“I trained a lot and consumed no more than 300 calories a day. With such a diet and training, I “killed” my body. Well, who knew? I just wanted to lose weight…” interview with pair skater Karina Safina
Interview with pair skater Karina Safina who now represents Georgia. About her career, change of sports citizenship, weight problems in figure skating and haters in social networks.
source: sport.business-gazeta.ru dd. 5th November 2022
Karina, how did you got into figure skating?
Karina Safina: Thanks to my mom. She did figure skating herself, but she did not manage to break into the big sport. One might say, that she decided to make her dream come true through me. The first time she took me to the skating rink at the age of two, and she also taught me how to skate. Already at the age of 3.5 I started to practice in a group. At first they did not want to take me, because I was too small, but in the end they took me.
Such a young age… Do you remember your first practices?
Karina Safina: At that age, you don’t understand anything. There is only the desire of the parents to take you to trainings. Once I asked my mother whether she forced me to go to training. She replied that no, I wanted to myself. Even when I was sick, I still asked my mother whether we would go to the skating rink today or not. There has been a desire since childhood. And awareness and understanding of why I am doing this came much later.
Did Chelyabinsk have enough conditions for figure skating?
Karina Safina: I used to visit other coaches and training camps very often. I was raised in Chelyabinsk, but very often I took information from other specialists in other cities. I haven’t been to Chelyabinsk for a very long time, but if you believe the talks, conditions for figure skating has become worse there.
You were born in Chelyabinsk, but a lot connects you with Tatarstan. Are you Tatar by nationality?
Karina Safina: Half. My father is Tatar, and my mother is Russian.
How did you switch from single skating to pairs?
Karina Safina: I got into pair skating quite by accident in 2018, when I was 14 years old. I didn’t plan to be a pair skater. I was not at home all summer, I trained first in Sochi, then in St.Petersburg. As soon as I returned to Chelyabinsk, Nina Mikhailovna Moser called my mother. She invited us to move to Moscow. At first it was shock, because it was very unexpected. But we agreed. We came and went to the Vdohnovenie skating rink. She looked at how I jump, skate. I was asked to stay for a couple of days to try out with a boy.
What were your first impressions after the try outs?
Karina Safina: Before going to the ice, I said to my mom that I did not like it here. And the fact that I don’t want to come back here anymore and generally be a pair skater. Mom said: “Let’s try.” The training still took place, they said something to my mother and they took me. We had to go to Chelyabinsk for a week to collect all our things. I remember that this week was very hard for me, because I didn’t want to, but they told me that no, I need to.
What were you afraid of?
Karina Safina: Now it’s funny to think about it, but then I liked to be on my own. And here they put me in a pair, they said to hold a guy’s hand, and I stand and answer: “I don’t want to hold anyone!” And then they started to lift me up somewhere. I used to answer: “No, thank you” But in the end I’m still in pair skating!
What or who made you change your mind?
Karina Safina: My mom kept reminding me to try. So I got involved…
Did you immediately teamed up with Mikhail Domnin, or did you try with some other partner?
Karina Safina: At first they put me with another boy. We skated for a maximum of a week, maybe even a little less. Then he was kicked out of the group, and I started skating alone again. I was waiting for a new partner to come, and it turned out to be Misha Domnin.
Mikhail is four years older than you and already had experience in pair skating. Was it difficult to get along with him?
Karina Safina: It is always difficult to find a common language in pairs. And I also have such a character that it is difficult with me. Our relationships didn’t work well in terms of communication. We didn’t really talk to each other, we always argued about something. We did not have a normal relationship, so we stopped skating together soon.
Is it important for pair skaters to have good friendly relationships?
Karina Safina: Yes, it is very important. You must find a common language in a pair. If you do not discuss the problems that arise, it becomes difficult both in terms of the execution of the elements and in terms of psychology.
When there is no close relationship with a partner, is it scary when he throws you up?
Karina Safina: No, trust in work comes with time, when you get used to all this. When I first came and we started learning the elements where they threw me up, of course, it was scary. But I overcame myself and fought this fear.
After Mikhail, you had several more partners – Sergei Bakhmat, and now Luka Berulava. Have you managed to build a trusting relationship with any of them?
Karina Safina: Yes, with Luka. We communicate well with him.
How did your pair skating career progress further?
Karina Safina: Not very successful – I broke my leg skating in Moscow. At that time, I had already stopped skating with Misha Domin and decided to look for a partner on the Tulup website. I posted an ad there. Some time later, Pavel Sergeevich Slyusarenko called me (pair coach, previously worked in Perm – ed.). He said that he had seen my ad, but noticed me a long time ago at the competitions. And then he didn’t offer me a transfer, because I had a partner. But now he invited me to Perm. After recovering from an injury, I arrived, and had a try out with Serezha Bakhmat. They took me, and we left for a training camp in Sochi.
Was it difficult to return to the ice after the injury and, moreover, to a new partner?
Karina Safina: No, I’m not afraid of injuries. The move itself scared me. I didn’t want to be alone in a new city. It also affected that in Perm there were very intense training sessions. There were no such difficult workouts in Moscow. So after the training camp in Sochi, I decided to leave Perm and return to Moscow.
It took about six months after my departure, and I realized that I had done the wrong thing. And I knew that I needed to go back there. I told my mother that I had done wrong and that I needed to return to Perm. Then I realized for myself that if I don’t return there, then it’s easier to finish with sports. Mom made it clear to me that I should solve the problem myself and try to negotiate with the coach.
Did Slyusarenko took you back immediately?
Karina Safina: No, not immediately. At first he did not answer my messages and calls. Then he still answered me and promised to call me back. I waited a week for his call, he never called me back, so I decided to call him myself.
He answered me in disbelief. I began to apologize and explain that I had made a mistake. Then there were competitions in Moscow, Pavel Sergeevich came there with his athletes. Then I found him in the arena and asked for forgiveness and a second chance. He agreed, but there was only one problem: there was no partner for me anymore. He told me to move and wait for a partner in Perm.
And there were no more options to skate with Sergei Bakhmat?
Karina Safina: At that time, Seryozha left for St. Petersburg for a new partner. And I texted him so that he would return to Perm to join me. He studied at the university in St. Petersburg and could not leave. But I still managed to persuade him. We quickly collected all the elements and got into the Russian national team in a year. This was our only season together.
During that one season with Bakhmatov, what did you achieve?
Karina Safina: We competed in the Junior Cup of Russia. At the stage in Syzran, our first competitions, we took first place. At the third stage, which was in Sochi, the sixth. We skated and then I received an offer from Georgia.
Only you were offered to skate for Georgia?
Karina Safina: Yes, because I was offered to skate with another partner – with Luka.
And how did Sergey react?
Karina Safina: It was very difficult. We didn’t manage to part well. He asked me to stay with him. I am extremely grateful to him for that season and the work that we have done. But I needed to move on.
How did it happen that you were offered to skate for another country?
Karina Safina: Luka skated with his former partner at our rink. They were already in the Georgian national team and competed at international competitions. We all knew each other because we were on the same rink. Luka parted with his former partner and they were looking for a new one. Apparently, he was offered me, we both agreed. Since Luka was already a member of the Georgian national team, I also became a part of this team.
And why did they skate for Georgia, but trained in Perm?
Karina Safina: But we also train in Perm now! This is a common practice. There are a lot of pairs who train in Russia and at the same time represent other countries. I haven’t regretted my decision for a single second and I am very glad that I decided to skate for the Georgian national team.
What were you offered for switching to Georgia?
Karina Safina: Georgian citizenship and, most importantly, the opportunity to participate in international competitions. Thanks to this, we got a chance to go to the Olympic Games, junior and senior World Championships, European Championships, Grand Prix stages. I would not have participated in these competitions if I had stayed in Russia.
How did you get to the 2022 Olympics in Beijing?
Karina Safina: We went to Germany to the Nebelhorn Trofy. We had to take place from first to third in order to get an Olympic spot for our country. And then the federation decided who would get it. We became the third. Far from everything worked out – after all, it was our first competition at the senior level, but we won the spot.
Did you have competitors for the Olympic spot?
Karina Safina: Yes, Anastasia Mitelkina and Danil Parkman – another pair that represents Georgia. We are on good terms with them, but on the ice, of course, we are rivals. At the end of the season, the federation announced that we were going to the Olympic Games.
You took ninth place at the Olympics. What was missing for a more successful performance?
Karina Safina: Probably, senior skating – it is different from junior one. We skated cleanly and showed the maximum that we could. It was a great result for the first Olympics, for the first season of skating with Luka. As a result, we are in the top ten best pairs in the world! Nobody was upset with the result.
How did you feel at the Olympics?
Karina Safina: This were competitions where I was least worried, although it would seem that it should be the other way around. There is a different atmosphere, I don’t even know how to explain it … It is so charged! Everything is different there, it’s something magical!
What was the most difficult competitions that season? Not the Olympics?
Karina Safina: The most difficult was our final competition – the junior world championship, which we won. It was very difficult mentally. We were already exhausted. I don’t know how, but we performed cleanly and became world champions.
Have you thought about what to do after figure skating?
Karina Safina: I don’t know at all. I haven’t thought about this. So far, I can’t even imagine how I will live without training. To be honest, when I get sick and don’t go on the ice, I am at a loss. In general, I am passionate about nutrition. I love learning about nutrition and dietetics. This topic interests me. I was just about to buy nutrition courses the other day.
Many girls, when they look at your photos, wonder what they should eat and what they shouldn’t eat to look the same.
Karina Safina: The first point is a person himself and his genetics. Everyone has a completely different metabolism. I could never boast that I have a good metabolism and I can eat everything and not get fat. All my life, at first, my mother watched me, then I began to take care of myself – and this has always been difficult for me, especially now. I am 18 years old, my body is starting to change, and I can’t control what happens to me at all. The weight is jumping … It remains to wait when it stabilizes. It is difficult, but everyone in figure skating has to go through it. I always hoped it wouldn’t hurt me, but it did this summer.
Was there a period when, on the contrary, you tried to gain weight?
Karina Safina: From 14 to 15 years old, I lost a lot of weight. At that time, there was practically nothing left of me. Some were already thinking that I was suffering from anorexia. I trained a lot and hardly ate. I consumed probably no more than 300 calories a day. With such a diet and training, I, in fact, killed my body. Well, who knew? I just wanted to lose weight…
Skaters have a lot of taboos…
Karina Safina: Yes, you always can’t eat something, you always try to lose weight. You are weighed before every workout. You are afraid to eat too much of something. You are constantly hungry. Some get bulimic.
Is bulimia common in figure skating?
Karina Safina: When you are 15 years old and you are constantly told that you are fat, that you cannot eat then, naturally, against such a background, you overeat your stress. And then you start to feel bad because of this – and you throw up everything in order to pass the same weighing.
Why do coaches do this if it can lead to such consequences?
Karina Safina: That’s their job. Coach can’t praise you all the time. He needs you to have motivation. No one will pat you on the head and say that you are the best. Maybe it works for some, it doesn’t for others. But the coach pressure for a reason. He calls for you to look at yourself so that you can become better. Sometimes I catch myself thinking that I lack someone yelling at me, Sometimes, of course, you want to be praised.
What role do parents play in all of this?
Karina Safina: My mother was very strict with me. When I grew up, they stopped touching me. My mother now only supports me. Because this is my conscious adult decision on how to train. Recently, my mother said that if she had not been like that with me then, then I would not be where I am now. And I think it’s true. Therefore, I am grateful to my mother for everything.
Have you faced hate on social media?
Karina Safina: When you enter the international level, there are many couch critics who do not understand anything about figure skating, but try to stung you. There are also good messages from fans. These people write very sincere wishes and wish good luck. You have to read everything, because when they write to you, and you open a message, you don’t know in advance what is written there.
What is the most common criticism on social media?
Karina Safina: They often write that I did not deserve something, that someone gave us more points. But I don’t pay attention to it. We skated well that season, and there will always be haters. The main thing is what your coach, your federation, your parents and yourself think about you, and the rest doesn’t count.
Were there people who wrote that you betrayed your country?
Karina Safina: Of course they were. I did not betray anyone, I was quietly released. My job is to work on the ice. Athletes are those people who give themselves and their health. They should not be involved in politics in any way. Sport is out of politics!
Yana Rudkovskaya: “Valieva started a jump show before the judges gave the scores! Competition is not a show.”
Such a strange person… Always pushed around by others, no goals or ambition of her own. Sad that Russians can still leave their rotten country.
Well they an option to represent Georgia…
I saw her perform at the internationaux de france, it was really sad to see her devasted that way… Thank you for the interview, now I understand that she has gone through a lot