“My height is 195cm (6,4ft), but I have learned not to pay attention to it. Mishin helped, he told me ‘You’re tall, so what? Try not to jump with all your might’ Interview with Italian Nikolaj Memola
Interview with Italian skater Nikolaj Memola and his mother who’s also his coach.
source: sports.ru dd. 14th September by Maia Bagriantseva
The 18-year-old Nikolaj Memola is the hero of the third stage of the Junior Grand Prix (gold in Riga). And together with the silver in Ostrava, he qualified for the December final.
Also, his height in the ISU profile is 195 cm – giant numbers for figure skating, especially for a single skater who jumps quads.
Nikolaj’s mother (she is also his coach) is Russian Olga Romanova, a figure skater from the St. Petersburg school and a student of Alexei Mishin.
Romanova graduated from the Lesgaft Institute, moreover, Mishin calls her his favorite student: “Olya is one of my smartest graduates. She is twice the winner of the All-Union competition in pedagogy and physiology. The most talented student in the group.
In 1993, Romanova married an Italian and moved to the north of Italy, where she got a job as a coach at a local ice rink. Naturally, she gave her two children, who were born in Monza, to figure skating. Fortunately, Bergamo, where she coaches, is half an hour away.
First, the eldest daughter Anna achieved success – she even made it to major international competitions. But then her career began to decline, but Nikolaj, on the contrary, began to win among his peers.
“My children had no chance not to get into figure skating. I’m at the rink all day, where should they go? Nikolaj, by the way, started skating quite late – at the age of 8, but he immediately liked it very much. Maybe because before that he just played on the ice. He practically grew up at the rink but I didn’t force him or pressure him. And then he suddenly decided that he wanted to do it seriously,” Olga Romanova told.
Both Olga and Nikolaj have two passports – Italian and Russian, Nikolaj understands Russian and speaks it well, but in training, they speak Italian.
“Yes, at the rink we often speak Italian, because we are not alone on the ice – I also train other children. But sometimes we can say something to each other in Russian. When in the summer we come to St. Petersburg to train, we speak Russian there, of course.”
Interview Nikolaj also starts in Russian, but then he still asks to switch to English – it’s faster and more familiar.
Nikolaj Memola: My mother and I go to St. Petersburg every year – she comes from there. The fact that I also have a Russian passport helps to avoid visa difficulties, especially now. We come for a month and a half or two months and work at Alexei Mishin’s rink. In general, I think that he is the best coach of all time. He’s the Professor.
My training at Yubileiny is rare luck because both Elizaveta Tuktamysheva and Mikhail Kolyada skate there, it is such an honor for me to skate with them on the same ice. For example, if something doesn’t work out for you, you have no mood to skate; and you go to their skating rink, you see how hard they work and that’s it, the mood immediately changes.
So I went, I go and I will go to Professor Mishin. It is like a family to me, there, one might say, is my second home. He knows me since childhood because they are very friendly with my mother. Alexei Nikolaevich, thank you very much for the opportunity to train at your school. This is a huge honor.
What are you working on with Mishin?
Nikolaj Memola: Well, with everything, this is Mishin, he is a genius. And I’m talking not only about figure skating – he is a very wise person in life too. He is always ready to give advice and support, and he does it so masterfully. It would seem that it’s just one phrase, but you immediately feel better.
Once I completely gave up, nothing worked out for me and Mishin came up to me and, no, he began not to scold, but to talk. He asks: “Why did you come to training? You could have stayed at home. If you came to the ice then skate, no need to waste time.” And that’s all since then I’ve been as focused at the rink as possible.
I love Yubileiny – it’s the best place to train. There, the skating rink itself is superb, and an amazing team works there. First of all, Mishin’s wife Tatiana Nikolaevna, she is unique, and also Tatiana Prokofieva, Sonya Samodurova (European champion-2019 – ed) …
What can you say about coach Sofia Samodurova?
Nikolaj Memola: She is at the rink every day, working with all the guys from Mishin’s group. She is very cool, and the most valuable thing is that she herself was a high-level athlete not so long ago, so she has something to say and advise. Sonya is a supergirl – smart, sensitive, and experienced.
Do you communicate in Russian when you train at Yubileiny?
Nikolaj Memola: Oh sure. And since I spend quite a long time there, I get a summer language school in addition, haha. It’s a pity that during the season I lose Russian a little, because at home we speak Italian, and at the rink too.
So I’m just happy that I have this opportunity. Of course, everything is not easy now, I am very sad about what is happening in Ukraine. But my mother and I still did not cancel our trip to St. Petersburg.
You know, everyone seems to say that sport is out of politics, but in reality, it is not. Not everyone understood and supported our decision – I was told that I should not go to Russia now, but I go there for personal reasons, I need it myself, and I do not show any public position. People dear to me live there: Mishin is my favorite coach, he has nothing to do with what is happening.
Memola’s feelings for Mishin seem to be mutual, the Professor speaks of the Italian student with tenderness and in an interview with Sports.ru promises Nikolaj a great future:
“Kolya has been going to this success for a long and difficult time. His height is serious, of course. Add to this some difficulties with the initial training that he had in Italy. The thermonuclear mixture of a Russian student and an Italian macho gave birth to this amazing boy whom we saw on the top step of the pedestal in Riga.
When he skates in St. Petersburg on the same ice with Liza Tuktamysheva, Mikhail Kolyada, Evgeni Semenenko – that is, with winners of the Olympic Games and World Championships – he, perhaps, looks even better than them in some ways. And he is a very sincere person, he just attracts people to him.
He had problems with quadruple jumps – we determined what was the matter and corrected the situation. I think that in the near future he will be a serious competition for strong athletes from his team, because if we talk about the emotional component, then there are few such guys, not only in Europe, but even in the world.
But you know, the main author of Nikolaj’s success is his mother. It is she who must be thanked, without her there would be nothing. She is the helmsman who brilliantly led her son and student along this thorny path.” – Mishin said.
ISU profile says Memola’s height is 195 cm (6,4 ft)
Nikolaj Memola: Well, the last time I measured it, it was really 195 cm, but since then, it seems to me, I have grown even more, by a centimeter for sure. When I fly, I try to take a row with extra legroom, otherwise, it’s very hard.
What about foot size?
Nikolaj Memola: 46. And yes, thank God, Edea provides me with boots, so I can be calm and not worry where they get this size of boots, haha.
How much does it affect jumps? There are many athletes of this height in tennis or basketball, but in figure skating, this is a rarity.
Nikolaj Memola: Height is not my main problem at all, I have already learned not to pay attention to it. I grew up very sharply, and I had to adapt. Here, Professor Mishin helped a lot. You, he says, just stop thinking about it; well, you’re tall, so what now? Try not to jump with all your might, go for the jump smartly, without investing so much energy into it.
And it let me go. Yes, quads with my height are not an easy thing, because when the axis of the quadruple jump “fails”, then there’s a difference whether it happens with a two-meter athlete or with a shorter one.
And how are things going with the quads now?
Nikolaj Memola: I jump quadruple salchow. Yes, so far only in training, but I have it. I’m not ready to put it into the program yet, I don’t want to risk that the program will fall apart because of this. Alexei Nikolaevich, of course, helped me with this, we worked a lot on quads in the summer.
But I would like to mention the work of my mother. After the last European Championships, the salchow suddenly disappeared. And my very patient mother helped me not to despair, but to continue my work. I am very grateful to her, she believes in me so much and always supports me. If it were not for my mother, I would not be standing here and giving you this interview. She is strong and charges me with this strength.
By the way, I choreographed both programs myself this season. Of course, then we polished them with a professional choreographer, but the original idea was mine.
I also always choose the music myself – I don’t understand at all how you can skate to the song that the coach brought you. You have to feel what you’re skating. You may even quite like what was offered to you, but still, this is not the same as an independent choice. Here I am skating a short program to Rachmaninoff and I feel it with all my heart. I dreamed of a program to Rachmaninoff for a long time – about 6 years to be exact. But I had to grow up to this music. And this year I suddenly realized that the time has come, I’m ready.
You reached the Grand Prix final, what’s next? Europe Championships?
Nikolaj Memola: First, I need to qualify there, we have very strong guys on the national team. It is a great honor for me to compete with them. When Daniel (Grassl) jumps quads, it is very motivating. So I need to perform consistently throughout the season, increase my rating within the country, and perform well at the Italian Nationals and then everything is possible.
Yes, I won at the Grand Prix stage – albeit with a not quite clean performance. But further, it’s already necessary to skate without mistakes. Last season I finished fourth in the national rankings, let’s see what will happen in this one.
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