Maria Sotskova: Last Nationals have been chasing me in nightmares for a long time
Interview with Maria Sotskova on the eve of Russian Nationals.
by Anatoli Samokhvalov for rsport.ria.ru
Maria, Tatiana Tarasova called you a world champion in overcoming daily difficulties connected with physical growth. Where do you find the motivation to compete with those who can jump and gain speed easily?
– Of course, it’s harder for tall girls. But it happened so – I was born this way, I can’t do anything about it. I started doing figure skating before I grew up. This is my life, my job and I love it. Every day I go to practice with clear understanding why I need all this.
– To win. In my opinion, every athlete sets himself such a task, and I’m not an exception. Today the situation is such that at my last Grand Prix in Grenoble, I was in bad shape and my competitors were in good shape. This doesn’t mean that they are more talented and stronger than me, they just were better prepared than me. And this doesn’t mean that my career is over. I feel strength and will fight.
Two-time Olympic champion Artur Dmitriev, reasoning about young Russian pairs, pessimistically thought: “How will they compete with the leaders?” How do you plan to?
– Unfortunately, not with jump content. I can’t show quad jumps, unusual combinations. Now I struggle with my content. But I can respond with interesting programs, skating, because experience still brings something. Every year I feel the improvement of my skating skills, the feeling of being on the ice, artistic image become better. Everything comes with time, but the truth is, I don’t have it. Competitors step on our toes, little girls are almost ahead of us. This season they don’t qualify for senior international competitions.
But next year they will come.
– I’m well aware of this, but what can I do? Only my work. I don’t think I can do quads.
Two years ago you talked about certain groundworks for quad salchow.
– We need to be realistic. With the new rules, it is more logical to do your content rather than a poorly executed quad, and receive a large decrease in grades for it. I intend to stabilize my content, not kill myself learning quad.
Although the winner of the Grand Prix Final, Rika Kihira, sets the trend to combine complexity and balanced skating.
– I don’t want to belittle her merits and her qualities, but let’s not forget how old she is and how tall she is. She is a little girl and it’s easier for her. Of course, she did a great job, she jumps two triple axels, she skates her programs at high speed. I really like her programs and the way she conveys artistic images, because it’s a great achievement to feel the music like that at such a young age. Kowtows to her but every girl has a period when she starts to grow and the body starts to change.
Did you become taller?
– I don’t know. I hope no. I don’t measure myself every day, but it seems that 172cm remains. But in general, I feel changes in my body. But don’t take my words as an excuse, I’m not complaining. No, I just thought that this would never happen to me. After all, I seemed to have passed my growth zone, I didn’t gain weight, everything was fine, but now I feel that something is stopping me. Something doesn’t allow me to perform as I can.
I heard that you don’t have a single gram of extra weight.
– Of course I have. I always want to lose some weight, but this is not my main problem.
Can this changes be described in some appropriate form?
– I don’t know how to do it correctly. There are some emotional problems, because after the Olympics came a realization how serious it was. I used to think that having made it to the Olympics, I overcame so much that at the further competitions it’d be easier. But it turned out differently. At the Olympics, I performed poorly and wanted to change everything dramatically. Artistic images, approach to work, but something went wrong. Apparently, now I need to change something again. After tJapan Open we started to change our work, because we realized that we were going in the wrong direction.
– Because the result showed that the work was built incorrectly.
– Yes. Both physical and emotional. My head was either too calm, or too serious. I can’t give an exact answer, since my season has started later than usual.
What are the difficulties in your head, because you always had enough confidence on the ice?
– Yes, I’m a fairly self-confident person, I never panicked, but earlier I went to the ice and felt … No, not fear. I had a state when I understood where I was, that I had a competition, but I went so deep into myself that I often didn’t understand everything that was happening. Like I was left alone with myself. And then the announcer announced my name, I went on the ice and did everything like machine.
– I try to enjoy every moment, I understand everything and really enjoy every moment before the start, but, apparently, this bothers me. I go on the ice and the thought process begins in my head, this hasn’t happened before. I think it’s because of age. I became older and began to think more.
When when you skate like a machine it’s also not good.
– I’m about jumps. When you jump like a machine this is very good. You go on a jump, you hear a click in your head and you do the element like machine. It’s great. But now I have stopped hearing that click. Before entering the jump, I think how I’ll do this jump, play everything in my head. And in the end it turns out that the readiness for the competitions is good, the scores are low.
How does your coach Elena Buyanova work on your psychology?
– She feels well what I need at a particular moment here and now. It’s impossible to feel the same way in every competition. Elena Germanovna adapts to our state and finds the right words. She can piss you off, or to reassure you, but this is the work of the coach. In the situation, when I’m not doing well at competitions, I must give a lot of credit to Elena Germanovna for supporting me. Our team has a difficult period, and it’s very hard for the coach, but she is trying to help.
Elena Germanovna also stands the criticism of the public.
– I read the Internet and see everything. I don’t understand what is happening with people who write this all. For some reason, it’s our custom if an athlete performs well, then he’s good and if he preforms bad, then the coach is bad.
Always like that.
– It is not right. The problems are common, both the athlete’s and the coach’s. There is no way that “athlete is good, but the coach is bad and you need to leave him.” Coach can’t carry an athlete on his back….
But always someone leaves someone.
– Mostly athletes leave when they don’t find a common language with a coach or have uncomfortable conditions, but this does not mean that this coach is a bad specialist. I don’t think we have at least one bad coach in Russia. All our coaches are very talented, and each has athletes who had their ups and downs. When an athlete falls, it does not mean that the coach didn’t cope, it means that the athlete also did something wrong. We have teamwork, the result of which depends not even on two people, but on a much larger number of specialists.
You are preparing for the next Russian Nationals and you see what is happening around. You used to go to the Championship like to war, but you were in the top, and now everything seems to be mixed up. A couple of mistakes and you can fly out of the top ten.
– Of course, I’m perfectly aware of this, because I live in reality, without rose-colored glasses. I watch for competitors, for their scores, but I don’t want it to distract me. I don’t want to think about it too much, to think how much they scored and how can I get ahead of them. No, before the start of the season, coach and I calculate the program, how much it will cost approximately. And we understand what mistakes are equal to defeat. But with a clean skate, I can still be in the top. I just need to skate clean.
I also asked Buyanova how to add lightness to your skating, especially in the second part of the program.
– Yes, I don’t have enough ease, because in the second half, for example Grenoble, it was very hard for me. But in training, everything happens much calmer, I don’t die in the middle of the program and don’t want to shout “Stop the music!” We haven’t found an answer yet why my muscles just turned to stone at competitions.
You have emotions, arms, natural smile…
– Now I realized that when you get something, you lose something the other leaves. Unfortunately, I feel that I have gained ease in emotions, I can communicate with judges and viewers through emotions, but I have lost the technical components. We worked more on the presentation of the program and because of this technique suffers. This season I had a very specific task, I want to change myself. I want to show that I can do latina and jazz, blues and classics, which I skated before. But, apparently, I was so fascinated by the presentation of programs that the technique began to suffer at competitions.
Maybe it was better to keep the classic style?
– First, Elena Germanovna said that we need to bet on classics. When we did latina, the coach told me: “Masha, you can die with this rhythm!” But in the process of work, she began to notice that it really suits me. There is no such thing as music runs in front and Masha is catching up behind. “Probably, latina is a good decision,” Elena Germanovna told me then.
You have been studying in GITIS for several months. Has your thinking systematized?
– You know, if I had attended the university fully, maybe something would have changed in thinking, but now everyone says “Oh, Masha went to study, Masha has no time for figure skating, it is impossible to combine two things at the same time… ” But this is not true. I haven’t missed a single practice, study suffers not figure skating. I didn’t give up sports for the sake of university, because I spent my whole life on sports and I’m not ready to give up figure skating. I dreamed so much about GITIS, but I understood that it would be hard to combine. And figure skating is a priority. For my family education is a very important and integral part of life. Therefore, I always managed to keep it and figure skating at the same quality level.
Are you proud that you manage to combine two serious things?
– Now I don’t feel this way at all, now I’m more devastated. Difficult period in life, so far I’m not doing well anything. This season is very fleeting, and the main thing is not to lose optimism.
Could you train by Skype like Nathan Chen?
– First of all, no one would let me do that.
Well, if to imagine.
– Honestly, I don’t know how Nathan does it. But he is a very talented young man. He studies in such a university and at the same time he skates so well! When I was at the Japan Open, I saw how this boy spend every free second on study. Some of us left the ice to take off our skates and take a break, and Nathan at that moment pulls out a laptop and types something for the university. Respect him.
Elena Germanovna was against GITIS?
– Apparently, yes. She didn’t say “I forbid you, you will not go there,” but she warned that it would be hard. But we always know better for ourselves. I decided that I could handle it. Insisted, entered, withstood the competition, and became happy. Now I really understand that it’s hard. But I don’t remember when it was easy for me. Nothing new.
Do your parents support?
– They are always on my side. For mom and dad, the university is a very important decision of mine. None of them, of course, wanted me to enter a sports university. Not for that I devoted so much time to education.
Do you ever have despair? I remember when you were still a junior, you have thoughts to switch to ice dance if you becomes too tall.
– These were childish thoughts. It seemed that switch to ice dance was so easy. It’s unrealistic to break through in current ice dance. I began to look at things realistic and understand: I really want to skate and really want everything to work out for me. I’m not going to give up and I feel strength in myself. I don’t feel lost, even after failures I think “I’ll be back in Moscow, and we will get everything right.” I see a goal, but there are a lot of walls and obstacles in its path.
Rivals are not able to take away your confidence?
– Once I was also a little girl who came to the Russian Nationals and beat there senior girls, but nevertheless sat at home and didn’t go to the main competitions. We are all in the same conditions, we make the same elements, and we are all strong. In Russia we don’t have weak girls at all. Someone can’t get into the top three, but it’s a matter of time. And this process is endless. The one who will emotionally endure and who has enough internal core will qualify for European and World Championships. And who will not, they will continue to work and, perhaps, will qualify next year.
The Olympic Games-2022 seem far away?
– Knowing how fast time runs, the Olympics will be very soon, but now I cannэt even imagine when it will come. As for my career as a figure skater, then I treat it gradually. Competition after competition. I realized that it’s Olympics only before the Russian Nationals, when everyone said in a solemn tone: “Now, now or never!”. It seems to me that at that Nationals I have turned gray. Those Nationals have been chasing me in nightmares for a long time. I’m glad I was able to qualify for the Olympic Games, but what did it cost me …
Will this Russian Nationals be morally easier?
– No, I don’t think so. Of course, there will be no pressure “once in four years,” but still I want to qualify for European and World Championships. Now I have a goal to prove to myself that I can. I want to go on the ice and say to myself: Masha, you can, make up your mind, this is already enough! After all, you lost confidence because of such competitions that I had at the beginning of the season. I don’t have a task to qualify for some competitions no matter what, but I have such though in my subconscious.