Elena Vaitsekhovskaya’s interview with Ksenia Stolbova.
In December, you and your partner became second at the Russian Nationals, qualified for the main competitions, won silver at European Championships. At what point did everything go wrong? When did you learn that you will not be able to go to the Olympic Games?
– Games are a separate topic. But even before it became known that I wasn’t invited to Pyeongchang, I realized that I wasn’t inspired at all by this Olympic run-an, such an atmosphere was from the very beginning of the season.
However, you were expected at the World Championships in Milan. Did you really miss this competition because of an injury or was it just an excuse?
– There was injury and a difficult one. It happened on the 18th or 19th of February, I dono’t remember exactly. I twice twisted my leg during the execution of my favorite element – triple flip. Then I skated 20 minutes on the ice. I knew that something happened to my leg, but I decided that I could endure, finish the training, and then we’ll see. The next day I had ultrasound, X-rays, and it turned out that the diagnosis wasn’t very good: there were tears on the ligament in three places. The leg was of an elephant size.
And you went to America for treatment?
– No. I got a cast and for three weeks I was alone – nobody cared about me.
But was there any reaction from the partner and the coach?
– When Nina Mozer returned from the Olympics, we had a conversation about the need to take a long break. This is the only thing we talked about, sitting in four – I, Fedia, Nina Mikhailovna and Vladislav Zhovnirsky, with whom we actually trained.
What was meant by the word “long”?
– At least six months. When I realized that three people out four had already accepted this decision, everything was confused in my head: both misunderstanding and resentment and a fresh post-Olympic sediment, all of this on the injury background. I really didn’t understand why we can’t spend the next few months healing the leg and, roughly speaking, to enter the season in a decent shape, not as it was before. I also told my team that I couldn’t finish my career this way, because then I will surely regret, I’ll feel uncomfortable in front of my family, federation and my fans. Therefore, I set the goal for myself, to recover as soon as possible and continue to skate. But once again I was told that we all need a break.
Were there some arguments?
– Everyone has justified this in his own way. Nina Mikhailovna wanted to rest a little, to take care of her health. Fedor had his own plans and businesses, also had Zhovnirsky.
Didn’t you have a feeling at that moment that yin a certain sense you were a hindrance to your own coaches? That Zhovnirsky and Mozer have the progress with Natalia Zabijako and Alexander Enbert, and they don’t need you with your endless injuries?
– Of course deep inside I thought about it, I will not hide it. But these thoughts appeared earlier, long before that conversation.
Did you understand why you were not allowed to compete at the Olympics?
– I still really want to understand this. About the fact that I can’t go to Pyeongchang, I learned as usual the latest. And not from coaches and not even from my mother, although everyone has already knew everything and could not decide to tell me this. One of your colleagues called. Of course, I was shocked, now I can honestly admit it. I didn’t leave the house all day. There was no hysterics, but I cried. A lot. Until I realized that there was no point in crying, especially since there are still two weeks and I have to do something. At least to try to find out the reason why they don’t let me go to the Games. I went to the federation of figure skating, talked to Nina Mikhailovna. They quicly explained that in this situation I can’t even go to court. That it’s like someone’s party, to which they invite guests, but didn’t invite me. What to complain about? That I was not invited?
At that moment, did you feel any guilt? For the partner, coaches?
– No, I was absolutely clean in front of everyone. And in front of myself. I knew for sure that there’s no global problem, for which I could answer, it simply doesn’t exist. Absolutely. I just wanted to know the truth, not the IOC to change the decision. Honestly, after this I wouldn’t have gone to Pyeongchang. I wouldn’t continue to humble myself, to walk in this gray uniform, like a gray mouse. I was ready to fight for the team, but not for myself.
How long did it take to heal the legs?
– I was in a cast three weeks, had a course of physiotherapy, which was prescribe and my leg more or less came into shape. Then I went for a short vacation, because I realized that I was very tired psychologically. In April, I was ready to start working, so I wrote to Fedor. I thought that enough time have passed to calm down and discuss everything more carefully. We met at the rink and I asked if Fyodor had changed his decision about the break for six months. And whether he is sure that after this time he will want to return. He answered with detachment that he wasn’t sure of anything, but he would not change his decision.
Was it painful to hear all this?
– Not really. My head was very clear at that moment and all emotions have gone on the second plan. I understood that I’m no longer a young girl, that there were many injuries and I need to clearly understand whether I can skate or not. This was my only doubt. When a man at the age of 27 doesn’t have a clear understanding what he wants and doesn’t have a desire to do something further, what can we talk about? Yes, probably I was a locomotive as some called me. But then I realized that I didn’t want to pull it all any more. Moreover, when since February the man has never asked how is my leg, do I need any help, support.
When did you start looking for a partner?
– Not right away. In the beginning of the summer I was on rehabilitation in New York with doctor Jorge, he have been working with many figure skaters of our group for many years. Tatiana Tarasova, who was also in the United States, was very supportive to me at that time, and she constantly repeated that my pair with Klimov should not split up. That I should make every effort to keep it. Then Tatiana Anatolyevna flew back to Moscow, and I began to skate a little at Nikolai Morozov’s rink. Jorge and other specialists with whom I consulted gave me a green light, they said that I can give a full loads to the leg. We suddenly met with Fedor in America, accidentally met in the same company. Greeted and that’s all. As I later found out, he sent an SMS to Kolya that he had considered everything and he didn’t want to continue skating.
It’s a serious decision for a skater with your track record to start a career from scratch with a new partner at the age of 26.
– It somehow happens since the age of 14, from the moment the transition age started. At one moment I decided that I was tired of single skating and I’m going to do pairs. I clearly informed about this first mom, then coach. Perhaps someone will be surprised, but I have never doubted in my whole life that I will find a partner, that I will have a good team or that everything will work out. When I split up with the first partner, I didn’t doubt that a new one would appear, and I would go to the Olympics with him. I don’t know why, but I was sure of it. And in two months, Fedor appeared. Anyway, our journey of nine years turned out to be good.
With your determination, didn’t you regret that you didn’t look for a new partner earlier, or didn’t change your coach when the first tension appeared in the group?
– I wanted.
What did prevent?
– Probably my character. When I do something, I used to go to the end. Since we have decided in 2014 to go for one more Olympic cycle, it means I had to go through it. Through injuries, through misunderstanding, through deception, some intrigues and provocations – no matter what. I had to – this is important. Although I had diffrent thoughts about the team and about the partner.
The example of Alena Savchenko, who changed her partner after the Games in Sochi and won gold in Pyeongchang in 34 years, has something to do with what is happening now with you?
– Absolutely none. I respect Alena very much. But her example is not unique – not only among the Olympians and Paralympic athletes, but also among ordinary people who start life from scratch and achieve success. If we talk about motivation, my mom strongly motivates me. And she supports me in difficult moments and he is also able to spur.
I listen to you now and think that you were absolutely happy with your life after the Games in Sochi. What made you think that life develops not quite as you want?
– Probably … Although not probably, but for sure – the spark was gone. A spark in the eyes of our entire team. Everything suddenly became very comfortable: someone had a car about which a person dreamed all his life, someone had an apartment, a country house. For many years I also had a dream to buy my mother an apartment and a car. And suddenly all this became real. We all fell into such a huge zone of comfort, in which you could easily realize any of your desires and there was no place for hungry eyes, for hunger for the result. I realized that everything was going wrong, when in 2015 Fedor and I didn’t go to the World Championships in Shanghai. Before this we had an unsuccessful ending of the free program at the European Championships in Stockholm, when Fedor fell and we lost to Yuko Kawaguti and Alexander Smirnov. But it could be considered an accident. But the fact that we didn’t go to the World Championships and instead started to train a quad throw, in my opinion that was a global mistake.
As far as I know, it was your initiative to learn this element.
– I will not hide that I always wanted to learn this throw. I learned, I did it. At the same time I realized that it’s pointless to put it into the program and execute it in competitions.
What happened next, next season? You and Klimov brilliantly won the Grand Prix final in Barcelona, but your non-participation in the Russian Nationals and European Championships looked like you were pushed out of the way of Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov to give them an opportunity to win both starts without.
– Some moments disturbed me, let’s just say. Right after the Final, the coaches told us that if everything goes so well, it makes sense to skip the Russian Nationals and work on quad throw. it was clear that there was some kind of “game”. But I tried not to get into it, it was already hard for me and in all respects.
You and Klimov, even outwardly, always gave the impression of quite different people. But in that season it became clear that there was no mutual understanding between you at all.
– We have never had it. We came to the training, did our work and knew what wy we are doing it and for what.
Did you often fight?
– Happened. I’m quick-tempered, emotional, and also maximalist. No matter how we work, I always want to do more and better. I was constantly on edge and understood this.
But what about the comfort zone you mentioned at the beginning of our conversation?
– Well, I didn’t immediately realize that it is necessary to get out of this zone at any cost. I tried to convey this idea to Fedya, but I could not. By that time I had become a constant irritation factor for him. And in these cases a person simply puts a defense – he stops to perceive what you are saying to him. Plus all this was very well fueled by a number of people.
How did you find the current partner?
– Very simple, actually. I continued to heal, skate a little, I can say that I waited. I didn’t sit on the forums , did not ask someone to inquire, destroy another’s pairs. Of course, I read some news, because I knew that the post-Olympic off-season is always very stormy. But in general, everything turned out purely by chance. I don’t think that now it is worth talking about some details of our work, since officially our pair doesn’t exist yet, but neither I nor he have doubt that we will be able to skate together. This, probably, as in any relationship: you immediately understand whether you feel comfortable with a person or not. By look, by touch, by the manner of speech, by care. And I immediately realized that I won’t look for anyone else. It is clear that we will have to change in some things, acquire new habits, but it gives pleasure. I’m starting to rethink some things. I like to feel this completely new “chemistry”, I like that the brain works again.
Don’t you afraid that you will not have enough fire to bring it to the end? That you will get tired, that you will be annoyed by the fact that the result doesn’t appear as quickly as you would like?
– I’m not afraid of it. They hurt me too much. Really hurt. I like to skate, I know what I want. Even now, when at half past eleven being half-alive I’m returning from training, I still get a tremendous pleasure from the fact that everything hurts, that there is an internal breakdown. I really began to enjoy figure skating. I’m ready for everything. Absolutely everything.
by Elena Vaitsekhovskaya for rsport.ria.ru