Mikhail Kolyada: “Before the performance I set myself up that no one will die if something goes wrong, life will go on. I should have realized this earlier, but better late than never.”
Interview with Mikhail Kolyada. About his “love” to talk to the press, programs and big changes in his sport career.
source: matchtv.ru dd. 9th December 2021, by Anastasiia Panina
The interview with Misha happened before he left for the Grand Prix in Sochi. That is, at the time of the conversation, we couldn’t have known that he would qualify for the Grand Prix Final (which will be canceled), and immediately upon arrival from Sochi, he will return to his last year’s free program.
What is he Mikhail Kolyada like? An incredibly interesting conversationalist, but a super-closed person. He admits that he deliberately made big changes in his life and abandoned almost everything external in order to fully focus on the main thing – sports.
Society is amazingly organized: public repentance is always more important to it than true feelings and thoughts. If we imagine a scenario where Kolyada goes to the press after an unsuccessful performance, falls to his knees, sobs and asks for forgiveness for letting the country down, most of us would have found generosity at the bottom of our souls. And, of course, we would have forgiven and said how good Mikhail is. Now imagine that there are people who are unable or unwilling to publicly repent and open up. But inside them, in the face of their own sense of duty and responsibility, there is such a merciless judge, the severity of which we have no idea. That is why it is not possible to obtain an acquittal from this internal judge.
It is wrong to try to measure Kolyada’s talent for figure skating with the tools we usually use assessing the quality of men single skaters, because this tools completely excludes individuality. Kolyada is not a stern paratrooper who, on torn veins and in a dirty vest, will made it through jumps to the end of the program, forgetting about music and choreography. Alexey Mishin once said that when Misha falls out of the musical rhythm of the program, when he has to destroy the created artistic image, that’s when mistakes can occur.
The strength of Mikhail Kolyada lies in the ability to put the viewer into a kind of trance with his skating, which happens to us from works of art. Kolyada skates hypnotically – perhaps, in Russia we have never had such plastic talent. But we have always dreamed of this.
Now you and the team were supposed to be in Japan and on quarantine before the competitions, but the Grand Prix Final was unexpectedly canceled. How do you feel about this?
Mikhail Kolyada: It’s a pity that it was canceled. Until the very last moment, I hoped that the Final would take place. But, unfortunately, we are all in a difficult situation today due to the pandemic. You need to think not only about your own interests, but also about the health of the others.
I have a guess that if you had that kind of power, you would canceled all mixed zones.
Mikhail Kolyada: How to say … It has penetrated so deeply into our culture that I have no idea what it is like to come, skate and just go to the locker room.
Nevertheless, sometimes it happens …
Mikhail Kolyada: After a short program, it’s actually strange to talk about something. Regardless of whether you skated well or badly. We have a double-event, everything is decided in a free program. When you didn’t perform well, you are in awful physical and mental state, and first of all you want to analyze what happened yourself.
Would it be easier for you to think and comprehend everything first and only then go and talk to the press?
Mikhail Kolyada: Certainly. When they ask you something just after heavy physical loads, and then also take words out of context, it is unpleasant. That is why I try not to read anything.
Over the past couple of years, you Instagram account has changed dramatically. You hid almost all the photos, you don’t post anything new, and generally reduced any interaction with the outside world to a minimum. This step must have freed up a ton of time?
Mikhail Kolyada: A lot of time was freed up indeed. What do I spend it on … work, family, self-development. Everything is simple.
Do you read, watch movies, listen music?
Mikhail Kolyada: Yes, that’s all I do. I try not to use my phone much.
Has it affected your emotional state? Now other people’s values, other people’s interests, extra attention can in no way affect your life. Has it become calmer inside?
Mikhail Kolyada: Yes. I became much calmer. I can do better what I am doing now. I go to practice, train, warm up. There is no distraction, it is easier to deal with concentration. I am more in myself, in a situation, in a moment. For figure skating, where concentration means a lot, this is important.
There are legends about Alexei Mishin in terms of his sense of humor, wisdom and ability to say little, but at the same time choose the right words. You’ve been working with him for the second season, is he really like that?
Mikhail Kolyada: Yes, he is, and I really appreciate it. At the same time, like any person, he has mood swings – I immediately feel it. When he is in a bad mood, I try to be more in myself, in work, to concentrate on what I’m doing.
How much has your training with Alexei Mishin changed compared to trainings with Valentina Chebotareva?
Mikhail Kolyada: They changed. But I would say that it’s not the coaching approach to me that has changed, but, if I may say so, my athletic approach to myself has changed. That is, now I’m completely an athlete. The coach is doing his job, and I have to listen to him. It’s easier for me like that.
Was it different before?
Mikhail Kolyada: Yes, it used to be different.
Do you want to give more details?
Mikhail Kolyada: I think this would be unnecessary.
You say that your absolute job as an athlete is to listen to the coach. And I have met the point of view that sometimes mature athletes do not really need a personal coach at all.
Mikhail Kolyada: I need a coach, I can say that for sure. For example, when Alexei Nikolaevich left for Canada, we worked with Tatyana Nikolaevna. And everything was a little different. I cannot describe it in words, I just feel that when Alexei Nikolaevich is on the ice, the process is under his total control. And I’m more comfortable this way.
During your training session, I watched how Alexei Nikolayevich record jumps on video, and then you analyzed them. Can this also be called a form of necessary control?
Mikhail Kolyada: Yes. There is such a moment that I can feel the jump somehow wrong, but on the video everything looks good. Or, on the contrary, everything is bad, but it seems to me that I did it correct. It’s easier for me to understand on video what to correct.
It seemed to me that jumps are pure mathematics and physics. And here it turns out that it is rather metaphysics.
Mikhail Kolyada: For me, jumps are something at the level of sensations. But understanding must be added to these sensations, otherwise problems arise.
This season you did a quadruple salchow in a combination for the first time. Previously, it was not stable enough even for a clean solo jump. How did you work on it?
Mikhail Kolyada: Well, we just worked on it more. Little by little we are going to stability. By the way, we didn’t stop working on quadruple lutz and flip, and they often turn out great for me. Both solo and in combinations.
I will torment you about the details, forgive me. Entry, take off, bending, landing? What exactly did you work on?
Mikhail Kolyada: There are a lot of nuances, and at every training session we try to catch them all. It’s as if we have a landmark – a quadruple salchow, and we need to trample the road to it. So that even with my eyes closed it would be clear to me how to go. I’m such a person that I need to be two hundred percent sure that I know what to do at any time of the day or night.
Is this how your perfectionism manifests itself?
Mikhail Kolyada: Yes, absolutely.
You skated Schindler’s List today. Whenever I hear this music, I have a lump in my throat and tears come to my eyes. Some kind of tragic trance. You can’t afford such a deep immersion into the music? Or does it touch you just as much?
Mikhail Kolyada: At first there was such a moment … of getting used to. Emotions prevailed over me, and in the technical component, I not only didn’t reach the end of the program, but simply forgot everything. Music and emotions came first. Now I understand that I have to catch the balance. Somewhere you can give emotion, somewhere you must show it, and somewhere you need to hold yourself back in order to perform technical things first.
That is, when you first started working on this program, you were also overwhelmed by its emotionality?
Mikhail Kolyada: In general, I am quite an emotional person and I pass everything through myself. So yes, it was definitely difficult for me to find a balance between perception of the music and abstraction from it.
Besides The Nutcracker, in the short program, you tried to skate to Caruso. Why were there doubts?
Mikhail Kolyada: Alexei Nikolaevich didn’t like something when about The Nutcracker first. I liked everything. But it seemed to him that something was missing, and we began to look for the very clue that made him doubt. We looked and then decided to simply change the theme radically. Tatiana Nikolaevna (Prokofieva) suggested Caruso a week before the test skates.
But upon returning from Chelyabinsk from the test skates, we decided to return to The Nutcracker. The choreographer from the Eifman ballet troupe helped us to find a compromise between the images of the wooden Nutcracker and the handsome prince, and this two-facedness added brightness and completeness to the program.
Weren’t you sorry to let go of the White Crow program?
Mikhail Kolyada: From the very beginning of the season, I was told that this program will not remain for the next year, we will make a new one. Alexei Nikolaevich does not like his athletes to skate the same program for two years. To return to the old ones – yes, it happened that some of the guys brought back old programs if the new did not “go” or simply the coach made such a decision. So I knew there was going to be something new, and I took it with interest.
Did you have enough competitions to enjoy this program? It turned out to be very iconic.
Mikhail Kolyada: I had enough. And I realized that I had to move on. When a person tries to do something new, tries a new choreography, it develops him. Alexei Nikolaevich calls it “to renew the motor canvas.” I understand that the program has many fans and it was really wonderful, but …
… But you can watch it at any time on the recording?
Mikhail Kolyada: Yes exactly.
Was Schindler the main idea from the very beginning?
Mikhail Kolyada: Yes, there were no such swings as with the short program. And the costume seems to be the final one.
Last season there were two competitions, somewhat reminiscent of the team event at the Olympics. The Federation then, as I remember, said that for you this was a stage of preparation for the team event in Beijing. How would you rate this experience, was it really like Pyeongchang 2018?
Mikhail Kolyada: I will say that for me there are no two identical competitions in terms of the emotional component. Each event is special, and this word is not an empty phrase. The World Team Trophy was really similar in organization to the Olympic team event. But I probably understand where this question leads. I no longer have such a feeling that some additional huge responsibility hangs on me. I focus on what I do myself. I go on the ice alone. The team sits behind the board. I must fight alone.
Day after day I have to find some kind of “anchors”, so to speak, so that I feel confident and comfortable. Did I get enough sleep, what country I am in, what time zone, what kind of people are around me – there are always a lot of distractions, even when we train at home. Life constantly gives this variety and unpredictability. And every day I take it as a lesson that I need to learn something from it.
But actually, you do the same job at competitions as in training. Nothing changes. The same skates, costume, ice. I set myself up, starting from the point of view that no one dies if something goes wrong.
I remember you said how you morally shot yourself with a machine gun for an unsuccessful short program in the Olympic team event. Well, since, after being “shot”, it is impossible to continue not only to skate, but also just to live, I’m glad to hear about such changes in your perception.
Mikhail Kolyada: That’s so. Even if something happens, life will not stop there. The sun will also rise in the morning and set in the evening. Life will go on. I should have realized this earlier, but better late than never.
I understand that I devoted most of my life to sports, spent many hours, days, months and years on the ice and in the gym, but this is still only part of my life.
I still want to talk to you about something else, not just about sports. I know it’s too early to talk about it, but do you see yourself as a coach in the distant future? Do you like working with children?
Mikhail Kolyada: I like it. But I understand that I don’t know a lot. I know a lot from the side of the athlete, but from the side of the coach I still have to learn and learn.
Do you mean psychology, pedagogy, anatomy and so on?
Mikhail Kolyada: Well, yes. Methodology, tactics … I will study. And I understand that without mistakes … Well, of course, it would be great to go all this way without mistakes. But they will definitely be, and I’m also ready for that.
Let’s have such an experiment. Imagine that you have a virtual tribune – the ability to address anyone on any topic.
Mikhail Kolyada: Should I say something?
You shouldn’t, but you can. Anything. About cats, fans, kindness, calmness, your dreams …
Mikhail Kolyada: Good. (Misha pauses.) I’m extremely grateful that there are people who support me. This gives an extra boost of energy, especially when not everything is going as smoothly as you want. Kindness, calmness … I’m kind and calm. But not with everyone.
I also want a lot. I’m just thinking about how to implement it. Perhaps that’s all.
Misha, who was preparing for the 2018 Olympics, how much is different from Misha, who is preparing for the 2022 Olympics?
Mikhail Kolyada: I became a different person. Absolutely. With a different attitude, with different views. I have more prudence. (Pause.) Less fuss. Maybe he has become a little more meticulous.
In what sense?
Mikhail Kolyada: In good one. In terms of work.
You said then that you consider yourself an introvert and that many things that are integral part of the life of a high-level athlete are not easy for you. In particular, public life. It turns out that you deliberately gave up a lot in order to direct all your energy and thoughts to training?
Mikhail Kolyada: It’s easier for me this way, yes. For the most part, I’m truly introvert. But since my job is to perform in public, sometimes I have to be an extrovert. But only at the time of skating – 2:50 short program and 4:10 free program.
How energy consuming is it for you to be an extrovert by necessity? How long does it take to recover?
Mikhail Kolyada: (Pause.) Actually, it takes a long time. Especially at the end of the season, it is very difficult to collect yourself.
What helps you? Family, country house, nature? Is there a universal recipe?
Mikhail Kolyada: It seems to me that there’s no such thing, or I have not discovered it yet. Family brings me into balance the most. Dasha and I can sit at home for days, not going anywhere, and thus I’m saving this energy.
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