Kamila Valieva: “I want Eteri Tutberidze to always have an opportunity to praise me”
Interview with Kamila Valieva who have recently become PUMA ambassador. About about childhood at the rink, favorite programs and quadruple jumps.
Kamila Valieva: I started skating when I was 3.5 years old.
At first, my mother called the rhythmic gymnastics section, but for this sport I was too small. It was easier to start doing figure skating – it was enough to promise try hard in training and not to eat the ice.
After a year, I also started doing gymnastics. And in addition went to a ballet school. True, I had to gradually abandon all this for the sake of figure skating, but I that’s where I got my stretching. I chose ice for two reasons: I really liked the spins and my coach Ksenia Semyonovna Ivanova, who taught us new elements.
The first practice at the rink was a real challenge: I was constantly falling, getting up, falling again – and in the evening I had fever. Even from my debut competition, I only remember that I was very cold while I was waiting for the award ceremony.
But I remember very well a trip to Moscow with my first real program to “Valenki”. For the victory, I was awarded a huge cup – half my height – and it seems that then I realized that I like to compete.
Once Eteri Georgievna admitted that she loves skaters who are close to despair. I can’t say that three years ago I was completely disappointed in sports, but I wanted to challenge myself. And try-out in “Khrustalny” was the very challenge: am I worth something or it’s time for me to try something different.
Turned out that I do. I was glad that Eteri Georgievna believed in me and took me to her group.
At that moment, I did not think that I would be age eligible for the Olympics, I did not think about them at all. It’s one thing to dream about the Olympics, but go to it purposefully is a completely different story.
Formally, I did not have a probationary period at Khrustalny, but the first months turned out difficult: I did not immediately get used to the new pace of work.
In training, injuries sometimes happened. The first one – a fracture of the little finger on my hand – I got not even on the ice, but in the gym during general physical training. I continued to go to training anyway, but I had to do the exercises in a cast.
Perhaps it helped me at the age of 13 when I broke my leg before the Junior Grand Prix Final. Every day I woke up with one desire: to recover as soon as possible. As it turned out, after the injury it was difficult rather morally then physically – it was necessary to constantly overcome pain and fear of the elements.
I did not withdraw from the competitions, but the jump content had to be simplified, we had to refuse from ultra-C. I risked losing to Alysa Liu, who planned two quadruple lutz and triple axels in the free program, but there was no other way out.
At this event, I took gold, but I understood that it is impossible to win every time without quadruple jumps. Too much depends not on you, but on the shape and elements of your rivals.
In our group, no one ever tempts to skate a simplified content.
I studied the first quadruple for a long time, and jumped it on my birthday – April 26, 2019. I don’t know whether it’s possible to keep multi-turn jumps after coming of age; I’ll tell you when I turn 18 myself.
I don’t count how many quads I do in one workout. It’s not always the same. There is no upper or lower limit: the coaches tell when to move to the next element. You need to do a lot of things besides jumps: work on the spins, step sequences and the programs themselves. The skater’s day is very long: warm-up, two ice trainings, choreography, rest, jazz classes, sometimes massage.
But of course figure skating is not only jumps. Working on the new programs is a lot of creative work and inspiration. You need to reveal the image with the help of choreography, your own artistry, costume, make-up, hairstyle, and at the same time, skate the technical part clean.
I liked my children’s program to Saint-Saens: it was choreographed by the coach Igor Alexandrovich Lyutikov. He turned on the music and asked me to skate and improvise – the most successful finds became part of the choreography.
I think every program has its own time. I can imagine myself skating to the Russian folk composition, and to the ballet classics, and to something modern. I like trying different styles, but the choice of music and program is up to the coaches. I am growing up, changing, and they know better what is right for me at the moment.
Sometimes a successful program needs to be skated for two seasons. It is not as difficult as it might seem: musicians, dancers, actors also have to play the same parts or roles for a long time. This is part of the profession. It is even more difficult to part with old programs and, if possible, I try to skate them at the exhibitions.
I will skate to “Bolero” for the second season in a row, but all last year it was updated a little bit: we improved the costume, rearranged the jumps. We also changed something in the offseason. Constant improvements do not distract – I treat this as a creative process.
I have idols in figure skating and, perhaps, more than one, but I want to be myself. Of course, I love to watch other skaters’ programs, especially if they skate to the same music as me.
When the coaches decided that I would skate to Bolero, I found a video with performances by Carolina Kostner, Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, Jane Torvill and Christopher Dean, Tatiana Navka and Roman Kostomarov, Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov. I also watched ballet performances with the participation of the best dancers in the world – Maya Plisetskaya, Diana Vishneva, Sylvie Guillem.
Skaters often say that they want to be like Carolina. I also like her very much, but the coaches and I tried to come up with our own program.
I know that the introduction of artistic and technical programs is discussed sometimes in figure skating. If this appears, I would like to compete in both: I feel my strength in both.
Figure skating is a multilevel art, so to speak. You are an athlete, a dancer, an artist, a model, a bit of a musician, even your own makeup artist and stylist. A very versatile sport. A kind of “sports theater”.
I love to compete. The most valuable medal is the silver at the Russian Nationals, the first in my career. It was a crazy and very beautiful fight!
And the hardest performance last season was the free skate with two quadruple toe loops, a salchow and a triple axel at the Russian Cup Final. Hopefully next time this kind of content will be a little easier for me.
I remember well the words of Eteri Georgievna after the free program at the fifth stage of the Russian Cup: “You don’t leave me an opportunity to praise you”. It inspired me very much then: I want her, Daniil Markovich and Sergey Viktorovich to always have such an opportunity. This is happiness for me.
I can’t say that because of the sport I had to grow up earlier than usual. In April I turned 15 years old – and I feel like 15. Like everyone else, I study at school: now it is easier to combine lessons with training, because anywhere in the world, even during competitions, you can study online.
I really like to dance. I also love movement and speed: from electric scooter to kart. I love the feeling when you come to a new city (even for one day), rent a bicycle and drive along unfamiliar streets. When we was working on The Girl on the Ball, I fell in love with museums: I came to Pushkin museum and looked at the painting for a long time in order to understand the artistic image better.
I am sure there is friendship in sports: many skaters are in good relations. I communicate with our guys: I didn’t have time to make friends with foreigners, because I had only four international competitions.
Between workouts, I lead an Instagram page. Sometimes I read the comments – it’s great to see the words of support and likes from the fans. Thanks to them for that!
I am pleased that PUMA has chosen me as its ambassador – and now I am in the same company with Alina Zagitova, Dua Lipa, Cara Delevingne, Antoine Griezmann, Usain Bolt and Lewis Hamilton. The European Football Championship has recently ended, and the Italian national team won wearing PUMA.
Is it easier to skate at the Olympics when you are 15 years old? I don’t know – I didn’t have such experience. In general, I don’t really like the fact that in the eyes of some I have already qualified for the Games. It will be a serious fight for getting to the Olympics. There are many competitions ahead: stages of the Grand Prix and the Russian Nationals. There is a lot of work ahead to earn a place in the national team.
What is figure skating? This is my life.
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