“I can only imagine what it must be like for Russian skaters. If I were in their place I’d probably retire.” Interview with Vladimir Samoilov who now represents Poland
Interview with former Russian skater Vladimir Samoilov who now represents Poland. About changing citizenship, training in Italy, and skating moms.
source: sport-express.ru dd. 19th June 2022 by Dmitri Kuznetsov
First of all, where are you now? The view is beautiful.
Vladimir Samoilov: In Italy, Egna, where I have been training since October. Many people notice the views, envy a little, say you live in Italy, what else do you need? In general, everything suits me – the training schedule, comfort – but there are nuances, of course. For example, before that, I lived in a hostel with five of us, and then we decided to move out with a teammate. It’s more difficult to live all together, sometimes you need personal space. And the Italians love to talk, to make noise. My head ached (laughs). Sometimes I got more tired at home than at the skating rink.
So you haven’t been to Poland for a long time?
Vladimir Samoilov: Since winter competitions. I left Russia on August 1 last year, spent two months in Poland, trained alone, and then moved here to the academy.
How is the Russian figure skater living abroad now?
Vladimir Samoilov: Recent events have not affected me in any way if we talk about sports. But I was a little afraid to come here. Still, I’m Russian, not everyone treats us well. But the guys accepted me well, everyone is adequate, objective. They understand that I have nothing to do with what happened. So nothing has changed for us. After all, Ukrainians come here, and Poles, Americans, there’s a multinational team here.
You represent Poland. Were there some conditions from the federation?
Vladimir Samoilov: Pah-pah (knocks on the forehead), everything is fine. Everything remained as it was, no conditions were put forward. And thank them for that.
Did you learn Italian?
Vladimir Samoilov: I know some common phrases. And they taught me some bad words. In general, the training process is in English.
How difficult is it financially? If I understand correctly, now it is not easy to transfer money to you from Russia.
Vladimir Samoilov: In Russia, I had some kind of income, here it is problematic, there is no such demand for skating lessons. So while my parents help me. But it’s really expensive here. I have to buy cheaper things. Cook pasta, euro for a pack. Or cook soup, it’s enough for a couple of days. As for money transfers, we do it through a coach, it’s a difficult scheme, yes, Angelina Turenko helps.
You will take part in international competitions next season. How does it feel to have made the transition on time?
Vladimir Samoilov: Relief. And I did it perfectly on time, a little later – and that’s it, it would have been late. I was lucky. By the way, none of the Russian athletes wrote me that they envy me.
Isn’t it hard to live in another culture? Many people are emigrating differently now.
Vladimir Samoilov: I was just thinking about it. Honestly, it’s difficult. They write to me: “You are in Italy, cool, why do you need Russia?” I understand everything, but if they asked me, I would not live here. Visit – yes. Maybe such age. When I am over 40, with my family and children, sitting on a balcony with wine – with pleasure. And nothing more is needed. If I were younger, probably I wouldn’t be up to these thoughts either. And at 23, you’re right in the middle, earnings, all friends. Well, even personal life. This is also not easy here.
Why? Download some Tinder.
Vladimir Samoilov: By the way, I haven’t thought about it. There is a language barrier. I came here with zero English. Alone in a new country with no language and no friends. I started living from scratch. Thank God, the local guys helped, started talking, and cheered me up. But with such planning, it was possible to remain a homeless person (laughs). However, I don’t regret it.
But you have no option to return to Russia, right?
Vladimir Samoilov: In this situation, no. But I wish you knew how much I would like to. Probably, I could train at non-state, private skating rinks. When we were working on a transfer, the federation told me: ‘You can’t train in Russia. Are you ready to train abroad?’ I don’t know what was in my head, but I didn’t even think much, I immediately said: ‘Yes, let’s go.’ And only when I was going to the plane, I realized the scale of the changes. And I’ve thought: what am I going to do there?
The Federation challenged you, it turns out.
Vladimir Samoilov: Well, yes. My parents told me: decide for yourself, this is your life. Maybe I did it thoughtlessly, but I did not lose, I think. I was sick a lot here, the first months were hard. I thought a lot: ‘Why the hell do I need this?’ Four times I thought: ‘That’s it, tomorrow I’ll take the ticket back, that’s enough.’
Do you have an explanation why the federation is so against transfers and tried to block it for you as well?
Vladimir Samoilov: I do not understand this. I don’t understand a lot. In 2018, for example, I got into the top six at the Russian Nationals, but I didn’t get into the national team, either in the main team or in the reserve. I thought I understood the principle of how the national team is formed. But after that, I realized that I didn’t understand something.
What would you advise those of our guys who are now left without international competitions? As a person who went through the process of changing citizenship.
Vladimir Samoilov: It’s a very difficult situation. I can only imagine what it must be like for them. The same Samarin, Aliev – they have been in the national team for a long time, they will not be released anywhere, I am more than sure. It’s a shame for Dima and Sanya. Who will give a release for Mark [Kondratiuk]? He’s at his peak. I honestly don’t know what the guys should do. I would think 150 times whether it is worth changing the national team. On the one hand, those who are on the national team have no reason to go. But just sitting still while the years go by is also debatable. I do not know what to advise and what I would do in their place.
Then can retire and do another thing in life, as a non-standard decision.
Vladimir Samoilov: Well, I think I’d have done so in this situation – retired. Still, I’m 23 years old. And, knowing in advance that the transfer will have to be processed for two years … As far as I understand, there is no chance that they will return to big competitions like Worlds and Europeans next season. The season is lost. But maybe two or three seasons will be lost. No one knows. In their case, to get stuck in such a situation, I would have lost motivation. Without World and European Championships.
There is the Cup of Russia!
Vladimir Samoilov: Wonderful. Returned to childhood. It was their main competitions eight years ago.
It’s not true, then it was the Cup, and now it’s the Russian Grand Prix.
Vladimir Samoilov: Ah, well, that changes everything (laughs).
Have you discussed with Lorenzo Magri your emotional throwing? Or does he have a large group and it is hardly important for him whether you are there or not?
Vladimir Samoilov: It didn’t come to that, but he takes to work with any athlete. The federation cannot pay for one athlete – he goes forward. Although in Europe figure skating is more expensive than in Russia. But in Russia, this market is much larger.
A market of crazy moms who are ready to give their children to figure skating?
Vladimir Samoilov: Oh yes, it’s indescribable.
That is, do you agree that it is the parents who realize their ambitions through their children?
Vladimir Samoilov: One hundred percent. Sometimes I see that a child doesn’t need it at all. And “maman” yells overboard: come on, you have to! She’s so motivated, jumps on a child. And a six-year-old child has the fifth hour of ice training and he thinks: why did they put me in this figure skating? I felt the same way, of course. But not to such en extent. And at a transitional age, at the age of 15, I was terribly lazy. I used to go to training because my mother told me to. Of course, the results subsided. But then the brains somehow fell into place, and my mother stopped interfering, she also realized why I was doing this.
What should a coach do? He’s interested that a child continues to train.
Vladimir Samoilov: Of course.
But the human psyche will be harmed.
Vladimir Samoilov: Yes, it is the psyche, at least. I feel pity for kids. I understand that sometimes it’s necessary to force a child to do something. But I also saw situations when it was too much. When they grab a child by the hair and knock him against the wall. I was standing and thinking: poor child. What will you do? His psyche is broken. Even in life, what will happen to this child?
You worked with Tutberidze and Plushenko, with many groups in Russia and Europe. Is the attitude towards athletes much different?
Vladimir Samoilov: It’s completely different. Here everything is different. Very rarely a coach can yell at you. If the whole group “carries shit on the ice” (untranslatable, supposedly, Vladimir meant that the group is being lazy), then they can yell. But if you want, you work. There is ice, if you have a desire, they will work with you. If you don’t want to, they won’t force you. No desire – go home. You will not be kicked out of the group.
Will they kick out in Russia?
Vladimir Samoilov: Yes. I don’t know if it’s right or not. In adolescence – probably, there are reasons. And with adults, such an attitude – to scold, if something goes wrong – is wrong.
I read the comments after your last interview, where you said: “Eteri Georgievna said – either you train, or if your back hurts, stay at home and don’t come back.” And most of the comments were like yes, she’s right, let him have treatment.
Vladimir Samoilov: I read it too. And I don’t know what’s right here. I do not argue, there is logic. This is the eternal question, which is more important.
But she wouldn’t say that in case of a bad workout – go sit at home.
Vladimir Samoilov: No no. She just kicks out. She has her own methodology. I can’t say it doesn’t work.
Well, not so much with boys. And you, as I understand it, also experienced this for yourself, because health problems appeared due to intense training.
Vladimir Samoilov: Yes Yes. I developed a back problem. When I came to her, I already had protrusions. To which they told me: “It happens to all athletes, this is the minimum that can be.” She knew it right away, I told her. But in the end, everything manifested itself in a hernia of two types. I once fell so hard that I couldn’t feel my leg, it just went numb. And then I realized: that’s it, I stop here.
But there is a doctor Philip Shvetsky. There must be specialists in schools who should monitor such moments.
Vladimir Samoilov: Philip Shvetsky was not there then, as far as I remember. Yes, I went to massages, needles with current and all staff like that. But I still made it worse because of workouts. It became easier only when I finished with sports, and after leaving Eteri Georgievna, I thought that I would finish due to my back. I went to rehabilitation, and for three months I only treated my back. Didn’t practice at all. And then I decided that I wanted to try again. I went through a good rehabilitation, thanks to the doctors.
Is there no “good cop” in Khrustalny? Sergei Dudakov is considered such by many.
Vladimir Samoilov: Sergei Viktorovich is really kind, and cool as a coach and a man. He could say, “Okay, do it again and that’s enough.” He’s softer. But his opinion is taken into account less for obvious reasons.
Is Daniil Markovich a “tough cop” in such terms?
Vladimir Samoilov: Rather, yes.
What are your career goals? You are probably aiming for the Olympics, but you need citizenship.
Vladimir Samoilov: Of course, I want to. I will say more: we planned to go to this Olympics, which were held in Beijing. I have been in contact with Poland since 2019, and we have been collecting documents for participation in it. But happened what happened.
Is everything all right with motivation now? The Russians now have few people left to root for, so you are now competing for all those who have been suspended.
Vladimir Samoilov: I understand. Now I have to work. Last season I was recovering for a long time and couldn’t even skate the entire program! Therefore, I made content easier. There was no time to put quads, and why should I force? Now I have restored a quadruple lutz, a flip, I have a salchow. I also tried 4 + 1 + 4 combination. I saw Mark doing it in Saransk, well done.
Is there anything else we can think of? Or already quintuples?
Vladimir Samoilov: Quadruple axel is done. It seems to me that if I am in good shape, I can try a quintuple salchow and even land it underrotated on quarter. But this will not give me anything, there’s no base value for it. Do not understand why. The quadruple lutz was on the scale 20 years ago, although no one did it. At least give it a base value – this is logical, each new generation is better than us. In any case, Mark Kondratiuk is more talented than me. Ilia Malinin and guys who are 12 years old – they are better than Mark. And so on. So skaters will reach quintuples for sure.
Then how should you perform next season to be remembered?
Vladimir Samoilov: I made a plan with the coach. We work on the programs at the training camp. Of course, we need to perform well at the Polish competitions. Enter top-10 at the European Championships – it’s more than real. And then let’s see how it goes. At Worlds, just to perform in such a way as to be most satisfied with my skating. I would like to get into the free program, and not like it was last time (laughs). I have motivation. I need to get into the main group so that they start to recognize me.
Irina Rodnina: “Rising age minimum was absolutely right. The skating program has become incredibly difficult. Girls cope with it physically, but for sure not psychologically.”