Natalia Zabijako and Alexander Enbert: We need to add entertainment to skating otherwise cybersport will displace us
Interview with Natalia Zabijako and Alexander Enbert. About upcoming test skates and begining of the season, Grand-Prix, Olympics and programs.
by Ekaterina Bespalova and Dmitri Kiznetsov for sport-express.ru dd 26th July, 2019
How is offseason going?
Alexander: We put the short program and now going to the training camp in Italy.
Many announce their music in advance and the discussion begins “why did you take it?” Did you hear such?
Alexander: I think it is better to show the finished product with all the transitions when it already looks beautiful, polished. Then fewer questions arise. But everyone is waiting for this announcements, and we also made it early, as soon as we put the program.
Not the first year in Russia test skates are held. How does it feel to start the season in front of your native viewers?
Natalia: We are preparing for them as to competitions, we approach test skates seriously.
Alexander: They used to be closed, but it also was a stress. There was not a single performance in my career when I did not worry. Moreover, you are showing your program for the first time – to the judges, specialists, and it’s not always perfect, and the shape isn’t optimal. So of course we worry.
Have you heard that only expensive tickets are left in sale?
Alexander: This is an exclusive!
Natalia: Like a premiere.
Alexander: This is cool. I would like to see them myself. This is a great idea.
Are you given advices at such test skates? Can for example Alina Zagitova come to you and say: “Listen, I think it would be better to change this step?”
Natalia: I don’t remember that we communicate with someone other than our coaches.
Alexander: No, of course we are all living people, of course we are talking. We haven’t seen each other for a long time, we are discussing new programs, new elements. There are no direct recommendations. If you have a cool program, they will come and compliment. If bad …
Natalia: Will avoid.
Do you follow your competitors? With special attention?
Alexander: We follow. With special attention. Earlier, when Zhenya and Vova (Tarasova and Morozov) skated with us, everything was in plain sight, now we will be attentive at the test skates.
Now you are the only strong pair in Nina Mozer’s group. Did this change your attitude to the process?
Alexander: Since Zhenya and Vova train in America, we are the best pair on the continent! But with them there was an optimal training plan – you could see how a strong pair works alongside with you. This is motivation.
How convenient for you the schedule of Grand Prix – United States and France?
Natalia: We had different options, even happened that we had two GP in a row, which is very comfortable. Even if you return home for a day, you do not have time to lose shape.
Alexander: It wasn’t convenient when we had Canada and USA in a row. We then returned to Russia, then flew to New York again, and there we took a bus to Lake Placid. And it was something like a small bus.
Natalia: For 6 hours you have nowhere to put your legs.
Alexander: I thought there is nothing small in America, but it turns out there is. But in general, now we know when we have GP, and all the preparation will be built accordingly. Although we start at the first GP, we have calmness. I always had a question what is better to start or to finish. It seemed to me that in the beginning I wasn’t ready yet.
Natalia: And at the end you’re already tired. (laugh)
Do you follow the changes in the rules? Would you change something?
Alexander: Something could be changed in lifts, to add levels, to diversify the marks. Something else you could give extra points …
For the costumes? Swords?
Natalia: By the way, it would be great!
Alexander: Unfortunately inventory is forbidden. We thought how to build a program with swords, but the rules didn’t allow it. Although I’m not sure that it would be comfortable for me to warm-up with a pair armed with swords.
Alexander: Exactly! But you can think about these rules. Allowing inventory would definitely add entertainment. I like what ISU is doing now, how they announce skaters, with lights. This is show, and it needs to be developed in this direction while cybersport hasn’t displaced us.
Natalia: If you leave everything as it was before, it will be boring.
Have you tried any unusual elements in training?
Alexander: The most extreme thing I was offered in Italy by a roller skater coach. He showed difficult way out form a lift, and Natasha had to make a turn before landing. And when I had to catch Natasha, I realized that my arm was bending. I was seeing stars, everything got dark, the pain was wild! And we said no, let’s try another lift. Thank God, there were no injuries.
What do you feel when you are in free flight?
Natalia: Actually nothing, you don’t have time to think about anything. Even when you jump, you don’t really feel anything. Although before the World Championships we did a throw, Sasha moved onto his heels, and then I had time to think: “God, what will happen!”
Alexander: Yes, we literally flew parallel to the ice. Sometimes something inexplicable can happen. Got into the arc and you can lose not only the element, but also your leg.
How is the programs growing on you?
Alexander: Last year to understand our short program we had to watch the movie “Alexander Nevsky”, to understand the movements. Our choreographer Tatiana Druchinina helps us a lot, who explains every gesture in the program. She is one of the best specialists in working with the programs. As for the “Snow Queen”, Natalia will write her fairy tale for our program. We just heard the music and our choreographer Sergei Komolov told the idea: Natasha with a new hairstyle, strong and cold. And then Natasha wrote a poem and a story.
What was the Olympics 2018 for you? Name the three brightest moments.
Natalia: The first – when we climbed the pedestal after team event. The second is the performance itself on such an arena. And the third is the fact that we were at the Olympics.
Did the situation with the flag and the anthem bother a lot?
Alexander: It was a distraction when we were in Russia. You got insulted, and your forces were wasted. But it was also impossible not to think about this, especially when they give you a uniform with no national signs. We had to cover with tape all the national symbols on the boots and suitcases. But when we arrived to PyeongChang, we were able to set this thought aside, because we have been going to this for 20 years.
How did you communicate with each other during the team event?
Alexander: There was a specific atmosphere. Someone has already skated and was too happy, someone just had to perform, he was focused and it was better not to touch him. We tried not to go deep into the analytics, not to count how many points you need to get. At the World Team Trophy, we had fun, but at the Olympics, everything was much responsible, everyone understood that they performed not only for themselves.
Alina Zagitova and Evgenia Medvedeva stood apart in the team. Was it scary to let them down?
Alexander: Skating in a pair, you get used to the fact that you can always let someone down if you skate badly. One person or five – it is not so important. I got this feeling immediately after becoming a pair skater. You think not only about yourself, but also about another person. But all the same, as soon as the music starts, the algorithm works, and it does not matter at what competitions you skate.
Your nearest goal is Beijing 2022. Have you thought what next?
Alexander: No, in sports it is hard to make predictions even for a month. There are injuries. Now we have recovered a bit, because last season we had to miss the European Championship. In August I will go to the third doctor in the United States, because so far the opinions of Japanese and Russian doctors are diverge.
Natalia, looking at the current level of technique in figure skating, did not you think: thank God, I’m doing pairs?
Alexander: Natasha thinks: “Girls, you should be happy that I’m doing pairs.”
Natalis: No, I didn’t even think about it. Are the girls’s quads beyond human capabilities? Rather no, they have already become something usual. Five turns yes, it is already beyond the edge.
Alexander: I still can’t imagine where is the limit. New training techniques make your body more resilient. It’s one thing to skate once a day on a frozen lake, and quite another when you have a whole team of specialists working for you. The main thing is to have an evolution, not a revolution. To avoid situations similar to the one that happened in pair skating a few years ago, when quadruple throws became a trend, and many pairs, including us, got injured learning them.
Alexander, Olympic champion Alena Savchenko told me that after Sochi she considered you as a potential partner …
Alexander: When did she say that? They wrote to me from Germany about the possibility of skating with a good girl, but did not specify with which one. But even if they had, still I wouldn’t have agreed, because I wanted to represent only Russia.
Natalia, you always post photos of all kinds of dietary goodies on Instagram …
Alexander: Yes, she brings me treats, some nuts were especially delicious.
Natalia: Actually, they wasn’t really healthy food.
Alexander: That’s right, not very healthy – that’s for Sasha.
Is it possible to eat them every day and be one of the slimmest pair skaters in the world?
Natalia: Well, not every day. In general, I don’t have to starve, sometimes in the evening I run 10 kilometers on my own initiative. It’s better not to eat at night, maximum in two hours before bedtime, and it must be something light: a salad, chicken breast or smoothie. Ideally, also to drink two liters of water a day, but for some reason I can’t.
If they were making a movie about your life, it would be called …
(together) – On the edge.
What would you advise to yourself if you had the opportunity to go five years back?
Natalia: Take care of yourself.
Alexander: Do what you should. During these five years, Natalia and I have always found the right way out of difficult situations.
Related topics: Natalia Zabijako Alexander Enbert