Kamila Valieva: “Initially, I didn’t even know if I would continue my career or not. But my coach encouraged me. If we’re allowed to compete internationally I’m ready for another Olympics.”
Interview with Kamila Valieva. About her path in figure skating and things that helped her to achieve success.
source: sport.business-gazeta.ru dd. 26th April 2023 by Artur Valeev
Interview was taken before the Tutberidze’s show in Kazan where Kamila is from.
In Kazan, we have a great opportunity to reflect on your path in figure skating, especially since you started your training here. Can you remember how you initially got involved in sports?
Kamila Valieva: I was three and a half years old, and I used to get sick frequently. My mom wanted to enroll me in sports. Initially, they tried to sign me up for rhythmic gymnastics, but they said I was too little for it. Then we approached the figure skating section, where they also said I was little, but if I didn’t “eat” the ice, I could participate. After my first training session on the ice, I got sick again, but my mom didn’t let that stop me and took me back to figure skating. Later on, I started combining it with other activities like ballet, dancing, and even gymnastics.
How did you end up focusing on figure skating?
Kamila Valieva: When we moved to Moscow, my mom asked me what I wanted to do the most. I answered figure skating. We started training at the “Moskvich” school and later moved to Tutberidze’s group.
Could you have imagined during your time in Kazan that you would reach the level you’re at now?
Kamila Valieva: No. I was definitely striving for it, but it would have been difficult to imagine. It’s strange to think about it now, but back then, winning the Russian Championship among kids seemed incredibly challenging to me. I didn’t think about World Championships or Olympic medals, except for singing a song in kindergarten about wanting to become an Olympic champion. After our first competition, we were given a disc with a video of the award ceremony, accompanied by the song ‘I want to become an Olympic champion.’ I used to walk around humming that song all the time.
What helped you reach the top? How do you explain it to yourself?
Kamila Valieva: It was a combination of favorable circumstances. I had a very strong coaching staff. I got a foundation in both Kazan and at Moskvich, but the real work began for me with Eteri Georgievna. Before that, you could say I was just skating for fun. If things didn’t work out, it wasn’t a big deal; I would try again next time. But here, it became daily work. Also, of course, I wouldn’t have achieved anything without my mother’s support. She guided me at every stage of my career, took me to training sessions, and insisted on additional physical training. During childhood, when there’s rapid growth, muscles weaken. At my mom’s insistence, I did various exercises to strengthen them.
What role do you attribute to talent in your success?
Kamila Valieva: I wouldn’t push talent completely to the background. It’s also necessary. At this level, everyone gives their all and shows their maximum. Talent is what allows you to stand out among the rest. On the other hand, you can be talented but lazy, and then you won’t achieve anything. You need to know how to work, develop, and train.
How do you maintain this hard working quality after achieving significant success?
Kamila Valieva: Irina Usmanova said the right words, and Eteri Georgievna often quotes them. You can consider yourself a winner only when you’re standing on the podium. Once you step down, you’re no longer a winner. You have to prove yourself again, show that you’re still deserving of all the awards you’ve earned. People who have won many titles are expected to achieve new victories. If you understand this, you won’t relax or lower your standards.
Does the competition within your group, with skaters like Akatieva, Petrosyan, and others, motivate you? When you see them challenging themselves and making their programs more difficult, does it push you forward?
Kamila Valieva: It’s rather inspiring. I’ve skated not only with Sonya and Adelina but also with Alina, Sasha Trusova, and Alena Kostornaia. When you don’t have much experience of your own, you look at experienced skaters and try to emulate them. But now I have enough experience of my own not to do that. After the Olympic season, I know what I need to achieve results. However, I still rejoice in the successes of our girls. When they push themselves, conquer new heights, and move forward, it inspires me.
In the Olympic season, you could be called the best figure skater on the planet. No one had such a combination of artistry and technique — it seemed where else could you improve? But is there something you’ve improved upon this year?
Kamila Valieva: Physically, I must admit, I’ve decreased. I didn’t show the same level I had in the Olympic season. Currently, I’m actively working to restore that. But where I’ve improved is in my psychology. Now I’m more relaxed about mistakes. I understand that results are not achieved without mistakes.
Did the Olympics and the stress you experienced there toughen you up in that sense?
Kamila Valieva: You could say so. The Olympics put many things in its places for me. In Beijing, there was some kind of chaos happening for me. It was impossible to understand what I was doing right and what I wasn’t. But afterward, I analyzed the entire situation and understood the mistakes I made back then. I was 15 at the time, and soon I’ll be turning 17. My perspective on everything that happened has changed significantly.
Is the Olympics still a sore spot or is it a closed chapter for you?
Kamila Valieva: It’s been almost a year and a half since the Olympics ended. There’s less time remaining until the next Olympics. So for me, it’s a closed chapter. Yes, the first six months were very painful for me. But time passes, and time heals. I’ve come to accept it as a fact and not dwell on it, but rather continue my path in figure skating.
Since you mentioned the 2026 Olympics, I have to ask. If our country is reinstated in the international movement, would you be ready for another Olympic Games?
Kamila Valieva: If everything you said happens, then yes. But I don’t like to make predictions. When you loudly proclaim something, it usually doesn’t come true. Right now, I just want to showcase my skating and continue performing.
Perhaps that’s why you had such a consistent season? After the Olympics, there was a sense of unfinished business, a feeling that you hadn’t yet had your say.
Kamila Valieva: Initially, I didn’t even know if I would continue my career or not. But my coach encouraged me. I found strength within myself. Now, emotionally, it’s much easier for me than at the beginning of the season.
How would you assess this season overall? You didn’t have any international competitions, but you participated in several Russian competitions. Did you feel a difference?
Kamila Valieva: Not really, because in women’s single skating in Russia, there are fewer problems with competition. We have very strong girls — those who have just emerged and those who continue to skate. It’s also necessary to understand where there was more competition: at the European and World Championships or here in Russia. There, skaters score around 220- 230 points, while here it’s around 240.
There’s a feeling that this year you’ve become more open. You’ve been participating in shows, appearing more frequently, giving more interviews. Is it a conscious choice?
Kamila Valieva: Life doesn’t end on figure skating, so I want to continue developing myself. The post-Olympic season is not as busy as the Olympic season, so I have some free time. However, I should note that we try to schedule all the shootings, interviews, and clips on weekends without compromising training. I will never choose filming over training. It’s still important for me to keep myself in the best shape.
There has been increased attention on you for several years now. How do you cope with it?
Kamila Valieva: I understand that there’s no escaping from it. I also have my idols, and sometimes I want to meet them, take a photo, and get an autograph. It’s a normal human desire. So if I have the opportunity, I never refuse fan requests. These are people who genuinely love you. Of course, there are moments when you get tired of the attention and want to hide, be alone. But I try to handle it reasonably.
Tutberidze’s show has big plans this year. Where will you fly after Kazan?
Kamila Valieva: We’ll go to Ufa and then to Astana. We have a demanding schedule, and there’s some fatigue from all the traveling, but we understand that not everyone has the opportunity to see our performances live at competitions. Some people will only see it at the show. I’m very pleased that wherever we go we are warmly welcomed. Bringing joy to the audience is one of our main motivations during our performances.
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