Elizabeth Tursynbayeva: “I don’t remember a day in my sports career when something didn’t hurt me. It was a constant cycle of endless injuries. But all the results were worth it.”
Interview with former figure skater, 2019 World silver medalist and first female athlete to land quadruple jump in senior competitions, Elizabet Tursynbaeva.
source: baigenews.kz dd. 4th April 2023
Kazakhstani Elizabet Tursynbayeva made history in national and world figure skating during her sports career. She became the first Kazakhstani female figure skater to win a medal at the World Championships and Youth Olympic Games in the women’s singles category, and also the first woman to successfully land a quadruple jump in senior official competitions. In an interview with BaigeNews.kz, Elizabeth talks about whether her record quadruple jump forced her to retire and how to make figure skating popular among Kazakhstanis.
What are you doing now? Are you involved in coaching at your Academy?
Elizabet Tursynbaeva: When I had that injury (a back injury in 2019, after which she retired – ed.), I entered MGIMO in Moscow. At that time, I did not know where I would go and what would happen to me after my career ended. I began to worry that there would be nothing valuable left in my life after the end of my career, and that I did not fully realize myself. In addition, it was during the quarantine, which was a stressful period for many people. I studied there for a year, successfully completed the first year, but realized that I could not only study, after all, I had been involved in sports my whole life, and had dedicated a lot of time to figure skating. And it is impossible to simply abandon it, to walk away from it. At the end of the first year, I decided to move to Almaty to engage in figure skating in Kazakhstan, not as an athlete, but as a coach or to open my own Academy. I transferred to the Almaty university KIMEP. Now I am studying at the journalism faculty, specializing in “Public Relations”. Accordingly, I am currently combining my studies with work at the Academy.
Are you not tempted to return to competitions as an athlete?
Elizabet Tursynbaeva: Most often, people who ask me about this do not understand what is behind the training process in figure skating, what a big job it is. I do not remember a day in my sports career when something did not hurt me. It was a constant cycle of endless injuries. It’s inevitable. In addition, competitions take a lot of nerves. You are in constant tension throughout the competition season. And now that I am not competing, I am living a calmer life. Although in the end, all the results were worth it. I am not in any way saying that I regret anything. Without the path I have taken, I would not be myself.
Thinking about the end of my career, I realize that by that time I had simply done everything I could in figure skating as an athlete, and the end of my career happened naturally, you could say it was a logical conclusion. But I haven’t completely parted with the ice, of course. In addition to coaching, I perform in shows. For example, I am now preparing for my coach’s show, Eteri Tutberidze, which will take place in Almaty on May 1st. Of course, I’m nervous, as I haven’t performed in a while and, accordingly, my physical shape is not the same as it used to be. I try to take that into account. So right now I only have a moderate load. For my performance, I chose a type of music that I have never used before.
Maybe you shouldn’t have attempted that quadruple jump back in 2019? Then you could still be competing.
Elizabet Tursynbaeva: It’s hard to predict what would have happened if I hadn’t started learning the quadruple jump. But I don’t think it’s just about the quadruple. You can get injured on any jump – even on triples and doubles. Some kids get injured without even attempting triple or quadruple jumps.
Did you follow the performances of Kazakh skaters at this World Championships? What is your assessment of them?
Elizabet Tursynbaeva: I can mention our single skater Mikhail Shaidorov. He is currently the only one in our country who performs quadruple jumps. He was already second at the Junior World Championships, and now he took 14th place in the senior championships. I didn’t watch the World Championships, but I know the results and I am very happy for my fellow countrymen.
And yet, the current generation is still far from your results and those of the late Denis Ten. What do you think is the difficulty in practicing figure skating in Kazakhstan?
Elizabet Tursynbaeva: Figure skating is not as popular in Kazakhstan as other sports such as hockey, football, or chess. In order for the government to truly support figure skaters, it probably needs to be interested in this sport. However, the situation may soon change. President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev drew attention to the support of children’s sports and those patrons and sponsors who invest in sports at the first meeting of the eighth convocation of Parliament. I am sure that this will give impetus to the development of figure skating in Kazakhstan, including the opening of new schools.
In addition, figure skating is being popularized through ice shows, both foreign and domestic. In Kazakhstan, we now have many different ice shows and fairy tales on ice, which engages children and young people in our sport.
What do we need to reach the world level?
Elizabet Tursynbaeva: As I mentioned earlier, figure skating in Kazakhstan is not as popular as in other countries where it is developed. Therefore, there is currently not such a sports culture. This may be why coaches, athletes, and children in our country do not always approach the training process with full responsibility. Therefore, it is necessary to invite foreign coaches to introduce not only their knowledge but also the culture of this sport to Kazakhstan. For example, there are foreign coaches working in my academy, mainly from Russia. They already have their own established system, which they brought here and apply it here.
So, coaches should teach not only children, but also their parents?
Elizabet Tursynbaeva: I think so. Actually, I’m currently writing a research paper on the involvement of parents in the sports activities of children in Kazakhstan, and I think support is essential here. The child will never manage on their own. The parent should always be there, monitoring the process. This includes the child’s routine and the need to properly prepare the child for the training process. Often, for example, young children just want to have fun, and it’s important to present the training process in a way that generates interest in sports but also teaches them how to work.
Who provided you with this moral support?
Elizabet Tursynbaeva: Mostly my mother. She dedicated her life to my brother and me when we were little, and was engaged with us the whole day. First, she would take us to school, then pick us up from school, take us to the ice rink, then to the music school, and back to the ice rink, from morning until night. And she didn’t just drive us from point A to point B, she was also present in the training process and was fully emotionally and physically invested in sports. Meanwhile, my father was working, but when we started competing for Kazakhstan, he also participated in getting us funding, because figure skating is generally expensive. I trained in Canada for a few years, and that required significant investment.
You have always been and remain a modest girl. How do you manage not to fall prey to the “star fewer”?
Elizabet Tursynbaeva: I think athletes are generally modest people. We simply don’t have time to be distracted by “star fewer”; our days are scheduled from start to finish.
What advice would you give to aspiring Kazakhstani figure skaters who want to reach world-class heights?
Elizabet Tursynbaeva: Judging by how athletes are trained in Kazakhstan, I notice that many of them lack discipline. Perhaps they don’t have a big goal or motivation. Perhaps they think that it’s impossible to achieve high results on the international stage while representing Kazakhstan. But the secret is simple – you have to work hard, no matter what. The more people who participate, the more popular our sport will become – more schools will open, healthy competition will emerge, coaches will support it. This will create athletes ready to compete at the highest international level in such a system.
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