“I can’t be in perfect physical condition due to health problems, and mentally, I am not in a good state.” Mikhail Kolyada about his decision to take a pause in his career
Interview with Mikhail Kolyada about his decision to take a pause in his competitive career.
source: Rsport dd. 10th July 2023 by Anastasiia Panina
The decision to pause his career was made by Mikhail Kolyada, the silver medalist at the 2018 Olympic Games in PyeongChang in team event, back in the fall of last year. He had already shared this decision with RIA Novosti Sport at that time but requested that the interview be held until the appropriate moment. In July, the time came.
I know that after the Grand Prix stage in Moscow, you had various thoughts regarding your future career, even considering ending it. What have you decided?
Mikhail Kolyada: Such thoughts indeed crossed my mind. I reflected a lot and tried to understand what to do next. Right now, I definitely need a break. I am mentally exhausted, and there are also health issues that need to be addressed.
What is the reason behind your current state? The decision to take a career break doesn’t come out of nowhere.
Mikhail Kolyada: It is very difficult to describe. I cannot be in perfect physical condition due to health problems, and mentally, I am not in a good state. I spoke with Alexei Nikolaevich (Mishin, Kolyada’s coach), and he believes that there are internal changes happening within me that I have not fully realized. In such cases, when you don’t know what to do, it is better to pause.
Aren’t you afraid that getting too immersed in the break will make you not want to come back?
Mikhail Kolyada: I’m not afraid. I have already come to understanding that I cherish figure skating a lot. I am not planning to quit now, so to speak. But I definitely need time to take a breath, to exhale and inhale.
Many athletes with long careers have taken breaks. The most obvious example is Evgeni Plushenko, who took a three-year break after winning gold at the 2006 Olympics and a two-year break after Vancouver 2010, if I remember correctly. The longer the journey of an athlete, the more necessary breaks become. I have always wanted a long-lasting career.
Is the sports routine, the schedule, training, physical fitness training, and meticulous work no longer enjoyable for you?
Mikhail Kolyada: Right now, it’s not enjoyable. I need to start missing it. When I joined Alexei Nikolaevich (Mishin, Kolyada’s coach), I was coming off a break, injuries, and surgery. It took a long time to recover. I practically started this path anew from scratch. I used to enjoy getting tired during training. I enjoyed everything related to sports. Yes, I love this pursuit more than not. Of course, in any job, something can eventually become tedious.
Being a figure skater is also a job, and I don’t want to do it half-heartedly, and especially not by force. So, at the moment, I just need to stand still, wait, regain my strength and health, so that I can continue running forward later.
Will age become an obstacle to your return?
Mikhail Kolyada: No. Well, right now, I feel like I’m somewhat old according to commonly accepted sports standards. But I assess my condition and understand that I can still outperform many others in terms of endurance, speed, and so on. So, physically, I don’t feel old.
What will you do, Misha?
Mikhail Kolyada: I’ll find plenty of things to do.
Will it be something fundamentally new?
Mikhail Kolyada: Completely unrelated to sports or ice. Well, I will definitely go running because I really enjoy it.
Some time has passed since Beijing 2022. How much does the topic of the Olympics, which you couldn’t participate in, still hurt?
Mikhail Kolyada: It hurts a little. Of course, I wanted to go there. But no one is to blame for this. It happens, people get sick, especially in times when this infection is flying around, and we live in quite a large city. Frankly speaking, I even know where and when I got infected.
When did you realize definitively that you wouldn’t be going to the Olympics?
Mikhail Kolyada: I understood it quite early. I kept taking tests, and they were positive. And what should I do in Krasnoyarsk? Let’s say I arrive there while being sick. And then what? I infect everyone, God forbid, and that’s it. The whole team would be affected.
Did you want to prove something to yourself and others by participating in this Olympics?
Mikhail Kolyada: I just wanted to go there and perform in a way that I would enjoy myself. And the only thing I regret is that it happened the way it did, that I didn’t have this chance.
What do you put into the rather formalized notion of “enjoying it myself”?
Mikhail Kolyada: It’s difficult for me to explain. I can only say that I am self-critical to such an extent that it takes effort for me to enjoy it.
Are we talking about technique or about a particular musicality, inspiration, and so on?
Mikhail Kolyada: It’s all together. It’s not just about nailing the jumps but also maximizing the second score.
Do you remember a moment when you were completely satisfied with your performance?
Mikhail Kolyada: I’m sure there were such moments, but now, I don’t think I can name them. That’s in the past. Even today will not repeat itself.
Is there a certain sadness in accepting that?
Mikhail Kolyada: No, on the contrary, it’s exhilarating. I’m really thrilled. Today, for example, I had a great day.
But if today is already history, then what is the point of your perfectionism in principle?
Mikhail Kolyada: Well, life is finite. I won’t be lying on my deathbed thinking about how to correct past mistakes. I prefer to treat it like an old friend, as they say in “Harry Potter.” Every day, we make our own choices on how we want to live it.
Do you remember the moment when you decided to build fundamentally different relationships with the outside world? I’m not even talking about journalists, but about personal social media. When was it and what was it connected to?
Mikhail Kolyada: I remember. I gave up Instagram. I realized that it was draining a lot of my energy and strength, and then there might not be enough left for real matters. I quit social media, including “VKontakte.” Now I only have Telegram, but to some extent. When there’s news, I please the audience. And when there’s no news… I read the comments too. They write, “Oh, how are you, alive and well?” I am alive and well, everything is fine.
In the global sense of my changes… Maybe I’m just the kind of person who doesn’t like to be a bother. Okay, I won’t dwell on all that.
No, please elaborate on it.
Mikhail Kolyada: Well, there’s a moral rule: treat the world the way you would like it to treat you. But in reality, it doesn’t always work that way. Sometimes the world treats you well, but far from always. Most of the time, the world is terribly cruel. And when you start realizing that, there are two options: sink into depression or take responsibility for your own life and live it the way you want. And that’s what I did.
You once said that you’re not upset by harsh criticism or the general negativity around you. So, is it still a kind of protective mask?
Mikhail Kolyada: Of course, I get upset. I’m alive and vulnerable, and I react to many things. It would be great if I didn’t pay attention to anything — attacks on my address, my loved ones, and so on. But now I know how to deal with it, whereas before I didn’t. So, I felt bad, hurt, and it pained me, plus I would get even more worked up.
How do you feel about discussions that claim your scores are inflated?
Mikhail Kolyada: I am very self-critical, as I’ve said before. For mistakes, I get what I deserve, but if they give me more credit for everything else… Well, in everything else, I skate well.
Some of your critics believe that you have a nonchalant attitude towards mistakes. Like, you fall and it’s okay. You don’t feel any responsibility. Is that not true?
Mikhail Kolyada: It’s strange to hear that because I always feel deeply about it. Maybe even more than I should. Perhaps it torments me from within, although I shouldn’t be thinking about it directly at the moment of performance. If I fall, I fall, so be it. I have to keep working. But it’s not always easy for me to let go of the situation.
What do you love about figure skating?
Mikhail Kolyada: There are many reasons. Actually, it’s a very difficult question. I have nothing to compare it to. I haven’t had another life. Maybe deep down, I would like to rewind everything and do things differently. But it’s not certain that I would have been as happy in my years if I had changed the past.
But let’s try to reason it out anyway.
Mikhail Kolyada: In principle, I can’t live without sports; I need to move. If, for example, there was another lockdown and we were all confined to our homes, I would definitely find some physical work to do.
I’m immensely grateful to it for allowing me to meet my loved one, my spouse. We live happily and love each other.
Figure skating has influenced me as a person. And it did so direct and really harshly. In sports, everything is like this: either you’re a champion or you’re not. Either you’re impressive or you’re a loser. There’s no in-between. And when black and white are on the scales, you quickly start understanding everything. You mature. Although I can’t say that I’m super wise, mature, and so on — I still make mistakes.
You’ve said something very important. In sports, everything is indeed very direct, while you, it seems to me, are quite intricate. You’re more delicate, sensitive, and vulnerable than is usually accepted here. And to fit into this direct track of sports, you had to carve yourself considerably.
Mikhail Kolyada: Perhaps. I’ve always had to overcome significant resistance. But I’m not complaining; it all goes into the experience bank.
Do you remember, three years ago in an interview, you called yourself a white crow? And then you skated the program “White raven.”
Mikhail Kolyada: Yes, it turned out to be symbolic. I was a white crow, and I remained one.
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