala programs. Speaking frankly, more creative guys began to appear now. But still they are a few of them. People pay money not to look at some top figure skaters who just skate circles. They pay for the show.
And how did you come up with the “Drunk wedding”?
Betina: We skated in Russia, so we decided to take Russian music. But we needed some memorable program. Unfortunately not many Russian songs were suitable because of censorship. And by the way, Sergei is just perfect for the role of a drunken groom.
Sergei: To portray a drunken groom is my credo in life, nothing new. I haven’t been a groom, but I was close.
Do you feel an intense competition in ice dance?
Betina: Ice dancing is a sport where nothing is clear. Everyone is just watching and enjoying the performance.
Sergei: It clear neither to the athletes, or the judges, or the viewers.
Betina: In fact, it’s very difficult for the audience to watch ice dance. It seems that you did everything perfectly. And in fact millimeter decides.
Sergei: It’s pointless to swear. Anyone can move higher and then go down.
Do you understand, what do they give points for?
Sergei: Sometimes there is a question “Why?”
Betina: This happens often. We have to watch in slow replays.
Sergei: It happens, you see that someone fell, but his scores are still high.
Betina: Our system of judging is not ideal. And it will never be objective. It is simply impossible. Each situation is individual.
This season you roll “The Master and Margarita”? Why did you choose it?
Sergei: We have been wanting to skate it for a long time. Me for sure. And Betina has already skated something similar.
Betina: Yes, I also wanted to. Plus this is a Russian composer. It is important for us to promote our own, domestic.
Sergei: The music is really cool. They just don’t understand it in Russia. And no one wants to take it. They believe it’s cursed. Well, abroad it’s also not in favore.
Betina: Why should it be clear? For example Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron’s skating. There is no plot in it, you do not understand what they are skating. I mean, how don’t you understand? Perceive what you see. Watch the program and wait for development. We don’t skate the whole novel. It is not necessary to read it in order to understand what we are doing on the ice.
Have you tried to experiment with classic?
Betina: It is always fraught. Judges never perceive it well.
Sergei: Unfortunately, we have judges of the old school. So when someone experiment with their beloved classics, it does not bring anything good.
But doesn’t slow figure skating down?
Sergei: We hope that we will be pioneers.
Betina: I would like athletes to take contemporary music more often.
Sergei: In figure skating it is very difficult to show, for example, hip-hop.
Betina: But you can do this if you are sure that you will not be buried.
Sergei: But you will be. It hurts. Very.
Do you have a fan club?
Sergei: We don’t know. People write the words of support in the comments. We read everything, rejoice like children. Maybe there is. Our fan club is our mothers who support us (laughs).
Betina, you are friends with Elizaveta Tuktamysheva. How did you react that she would not perform at the World Championships?
Betina: I cried … It seems to me that this is unfair. But I’m not on the coaching council.
Didn’t you want to talk to them, convince somehow?
Betina: How? They decided, that’s all.
Sergei: No one will say anything to an athlete.
Betina: I understand that Zhenya Medvedeva should go because of sports principles. She is a great fellow, got together after a crazy hard season. But Liza medaled at the Grand Prix final this season. But the Russian Cup Final was more important. For me it’s not clear. The six best skaters in the world compete and she is in prizes. And don’t send her after that… But she’s a substitute. God willing, all our girls perform well. We wish them good luck. What collapsed on them, on everyone – Liza, Zhenya, Alina, all these comments from journalists, fans …
Sergei: It is especially unpleasant when fans of one skater start to hate another.
Betina: Someone wrote to Liza that she should apologize to Zhenya. It all started when Liza posted a video with her triple axel jump. Then the fans wrote that Liza must apologize for her behavior.
Sergei: This is disgusting. Fan base of one skater should not hate another. We are not in hockey or football. Fans can fight in other sports, but not in figure skating.
Betina: That’s why, now when we communicate with representatives of the media, we always think several times before you say something.
Sergei: They hate us anyway.
Sergei: Me – for splitting up with my previous partner.
Betina: They still write to me that I ruined a pair. Before the Russian Cup, ten people a day reminded me that I’m spoiling Sergei’s career.
Do you feel yourself an example for young groupmates?
Betina: Definitely not.
Sergei: I wouldn’t want to feel like an example. I would like to feel the rivalry. Because if you see an example in an athlete, this is wrong.
Betina: We cannot be an example because of our self-criticism. Self-criticism is our main quality. That’s why we fight at trainings.
Sergei: An athlete who finished his career could be an example or a teacher. Guillaume Cizeron can be an example. But not for us.
Betina: People stuck in the same style. They are beautiful in it, but they stuck. An example for us is Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier. They are very creative. They constantly try something. Music, styles – everything is new.
Related topics: Betina Popova Sergei Mozgov