Ekaterina Kurakova: “In Russia I was openly told that this is the end, I will no longer go to major competitions. But they still tried to block my transfer to Poland”
Interview with former Russian skater Ekaterina Kurakova who now represents Poland and qualified to the Olympic Games in Beijing.
Congratulations on getting to the Olympics! The dream come true.
Ekaterina Kurakova: Thank you very much! Yes, perhaps for the first time in my life my dream came true (laughs). True, I have not fully believed it yet. When I returned from the competitions in Oberstdorf, I put my silver medal in the closet. The next night, when I woke up, I ran to check if it was really there. Turned out that it was not a dream.
What are your hopes for Beijing?
Ekaterina Kurakova: I just want to put all my energy into the performance, perform as best as possible and be satisfied with myself. I want to give happiness to myself and other people. When my relatives and friends see my successes, they write that I cheered them up. I would like it to happen in Beijing.
Which place in Beijing will satisfy you?
Ekaterina Kurakova: This is the worst possible approach. I do not set myself specific goals so as not to create additional reasons to be nervous. I concentrate only on my performance, I just go on the ice and do my job, enjoying the fact that I can be there, show myself.
You started skating when you were four. How did this happen?
Ekaterina Kurakova: I was small, but very active. The parents decided that something should be done with the child who cannot sit still. In addition, I was often sick, and the doctors were thinking how to improve my health. There was a skating rink not far from our home, once my mother brought me there. Of course, no one thought about any career then, but it so happened that figure skating became my whole life. I can’t imagine doing something else. I need to be on the move all the time, so I am glad that I became an athlete.
Do you need to invest a lot of money to reach a high level in figure skating?
Ekaterina Kurakova: In the beginning, you have to pay for everything yourself: not only for skates, but also for costumes. Then, when you start to achieve some success, you are provided first with skates, then with outfits. First, the skates were provided to me by the owners of the rink, then by the federation, and now I have a sponsor who sends me everything: skates, clothing, protective equipment. Skaters make money not only at competitions, but also performing in various shows. Perhaps everyone dreams of them, because this is both good money and a great experience.
Almost three years ago you made the decision to represent Poland. How it was?
Ekaterina Kurakova: There is such a competition in Russia that some people end their careers at the age of 16-18. The same should have happened to me. I was openly told that this is the end, I will no longer go to major competitions. But I continued to believe in myself and believed that I deserve a chance. In Russia, they didn’t want to give me a chance, so I wrote to Marek Kaliszek, the chairman of the Polish Figure Skating Association, whom I met at the competition in Toruń. Thanks to him, we managed to settle all the formalities, so now I’m representing Poland.
How did they react in Russian to the fact that you changed the country?
Ekaterina Kurakova: At first they tried to block my transfer. They knew that I was still a good athlete, and therefore I could become a competitor to the Russian girls. But when I started to apply for a residence permit in Poland, they could not do anything, although my decision, of course, did not make them happy.
Did you have the opportunity to return to Russia if nothing worked out in Poland?
Ekaterina Kurakova: When I moved to Poland, I knew that either I succeed, or I finish with figure skating. I was in an optimistic mood, I kept repeating to myself: “How great, I will live in another country!” I was over the moon, and my parents were crying, but they always supported me, knowing that figure skating is my whole life.
So, we can say that Poland gave you a chance to start a new life in your career.
Ekaterina Kurakova: Exactly. Poland gave me a huge chance, for which I am very grateful. I am very happy and feel better than ever. After all, it could have happened that I would not have skated for two years, and now I have got to the Olympics in Beijing. I knew that Poland would be the right choice, I felt that I would be in demand here. To feel that you’re needed is perhaps the most important thing.
You quickly learned the Polish language. How did you learn it?
Ekaterina Kurakova: Myself. First of all, when I was training in Canada. Every day before training, I sat in a cafe and learned words. When I returned to Poland and began to speak, everyone was very surprised.
How much do you feel connected with Poland?
Ekaterina Kurakova: Recently I was in Italy and really missed Poland there. Returning, I feel that this is my home. Here I have a boyfriend and friends whom I love. In the future, I would rather live in Poland than in Russia.
How did Polish skaters react at you?
Ekaterina Kurakova: Some were happy, some, perhaps, looked askance at the girl from Russia, perhaps wondering what my appearance bring, would I become their competitor or not. I could always rely on Natalia Kaliszek and Maxim Spodirev. They supported me, helped, were always there. Thanks to them, I did not feel lonely, I owe a lot to them.
At the beginning of our conversation, you said that getting to the Olympics is your first dream come true. What else is Katya Kurakova dreaming of?
Ekaterina Kurakova: I dream of buying an apartment in Poland. Let it be small, but my own. Now I have to rent a house, so Katya dreams of a small apartment where she can arrange everything the way she likes.
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