Ekaterina Kurakova: “Russian girls at competitions think “If not me, then the other will do it.” That’s why they’re so afraid of it. And when I go to competitions, I understand that I’m just happy to be there.”
Interview with Ekaterina Kurakova about break-through at the European Championships, living in Italy, studying in Poland, communicating with Brian Orser, health problems, Evgenia Medvedeva and difference from Russian figure skaters.
source: sport24.ru dd. 25th January 2021 by Konstantin Lesik
Ekaterina Kurakova: When I finished the free program, the first reaction was: “What happened?” Everything happened so fast, you’re here all week and you feel tired.
I knew that we (girls) had a very small gap, and I wanted to stay in the top five and get into the exhibitions. In the end, everything was great, I’m happy!
I’m glad that at the exhibitions I had the opportunity to show Katya from a different side, that I’m not always sweet and smiling, that I can even be a rock star.
Where do you currently live and prepare for the Olympics?
Ekaterina Kurakova: In Italy. With Angelina Turenko and Lorenzo Magri. In Enya, a very small village, the population is about two thousand people.
How does this go? We work hard, that’s how it goes. And I’m glad that Lorenzo is with us, we became very close with him. I told him after the Grand Prix in Russia that this is the first time in my life when I feel that the coaches take care of me not just as an athlete, but also as a person. They care a lot about how I feel. It’s not like that you come, and it doesn’t matter if it hurts you, it doesn’t hurt – go and train. He understands that you, without a family, alone, came to another country, it’s not always easy for you, so he cares a lot.
Angelina? I’m glad she speaks Russian! (laughs) Although respect to Lorenzo, he learns Russian.
What phrases did you teach him?
Ekaterina Kurakova: “My name is Lorenzo” and his favorite phrase: “Could you please speak more slowly.”
Do you continue to rent an apartment in Poland?
Ekaterina Kurakova: Yes, I rent an apartment there, because I often go there, almost every month. To competitions, to university, I’m also studying for a driver’s license, but I can’t finish it yet, because it’s such a season. I will finish after the Olympics. I’ve already passed my theory, and I’ve finished my 15 hours of driving. There are still fifteen hours left, and Katya will be driving a mini-cooper. But that’s not for sure, haha.
Do you study in Polish?
Ekaterina Kurakova: Yes. I was recently asked what language I think in, because I speak Polish very quickly, and I caught myself thinking that when I dream, I speak Polish in my sleep. It becomes much easier, perhaps I do some grammar mistakes, since I taught everything myself in Canada, at Starbucks. So I’m satisfied with my Polish.
It turns out that you know three languages: English, Polish and Russian. Is it time to learn Italian?
Ekaterina Kurakova: Ha ha, no, I think three is enough. I won’t learn Italian. I can understand, I can answer, but I don’t learn it. I had an idea to learn Italian, and then I felt that my head asked for a little peace, it already had enough information.
Which one do you prefer: English or Polish?
Ekaterina Kurakova: Polish. Because I have friends, my boyfriend speaks Polish. Because Polish is similar to Russian.
Is there any contact with Brian Orser?
Ekaterina Kurakova: I will say this, when I qualified for the Olympics, I got a message from Brian. It really touched me. This is professionalism, when a student leaves, you stop working with him, but you are still happy for his success, even when he achieves it with another coach. This message meant a lot to me. We congratulate each other on the holidays, so we are in touch. I know that Brian has good contact with Lorenzo. We remained on good terms, I hope Brian will give me another lesson someday.
Are you also in touch with coaches from Russia?
Ekaterina Kurakova: Natalya Dubinskaya – I have a very close contact with her. And my mother often sees her. She is more than just a coach for me. We were together from 8 to my 15 years old, and in fact, everything that I can do, all my jumps, was taught by Natalya Dubinskaya. She gave me character.
Of course, then Inna Goncharenko brought up my character. But Natalya Dubinskaya was like a second mother to me, I spent a lot of time with her, and it was not always easy, there were difficult and very difficult moments. Like in families, there are difficult times. We have gone through a lot, I’m very grateful to Natalya Dubinskaya and often think about her, and she texts me.
When have you been to Russia for the last time?
Ekaterina Kurakova: I was there for nine days in May. This is still not bad, before that I was in quarantine in April 2020. So about once a year. This season I’m working on maximum, so I didn’t go to Russia for the New Year either.
The situation with covid is getting worse, I was very afraid that they would put me in quarantine somewhere. And after the Olympics, before the World Championships, I plan to go to Russia. I have a niece in my homeland, she grows up without me, my grandparents, I really want to see everyone.
Mom and dad made a present for me, they came to Poland for the New Year and stayed with me all the time. Then on the second day I arrived in Italy, and they went with me in a car. Yes, my parents travel by car from Moscow to Poland, from Poland to Italy. We drove from Poland to Italy in sixteen hours, there are a thousand kilometers. And from Moscow to Torun, where we are – 26 hours. Twenty-six hours in a car! My parents are heroes. This is real love.
The question about complication the programs is banal, but still. Do you see the strength in yourself to show some ultra-c element?
Ekaterina Kurakova: Yes I can. But I will say this: first of all, the most important thing for me is health. Last year I had very serious back problems, and there were moments when I resigned myself to the fact that it will always be painful for me to skate.
Does it hurt you to skate now?
Ekaterina Kurakova: No, thank God. I do not know what happened. How did such a regeneration happen that I was able to cope. But I still monitor it very much, I often go to physiotherapy. Pain often happens, but that’s okay, because last year there were terrible moments when I had already accepted that I would have pain all my life. The pain very quickly entered into normal life: I couldn’t just sit down without a warm-up. And that was scary. I’m eighteen, and I can’t live normally without pain. This was really scary.
It was very hard, I asked myself why I was there (at the World Championships, – ed.). To be honest, when I was walking, I was sad that it happened, but on the other hand, I understood that due to the fact that I don’t have a free program, I have more chances to stay healthy.
Once I fell and for a few seconds I stopped feeling my leg. I was sitting on the ice and I didn’t feel it. And it was scary to understand that you did not feel the limb. It’s horrible.
But now everything is fine: I qualified for the Games, went to two Grand Prix. Now I have a coach, I have his care. Because all last season I skated without a coach – I prepared for the competitions myself, I competed on my own. That is, there was simply nothing … No support, no family nearby. There were also injuries. It was a terrible year in my life.
Okay, “terrible” is the wrong word. It was the year I grew up. Therefore, even if it’s very sad, you will then understand why it happened. Yes, it was very hard. I thought, how did I not qualify for the free program? And then you think: “You are alive, healthy and everything is fine with you.” At the World Championships, the French figure skater (Mae-Berenice Meite) was injured right during the performance. How long was her rehab? Five months? Six? When I had already done all the qualifications, she was only restoring double jumps. At this moment, you realize that God was there, and he saved from the worst.
How did you deal with these problems?
Ekaterina Kurakova: I tried to heal. I had one rehab after another. I was sent to physiotherapy and was told that they would work with an electric current. They asked if I felt pain, but I did not. I have something stuck. The doctor added current, and the next morning I got up, and I had a burn of all the nerves on my back – a huge bruise with a scar. Just all over the back. And it got worse, it was for four months when nothing helped at all. You try one thing, another, a third, and nothing helps. What did help in the end? I do not know. Honestly. The worst thing is that I don’t know what helped me.
Is it really not scary to try difficult jumps after all these problems?
Ekaterina Kurakova: I control. When I jump, roughly speaking, a triple axel, if I feel that aggravation begins, I stop.
That year, I worked on triple axel very often, I put it in my free program, but when I started to do run-throughs, the situation with my back worsened and worsened. I didn’t attach any importance to it. I thought that all this did not matter, because I have a triple axel. I’m doing it! Yes, let it be with underrotation, but I do it. I’ll show it! And it was a mistake.
When you are in severe pain, you need to wake up. When there is no coach, there is no one to tell you “stop!”. Especially when the jump is unstable. You are trying to do it, you are in the process, but you cannot say that it is like a triple lutz, which you are sure of.
So, if I feel that there is some deterioration, then that’s it. Now health is much more important. I want to continue skating. I like it, I want to do it.
In Canada, you trained with Zhenya Medvedeva. Have you seen her in Ice Age?
Ekaterina Kurakova: Yes. I like their duet with Danya Milokhin, that they try different characters, try different scenes. Zhenya looks very happy. It’s great to see Zhenya so happy! So I’m really happy for her. She said in some interview that she had never felt as happy as now. I was very happy to hear this.
Everyone knows you as a very positive person who always smiles. Russian skaters are usually different: they are very serious and focused. It seems that they come to the competitions to fight like at war. Do you feel this difference?
Ekaterina Kurakova: Oh, I have a video about this! (Katya shows a video where, before the six-minute warm-up, she is the only one who smiles and jumps, the rest stand with serious faces) I jump, smile, just a happy child. (laughs)
You see, it’s probably because I do not feel such a strong competition. I can’t imagine the stress the girls go through every Russian Nationals. When you realize that one mistake and that’s it, you’re out. And you skate with the thought that you have no right to make a mistake. This is such a pressure … You understand, if not you, then the other will do it. That is why you are so afraid of it. And now, when I go to competitions, I understand that I am happy. When things started to change, I started to appreciate competitions.
We train for championships. Not so much to think after the competitions how well it went, but to go there. The situation with covid began to worsen, and I was very afraid that the European Championships might be cancelled. Probably, it helped me to skate well, I was just happy that I was there. This is such inner happiness.
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