Kamila Valieva: “I try to look up to Tutberidze — be demanding of myself, dress beautifully, and look good.”
Interview with Kamila Valieva for 7 Days magazine.
source: 7days.ru dd. 4th January 2023 by Ekaterina Filimonova
Kamila Happy New Year! How did you celebrate the Year of the Rabbit?
Kamila Valieva: Thank you! At home, with my closest people—my mother and grandmother. We usually celebrate the New Year in Kazan, where my grandmother lives. Relatives gather around a large table; we communicate and laugh. New Year’s is a family holiday, and I don’t understand how it could be otherwise. But this time we stayed in Moscow because on December 31 I had a performance in an ice show. So grandma came to us! And the tradition of celebrating the New Year in the family circle has remained unchanged.
Do you allow yourself to eat any of the “forbidden” foods on a holiday?
Kamila Valieva: Of course! True, then you have to work hard in the gym. But I will gladly eat Olivier salad.
The past year has been very eventful. And, of course, I congratulate you on a successful performance at the Russian Grand Prix 2022 and a brilliant victory at the Russian Jumping Championship! Flawless quadruple jumps!
Kamila Valieva: Thank you. It’s nice to win, of course. And it is joyful that it turned out to surprise someone, to please someone.
What does it mean for you to win the first Russian jumping championships in figure skating history?
Kamila Valieva: It’s prestigious, of course.
In January 2023, the Channel One Cup will take place. What is your attitude?
Kamila Valieva: So, what can an athlete’s attitude be? The joy of meeting fans, spectators, and other skaters. The Channel One Cup is a true celebration of figure skating, with a competitive yet friendly atmosphere.
Are international competitions and domestic events very different?
Kamila Valieva: Competitions are always competitions. Excitement and nerves are present at any competition. But the measure of responsibility is different. At international competitions, you represent not just yourself but the country.
Russian skaters are now banned from participating in international competitions. How do athletes motivate themselves?
Kamila Valieva: Of course, it’s embarrassing. But we don’t need to additionally motivate ourselves because almost all the strongest skaters in women’s single skating compete in Russia. We have a lot of competitions and a serious, and sometimes even desperate, battle.
Is it true that the most important thing for an athlete is participation in the Olympic Games? What are your memories of the Olympics?
Kamila Valieva: Yes, it is generally believed that the Olympics are the main competition in the life of an athlete. The Olympic Games in China were held under severe covid restrictions, so, unfortunately, we were not able to feel the special atmosphere of unity between athletes of different nationalities and sports that they talk about. But we certainly experienced joy, pride, and responsibility. And since we were in the Olympic Village for a long time, there was an opportunity to talk and make friends with other skaters from our team, for example, with Zhenya Semenenko, Andrei Mozalev. After all, we live in different cities, and there is no time to communicate at competitions because the process is too fleeting there.
During the Olympics, a lot of attention was drawn to you. Did it interfere?
Kamila Valieva: You know, attention can be very different. For me, the Olympics were divided into two parts: team event and individual competitions. When we competed as a team, it was very exciting because for most of us, this was the first Olympic Games. The support of the spectators at the rink and at the TV screens helped a lot. And, of course, in individual competitions, attention was of a completely different nature, which interfered and knocked down.
What is your training schedule like when you are preparing for serious competitions?
Kamila Valieva: My training schedule is unchanged, it does not depend on the preparation for competitions. And, in principle, all my days are similar if there are no other things to do except train and study. I usually wake up at 7:30. From 8:00 to 9:00 a.m.: online classes with teachers from the school. Then I have breakfast, and by ten in the morning I go to the morning workout: choreography, ice, stretching, and special physical training. After: I return home, have lunch, rest, and study with teachers online again. By 4 pm, I go to the second training session. There I have a warm-up, ice, jazz, cross-running, and stretching. And after that, I’m free!
Is it hard to keep fit?
Kamila Valieva: Of course it’s difficult! Try to train six days a week, and don’t let yourself get lazy! And so many years in a row. Of course, you also have to limit your food intake, and this is perhaps the most difficult thing. After all, you always want something delicious.
Tell us how the last minutes pass before going on the ice in competitions. How do you set yourself up?
Kamila Valieva: Like all other athletes, I warm up, put my thoughts in order, and try not to watch the performances of my rivals, but to focus on my program.
What words of encouragement does the coach usually say?
Kamila Valieva: People often ask about the coach’s encouragement words, and I always answer that this is very personal and I’m not ready to share it.
And who chooses your costumes?
Kamila Valieva: They are not chosen but created for each program. The costume itself and its color should correspond to the music and help the athlete convey an image to the audience. And there are many participants in this process: coaches, costume designers for figure skating, seamstresses. My opinion counts too. (Smiling.)
How do you usually recover after big competitions?
Kamila Valieva: It happens differently. Sometimes I prefer to immediately go to training, and sometimes I take one day off. But I always consult with my coaches on this issue.
And I just wanted to ask whose advice helps you in life ……
Kamila Valieva: I always listen to the advice of those whom I respect. But since my mother and coaches are almost always next to me, they have more opportunities to give me advice.
Your mother is always by your side, both during training and during competitions. Is she not afraid to look at your jumps?
Kamila Valieva: My mom is always very supportive. Of course, she is afraid to look at the jumps. But she has to hide her fear, because it is important for me to have her on the stands. I want to skate not only for spectators, judges, and coaches but also for her.
I wonder if athletes have days off?
Kamila Valieva: I have one day off a week. I really want to spend this day just lying under a warm, soft blanket, drinking delicious tea, listening to music, or watching an interesting movie. But, whereas I could previously afford such a “lazy day,” now I do what I don’t have time for during the week: study, visit doctors, and attend various events.
But do you have at least the New Year’s holidays to be lazy?
Kamila Valieva: On New Year’s Eve, I have only three days off, from December 31 to January 2. And on January 3, I should already be in training.
Is there any time left for friends?
Kamila Valieva: Yes! I try to organize the day off in such a way as to have time for everything!
Is it important to win in sports? Or the main thing is not victory, but participation?
Kamila Valieva: Any athlete who participates in competitions sets themselves the goal of winning: over rivals, over their own fears and insecurities, over difficulties, over circumstances, over sores.
Kamila, tell us, how did you get into sports?
Kamila Valieva: It seems to me that my mother immediately realized that I would be an athlete. She saw it in me and was not mistaken. I have been doing choreography since the age of three. My mother decided to enroll me in rhythmic gymnastics when I was three and a half years old, but she was told over the phone that children under the age of five are not accepted. Then my mother brought me to the skating rink, and they said that they would take me on the condition that I would listen to the coach and not chew on the ice. (Smiles.) The first day I fell, got up, cried, and the next day I had a fever. As a child, I was prone to colds, so it was decided that I should take up figure skating for at least a year in order to get healthier.
But then you did rhythmic gymnastics, right?
Kamila Valieva: Yes, I started doing gymnastics a year later and also went to a ballet school. After some time, other activities had to be abandoned for the sake of figure skating. I chose ice for two reasons: I really liked the spins and my coach, Ksenia Ivanova, who taught us new elements. It seems to me that it was she who saw my abilities.
You started your path in figure skating in Kazan. When did you move to Moscow?
Kamila Valieva: At the age of six. I began training with Marina Kudryavtseva at the Moscow ice rink. Then I trained with Igor Lyutikov, Natalia Dubinskaya, and Stanislav Kovalev. By the way, I started jumping triples training with Natalia Dubinskaya. And then I switched to Eteri Tutberidze.
Why did you decide to switch?
Kamila Valieva: If Tutberidze had not taken me into her group, I would have left figure skating. I did not have a very successful season, and there were doubts about the prospects. I thought that maybe it would be better to do dancing, like ballet. But my mother and I talked and decided to go to a tryout for Eteri Tutberidze’s group. We knew that Eteri Georgievna could teach something new. In addition, girls jump quads there. Perhaps this was also a decisive factor. I remember my first workout very well: everyone jumped endlessly without getting tired, and my strength ran out by the middle of the workout, but I had to grit my teeth and work to the end.
What do you think is the secret of Eteri Tutberidze?
Kamila Valieva: Firstly, that she is madly in love with figure skating and is able to work 20 hours a day, seven days a week. Secondly, she knows how to see all the positive qualities of an athlete and develop them. She is very demanding; she can scold, but she can also praise when necessary. She can say some words if she sees that you are a little unfocused. She is also tall and beautiful. I try to look up to her—be demanding of myself, dress beautifully, and look good.
I heard that Tutberidze very rarely praises his skaters …
Kamila Valieva: Yes, rarely. Eteri Georgievna only praises when there is something to praise. Of course, I want to be praised more often. But I know what is needed for this: to try very hard in training. And I try.
Can you remember your first competition?
Kamila Valieva: The very first competitions were at the age of four. I remember we were given some kind of step sequence. I took third place there because I was skating in a spiral and lifted my leg so high that I went headfirst. At the award ceremony, we were put in a line and told to stand and wait. And it’s cold on the ice, and we were freezing and waiting for when they would award us.
Have you ever regretted that you chose figure skating and not rhythmic gymnastics or ballet?
Kamila Valieva: I think if I had chosen rhythmic gymnastics at one time, I would just be doing it now. And ballet… Before you go on stage, you need to work hard. And if you are engaged in figure skating, you can participate in competitions just in a year. But I always wanted to dance, and in a variety of styles.
Athletes are said to have almost no childhood because they train all the time…
Kamila Valieva: I had a wonderful childhood. It is quite the same as what ordinary children have: studying at school and doing what you love. Only when I came to Eteri Tutberidze’s group did I realize that figure skating is not just a hobby, it means a lot in my life. I’m used to daily training, and when I don’t go on the ice for at least a couple of days, I start to miss the loads. I have been to many countries and cities at competitions and met interesting people. At times it seems that my life is much richer than that of my peers.
Tell me, would you give your child to a big sport?
Kamila Valieva: I would definitely engage my child in sports. And if it works out, then you can already think about big sports.
What did you spend your first salary on?
Kamila Valieva: I haven’t spent it yet.
Saving up for something big?
Kamila Valieva: Yes, I save. There is no specific goal yet. There are dreams, but I have not yet spent my money on their implementation. I hope that in the future I will be able to help my mother.
Do you think about what will happen after figure skating?
Kamila Valieva: After figure skating, there will be no less interesting and eventful life. And, probably connected with figure skating too. There is still quite a lot of time ahead, but I think that after school I will enter the Institute of Physical Education. Coaching is a good job. And if I can connect my interest in psychology with sports, then I can try to become a sports psychologist.
Which figure skater was and still is your idol?
Kamila Valieva: The very first idol for me was Yulia Lipnitskaya. I remember watching her performance at the Sochi Olympics and dreaming that I would also get to the Olympics. When I already worked in the group of Eteri Tutberidze, I watched the performances of Alina Zagitova and tried to look up to her.
What has figure skating taught you?
Kamila Valieva: To feel beautiful on and off the ice. Figure skating, like any other sport, teaches you to win and lose, to overcome difficulties, and to be open to a huge number of people. Sport builds character. Much of what is formed in me thanks to figure skating helps in everyday life.
And how do you feel about negativity, about publications where you are criticized?
Kamila Valieva: I don’t have time to read everything that is written about me. And if there is something important and interesting, then my mother will definitely let me read it. Of course, I sometimes see negative comments. But I try not to take it to heart. If criticism is constructive and rational, then I’m ready to think about it. But I keep in mind that everyone has their own opinion and the right to express it. And, of course, I recognize that I cannot please everyone.
How do you perceive your popularity? Does it interfere with life?
Kamila Valieva: I take it easy. Popularity doesn’t interfere. Success does not affect how I perceive or see myself. I try to be humble and polite.
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