“It was sad, disappointing that I devoted my whole life to figure skating and didn’t achieve what I wanted.” Ksenia Tsibinova about ending her career at a peak
Interview with single skater Ksenia Tsibinova who ended her career after showing her best results.
source: Championat dd. 9th August 2023 by Yana Levhina
In Russian figure skating, there has always been a significant turnover, but in recent years, it has intensified. More and more female skaters are leaving the sport before reaching adulthood, each with their own reasons. For instance, Ksenia Tsibinova, who placed eighth in her last Russian Nationals, decided not to accept unfair results and chose to start a new life. Initially, she attempted switching to pair skating but, after failing to find a partner, she bid farewell to the sport for good. Leaving figure skating wasn’t easy for Ksenia, and she still misses the competitions. However, she acknowledges that she has become happier since retiring.
In an interview with “Championat,” Tsibinova shared her thoughts about the process of retiring and how she sought her identity in her new life.
Ksenia, can you tell us about how you came to the decision to retire? When did you first start thinking about leaving figure skating, and when did you finally make the decision?
Ksenia Tsibinova: Throughout my entire career, I never thought about quitting. I think for the first time, those thoughts started after the 2021 Russian Nationals. Before that, everything was going well. Making this decision was difficult, but our whole family had a discussion and concluded that it was time to end.
At what point did you realize that it was definitely over, with no alternatives?
Ksenia Tsibinova: When I couldn’t find a partner in pair skating. I understood that there was no point in wasting more time, that I needed to finish and focus on my studies, shows, and coaching activities. To try something new.
What was going through your mind when you decided to retire? After all, you devoted your whole life to figure skating.
Ksenia Tsibinova: It was tough because I didn’t know what I would do next. There was a fear that I would finish and not be able to find myself in something else. What would I do after this? Before, I had a specific routine every day: wake up early, have breakfast, go to training, train, return home, take a shower, rest. Now suddenly I had an entire day free. But things turned out that when I finished, the school year began, and I completely immersed myself in my studies. I managed to detach a bit, and in the end, this process went relatively smoothly for me.
Did you experience depression?
Ksenia Tsibinova: No.
What does it feel like inside when you put a end at such an important stage in your life?
Ksenia Tsibinova: It was sad, disappointing that I devoted my whole life to figure skating and didn’t achieve what I wanted. A sense of incompleteness, perhaps…
Does that feeling remain with you now?
Ksenia Tsibinova: It’s somewhat easier now.
You retired about a year ago but didn’t officially announce it. Why?
Ksenia Tsibinova: It’s always hard to talk about it, even if you’re not very famouse. I kept thinking, “Well, maybe I’ll say it now”… Then I thought, “No, I won’t say anything for now.” Many people asked me on social media if I had retired, but I didn’t say anything about it. And it turned out that I was able to talk about it only in this interview.
Were you afraid facing some kind of reaction from people?
Ksenia Tsibinova: No, I don’t know. I just somehow didn’t want to talk about it.
How do you feel about your journey and your career now? Do you feel that everything was in vain, or, on the contrary, have you come to appreciate your path more?
Ksenia Tsibinova: I can’t say it was in vain because I was engaged in something I liked. I got to compete, see other cities, I’ve been abroad twice. After retiring from sports, you have the opportunity to perform in shows with Olympic champions – not everyone has that opportunity. I believe that everything that happened was great. I have no regrets.
What are you most proud of in your career?
Ksenia Tsibinova: I’m proud of my mom, for going through everything with me, essentially on her own. I’m very grateful to her for the path she walked with me. She didn’t fear it, didn’t give up halfway.
Is there any achievement that you’re particularly proud of?
Ksenia Tsibinova: First and foremost, I’m glad I managed to compete in the Russian Nationals – after all, it’s quite a significant tournament.
Besides sports results, what did figure skating give you?
Ksenia Tsibinova: Discipline, at the very least. When I was in school, I had very little time to complete all my assignments, but I always managed to do it. I was always held up as an example to other classmates.
Did you take any friendships or acquaintances from the sport?
Ksenia Tsibinova: Yes, there are figure skaters I stay in touch with, communicate with. Of course, I don’t have anyone from school. But even from figure skating, I don’t have too many friends. After retiring, there are only a few left.
The eternal debate: does friendship exist in figure skating? What’s your opinion?
Ksenia Tsibinova: When you’re young, perhaps there is friendship. But as you grow up, you feel how the competition intensifies, so there’s no friendship.
How did you find yourself after retiring from your sports career? How did you adapt to your new life?
Ksenia Tsibinova: I went to college to become a coach; I’m currently in my third year. Here, I found new friends. Then I plan to go to university, also related to sports. Plus, now there’s the opportunity to perform in shows, and that’s also a huge advantage because you can skate for your own pleasure. I really enjoy it. It’s nice to give emotions to the audience and receive their feedback.
Have you become happier after ending your career?
Ksenia Tsibinova: In principle, you could say that. There’s always some tension in sports. And when sports are over, you let go of yourself, take a breath, and it really becomes easier. Both mentally and physically.
How did you get into shows?
Ksenia Tsibinova: Actually, it’s been tough; I thought it would be easier. My first show was in winter, I skated in Ilia Averbukh’s show. I saw an announcement on social media that they were looking for a female single skater with triple jumps, so I responded to it, and they approved me. It happened purely by chance. I skated in winter, and I hope I’ll be able to continue skating. In the summer, I decided to try myself in roller shows. I pondered over it for a while because after skating on ice, roller skating is something very unusual. But now I really enjoy it.
Was it challenging to transition from skates to rollerblades?
Ksenia Tsibinova: I wouldn’t say it was very difficult, but… When I put on rollerblades for the first time, I thought, “How do you even skate on these, how do you do anything?” The sensations are different because rollerblades are larger, and instead of a toe pick, they have a special rubber stopper, and you can adjust it. I was just going straight and thinking, “How do you turn, how do you do steps?” I would approach the guys who had been roller skating for a while and ask them to show me what and how to do. They told me that everything here is purely intuitive: you do things based on how you feel. I tried, attempted various three-turns, backward running steps. When I turned and went backward, I almost fell on my face. Then, when you try certain steps, you need to be careful because you can’t use the edge. If you do, you’ll immediately slip and fall. You have to be very careful with turns because the sensations are very different from ice skates. Sometimes, when you’re already in character, you can unconsciously do something as you would on ice skates, and you end up having a not very pleasant fall. And here, falling is also not as pleasant as on the ice. Falling is unpleasant in general, but on the ice, at least you slide a little, while here you just slam into the ground.
I gradually tried everything. On the first day, I decided to do a single axel – I don’t know, it was some crazy idea (laughs). I wanted to do it, but I really didn’t understand how, and I was scared. With an axel, you still jump a bit from the edge, so I needed to figure out how to do it properly, how to transition over that stopper, how to land without falling. But in the end, I did it, and everything went well. During rehearsal, I saw how the girls were spinning, so I decided to try that too, but I just couldn’t do it. You also need to be careful when entering the spin, because here everything goes through that stopper too. And you need to spin on that stopper and the front wheel – it centers in a circle. It’s all very challenging.
Have you had to adjust yourself for the shows? After all, in sports, skating is supposed to be more calm, serious, whereas here, you need emotions and acting…
Ksenia Tsibinova: Yes, everything is a bit different in shows. You don’t worry, you skate in a more relaxed state. You can’t help but show emotions, they come naturally during the fairy tale. I didn’t have to intentionally learn anything; it all just comes naturally.
Did the older colleagues give you any advice on performing in shows?
Ksenia Tsibinova: No. I asked the guys who have been skating for a while: “What’s it like?” They said, “You just go out there and have fun. That’s it.”
Do you manage to have fun?
Ksenia Tsibinova: I believe I do.
Did figure skating reveal a new side to you after participating in shows?
Ksenia Tsibinova: Not much, because in shows, we do the same things as in competitions, just in easier versions. Only the guys sometimes do elements that are prohibited in competitions, various tricks.
Are there any requirements for the show’s format? For example, jumping all triples?
Ksenia Tsibinova: It’s not necessary to jump all triples. When I skated in the winter show, I did a triple salchow and a double axel. In principle, you don’t need more than that. There are skaters who do lutz, flip, but there are no jump requirements. The main thing is to jump something, not necessarily something difficult. It’s based on desire.
You’ve already tried yourself in an ice fairy tale and in roller shows. Have you ever thought about trying cruise ship shows?
Ksenia Tsibinova: Honestly, I’m not very eager for cruise ship shows because they are long-term commitments. At the moment, I’m not ready to go abroad to perform on a ship. Of course, it’s cool; you get to travel everywhere. But I’m not ready to leave for such a long time just yet.
I saw that you’re currently looking for a partner for performing in shows. Why? Are pair skaters more in demand in shows?
Ksenia Tsibinova: Pair elements are more in demand in shows – they look more impressive. Only well-known single skaters perform, so I need a partner for further performances in shows.
What elements are required from pair skaters?
Ksenia Tsibinova: Mainly lifts, death spirals, and throws. No twists are performed; I would say the most important are the lifts.
What have you managed to learn in this short period of time in pair skating?
Ksenia Tsibinova: I’ve learned double throws – we haven’t reached triples yet. I’ve tried death spiral and basic lifts on the floor. Side by side spins – of course. And we learned pair spins. In general, that’s all I managed to learn. I haven’t done any complex lifts on the ice.
What are your overall impressions of pair skating?
Ksenia Tsibinova: At first, I was afraid; after all, lifts are high, and it’s scary. Then, when I started doing something, I began to enjoy it. And when it works out, it’s just fantastic! I liked throws the most, especially the loop.
Wow, I think throws are the scariest part.
Ksenia Tsibinova: I don’t know, I found it really cool. Of course, during the learning phase, I didn’t jump as high, but I still liked it.
You seem to be quite fearless.
Ksenia Tsibinova: I don’t know, I can’t say that. When we first tried lifts on the ice, I was like, “Well, good luck!” (laughs). Before attempting double throws, I was scared too; after all, you’re flying from a height, you need to figure out how to open up, and if you fall, how to regroup… It was still a bit scary, but then I got used to it. Now throws are really exciting for me.
You mentioned that you’re coaching. Where are you currently coaching?
Ksenia Tsibinova: Right now, I’m mostly coaching enthusiasts who watched figure skating and wanted to learn how to skate. There were more people during the winter: kids around 12-13 years old and adults. Now it’s summer, everyone has probably gone to their country houses, and there aren’t many people to coach. Currently, I’m working with an adult woman and a young girl. I haven’t coached professional athletes much, just a few little ones, around 3-4 times. It’s still difficult for me to find work.
So, you’re working for yourself right now?
Ksenia Tsibinova: Yes.
I saw on your “stories” from “Khrustalny”, I thought maybe they hired you there…
Ksenia Tsibinova: No, I just went there to skate. I used to train in Philip Tarasov’s group when I wanted to switch to pairs, and now they’ve moved to “Khrustalny”. I went there to skate, do a bit of jumping, and reminisce about the past.
What’s closer to your heart: being a coach or a choreographer?
Ksenia Tsibinova: Coaching. I don’t know, maybe a second wind will come to me, and I’ll start choreographing programs, but most likely, that won’t happen. Finding music is required, and I’m not very good at that; it has always been a challenge for me to find music for programs. Well, in general, choreographing programs isn’t really my thing. It requires a good imagination, and I’m not that great with that. I’d rather teach jumps, spins.
Are you still following figure skating? I know that for some, it’s difficult to watch competitions after their own careers are over…
Ksenia Tsibinova: I watch everything. Even when I had just finished, I watched everything, went to watch test skates. Then I would come home and think, “Darn, maybe I should come back after all?” That’s how it was for a long time. Then, when the Grand Prix stages were over, I became calmer. But when I watched the stages, I always thought, “Maybe I should try again? Well, just one more time…” But everything that’s done is done.
What do you miss the most?
Ksenia Tsibinova: Competitions. I enjoyed performing, especially at the Russian Nationals when there were a lot of spectators.
The previous season took place entirely within Russia, but there were many diverse tournaments with high prizes. Did you regret not experiencing all of that?
Ksenia Tsibinova: I would have liked to participate in the Channel One Cup. It turns out I finished, and about a year later this competition appeared. It would be cool to perform in it — it’s a team spirit, everyone supports each other. A show program tournament is also something unique, interesting. You can see skaters in costumes they’ve never worn in competitions. This tournament is completely open to imagination and fun routines. Overall, there aren’t many competitions left that I’d really want to participate in.
Which disciplines of figure skating do you follow the most?
Ksenia Tsibinova: I’ve always paid close attention to the women’s single skating. I also enjoy watching the men and pairs. I never really followed ice dancing, it’s not that interesting to me. It’s beautiful, but not my thing.
If we talk about this season, was there anyone who impressed you?
Ksenia Tsibinova: I watch everyone, but I don’t particularly single out anyone for myself. Now it’s interesting just to watch: who learned something new, who added something interesting.
I know that Ilia Malinin’s quadruple Axel left many in awe. Did that shock you too?
Ksenia Tsibinova: I understood that someone would do it at some point. But when I saw Ilia’s quadruple Axel, it was a shock for me. I still don’t understand how he does it, and it looks so effortless, from different entrances, and even from a spread eagle. A combination of quadruple axel – triple axel – triple axel — how does he do that?! He’s simply fantastic. If he manages to work on a second score now, it will be something extraordinary.
What do you think, will a quadruple axel ever appear in ladies’ skating?
Ksenia Tsibinova: I don’t know. Maybe someone will eventually jump it, but I don’t think it will be soon. Figure skating is still progressing, young skaters are growing up with a lot of quads. So, maybe someone will jump it. It will be interesting to see.
Do you not feel that now, after the Olympics in Beijing, women’s skating is starting to move away from the focus on jumps and value the second mark more?
Ksenia Tsibinova: I don’t know, many are still jumping quads. I think the top ten in Russia all have quads. Everyone tries to accumulate technical points, but in choreography, everyone is growing as well, no one is stopping. I think the race for jumps is still more prominent.
What do you think, is this good? Or is there still a lack of artistic components?
Ksenia Tsibinova: A tough question. Everyone is developing choreography, some are better at it, some are worse. But I think over time, we will find a balance: there will be difficult jumps, and beautiful choreography, skating skills. Everything will become a whole. At least, I hope so.
For you, is figure skating primarily a sport or an art?
Ksenia Tsibinova: It’s both a sport and an art. Figure skating includes jumps, spins, skating, choreography, and gliding. If a skater develops all these qualities, they create a “wow” effect.
Related topics: Ksenia Tsibinova