Dmitri Aliev: “I wasn’t ready for the Olympics. I can only say one thing: it’s my own fault that I didn’t go to Beijing.”
Interview with Dmitri Aliev about Olympic season, motivation and plans for the future.
source: rsport.ria.ru dd. 15th April 2022 by Andrei Simonenko
The 2020 European champion in men’s single skating Dmitri Aliev was one of the main candidates for a trip to Beijing before the start of the season. But in the end, he became only ninth at the Russian Nationals and remained far from the Olympic competitions. In an interview with, the skater frankly spoke about the problems that led to this outcome, as well as plans for the future. As it turned out – optimistic plans.
Aliev came to the interview, tossing a bunch of keys with Bing Dun Dun keychain – the talisman of the Beijing Olympics, where Dmitri didn’t qualify.
Dmitri Aliev: This is from my friend Nastya Gubanova, who competed at the Olympics. I asked her to bring me some souvenir, and she gave me this Dun Dun. As I understand it, it is also limited – you could buy large ones, but this one, a small one, was given out. Now it’s hanging on my keys.
And does not cause any negative emotions? After all, you set a task to get to these Games, but it did not work out.
Dmitri Aliev: No, it evokes only positive emotions. Because when I watched the Olympics, I rooted for my friends – Nastya, Mark Kondratiuk. I sent them all possible vibes. By the way, Mark also brought me a souvenir from Beijing – a medal with the image of the arena, but not the one where figure skating took place, but the hockey one.
So TV, figuratively speaking, was not removed to the garage, when the Olympics were on.
Dmitri Aliev: To be honest, I removed it. At first, when the team event began, I only watched Mark and Nathan Chen. Then in the individual competitions I watched Mark and the strongest warm-up. And then when I have already let it go a little, I watched all our girls, pairs, dancers.
And without a thought – oh, what if I was there now?
Dmitri Aliev: I was calm. I realized that I was not ready for the Olympics. Maybe they would have added drive, but in general it was like that. But now I feel completely different. I think if at that moment, in February, I had been in such a shape as now, and had been at home, then it would have upsetted me. But in any case, after this season, I can only say one thing: it’s my own fault that I didn’t go to Beijing.
I remember your phrase at the September test skates at the beginning of the season: “I need to pass MOT” meaning that medical examination was required. That’s where it all started?
Dmitri Aliev: It was a small lump, which then grew into one big lump. Yes, it affected my state very much. Twice a year, athletes undergo an in-depth medical examination in order to obtain permission to trainings. I was not given this permission. And I faced certain problems that began to “eat” me from the inside.
You never told what it was, and fans on the Internet began to make conspiracy theories. Can you tell me now what was the problem?
Dmitri Aliev: I have been skiing for a long time. And I have a very rare pulse. In St. Petersburg, after a medical examination, the doctors said that it was necessary to go to Moscow. They put a test there: you need to bring the pulse to 180 beats per minute in 10-15 minutes. And in 20 minutes I brought it to a maximum of 170. But after the examination, Moscow doctors from the FMBA hospital said: you are not sick, on contrary mega healthy, and your heart is fine. There is one deviation, but it does not affect sports at all. And the pulse of all skiers is rare, among northern people (Aliev is from Ukhta – ed.) – even more so.
I read that biathlete Martin Fourcade at rest has a pulse of 30.
Dmitri Aliev: My pulse is 28. Well, or 30, 35. It never bothered me, but some doctors clung to this, began to say all sorts of things. And, of course, I began to dwell on it. This lump has become larger. If I may say so, the situation with the heart is only a drop in the ocean. There were other injuries as well. And even now there are moments that I continue to struggle with. But I would not like to discuss them.
But then, nevertheless, the season started fully, and in the fall there were successful performances.
Dmitri Aliev: In relation to how I was ready, I performed more or less well. At competitions, I tried to pull myself together. But I didn’t feel myself, I lost touch with how to fight. So I continued to dwell on it. I started working with a psychologist, began to undergo some therapy, but the feeling that I was in a hole from which I could not get out did not recede.
And the psychologist did not help?
Dmitri Aliev: After psychologist, it seems to me, it became even worse, I started to think that have even more problems.
What happened next?
Dmitri Aliev: Once I recalled how I fought in the 2017/18 season. Then I started it with a serious leg injury, I couldn’t skate in a full forth for a long time, and at some point it became clear that if I din’t start a normal process, then I could forget about the Olympics. I also had such a youthful maximalism, 18 years old, my first senior season. Objectively, it was almost impossible to qualify for the Olympics, but I set myself such a goal. And I told Evgeni Vladimirovich (Rukavitsin, coach – ed. note): let’s pretend that I have no injury, and we will work as usual. If I have such pain that it’s already impossible to endure, I will tell about it. As a result, I prepared and qualified for the Olympics.
Here at one of the trainings I suggested the same thing. Said: let’s work as if I have no problems. Although objectively I had them. Now I think about myself at that moment. Do you know what condition? It’s as if you’ve saw a butterfly flying around the lamp and you can’t focus on anything else. Neither on business, nor on figure skating. And I had to spend a lot of time to stop looking at this butterfly.
Is this what the psychologist was trying to do?
Dmitri Aliev: Yes. But you know, I respect the work of every person, but I realized that until you yourself want to, you will not find a way to break yourself, you will not understand how to move on.
Unfortunately, the Russian Nationals, the Russian Cup Final confirmed that the season was a complete abyss. I gave up. I used to come to trainings and skated for myself. But then I tried to let go of the past. I changed boots, restored the quad salchow, which had not jumped for a very long time. And there was a new breath. Now I do shows, did there a quad tooeloop and salchow in a spotlights. I understand that these jumps have not gone away. I’m back, in one word.
And the season, summing up, became unsuccessful, because I could not kick this lump with problems so that they crumbled. And other people didn’t know what to do with me.
But did you still fight, or did you just realize at some point that it was not your year, not your Olympics?
Dmitri Aliev: By sinusoid. I fought, then gave up then fought again and so on. Before the Russian Nationals, I probably lacked five days to find myself in a mode that would allow me to prove myself. The process of gaining shape started, I finally began to focus. But… Evgeni Vladimirovich also said that we lacked a week. I had to find a state in which, figuratively speaking, you fill your lungs with air and swim 400 meters under water. And I inhaled – and began to doubt that it would be enough.
I didn’t want to go to the Russian Cup Final at all. I was already finishing the season. And there, it turns out, I left it.
The short program was good there.
Dmitri Aliev: And so I thought. Well, let the scores are not so high, but it seems that I have already felt something. There is already hope to catch on and get on the podium. But it so happened that after the free program everything turned out bad.
I remembered two stories about psychological pits. Anatoly Karpov said that before the decisive game for the world championship with Viktor Korchnoi, he did not sit at the board, preparing for it, but went to another city for a basketball match. The coach of gymnast Margarita Mamun said that before the victorious Olympics in Rio, when she realized that the athlete was depressed, she brought her fiancé, swimmer Alexander Sukhorukov, to her. This is at a time when the strictest regime is usually supposed to be observed. Maybe you also lacked such a psychological release during the season, even at its most intense moment? Forget about figure skating, reboot.
Dmitri Aliev: In fact, I think it was worth not being afraid to take three or four days off then. Leave, switch off, go to the bathhouse, go snowboarding, something else. As I did after the Russian Cup Final. Yes, actually it was already when everything was over, but still: I came to the ice and immediately did a triple axel in new boots. I scratched my head, I thought that something is wrong. I went for a quadruple toe loop – the same thing, I did it well. And I realized: nothing has gone after such mini-vacations. On the contrary, I immediately began to make combinations with four different quadruple jumps, although in the course of the season I could not even reach such a level. In general, for three years I haven’t performed such in training. But then I started to jump them so easily that I was surprised.
It happens, of course, that in the season I take a day off. But this is enough to rest the body. But not enough to rest mentally. Now I can say for sure: if next season I listen to myself and understand that I need rest, then I will go to the coach and say: let me go, at least let me go fishing, even if there will be a week before the competitions. I am a non-linear person, I’m charging from different things. Today I want to go fishing, tomorrow I want to ride in high-speed cars, the day after tomorrow I want to compose poetry, sit by the fireplace. And it brings me back. For example, the other day I went to the trampoline center. It seems to be traumatic. But I know that I can jump somersaults. I went, jumped somersaults, got pleasure. This is what helped me to relax.
What did not allow you to distract during the season?
Dmitri Aliev: I could not muster up the courage to tell the coach about the desire to rest. And the coach, perhaps, also did not feel that I needed it. Of course, I myself “put a load on my shoulders” with which I went the whole season. But with one such action, I could throw it off, at least partly.
You and Evgeni Vladimirovich have been working for nine years. In theory, you should already understand each other perfectly?
Dmitri Aliev: I think Evgeni Vladimirovich can understand me even without words. I can go on the ice, took off the guards, and he will understand what condition I am in. It is clear that this does not always work, but he understands me very well, as I understand him. Yes, we have quarrels, conversations – like all people have. But he is no longer just a coach, but my man.
Of course, he directs me, makes some adjustments, but already quite often he simply gives instructions of this kind, like a man: go ahead and make this jump. Or in a boyish way he says – fight. Because I know how to jump. Even our choreographer Olga Germanovna Glinka sometimes tells him: do not explain too much, otherwise Dima will again build the puzzle in the wrong direction in his head.
Fans in the off-season like to engage in reasoning: what if this athlete would go to that coach, and that athlete to this coach.
Dmitri Aliev: I’m not going to change anything. I never understood these races for something calm and comfortable. Of course, like any person, I sometimes have doubts in my head about the correctness of what I am doing, but I completely trust the coach..
Now the situation in the world is very difficult. There may not be international competitions in the near future. Where are you currently looking for motivation?
Dmitri Aliev: I’ll tell you a story. When I was traveling from a show through Moscow, Mark called me to stop for a few days, take a walk. That’s exactly what I did. I went to his skating rink at CSKA, talked there with Svetlana Vladimirovna Sokolovskaya, his coach. And she told me a lot of important human things, including the following phrase: as long as you have the strength to skate, skate, get pleasure, because sport is communication, it connects people. Yes, the season was not successful, but you can be in a deep hole, or you can be on a pedestal. This is life.
Therefore, now I have such an attitude: if they say to compete at the stages of the Russian Cup, I will compete. If we are allowed to participate in international competitions, I will compete in international competitions. And the most important thing for me is to catch a wave, go and skate. If something doesn’t work, fix yourself. The coolest feeling is when you come home in the evening and say to yourself: today I did a lot of what I wanted to do. Got positive energy. It charges me.
Is it a process of self-improvement?
Dmitri Aliev: I hope so. This is a cool process: you take control of yourself into your own hands. You feel that if something is wrong, you patch up the wound yourself.
Are there any thoughts about the next Olympics, or is it still too far away?
Dmitri Aliev: Now I’m thinking about what I’m going to eat for lunch (laughs). Of course, everything is too far. And the story that is happening now is difficult. I caught myself thinking that when I was both a skier and a figure skater, our families watched the Olympics on TV. And cross-country skiing, and figure skating, and everything else. I remember leaving school to watch some competitions. That is, for us it was a holiday, I so wanted to get to the Olympics someday, to feel it all. And now I look at young guys who read about everything that is happening, and I empathize them. It seems to me that it is very difficult for them, they may lose the opportunity to feel what the Olympics are.
We are adults, experienced people, yes, we are not allowed to participate in international competitions, it is painful and unpleasant, but we can pull ourselves together. And for them it’s much more difficult. Because in childhood the Olympic dream is born, which then motivates you. “Mom, have you seen that girl, Alina Zagitova, I want to be like her!” “Mom, have you seen this boy, Dima Aliiev, I want the Masquerade program, like his.” This is what guys can be deprived of, and it upsets me a lot. But I believe, I am even sure that figure skating in our country will always cause interest and admiration.
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