Evgeni Semenenko: “As for the Olympics I focus only on the fact that I have to train hard”
Interview with young and promising Russian skater Evgeni Semenenko. About his career, free program to Master and Margarita and goals for the season.
source: matchtv.ru dd. 13th December 2021 by Anastasiia Panina
There is a saying – if life gives you lemons all the time, learn how to make lemonade. From the last covid season Evgeni Semenenko squeezed as much good for himself as possible. He took part in two major international competitions – the World Championships and the World Team Trophy. And this is provided the fact that Russia had only two spots, and there were at least five contenders for them. The 17-year-old Semenenko then earned his place in the national team with disarming stability. He almost did not make big mistakes, did not pop the jumps, did not give up the program in the middle, which is why the audience really liked him.
There’s also part of Zhenya’s merit that the Russia will have maximum representation in men’s single skating at the next Olympic Games. Together with Mikhail Kolyada and Mark Kondratiuk, he won back three Olympic spots.
I want to start the conversation with a compliment. Zhenya, the theme of the free program “Master and Margarita” matches you so well! You are demonically good at handling this music. Are you familiar with the original source?
Evgeni Semenenko: I watched TV series, read the book. The book is very cool. I liked how the image of Woland, a fatal character, was conveyed in the series. I’m glad that I liked the book, and that I can skate such a program now. The music itself is energizing, especially in the finale. Helps to hold on till the end of the program, even if I’m tired.
Which of the characters do you think is the most impressive?
Evgeni Semenenko: Woland, of course.
Strength, power? Why do you like him?
Evgeni Semenenko: In the novel, he punished people for certain wrong actions. Justice triumphed. He returned what people deserved. This is also interesting – he is evil, but fair. What get what you deserve, in general.
I read that when you were brought to athletics as a child, the coach refused to take you. He said, “this child will not be an athlete”.
Evgeni Semenenko: Yes, there was something like that.
Well, it seems that coach was seriously wrong.
Evgeni Semenenko: (Laughs.) Well, it looks like that.
Do such things hurt you? Would you be upset if, already in adulthood, someone said that you have no abilities, talent or just something will not work out?
Evgeni Semenenko: No. I think I’m intelligent enough to decide for myself what I should or shouldn’t do. I listen to another opinion, but only if this is the opinion of people close to me.
I think it’s a good quality. If you listen to everyone, you may never hear your inner voice.
Evgeni Semenenko: Exactly.
So why figure skating?
Evgeni Semenenko: Mom took me to the skating rink at the age of five. Just for some activity, so I could develop in different areas. Many children fell, but I immediately got up and skated again. I liked it, and it was decided to continue, and be as it should. The next few years my grandmother took me to the skating rink. Parents were busy, working a lot. In general, my grandmother’s contribution to my sports career is great.
Do you remember the moment when you looked around and realized: wow, figure skating is definitely my love?
Evgeni Semenenko: There was no such a flash, everything just gradually went on. Step by step, I started to feel connected, when decent results began to appear – I won the Zhuk Memorial two times when I was little. I realized that I like it.
Do you like to win?
Evgeni Semenenko: I like to do something like an achievement for myself. Jump a new element, complicate the program. Try three quads, four quads in the program. Try difficult jumps in the second half – everything is interesting to me. Like “Will I be able to do it if I set myself such a goal?”.
How many quads do you have in work? There are toe loop and salchow in the program, flip – on trainings.
Evgeni Semenenko: In general, I worked on all quadruple jumps at different times. I even put them into the program, jumped loop at competitions. I was supposed to try lutz in a free program at one competitions in Luxembourg, but the event was canceled, and since then I haven’t done lutz yet. There are other goals now. We have postponed complex quads at the moment.
What factors should coincide to perform a program with all difficult quads?
Evgeni Semenenko: A special preparation is needed. If the program has at least one quadruple, you need to think about the whole program, because the rest of the jumps will be like shifted by one. Also quadruples take a lot of energy. The coaches know me well, they control my preparation, so they understand when we can work on quads and add them to the program.
Tell us the story of the injury at the Canadian Grand Prix. You tried a quadruple flip, fell, what happened then?
Evgeni Semenenko: At that time, the training was going well, we decided to jump flip. One of the attempts was supposed to be popped, but I decided to rotate it and, accordingly, fell hard. I don’t even remember this fall – it seemed like there was a blow to the elbow, and then it spread like a lightning (Zhenya touches his hand from his arm to his chest) – everything hurt, especially the chest. First, I got up and realized that I couldn’t take a deep breath. Skated in circles, sat. I tried the triple loop, but I didn’t do difficult jumps. I came to the hotel. With adrenaline, the pain still wasn’t so strong, and after about an hour I realized that things were bad. That I can’t turn on my side in bed. Any movements, turns – everything hurts.
Evgeni Semenenko: I’m very grateful to the medical staff of our federation and Alexei Nikolaevich (Mishin) that they were able to put me on my feet. I thought it was impossible (laughs). But I even performed well there in the end (Zhenya won a bronze medal at Skate Canada -ed).
Does the pain killers really have such a strong effect? Or is it partly a placebo – like, that it, now I’m healthy and can do anything?
Evgeni Semenenko: I have to perform anyways. If you come to such a competitions – perform. We fully used two tubes of ointments, pills, injections. Of course it helps a lot. In my case, the pain has greatly diminished. By the way, I thought to skate at the exhibitions without an anesthetic, but I realized that there was no need to take such a risk. Through the pain, after all … By the way, in the short program removed half of the choreographic movements, where the left hand rose up.
You work with both Tatiana Nikolaevna and Alexei Nikolaevich Mishins. Alexei Mishin is more often in sight, we know more about him. Tell us about Tatiana Nikolaevna.
Evgeni Semenenko: Tatiana Nikolaevna has been with me since childhood, since I was eight, in figure skating – this is the main person for me. She is an example of a great coach and person. How she worries about the athlete, supports … She can always choose the right words. Somewhere to praise, somewhere to note mistakes. She lives the life of an athlete. The same can be said about Alexei Nikolaevich. I am very glad that I can work with such great people.
I don’t know if you know, but among the fans last season you became a kind of symbol of the stability in men’s single skating. What do you think of such an assessment?
Evgeni Semenenko: Taking this opportunity, I apologize for the unsuccessful competitions in Sochi. I’m glad that people like me. And in Sochi, in general, there was so much support, I have never skated in such conditions. Thank you very much for this.
Last season you had a new experience of skating for the team, and not just for yourself. Did you feel nervous at the World Team Trophy? Or did you not feel any additional stress with the responsibility for the team?
Evgeni Semenenko: I always try to set myself up the same way. All athletes are real people, we are not robots, anything can happen. Sport is like that. And to play for the team is doubly responsible, you cannot let them down.
You give the impression of a person who knows more than he speaks.
Evgeni Semenenko: I’ve never skipped study. When I was little, I remember that I had two trainings in the morning, and during the break between them I did my homework and had lunch. On the way home in the car I also tried to do my homework, because it took a long time to get home – about an hour and a half. In the evening there were tutors, since I missed lessons because of training. And then at seven o’clock English and German. Parents insisted that I should have education.
Do you manage to study at the university, given the intense training schedule?
Evgeni Semenenko: In any case training for me now is in the first place. This year is very important, Olympic. I’m grateful that Alexei Nikolaevich and the Sports Committee helped to solve some organizational problems with studies, so now I have an almost free schedule. Although I pass all tests, there is an opportunity to concentrate on training.
Once, at the Grand Prix Finals in Turin, I saw Nathan Chen, having perfectly skated a training session, came to the mediatribune and opened the textbooks. And sat there for some time – he was preparing for exams. Can you imagine yourself in such a situation?
Evgeni Semenenko: During the competitions I try to abstract myself from my studies so that nothing prevents me from concentrating on sports. When I return home after competitions, I start to “catch up”, but again in my free time.
By the way at the World Team Trophy I talked with Nathan about study in medicine university, even before I entered the university. Asked him how is it like.
For what do you love figure skating most of all? I’ve asked many people, and everyone have different response – for the feeling of flying in a jump, for the opportunity to see different countries and communicate with interesting people. So what about you?
Evgeni Semenenko: I’ve been in all this since the age of five. It’s hard for me to imagine waking up and not having to go to the training.
Part of the crew, part of the ship, like in Pirates of the Caribbean?
Evgeni Semenenko: (Laughs.) Yes, it’s a part of me. Or me is part of it – I don’t know. In general, I like everything: the skating itself or when you go to skate for the audience and so many spectators worry about you. I like to understand that someone likes my programs, my presentation, how I behave. And maybe for someone I will be an example. I like to please coaches, parents, fans with my performances.
I heard that sometimes you have triple axel battles with Liza Tuktamysheva.
Evgeni Semenenko: With Liza we compete not so much, well, but there was some short period. With Misha (Kolyada) we do it more often. It’s like additional motivation. Sometimes it helps.
And who is your most productive triple axel performer?
Evgeni Semenenko: It’s hard to answer, because I don’t count other people’s jumps. Rather, I pay attention to my own: how much I did, how much I didn’t do. It is useful to understand this for the future.
Chasing a dream people are usually divided into two types. Some people visualize their dream in every possible way, imagine how they achieve what they want. Others, on the contrary, are afraid to think about a dream, they are afraid to be disappointed if something suddenly does not go well. What type are you?
Evgeni Semenenko: I always think that everything should go on as usual. Step by step you need to move towards each small goal. There are certain tasks for a certain period of time, a certain plan, and I try to follow it. It turns out that I’m not visualizing. Instead of the result, I try to think about the process.
With this question I wanted to bring you to the question of the Olympics. Do you think about it?
Evgeni Semenenko: (Pause.) For myself, I focus only on the fact that I have to train hard.
It’s reasonable, considering that this aspect is just completely in your power.
Evgeni Semenenko: Yes, I’m responsible for this. I will train, and then go and show what I can do. And then be it as it should.
What would you wish in the New Year eve? New quadruple, victories, medals?
Evgeni Semenenko: May the loved ones be healthy and everything will be fine with me.
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