Jonathan Guerreiro: “Being the best among the best is cooler than being the first without competitors.”
Interview with Jonathan Guerreiro about past season, Channel One Cup, Kamila Valieva, his family and relationships with ex-partner.
source: matchtv.ru dd. 19th June 2021 by Marina Tchernycheva-Melnik
How would you assess your and Tiffany’s results in the past season?
Jonathan Guerreiro: In general, the season is wonderful. The turning point was – the stage of the Russian Cup in Sochi. We skated well, but not brightly, with some roughness we felt tension. We saw a lot of gaps in the program, and this encouraged us to improve till the Rostelecom Cup. At the home Grand Prix there were so many emotions after a short dance – when you realize that you did everything on maximum! The same feeling was at the Russian Nationals when we finished our free dance. Moreover, we thought: what if we are performing for the last time this season? The European Championship was canceled by that time, there was a danger that the same would happen with Worlds. Yes, the past year was uncertain for the entire planet, but it helped Tiffany and me to learn to show our maximum from competitions to competitions in any situation. This is a very useful skill ahead of the Olympic season.
What are your impressions of the Channel One Cup?
Jonathan Guerreiro: Everything went on a huge positive: we supported each other, inspired. Special thanks to our rhymer Dima Aliev for his poetic ideas! (Smiles.) We had a light atmosphere in the team. Even Zhenya Tarasova and Vova Morozov – always very serious – appeared in a different light. It was interesting to see Alina Zagitova in a new role, with whom we have been friends since the Olympic season. She really rallied the team. We all seem to know each other, I have been in the national team for a long time, but at the Channel One Cup I talked to some guys for the first time. For example, I didn’t know Andrei Mozalev. And here we were united by a common idea. I think Alina was helped not only by her sporting character, but also by her father’s coaching experience. He clearly gave her advice from his hockey work. In general, I am glad that the Cup has attracted a wave of attention to our sport. I even heard from many people far from figure skating that they started to follow our sport after this event. Hopefully this event will be held again.
In what elements can dancers compete by analogy with the singles jumping competitions to make the viewer interesting?
Jonathan Guerreiro: We – dancers of both teams – discussed this moment. We came to the conclusion that twizzles would work the best. There are too many criteria and nuances in lifts and spins, it is more difficult to asses them.
I liked very much your wording about Kamila Valieva: “the power of a small body”. Having skated with this girl in the same team, have you solved the secret: where does this power come from?
Jonathan Guerreiro: I am mesmerized by Kamila, especially after we performed together at the Tutberidze’s show. This is a God-kissed person who is incredibly charming in life. The feeling that Kamila is not skating to the music, but writing this music with her movements. Also what a jumps! She has everything she needs to win.
You were born and spent almost half your life in Australia. Tell us about this exotic country – under the sun, by the ocean.
Jonathan Guerreiro: I had a very orderly sort of life. Almost every day I swam in the pool in the morning, played football in the park. Australia has a very positive atmosphere. The climate and ecology are conducive to a good mood all year round. I am happy that my childhood was spent there.
How are things going with figure skating in Australia?
Jonathan Guerreiro: In my time it was an unrecognized type of activity, exotic. When I told my classmates or anyone else that I was a skater, they asked: “This is where they jump in shiny skirts?” Out of the entire school, I was the only one who went to the rink. Although I did it serious: ice training, gym twice a week. There are very few skating rinks in Australia. I remember even the national championship was held in a shopping mall. Six rows, and spectators from among the friends-relatives of the participants who came to support them. And people from McDonald’s peeped out. Probably, now everything has changed. I know that in Australia there is financial support for skaters, sponsors. Tiffany and I, by the way, were offered to represent this country. In addition to money, this would give a guaranteed selection for the Grand Prix and Four Continents, a high chance of participating in the Olympics. But I had a principled position: Russia gave me so much. Plus, there is internal competition, which is constantly stimulating. Being the best among the best is cooler than being the first without competitors.
How did you meet your current coaches at age 13?
Jonathan Guerreiro: My mother and I (Soviet figure skater, now coach Svetlana Lyapina. – ed) and my partner Rachel came to the training camp to Svetlana Alekseeva. Mom once trained with Svetlana Lvovna and wanted her to help usto better prepare for the Australian Championship. I really liked the atmosphere in the group, the attitude towards athletes, how they love figure skating in Russia. We also progressed because of strong guys from the group. I remember Katya Bobrova and Dima Soloviev skated like gods. And we had no one at home to reach for, which is very important at a young age. That training camp was a turning point in my career.
How did your family decide to radically change their lives – to leave faraway Australia for Russia?
Jonathan Guerreiro: We used to come to my mother’s homeland, to her parents every year. And we spent two months here. Sometimes in summer, sometimes in winter. I liked everything very much, and after returning to Sydney I often asked when we would go to Moscow again? And when I was 13, my parents realized: if I want to enter the elite of figure skating, I have to train in a big sports country. My parents did not want to break up the family, so they all emigrated together: with my two brothers, grandparents. For the first three years, dad had to travel back and forth frequently to renew his Russian visa. And then he received a residence permit, and everything stabilized. The family sacrificed a lot for my chance in sports, for which I am very grateful to my parents and brothers. I always remember this in moments of laziness and weakness.
Do you often visit your homeland?
Jonathan Guerreiro: Alas, in all the years after my departure, I have been to Australia once – at the funeral of my grandmother (on my father’s side). Parents took their junior pair to a competitions in Sydney a couple of years ago. I’m also interested in going, to see how life has changed there over the past years. But I can’t say that I really miss the place where I was born. My home has long been Russia.
How did your duet with Ekaterina Ryazanova appeared in 2006?
Jonathan Guerreiro: We both skated in the group of Svetlana Lvovna with other partners. The coach decided that Katya and I were more suitable for each other, and put us in a pair. Katya at that time was stronger and more experienced, because she had been training in a strong group for a long time, and she helped me a lot in terms of skills. Our career turned out to be short-lived, but productive. A couple of months after the start of work, we performed well at the test skates, got the spots at the Grand Prix, and took 5th place at the Russian Junior Championships. And after a couple of seasons – victories at the Grand Prix and Junior Nationals, bronze of the Grand Prix Final and the World Junior Championships.
Your partnership ended long ago, but you have maintained a warm friendship.
Jonathan Guerreiro: Katya and I are very similar. Do you believe in horoscopes? We are almost complete peers (I’m only three days older than Katya). We understand each other perfectly, we have passed the transitional age together – just the time of the formation of the personality. When we trained for a year in America with Anjelica Krylova, Katya skated with Ilia Tkachenko, and I was with Katya Pushkash. But the partners had their own lives, and we spent a lot of time together. As a result, everyone has a wonderful life path and we have been good friends for a long time.
When the Ryazanova-Tkachenko duet broke up in 2014 and you had uncertainty before Tiffany, you tried to resume working together, right?
Jonathan Guerreiro: Yes, at that moment the situation was calling for it. Everyone around us were saying that we were a great couple, so we gave it a try. But we realized that, firstly, over the past years, our technique has changed. Still, we had different coaches. Secondly, we no longer fit each other anthropometrically – because of our height. There were other factors that prevented us from skating together again. And with Tiffany, everything worked out perfectly for me.
Ten years ago, you and Ekaterina Pushkash trained with Natalia Linichuk and Gennady Karponosov. Tell us about that page of your life.
Jonathan Guerreiro: Natalya Vladimirovna will forever remain in my soul as one of the best teachers: she always inspires creativity, able to reveal you as a person (both in life and in sports), she did wonderful programs. They generally had an interesting coaching duo: Gennady Mikhailovich – strict, in charge of finances, schedule and logistics. And Natalya Vladimirovna treated us like relatives. Asked all the time if we needed help with something. I remember I broke my leg and she got some magic ointments from a healer from Lake Baikal. She often picked us up, brought food when I could not walk. On weekends, she sometimes came or called and asked how we were doing. An amazing woman! She has already done so much in sports, trained, but continued to raise students, instilled in us a love for her work.
There is an unspoken queue in ice dancing, and you and Tiffany are no longer young by sporting standards. How do you manage to have patience?
Jonathan Guerreiro: I would not say that we are veterans: it’s only our fifth joint season since Tiffany was allowed to skate for Russia. There is definitely no professional burnout yet, because the number of programs can be counted on one hand. I believe burnout occurs when a person has no progress. And we have constant development. And in general, the main thing is how the body feels and how you look at life. Someone believes that one has to complete a lot of tasks by the age of thirty, while others are sure that everything will come when it is supposed to. I have a philosophical outlook on life.
You went to the Olympics in Korea in the status of the second pair, no medal expectations were put on you. So you were just enjoying the atmosphere?
Jonathan Guerreiro: Many famous athletes of the past said in the press “why send them there?” they don’t claim for anything. But we set goals and defended the honor of the country. There was no fatigue during the performance, although usually you, on the contrary, give a lot of energy. But in Pyeongchang everything went against the law of nature: we skated, exhaled and were not tired at all. We could skate one more time with the same drive, really! It also turned out so beautifully: in the final pose, we raise our heads and see the Olympic rings. We still remember this moment.
How did you overcome the 2018-19 season, when, after two Grand Prix podiums, you did not make it to the prize-winners at the Russian Nationals and, accordingly, lost your tickets to the main competitions?
Jonathan Guerreiro: It was a difficult time, a turning point. If it weren’t for our mutually respectful relationship with Tiffany, we would not have withstand. Usually, after a joint failure, people shift the responsibility onto each other, but not we. I blamed my laces, Tiffany replied: “No, I failed the twizzles and I was not myself at all.” I say, “You failed the twizzles because you were upset about my laces.” So we fought for a long time and convinced each other that it was he who was to blame (smiles). Then the coaches and parents reassured us: nothing is lost, there will be Russian Cup final. For it, we reworked the dance and gave the best performance of the season, as a result, we stayed in the national team.
But in the next season, on the contrary, there were no medals in the first half, and at the National Championships you regained your elite status.
Jonathan Guerreiro: Yes, the blows of life were beneficial. After failures at the Grand Prix, we were preparing for the Nationals on sports anger, it helped. And before the last season, the pandemic turned out to be on hand: we calmly healed old injuries, rethought and reset a lot, prepared and entered the battle with renewed vigor.
How did you come up with the idea to do a dance to the song “Survivor”?
Jonathan Guerreiro: This is the idea of choreographer Christopher Dean: he liked the song because its energy. Plus, after a difficult season, when we did overcome ourselves, the images of “surviving” people were appropriate. Dean proceeded from the fact that he saw the essence of me and Tiffany: energy, the development of music on complex steps, the lines are somewhere dynamic, somewhere ornate. Everything that we can do good helped to show it.
How is your preparation for the Olympic season going?
Jonathan Guerreiro: Let’s say first about the vacation – we really needed it after a difficult year. I flew to Egypt, swam with corals and fish, got a lot of emotions. Tiffany stayed in Moscow: she walked with friends, went to parks, traveled the whole city on a scooter. Plus, it was important for her to heal old micro-injuries in order to avoid this at the height of the season. We rested a week longer than usual, and on the last days of our vacation, both of us suddenly realized that we were eager to return to the ice. And it’s cool that inspiration came! Now we are slowly getting involved in the work process: the rhythmic dance is almost ready.
Tell us about the new position in the Russian Olympic Committee, which you took a few months ago.
Jonathan Guerreiro: I am a member of the public commission under the ROC – a representative of the Olympic movement from Russia. There are generally all athletes – both active and retired. For the third month now I have been participating in forums and meetings, making presentations, suggesting the development of educational programs and social projects to help athletes. For example, we recently discussed anti-covid measures at the upcoming Olympics in Tokyo and the outfit of the national team’s athletes at the Beijing Olympics. We will also soon be hosting live broadcasts with famous athletes on the ROC website ahead of the Games. In general, we raise relevant issues, we try to be a mediator, bringing the voice of athletes to the leadership. These values are close to me, so I work with interest and manage to combine everything with training.
Related topics: Tiffany Zahorski Jonathan Guerreiro