Maria Sotskova: Dedicated the program to my dad, not knowing yet that he passed away
Elena Vaitsekhovskaya’s interview with Maria Sotskova. About disappointments of past season, motivation to continue her career, change of coach and loss of her dad.
by Elena Vaitsekhovskaya for rsport.ria.ru dd. 9th August, 2019
At the end of May, your closest friend Polina Tsurskaya announced her retirement from sport, admitting that studying at the university attracts her much more than sports. All year you have been desperately trying to combine training with studies at GITIS, and not too successfully. Have you thought about leaving sport?
– In the spring, I thought a lot about it. Including about ending my career because the season turned out too unsuccessful. But then I realized that I can’t live without sports. If I don’t come to the rink at least a week, withdrawal starts and there is only one thing in my head: I have to go on ice, I have to skate. That’s how I came to the conclusion that if I want at least to try to realize my potential, I need to change something dramatically in life.
I understand that it’s not correct to judge the causes of other people’s failures, but the whole season I had the feeling that it’s very difficult for you to withstand serious studies and serious training.
– In fact, it’s not connected that I entered the university and began to skate poorly. In any case, I didn’t miss a single practice because of my studies. Probably just everything has accumulated over the past two seasons. It was very difficult for me to recover from the Games, I’ve already told you about it. There were certain hopes, I had a certain responsibility. And I didn’t live up to my own expectations.
Did you expect that you could place higher than eighth place?
– It’s not a matter of place I took. It was important for me to do the maximum I’m capable of, to perform the program perfectly. Throughout the first half of the Olympic season, I skated well, proved to myself that I was worthy of a ticket to the Olympics. While I was proving, apparently, all the forces ended. In Pyeongchang I didn’t even understand what was happening to me. I failed a short program, which I always skated cleanly, couldn’t get together for the free program. Probably that’s why it was so hard to recover. I really wanted to throw everything out of my head and start from scratch. To try to get more pleasure from what I do.
Do you want to say that in previous years, trainings were perceived as continuous violence against yourself?
– No, just there was too much stress. I started the most ordinary working runthrough and every time worried about the result like at competitions. After the Olympics, we changed artistic images, srated to work more on the emotional part, I felt the character of the programs well, that is, everything related to the second mark was perfect. But in terms of elements, for a very long time I could not get into shape. Separately, everything worked out, but when the music was turned on it was a stupor. It was a feat to skate the program clean and took an incredible amount of strength.
What was the final straw that prompted you to change a coach?
– Actually I’m quite loyal person. When I moved to CSKA from Svetlana Panova, who had been my coach more than 13 years, I thought that we would work with Elena Buyanova until the very end of my career. Moreover, I’m not a person who blame someone else for my own problems and rushes from one coach to another. It’s always a waste of time: a new person must get to know you, find some approaches. Everything was fine with Elena Buyanova, I completely trusted her. To be honest I still don’t understand at what point our relationship broke. Perhaps the whole point is that the season turned out too hard. I performed poorly, it seemed to me that everything was about to fall into place, but it turned out worse and worse. In this regard the Russian Nationals were just the final stage. Although everyone supported me: both relatives and coaches. Everyone was nearby, no one turned away. Everyone understood that it happened not because I was lazy or didn’t want to work, or study was bothering me. But because there was a problem and we couldn’t find the reason.
What is it like for an athlete to realize that the season, which usually ends in March, ends in December?
– This is like the end of life. I have never had such an experience before. And here – you wake up the next morning after the free program and understand: you are free. You have nothing else. You don’t need to prepare for anything, you don’t need to train, and this isn’t happy at all, because the whole familiar world has collapsed. And you sit, look at one point and don’t have the slightest understanding what to do.
But you performed at the Universiade in early March.
– It was a complete surprise. On New Year’s Eve, I skated in show. I’ve already been told that I can’t go to the Russian Cup Final, because I didn’t qualify, which meant that the season was over. I relaxed. I came to the rink, worked on the skating skills, on spins, didn’t even jump much. But when Elena Germanovna told that I was going to the Universiade, I took it as another chance to qualify for the national team, to show myself, maybe even win something. And I really started to work hard. But … didn’t turn out.
Wasn’t you offend that the coach didn’t go with you to the Universiade?
– No. Many couldn’t come there. Either it was very expensive, or there was no possibility to get an accreditation for everyone. In any case, I calmly took all this. At the competition, the role of the coach is very small. The only thing that remains for him before the competition is to understand: either your athlete falls asleep and he needs to be cheered up, or, on the contrary, he is too cheerful and he needs to be calmed down a little bit. In general, no coach can change anything, because the athlete is already completely concentrated on his inner sensations, goes into himself, like in a cocoon.
Did Buyanova try to persuade you to stay in the group when she realized that a break up is inevitable?
– No, it was our mutual decision. Nobody held anyone back, nobody kicked out anyone, there were no scandals. It was just a normal, calm conversation. I’m very grateful to Elena Buyanova for everything that she has done for me, and in the same way I’m grateful to Svetlana Sokolovskaya. Not every specialist will take responsibility to work with an athlete in such a situation.
Can you explain?
– I was aware that I was at the very bottom. That I need to start from scratch, regain everything again. And that not every coach has time and desire to work with all this.
In other words, you were ready that Sokolovskaya won’t take you?
– I was ready for everything. Even to an option that I have no options but to end my career. However, I understood that if I quit sports, I would regret all my life for not taking the last chance. Now something works out, something doesn’t work out. But I do what I love, and I try to do it as well as possible. I really really love to skate. I like to feel the ice, how it throws me from one edge to another. If, after two main training sessions, I had the opportunity to skate more, to invent and try some new steps, transitions, I would go skate, skate, skate.
In ladies’ single skating, athletes always had a very keen sense of feeling their age, and now it has become even more relevant. What words need to be said to yourself so not to feel depressed. How can one not get lost in this crowd, in this predatory flock that is stepping on your toes? You probably think about it.
– Hard question. Of course, I see everything, I understand what is happening. After the Russian Nationals, I really thought that there was simply no reason to skate further: the season is over, it is unclear whether I will have the opportunity to perform at the Grand Prix and generally continue to compete. But when you really realize that the end of your career is a reality and you are very close to it, you begin to look differently at what you do and appreciate it more. Just if before I had some kind of continuous chase for medals, for ratings, for something else, now I just want to prove, first of all, to myself that I can skate clean, I can cope with my programs. For me now it’s much more important. I would like to find this harmony with myself and with my body and keep it. And not to think that I need to win something at all costs.
If we talk about Sokolovskaya, what kind of coach is she?
– A very cool one. Sasha (Samarin) and I are already at an age when we clearly understand how the work is built, what kind of load we need. Svetlana Sokolovskaya gives a certain level of load, quite high, but at the same time she constantly reminds us that we can control and regulate the process ourselves. If you suddenly feel that you’re tired, it’s better not to skive doing tasks, but to take a day off. But most importantly, there is a constant feeling that the coach believes in you, even when something does not work out. That she is near and always ready to help. We have a great, cool team. Everyone is young, everyone is eager to work, everyone has a fire in their eyes. This inspires, motivates and gives faith in your strength.
How did your cooperation begin?
– We worked a lot on exercises for jumps. Did it all April. In parallel, worked on new programs. Last year Peter Tchernyshev choreographed both programs for me, this season we thought that it would be nice to try something new. As a result, Nikolai Morozov put the short program, and Nikita Mikhailov the free program.
I remember the times when the skaters tried to to keep their programs in secret till the last moment. Never allowed outsiders to trainings.
– By the way, yes. I remember when I skated with Svetlana Panova, everything was hiding till the last moment. Even test skates were closed. Someone from outside couldn’t see what you was working on. Only the leaders of the Figure Skating Federation knew about this.
And now everyone post their programs on Internet, without waiting for the fall. What for?
– Probably, in order to show that it’s reserved – music, theme. There were times when the season began, and people came with the same programs. Plus, such openness helps to avoid issues that someone stole someone’s idea. Showed first – it yours.
Morozov is considered one of the most creative choreographers in the world. What was your personal experience of working with him?
– That was awesome! I’m used to the fact that any choreographer always put the program on his own. Later, you can change something, if it’s completely inconvenient, as we actually did. But Nikolai from the very beginning kept asking: did you do this step, was it convenient for you? Is the next turn more convenient to do right or left? Firstly, such approach makes the athlete think. Secondly, you begin to feel that it’s really comfortable for you, not a single movement takes extra energy. When Svetlana Sokolovskaya left with Sasha Samarin for the competitions in Japan, for a week I skated with Morozov in Novogorsk, we worked mainly on skating skills and it was very cool. At the beginning of each training session Morozov gave two or three full step sequences, and we skated them until the coach liked the result. For me, as a future choreographer, it was a great experience.
Six and a half years ago, when Maxim Trankov suddenly lost his father in the midst of the pre-Olympic season, he said: “Dad was always my biggest fan. This loss was a blow for me also because I’ve never needed figure skating myself. It was necessary for my father. All this years I’ve been skating just for him. This feeling that my dad was no longer there and that I didn’t need to skate was terribly difficult …” I’m afraid to ask what happened to you this summer.
– We were at the training camp in Kislovodsk. There was an absolutely amazing training atmosphere. You know, when nothing distracts you from work. Even if after three-four hours you suddenly get some free time, the first thing that comes to mind is that you still need to go run or work in the gym. I worked a lot in Kislovodsk. I liked the feeling that every day I gain a more and more solid foundation for the season. And suddenly everything ended …
Did you feel that all your life ended and you have no one to skate for?
– I’ve never skated for someone. Only for myself. Mom and Dad never put me any framework and conditions, I’ve never heard from them that I owed something to someone. At the same time, at home I was raised as such a strong warrior, so that I could stand up for myself, be able to achieve my goal and never give a slack. My parents always supported me in everything, they were always with me when I needed it, but it never happened like this: oh my poor girl, go to bed, don’t go to training, you’re so tired … That is, in the family I wasn’t pitied – in this regard, I stopped being a child quite early….
Wasn’t it pity to feel it?
– There was nothing to be offended about. Both mom and dad always said: if you love something, if you want to achieve something in your favorite business, then you must try your best. And there should never be any self-pity. When my father was gone, I realized very suddenly that he wouldn’t want me to quit skating.
Let me quote Trankov once again: “I don’t know if there are other worlds besides ours where people move when they die, but it often seems to me that now my father helps me even more than when he was alive.”
– Apparently, I had a very strong connection with dad. On the day he died, I fell very badly at training during the runthrough, and Svetlana Sokolovskaya said: leave the jumps aside, just skate the lay-out of the short program. For this program, we took music that is very close to me, and a lot was connected with it. It happened so that I have went through many moments of life, both difficult and happy, with this music. I skated the lay-out of this program and thought that I would devote this program to my dad. I suddenly felt that I really wanted to dedicate it to him. I even managed to imagine how I’ll telling all this in some kind of interview, then dad reads this. He was always very happy that I’m skating, achieving something. He was very proud of me, and I knew that he would be very pleased to hear such words from me. And now … Now I know for sure that I will skate my new program for him.
Related topics: Maria Sotskova