“On the ice, I’m Georgian, but in life, I’m still the same Russian Nastya. I’ve lived my whole life in Russia, and I still live here; who else am I inside, if not Russian?” Interview with 2023 European champion Anastasiia Gubanova
Interview with 2023 European champion Anastasiia Gubanova.
source: RSport dd. 6 February 2023 by Andrei Simonenko
Anastasiia Gubanova was born in Togliatti, lives and trains in St. Petersburg, but represents Georgia. In an interview with RIA Novosti Sport, she talked about her main victory after changing citizenship, the holes on the ice after Loena Hendrickx’s performance, the story of Valieva, and quad jumps.
Nastya, I looked at your social media and noticed that there were more and more comments in Georgian. Isn’t it time to start learning Georgian?
Anastasiia Gubanova: You could say I’ve already started. I know a couple of words (laughs).
Did you feel like your popularity increased after winning the European Championships?
Anastasiia Gubanova: Yes, I have more followers. Many people write and congratulate me. Even started recognizing me on the streets.
Anastasiia Gubanova: Yes, it never happened before. And then I was walking in St. Petersburg with my friends, and people recognized me right on the street.
What did they say?
Anastasiia Gubanova: They congratulated me, said kind words, and that they liked my skating.
When you were preparing for the European Championships, did you think that winning was possible?
Anastasiia Gubanova: Of course, I understood that I was one of the favorites. But I didn’t have such a global goal of winning in mind because it immediately adds pressure. The most important thing for me was to cope with the programs. And then, of course, the judges decided.
By the way, we talked about judges in last year’s interview and how strict they are towards you. Do you still feel that way?
Anastasiia Gubanova: It seems to me that things have gotten better in that regard. In general, everything is fine.
This season has been difficult for you; there have been both successes and failures…
Anastasiia Gubanova: Actually, the season is very difficult; before it started, I had surgery. When I went to practice during training camp, it was painful just to stand on the ice. Everyone was already getting in shape, and I remember standing there, crying, and realizing that I couldn’t do anything. If someone had told me at that moment that I would become the European champion in a few months, I wouldn’t have believed it.
And then I started to get into shape; I had a successful start at the Grand Prix in Sheffield. Then a bad result at the second Grand Prix in Espoo…
This season, you went to this city like it was your home.
Anastasiia Gubanova: Yes, I had three competitions there: Finlandia Trophy, a Grand Prix event, and the European Championships. It really is like a second home (laughs).
After the failure at that Grand Prix, you posted that you would learn from it. Was that a turning point in the season?
Anastasiia Gubanova: After that Grand Prix, I was emotionally drained until the European Championships. But I think it made me stronger. I was able to overcome myself.
Were you very nervous at the European Championships?
Anastasiia Gubanova: During the short program, I was not nervous at all and was confident in myself. I was still calm on the day between the programs. But on the day of the free program, I certainly felt nervous… Especially after the six-minute warm-up while waiting for my turn on the ice. Luckily, I was able to cope with it.
Did the proximity of victory affect you?
Anastasiia Gubanova: Responsibility. And the understanding that I need to do everything well here and now and not to miss my chance.
There was a big resonance with the episode when the Belgian skater Loena Hendrickx, who performed before you, hit the ice with her blade three times, leaving the ice. Did you see that?
Anastasiia Gubanova: Yes, I saw it. At that moment, I thought maybe something didn’t work out for her, and she expressed her emotions this way. I didn’t have any other thoughts.
But many people thought that she did it to spoil your performance – after all, a hole in the ice could lead to a failed element.
Anastasiia Gubanova: I read about it. But I don’t think so.
Did you talk to Loena afterwards?
Anastasiia Gubanova: Yes, everything is fine between us, there is no anger or unresolved issues.
I saw your photos in a beautiful dress at the banquet after the European Championships. They were not held for some time due to the pandemic, were they?
Anastasiia Gubanova: They weren’t held in the previous season when I went to the European and World Championships. It’s great that they’re back again. It’s a great event where athletes can get to know each other and chat after the competitions. It was a lot of fun.
When you first started skating as a child, what did you dream of — big victories right away?
Anastasiia Gubanova: I have a childhood video; my mom filmed it, in which I say, “I want to become a Lympic champion in the future!”
A “Lympic” champion?
Anastasiia Gubanova: Yeah, a “Lympic” champion (laughs). But as you grow up, of course, you look at things more reasonably. There are other goals as well. This season, it was the European Championships. What will happen next, I can’t say yet.
Did figure skating come easy to you when you were a child?
Anastasiia Gubanova: I don’t remember everything from when I was very little. I don’t remember finding it difficult to learn something new. But there were other difficulties. When I started to show good results, other children, probably at the instigation of their parents, sometimes played tricks on me. They put needles in my skates. Once I gave my gloves to a girl to wear, and the next day she returned them to me. My hands were burning, fiery red after a while of wearing them. So there were such moments too. But from the age of 14-15, when puberty began, everything in general became more difficult.
It was at that moment when you moved to Moscow to train with Elena Buyanova…
Anastasiia Gubanova: Yes, I moved when I was 15.
You were born in Tolyatti but have lived in St. Petersburg since early childhood. And many people from St. Petersburg find it hard to live in Moscow.
Anastasiia Gubanova: Of course, I like St. Petersburg more, and it was difficult for me in Moscow. I was far from my family, and it was a new city for me…
And then there’s puberty…
Anastasiia Gubanova: Its peak. It was difficult for me to control my weight, which made training harder. Food is energy. No food means no energy. And I had to work even harder. Because of this, it was a very difficult period.
And you were expelled from Elena Germanovna’s group for “non-compliance with the shape set by the tasks.” Was it offensive?
Anastasiia Gubanova: Of course, it was offensive. When you realize you’ve tried everything but can’t fool your body. You can’t lose weight no matter what, or if you can, it won’t stay off.
Did you want to quit figure skating then?
Anastasiia Gubanova: So after we parted ways with Elena Germanovna, I did quit. I didn’t skate for three weeks. I went to my grandmother’s house in Tolyatti to relax. I ate a lot of delicious food and became three times bigger (laughs). I didn’t even think about returning at that time. But soon I realized that I was bored and that I couldn’t live without figure skating. So I turned to Evgeni Vladimirovich Rukavitsin.
And what specifically did you miss? What made you so hooked on figure skating?
Anastasiia Gubanova: I’ve been on the ice rink since I was a child; every day I came, I trained. When that stopped, I felt like part of my life had gone. My heart was whole, and then half of it was taken away. Those were the emotions back then. And to say that figure skating hooked me in childhood—I can’t even say that (smiles).
At first, it was just for health, then my mom used to persuade me. And only after some time did I realize that what I loved about figure skating was its beauty and artistry. You step onto the ice and bring pleasure, no matter how difficult it is. To yourself—from what you do; to the people who watch you. You feel it, and those are emotions that cannot even be put into words.
Do you enjoy performing in front of an audience? Сan fear overpower positive feelings?
Anastasiia Gubanova: Excitement is definitely present. I wouldn’t say it’s fear, it’s the excitement that every athlete has. But those emotions when you are already skating and, of course, the emotions after the performance are worth shaking a little before going out on the ice.
Have you ever tried doing quad jumps?
Anastasiia Gubanova: I tried a couple of times when I was training in Moscow. Later, I made a few attempts with Evgeni Vladimirovich, but I didn’t seriously work on them.
Liza Tuktamysheva proved that ultra-c elements can be learned at any age. Do you still leave such an opportunity for yourself?
Anastasiia Gubanova: I want to try to learn a quad. And then it depends on how it goes.
What do you mean?
Anastasiia Gubanova: First of all, my health is no longer the same, and it is always a top priority. You can learn a quad jump and show it at competitions, but if serious injuries occur, you will not be able to do simpler elements. And secondly, people become champions even without quads. They show not only the technical part of the program but also the program itself. And when a person skates with the soul, I think it’s even more interesting for viewers to watch.
Fans of Alexandra Trusova may disagree because five quads is still a cosmic level.
Anastasiia Gubanova: Of course, it amazes me too. For a girl to jump so many quads is an incredible load, and I was always shocked by how she could handle it. Undoubtedly, this deserves enormous respect. She made history by performing the most quads ever performed by a female athlete.
After you switched to Evgeni Rukavitsin, you still competed for Russia, right?
Anastasiia Gubanova: Yes, for another one and a half seasons. I can’t say that I was in good shape then, I was still struggling with weight. And then, in 2020, the opportunity to compete for Georgia arose.
Did you hesitate before making this decision?
Anastasiia Gubanova: Of course, I weighed all the pros and cons. But I understood that for me, it was a huge opportunity. And I am very grateful to the sports leaders of Georgia for giving me this chance and for their support. I especially felt it at the Olympics.
When a person takes on a new citizenship in ordinary life, it is a huge change for them.
Anastasiia Gubanova: For me, the only thing that changed is that I started to represent another country and started to compete at a higher level. Everything else remained the same for me. I live in St. Petersburg with my family, train with my coach, and the atmosphere is very warm. All of this helps me, both in training and in competitions.
Some Georgian figure skaters who trained in Russia moved to Europe after difficulties with travel arose. Did you consider such an option?
Anastasiia Gubanova: When partial mobilization began in the fall, I was told that I might have to move to Italy with Morisi Kvitelashvili to train. But I didn’t want that at all, I’m a very homebody person. And for me, changing the environment on a permanent basis is very difficult. I don’t have such thoughts now.
At the last European Championships, you said, “On the ice, I’m Georgian, but in life, I’m still the same Russian Nastya.” This duality is probably a strange sensation.
Anastasiia Gubanova: Indeed, it’s a strange feeling. But I’ve lived my whole life in Russia, and I still live here; who else am I inside, if not Russian?
But you’ve already gotten used to this duality?
Anastasiia Gubanova: Of course. I love both of these countries: Russia and Georgia.
Last year in April, you mentioned that you hadn’t been to Georgia yet. Have you been there since then?
Anastasiia Gubanova: Yes, I went to Georgia this summer. I walked around, admired the incredible architecture, and was amazed by the majestic temples. It’s impossible to put into words all the beauty I saw.
What did you like most about Georgia?
Anastasiia Gubanova: The warm, sunny atmosphere. Not just the atmosphere of the city, but the atmosphere of the people. Everyone was friendly, smiling, and happy.
Many Russian girls say they like Georgian guys.
Anastasiia Gubanova: (laughs) Well… I don’t know, I haven’t really thought about it.
At the Olympics in Beijing, you surpassed the American figure skater in the short program of the team event, and Russian journalists thanked you for your help in the mixed zone. Did the Russian figure skaters say anything?
Anastasiia Gubanova: Actually, I don’t remember whether they said anything to me or not (laughs). Everything was very emotional at that time. Deep down, I think they were happy, but personally, it seems that no one said anything to me.
How do you remember the Olympics now? As a competition where it was almost impossible to communicate with anyone due to anti-COVID measures?
Anastasiia Gubanova: Everything was contrary. We lived with the Georgian team, spent all our time together, and the Olympics brought us closer together.
And did you communicate with other teams, like the Russian team?
Anastasiia Gubanova: Of course we communicated, but there were strict rules and we couldn’t gather together like we used to.
For journalists after February 8th, when it became known about Kamila Valieva’s positive doping test, the entire Olympics turned into a continuous drama. What about you? Did you follow the news or try to abstract from it?
Anastasiia Gubanova: Of course, I couldn’t just pass by all of this. After all, I always trained in the same group with Russian girls. And I saw all these crowds of journalists and photographers with my own eyes. Naturally, when you are in such an atmosphere for a long time, it starts to bother you a little, even if it doesn’t affect you directly.
Did you see that heartbreaking moment when Kamila walked alone through the mixed zone, covering herself with a hood?
Anastasiia Gubanova: I left that training session earlier, so I only saw photos.
But you could probably imagine what she had to go through…
Anastasiia Gubanova: I can’t imagine how difficult it was for Kamila at that moment and how she managed to pull herself together, cope, and go out on the ice. The pressure on her was unreal.
You had your own drama at that Olympics when serious problems with your boot arose just before going on the ice. Did you have those moments of despair?
Anastasiia Gubanova: Yes. I hoped that the boot would still hold up at least during the team event. But as soon as I finished my warm-up before the short program, the hook flew off. For ten seconds, I was in shock and didn’t know what to do. Thank God, there were close people nearby who helped and called the coach. And then there were only rapidly changing pictures in front of my eyes: the coach makes a hole in the boot, threads the lace, his hands are in blood, I have to go on the ice now, I wrap the boot with tape, I realize that I squeezed my foot too much and it’s numb, I don’t feel it. And there is pressure on me, I was the last to perform in our warmup, which means that it was decided whether we would make it to the free program or not… But, by the way, I can say that this situation helped me to remove some stress from the responsibility. It distracted me. Although it added other problems too.
After this European Championships, I came across comments from people who say, “She wouldn’t have won anything if Russian figure skaters were competing,” and they say it as if it were you who didn’t allow Russian skaters to compete. Would you like to say something to these people?
Anastasiia Gubanova: Firstly, that’s their personal opinion. Secondly, I’m not responsible for the fact that Russian athletes were suspended. That’s just how it turned out. I competed in the European Championships and did my job at the right place and at the right time. That’s all I can say on this matter.
Such words must be hurtful.
Anastasiia Gubanova: Of course, when people write such comments, they may not understand the hard work that goes into it. Whether you’re a star who wins everything or an average-level athlete like me, everyone has their own story, their own problems, and their own losses. A medal means a lot to each of us. And I think all athletes should be respected.
After big wins, athletes often experience a mix of exhaustion and philosophical contemplation. Have you ever thought about your mission in sports?
Anastasiia Gubanova: Actually, I have recently thought about what my dream and goal in figure skating are. And I realized that I want to be remembered. Maybe not to achieve some enormous heights, but I want people to remember that there was a figure skater named Anastasiia Gubanova. And I want to be remembered as the girl who skated beautifully and gracefully. And after I won the European Championships, I understood that I was already someone in this sport. And it seems to me that my dream has come true.
But when one dream comes true, do you need another one to come?
Anastasiia Gubanova: Yes. Right now, I’m thinking about it.
I saw your very beautiful poem. How did your passion for writing poetry appear?
Anastasiia Gubanova: When we were on quarantine in 2020, we all stayed at home, and our moods, as you remember, sometimes went down, and I found a way to lift it up. I started writing poems. Then I started writing songs. At first, I just wrote them, but soon I tried singing them myself. I realized that I was doing it pretty well. And I recorded my own song.
And when do you feel inspired to write poems now?
Anastasiia Gubanova: Either when I’m in a bad mood or when I’m falling asleep and suddenly feel inspired. I can write a huge poem in 10-15 minutes. It comes from inside somehow.
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