Ekaterina Bobrova: I would have returned if I believed that they will let us be a top pair. But I don’t believe
Interview with Ekaterina Bobrova. About her decision to retire, her sports career, ice dance in general and being a mother.
by Anatoli Samokhvalov for rsport.ria.ru dd 11th July, 2019
Ekaterina, you decided to end your career. How did it happen? Was it after a long thinking or at the moment when you and Dmitri took a break after the Olympics-2018, you already understand that you wouldn’t return?
– Well, I didn’t announce my retirement, Dima and I agreed that we would take a break, because he hoped that he would be able to persuade me to continue. He didn’t want and doesn’t want to quit sport. But I was sure that after the birth of the child, most likely I wouldn’t return. Yes, many said that after giving birth a woman has a lot of strength and energy. They gave an example of Tatiana Navka, who herself admitted that she wasn’t going to continue her career after giving birth, but returned and won everything. And the idea that this was possible didn’t leave me. But I knew for sure that I would completely devote myself to my son or daughter — at that moment, of course, I didn’t know to whom (laughs). I don’t want to leave my son with grandmothers or nannies, but this would have been necessary if I had continued to skate and train, because there’s no other way, if you want to achieve high results. And even at home, figure skating wouldn’t leave me, I would constantly think about new programs, new elements, what happened at trainings today, what needs to be fixed tomorrow, and so on and so forth. And I want to give myself completely to my family. The time has come.
But Dmitri really wants to continue skating – now with Elena Ilinykh. How do you feel about this, and did he tried persuaded you to continue?
– After the Olympics in PyeongChang, when we were discussing the future, Dima only slyly smiled: “We’ll talk about this …” When he understood my mood that I wanted to devote myself to raising a child, realized that I tend not to return. In the summer I, being pregnant, performed with him in shows. But in the winter I could not skate anymore, but Dima wanted to continue to earn money. And Tatiana Navka suggested him teaming up with Lena Ilinykh. Dima called and offered to meet. And he said: I will wait for your final decision, but if you decide not to return after all, I would like to skate with Lena.
Of course, when I found out about it, there was some jealousy in my heart. I assumed that Dima would want to continue a career with her, because I knew that she also was thinking about returning, that she had not fully fulfilled herself in sports. Honestly, even though I was waiting for this conversation, it knocked me out. After all, I have been Dima’s only partner and wanted things to remain like that. Secondly, despite the fact that Lena Ilinykh and I communicate very well, one might say, she is my main career rival. Both when she skated with Nikita Katsalapov, and when she began to skate with Ruslan Zhiganshin. So I couldn’t understand how is it possible that my main rival will skate with my partner? Hard to imagine a more dramatic story.
But at the same time I understood that I couldn’t say “No” to Dima. I saw how much he wanted to skate. And if he and Lena can keep this desire, not only in the first season, but also later, they can make a wonderful pair. That it would have been a completely different pair, not like the Bobrova-Soloviev pair. We could not be compared. I don’t know what decision the guys will come to – whether they will start their project or not, but my decision not to return is final.
When you look back and think about the main events of your career, what phrase comes to mind? Something like “It was a great hunt” for example or are there any regrets?
– The first and only thing that comes to my mind – I’m happy. I’m happy that it was in my life. I’m happy that it is over. Do get me wrong, it all was very difficult. I devoted most of my life to sports, I sacrificed a lot. Speaking of regrets, something could have been done better, but looking back at my career, I can’t regret anything. What I have, it could have not happen at all.
I also want to say how many athletes have recently approached me and said: “Katya, it must be very hard, you probably really want to come back …” No. I’m happy that my career has come to the end so correctly and calmly. Probably someday I will re watch my programs. Victory at the Olympics in Sochi, “Blind girl” at the Olympics-2018, I will again cry watching our “Kalinka”, a very old program, recall the selection for the 2010 Olympics, when we skated and I didn’t know that the choreographer who did our program died. I will cry about something, but now there are no regrets, my career ended so logically.
But I definitely want to note this: it really seemed to me that if I gave birth, and Dima and I don’t start the next season, then I end my career a priori. After Dima’s interview, I received messages in social networks: “Ekaterina, do you really end your career? We are waiting for your return …” So after these messages I decided to announce the official retirement. I still get such messages and I want to say: if Dima and I with our skating made happy at least this several hundred of people who wrote to me, then this is already happiness for me.
Did you have a childhood dream that came true in sports?
– Of course, I dreamed of winning big championships, standing on a pedestal, singing the Russian national anthem and looking at the flag – all this is very important. By the way, I always sang the anthem, even if no one heard me (laughs). But most of all I dreamed of standing ovation. There were cases when we skated very cool, but the audience was, as they say, “not ours”. But we managed to do it at the Russian Nationals, qualifying for the Olympic Games-2018. It was very uneasy. Competitors were close so we had no right to make a single mistake. As they say, there was tension in the air. But we skated two cool programs, skated so well that our coach Sasha Zhulin started crying and the audience got up. At this moment the dream came true – and not even one. After all, even though I tried not to think about it, we became seven-time Russian national champions.
So it was the culmination of your career?
– I won’t say that, because the European Championship and the Olympic Games were next. Probably the culmination was at the fourth clean skate at the Olympics. Many will probably say: guys, you train for this. But I will answer: it was very difficult. These were the Olympic Games, where absolutely everything happens, including situations when all stars fall like it was in Turin 2006. We managed to skate two clean programs at the team event and two at individual competitions. Without being modest, I can say that I’m proud of it. That was the culmination.
You had a hard way to the 2018 Olympics. There was Dmitry’s injury, and the story with meldonium. It is clear that retrospective questions are always difficult, but still, without these barriers, could you approach Olympics as favorites?
– Everything could have been different. Dima’s “long-lasting” injury, an unfair accusation of doping led to the loss of the notorious “niche” in ice dances. Whatever they say, but it exists. But my life credo is: everything happens for the best. So is here: if this hadn’t happen, maybe everything could have been worse. This bad things may have protected us from something even worse.
Maybe, I try to persuade myself, of course … Because we started that season with “Anna Karenina” and amazing “Carmen” which wasn’t video taped. It’s such a pity, because we cannot even recall this program and skate it to make a video. There were many cool things that we could use. The dress was made with the change of skirt, and many other interesting things … Maybe we would have reached another level and wouldn’t have lagged so far behind the beautiful Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron. Because it was precisely that season when they “shot” and reached the peak. And we lost that season. It’s always more difficult to catch up. Meldonium … I was acquitted, but no one could return us lost points, ranking, which is determined by the World Championships, where we could not compete and because of that the next season also went wrong.
I want to ask you as an expert and commentator, will the French hegemony in world dances last long and who will succeed in overthrowing them?
– I’m sincerely happy for Vika Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov, who broke into the new Olympic cycle and took second place at Worlds. I think they made a statement: be aware of us, we will fight. Then a lot will depend on the programs. I know this from my own experience. In the 2013/14 season, we made the beautiful “Birds” program, but could not fully reveal its potential till the Olympics. We had to make a difficult decision and go to Sochi with the old “Crazy” program. If it were not for these circumstances, everything at the Olympics could have happened differently. I wish Vika and Nikita to avoid such moments, each time hit with the programs and show stable skating from competition to competitions.
As for the French, they are constantly expected to show something new. Like Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir showed. Tessa and Scott were always different, found themselves in something new. Gabriella and Guillaume skate geniusly, their style suits them very much, but even I from year to year hope to see them in something new. If they continue to do programs in their usual style, and Vika and Nikita make some kind of super geniuos program, a change may happen.
But I don’t discount Vanya Bukin and Sasha Stepanova either. They spent last season perfectly, somewhere, perhaps, lacked a little bit of luck. I think their place at Worlds should have been third. As a former athlete, I understand that now there’s such a political situation when it’ll be very difficult for Russia to take two places on the pedestal in ice dance. But I’m sure that this is possible, I will hope for it and cheer for the guys.
Since you spoke about Sochi and changing the programs, then I will ask a question on this topic. You went to the home Olympics as the current nationals champions and became the fifth, when Ilinykh and Katsalapov became the third. Is this the biggest disappointment in your career?
– Honestly, I don’t have some feeling of disappointment when I’m asked about Sochi. Of course, when I think about it still weep over that free program together with a five year ago version of me. I can’t say that it was unfair – Lena and Nikita also skated very cool. If they had stumbled, and we had skated clean and still had lost, then yes I would have been pulling out all my hair.
The only thing I will say … Through my career I have taught myself that the judges always know better. But I don’t agree that in a short dance we were got a lower level for twizzles due to the fact that somehow I was spinning wrong. I don’t want to say the words “unfair”, maybe the position of my upper body gave caused some doubts, maybe they didn’t have time to reconsider this element, but if we hadn’t got a lower level, we would have got other points and maybe we would have had a chance to fight for third place.
But anyway recalling this now I think: well, happened what happened… Maybe, again, I try to persuade myself, but if we had taken third place then, perhaps, we wouldn’t have had such a desire to go to our third Olympics. After all, when we missed the season because of Dima’s injury, we really have been thinking for a very long time whether to continue or not? We understood that we missed a lot, and we had to know for the sake of what we were returning. We knew it. And if I had had the team gold and personal bronze, I would have thought – why should I do this, I would rather go and have children and do something else. To be honest, I had such thoughts. But we returned and became National champions, won medals at the European Championships and, having qualified for the Olympics, took the team silver and were just a step away from the bronze of the individual competitions, to which, in fact, we were striving. So I don’t regret anything.
I know that you and your husband decided to open your own school.
– We had such a thought for a long time, even when I was an athlete. I remember my childhood experience – in our family we could not afford everything, but I wanted to do figure skating so much that my parents provided me with everything I needed. Now you have to pay a very serious amount of money so your child could do figure skating. We had an idea to create such a school which practically everyone can afford. I’m talking about the period of formation of the little skater. We don’t create a school for serious athletes with whom we would go to the European and World Championships. No, I swore myself long ago that I didn’t want to be such a coach. It is enormously difficult, I know all the ins and outs of figure skating, know how much coaches are doing so their athlete could take certain places. Maybe unfortunately, maybe fortunately, being an athlete, I knew about it. And I’m not ready for it. I want to teach children to skate, to make them love figure skating. I myself went through a period when I went to some trainings with tears in my eyes, because the coach shouted. I was afraid and even locked in the toilet because I didn’t want to go practice. But in the end everything went well, my first coach was amazing and I fell in love with figure skating. And I believe that every little skater should love sports, understand that they do not require him to become better, but he himself must strive to this. Many people say to me: when you work with children you should be strict because otherwise they will not do anything. Yes, I agree that strictness is needed, but I’m sure that children can be raised in such a way that they will strive forward themselves.
Evgeni Plushenko coaches his son himself. Are you going to make your son Sasha a figure skater?
– I will not say, as many former figure skaters do: “Figure skating? No way in hell!” I’m sure that my son will skate anyway. It will be very strange if the son doesn’t learn to skate from his skating parents. And, of course, I understand that our son will go to shows with us, will come to rehearsal. If he likes this and wants to do this seriously, and even declares at some point that he wants to win more in sports than his parents won together, of course, I will not discourage him. And we will have the opportunity to help our son in this. We already know all the pitfalls of this sport.
The last question is this: there is such a phrase – never say never. You and Dima, albeit for the show, but skate together again. Maybe you will come back?
– You know, when we were returning after the Olympics in Sochi, we were making our way through obstacles – Dima’s injury, meldonium, then with great difficulty every season we broke through our own ceiling. And I actually thought about another return. If I understood that we would be able to compete on equal terms with top pairs, I would have returned with Dima. But I don’t believe it. Many factors suggest that for certain reasons this is impossible. They will not allow, will not support where it is needed in order to enter the top. From my own experience, I know how unpleasant it is to lose to the pairs whom you beat not just once. To return just to return makes no sense.
Related topics: Ekaterina Bobrova Dmitri Soloviev