Maria Kazakova and Georgy Reviya: At the senior level, pairs are more respectful of each other
Interview with Georgian ice dancers Maria Kazakova and Georgy Reviya.
by Maria Tchernysheva-Melnik for matchtv.ru dd. 29th September 2020
How did it happen that both of you were born in Moscow and the Moscow region but compete for Georgia?
Georgy: Back when I was skating in the group of Alexey Gorshkov, the president of the Georgian Figure Skating Federation offered me to join their national team. After all, I have Georgian roots. I really want to skate, and it’s not so important which country to represent. Therefore, the decision was easy and quick. I just moved to the group of Denis Samokhin, got citizenship in a month and for a season I’ve skated with Eva Khachaturian representing the new flag. Our pair did not succeed, Eva and I parted and she finished her career. Soon I found out that Masha was also free. We paired up, and now we’re both citizens of Georgia.
Wasn’t it scary to trust the young coaches who (at that time) had not raised famous skaters yet?
Maria: I used to skate in Sokolniki with Rubleva and Shefer, they are also quite young coaches. Therefore, the previous students of the new coaches were not a criterion for me. The task was to come to a partner and try out. I did it, and I stayed.
Georgy: And when I left Odintsovo with my previous partner, I first tried to join another group. Did not work out. Then Denis Samokhin approved us after the first try-out. Plus, Eva and I immediately said that we were planning to represent Georgia. We quickly contacted the federation, filled out the documents. I had no doubts about the new coach – there was simply no time left for that. I wanted to skate, not to miss the season.
I would describe your last season’s free program as innovative. Tell us how did you worked on it?
Georgy: It was at night at the skating rink in St. Petersburg, we specially came to see Elena Sokolova (the leading coach of ice dancers in St. Petersburg – ed.). It was like we organized a circus, we tried all sorts of acrobatic elements. Three o’clock in the morning and suddenly an idea: why not throw Masha over my head at the beginning of the program? Why not if you have strength. Something didn’t work at first, then we worked it out. And now we have our own “thing”. Apparently, we just caught the right path and went along it.
Where did the ideas for the unique elements come from? With a flight over the head it is clear, but a wheel on one hand in the step sequence?
Georgy: It was offered by Elena – she just showed an example on video. She used to go to shows a lot, performed in the ice theater, she has seen so much creativity! She has a very serious baggage in terms of ice tricks. And so Elena decided to try it on us. We are Georgian laboratory mouses! (They laugh.)
What is the plot of the program?
Georgy: In the first position, we stand closed – like in straitjackets. We are crazy and we have a conflict of interest: we lie in the same ward, tied up and hate each other. But we want to get out of the madhouse, but you can’t do that alone. And then we come to a compromise: we join forces to run together. We succeseed and in the end, both are free of their fears.
Last season, you participate in both junior and senior competitions. How did you decide on this?
Georgy: Last summer we were no longer small, I turned 20. Together with the coaches, we set a goal: to try ourselves on the senior arena, to see how we will be judged, to penetrate into this world gradually, to gain rating. It won’t work out to come to a senior level and win everything at once. This is a difficult path from scratch, and age allowed to start a year ago. We easily got qualifying points on the Challengers, and then everything goes up.
Maria: Last summer, the work on the program began with the thought “Why not?”, and so the whole season has passed. It turned out a busy season. Of course, we did not always have time to prepare for a masterful dance, our head was spinning. But all junior competitions were approached at the peak of shape.
How did you maneuver and not get confused, given the differences in rules? For example, at the senior level, the free program is 30 seconds longer, there are more elements.
Maria: There was no “head explosion” in the free program. Two elements were added there, and we rearranged them inside the program. It was easy to remember, because the changes were logical. The only question was physics. Everything was much more complicated with the rhythm dance.
I just wanted to ask about the rhythmic dance. After all, it is completely different for juniors and seniors. So you learned two short dances?
Maria: From the junior dance we only kept the beginning and twizzles. Everything else was new, even the music on the slow part in the middle of the program was different. But we tried our best. Although we performed both there and there, we understood that in juniors we had to fight more.
Have you noticed the difference in the atmosphere of the senior and junior competitions?
Maria: At the senior level, pairs are more respectful of each other. The atmosphere is simpler and lighter, you can feel it.
Georgy: I would even say so: at the senior level, pairs compete, and at the junior level they are at each other’s throats. We noticed that at the Grand Prix Final, where six top pairs of the world gathered. They all ate at the same table, communicated well, warmed up together. Both our Russians and the guys from the Dubreuil-Lauzon group are very friendly. When we arrived at the European Championships, we expected a dismissive attitude from the elders – junior newcomers have come, what to talk to them about? But there was no such attitude. And in juniors there are guys who, if they win or place simply higher than someone … they communicate in a different way or just don’t even look towards their rivals.
What did you lack to win the Junior World Championships?
Georgy: There were not enough points: we lost two levels on the spin. We missed one position and missed gold because of this. In the second mark we were in the lead in both programs. If we had skated like at the Grand Prix final, we would have won. There was the best skate of the season. We were spurred that after the short program we were the first, ahead of very serious rivals. But we had a tiny gap in points and we understood: either today or never. The last season in juniors!
Tell us about figure skating in Georgia. I remember only single skaters Elene Gedevanishvili and Vakhtang Murvanidze. In general, it is very touching when skaters skate for small countries and glorify them in sports.
Georgy: There was also a dancer Otar Japaridze, who skated for Georgia all his career. Now we have a great team: Moris Kvitelashvili, Irakli Maisuradze, Nika Egadze, Alina Urushadze, Luka Berulava with Alina Butaeva. Together we are strong!
Most of you train in Moscow. Are there any conditions in warm Georgia for figure skaters?
Georgy: It seems to me that so far there are no good conditions for a professional level. There is a mounted skating rink in Batumi, but it is very hot there. It’s not even a building, but a tent.
Like at the European Championships in Graz?
Georgy: Not like that, everything was fine at the European Championships. Now they are building something. I think in five years Georgia will have an opportunity to raise figure skaters from childhood. And finally, people who often tease will calm down. They say “you are for Russia,” “you were stolen, lured away.” Alas, sometimes I face such attacks. But I do not consider it a betrayal that I started my career in Russia. If the federation of the country for some reason cannot help the athlete, then why should he stop? An athlete has one life and youth flies by quickly. If there is a better opportunity, why not?
Who works in the Georgian Figure Skating Federation and what is its role?
Georgy: Everything rests on the president – Mariam (Maka) Giorgobiani, our lovely woman. She is the backbone of the team – a person who loves her athletes very much and is always supportive. I have never heard criticism from her, if something did not work out. Maka goes to all the competitions where we participate and cares about everyone. Sometimes it’s even funny. I have no jitters before the skate: I can go to the board a minute before the warm-up. This is usually what happens. Everyone has been standing for a long time – Masha, the coaches, the president of the federation, the guys left the men’s locker room …
Maria: And we are all waiting for Gosha (laughs). He always needs to do his hair, tie his laces, fix his jacket. There are about thirty seconds left before going on the ice, and he: “I’ll be in time!” Finds a free chair and unlaces the skates. I say: “Gosha, everyone is already standing at the board.” And he: “Yes, yes, yes!” He approaches it as relaxed as possible.
Georgy: I just don’t see any reason to worry. What for? We do this in training every day. Well, the people have gathered, so what?
Maria: I also stopped worrying too much. Gosha showed me an example and I saw that this is also possible. Well, ok.
Georgy: Masha was very afraid to perform in our first season. She may not have shown it much, but you can feel that in a pair. And with such a trick – there is a calm, confident person nearby – I changed her attitude a bit.
Who is funding your trainings?
Georgy: The Georgian Federation pays for absolutely everything, rents us an apartment next to the ice rink. Plus a salary. Our sport has neither advertising nor sponsors. Everything comes from the country’s budget. But in the first season, when we were just starting and had not proved ourselves yet, Mariam personally helped a lot.
You have Georgian dance for exhibitions. Who did it?
Georgy: A dancer from a Georgian dancing ensemble. He helped to study national movements, although I think we performed them imperfectly. There was little time for cooperation. What’s interesting: we did this dance for last year’s season, but never got into the top five and, accordingly, did not participate in exhibitions. Before the Grand Prix Final 2019, we didn’t even think about rhis dance at all, we were preparing just for competitions. And when we realized that we had to perform, then “oh-oh!” We always take costumes with us, just in case, and now they come in handy. My mother and the president of the federation said to me: “Gosha, we need a Georgian dance! Nothing will work better.” And really, it turned out very symbolically.
How about doing a short program like this when there will be dances of world nations theme?
Georgy: We can. Actually, I like this dance. I want to polish it, add tricks, and everything will work out.
Tell us about new programs and general plans for the season.
Maria: On July 1, when we finally were back on the ice, Gosha suffered a knee injury at the very first training session. He dropped out of work for two months, so everything was postponed. We did a free dance, but the rhythmic one is still in question. There is no complete picture, everything is rough. But we can definitely say that we are moving to the senior level and will perform at international competitions. Now we are looking for challengers, and we would like to go to the stages of the Russian Cup, if we are allowed.
Who is the leader in your pair?
Georgy: I don’t even know … Probably, me after all. Even exactly me! (Laughs.) Especially when it comes to choosing something. For example, we stand in a store and think about whether to take a cookie with peanuts or dark chocolate. Masha can think for half an hour, but I know better what I want and know how to make decisions quickly. But Masha is more responsible. I still play as a child, although I’m two years older than my partner.
There is some kind of a queue in ice dances, and your pair does not represent a strong country in terms of figure skating. How do you plan to make a breakthrough?
Georgy: The main thing that we want to bring with our skating to this sport is to stand out. To be the pair that is constantly heard and remembered for innovation. To be welcomed and loved, and to leave nice aftertaste. Of course, we want to qualify for the Olympic Games. The main thing is our common desire, health and path in one direction. And as for the organizational moments, we have great federation, just wow! With its help, you can break through anywhere.
I know it’s too early to talk about the end of your career, so don’t take it as a hint. For many years now, half Russian-speaking pairs who competed in sports for Lithuania and Bulgaria have been shining in Ilia Averbukh’s ice shows. They were widely recognized thanks to the show. Are you planning to perform like this later and glorify Georgia?
Georgy: How do we like to say, why not? In our first season together, we took part in the ice performance Ruslan and Lyudmila, staged by Tatiana Navka and Peter Tchernyshov. We danced in the corps de ballet. This little experience helped us to get used to each other. And it’s a great idea for the future!
Maria, this summer you entered the ballet department at GITIS. How do you plan to combine study with sports?
Maria: I really like to study. Now I am still in my second year at the coaching faculty (at another university). GITIS is a more creative university, and I look forward for getting a lot of inspiring knowledge. The main study is remote, and I hope the sessions will not overlap with the competitions schedule. Perhaps I’ll switch to an individual plan.
Georgy, what kind of education are you getting?
Georgy: Management of the organization, I am planning to do business. I want to build my own school in Georgia and so that little children come there to train.
Maria: In general, everything has been built in my female head for a long time. Gosha will be a manager, and I will be a good coach and choreographer. If everything goes well, why not move to Georgia? It will be cool to work together!
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