“If to dream, I would like to train in Tutberidze’s group one day. It would be cool!” Interview with Valentina Cueva from Ecuador
Interview with Valentina Cueva, a 17-year old figure skater from Ecuador.
source: sport-express.ru dd. 2d September 2022 by Dmitri Kuznetsov
Valentina, how is your week going since your debut at the Junior Grand Prix in Courchevel?
Valentina Cueva: Now I am training in Riga, preparing for the second Grand Prix. I was lucky to be allowed to train here with a local coach. I’m warming up with a local group of older guys. Can I not say the name? (Laughs) It’s difficult for me. Here I have an hour of ice a day. My coach Alberto Collado comes and we train with him.
Is this your first time in Europe? What are your impressions?
Valentina Cueva: Yes, it’s my first time. It was difficult, to be honest. Both in terms of the long flight, and the ice, because we have a completely different rink in Quito. It is 20 meters long. But the cities, the places, the people I’ve met are all amazing. It’s incredible to see a crowd of kids coming to practice after school. In our country, several people go for figure skating, and it is very difficult to find people who want to skate.
In Courchevel, you scored 38.73 points, but made the audience fall in love with you. Are you satisfied with your performance?
Valentina Cueva: It was my first international competition in my life. But, of course, I did not do everything that was planned. In the short program, the coach and I did not understand when we should go on the ice. And when they called my name before the warm-up, I was not ready. I ran out, I had a couple of minutes to warm up, and then I also started one of the first. Everything happened too fast (smiles). And before that I had only one official training. And I tried to adapt to the size of the rink and jumped almost nothing.
Does Ecuador have its own national championships?
Valentina Cueva: Yes, we have a national championships! Until 2020, it was held once a year. Several people perform, in my junior category two girls performed last time. Well, I won the championships and went to the junior Grand Prix.
Why did you choose figure skating? Not the most typical sport for Ecuador.
Valentina Cueva: I started roller skating at the age of 4 because my brother is a roller hockey player. At first I did roller skating, but in 2018 I decided to switch for figure skating. Yes, this is not very common for Ecuador. And my friends and acquaintances ask me a lot of questions. Most of all, they were surprised why I needed stretching or working in the gym. If it’s an ice sport, then you need to do it on the ice – that’s what they think.
Indian figure skater Tara Prasad once said that she was stopped at the airport because the staff did not know what skates were. They thought that she was carrying strange knives with her.
Valentina Cueva: Oh my God! No, such never happened to me. In my country, people know a little about figure skating, at least about its existence. But when I was in high school, I took my skates with me to get to the skating rink. And everyone asked me, looking at the bag: “Are you leaving for the airport? To the mountains?” But my parents have always supported me. They are not very involved in all this, they do not distinguish jumps. But they are happy for me.
And your compatriots are more likely to ask why you are doing this, and urge you to quit? Or vice versa? There were a lot of Ecuadorians commenting on the YouTube broadcast when you skated.
Valentina Cueva: It was the first step for our country. And this is a great moment for us, I’m sure. In Ecuador, people from various clubs were considering whether to go. But I think we did the right thing. I feel support, it is very important.
Did you have any haters?
Valentina Cueva: Whom? Oh no, never (laughs). Do you have a lot of haters in figure skating?
Oh, don’t ask. Everything is much tougher here.
I assume that in Ecuador you won’t earn much by doing figure skating. Are you going to continue to do it or go to another profession and skate as a hobby?
Valentina Cueva: Actually, I’m going to study, I like it. For real, at the university. I want to be an engineer, get an education abroad, but keep skating. If I can, then ideally continue to represent my national team. This is my last year in juniors, then I move on to seniors. Maybe I will be able to do some triple jumps in the rest of the year. And then we’ll see. What I saw in Courchevel: many skaters from rare countries train in the USA, or at least not at home. There was a figure skater from Peru, she skates in Japan, this is a completely different level. I can not afford it. There is a difference – to train in Quito or in Japan.
But how to look for money for training, travel? Did you have to raise funds to participate in the Grand Prix?
Valentina Cueva: Perhaps this will surprise someone, but the Ecuadorian Skating Federation paid for everything. It is responsible for roller skating and figure skating. They provided the entire trip. It was very important for us to make this trip. Because in the last couple of years there has been a talk about accepting Ecuador as a member of the ISU. And in order to fulfill the criteria, we must participate in international competitions. It probably took a year to prepare this trip, papers and so on. And if we missed the opportunity, we would have to start all over again. Costumes are also made for me in Ecuador – the mother of one of the girls who skated for the Ecuador national team on roller skates. We called her in Guayaquil, another city in Ecuador, helped with the material, and she made the costume. The dress for the free program was very important, which featured a woman’s face and the music was the Mexican feminist song Cancion Sin Miedo (Song Without Fear). And I skate in support for women’s rights.
In figure skating, there are very strict rules for selection for the Olympics. In skiing and biathlon we regularly see representatives of exotic countries, but never in figure skating. Should this be changed?
Valentina Cueva: What are skis? (Cross-country skiing, the conversation was in English and a little in Spanish. In response, I showed a picture with Alexander Bolshunov and Johannes Klebo. – “SE”) Ah, got it. My dream is to go to the Olympic Games. I do not think that it is necessary to change the whole system of Olympic qualification. But it seems to me that representatives of Latin America should have the right to go to the Games. You just need to help countries from this region improve the quality of skating, reach the level of other countries. Maybe it can be done through small changes in the rules.
Who is an example for you in figure skating?
Valentina Cueva: Yuna Kim. All her progress in the course of her career in sports is very impressive. How she improved her skating, her presentation of programs! It’s very strong. Of the Russians, I really love Alexandra Trusova. She breaks all the schemes and perception of this sport by people! For example, quadruples. She is the only woman who jumps them in such a way. And being a girl, go and do five quads in the Olympic program is wow! In addition, I am inspired by her determination to continue at all costs, to try, to fight.
Well, you definitely watched the Olympics. Have you heard about Eteri Tutberidze?
Valentina Cueva: Yes, I heard. Eteri is known throughout the world of figure skating, I think. If to dream, I would like to train in her group one day. It would be cool!
But now Russian figure skaters are deprived of the right to participate in international competitions … How do you feel about this?
Valentina Cueva: As for punishment, I think that it should not be so. These sanctions do not make any sense, as for me. It is a disappointing situation when athletes are forced to pay the price for the actions of politicians.
In Russia and in many other countries, figure skating is a fight, overcoming oneself. Now the movement in protecting figure skaters from moral violence and things like that is gaining momentum. You rather skate for pleasure. Is it possible to make figure skating fun for everyone?
Valentina Cueva: I believe that figure skating will always develop thanks to emotions from within. We must understand why we are making this or that effort. In the moment, it is not the result that matters, but the love and passion that you put into the business. But, of course, the result is also important. But it seems to me that for real progress, first of all, it’s important to understand why you are doing all this.
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