“Once I walked to the arena through the cementery and candles lit up my way” Big interview with interesting skater Mark Kondratiuk
Interview with Mark Kondratiuk who has recently won the third spot for Russian men at the upcoming Olympics in Beijing. About Nebelhorn Trophy, art and funny situations in his career.
source: sport24.ru dd. 6th October 2021 by Konstantin Lesik
How did you find out that you were going to the Nebelhorn?
Mark Kondratiuk: I flew from Chelyabinsk with a slight delay because we were tested for doping. I got a taxi and Svetlana Vladimirovna called (Sokolovskaya, Mark’s coach – ed). An hour later it was in the media.
What was your first reaction?
Mark Kondratiuk: A little scary. Of course, in my head I considered the option that I could be sent to Germany. But it didn’t seem very likely to me. I thought they would send someone else.
Mark Kondratiuk: Maybe yes. I thought they should send him first. In general, when I found out, I was a little surprised. But it’s stupid to refuse such a chance. I realized that I needed to go and try to do a good job. If not at the maximum, then at least good enough for the spot.
Were you thinking about responsibility for the whole country?
Mark Kondratiuk: I knew what my responsibility was, but I tried not to think about it. Of course, it is difficult to get such out of your head, but I tried not to think about the spot – this is unnecessary stress.
How would you assess your performance in Germany?
Mark Kondratiuk: Short program: I give 3 out of 5 for jumps. Maybe 3.5. But at least I landed them, I did without big mistakes. I didn’t like how I skated the program in terms of emotions. Maybe from the outside it looked different, but according to my feelings at the test skates in Chelyabinsk everything was much better in terms of integrity.
Free program – on the contrary. I skated it better than at the test skates. Maybe I’ll give it B or B-.
Why did it happen so?
Mark Kondratiuk: I can say specifically about the free program. I died in Chelyabinsk. The finale is especially important there, I tried to give emotions, skate somehow. There is mad energy in this piece of music, you need to match it. And I could not get there. Although the short program was energetical. It was already easier to skate in Germany.
After the end of the free program, it seemed like a tiger possessed you: you waved your arms, hit your fist on the ice. What was in your head at that moment?
Mark Kondratiuk: At that moment, thoughts were already over. But they were during the performance. When I did my second quadruple salchow, I realized that everything would be fine. I didn’t think about the medal, but I understood that I have already won the spot.
I knew how many points people had. There are skaters who do not watch the performances and scores of their rivals. It’s not about me. At the time of my skating, I knew how many points I need to score in order to complete my task.
The fans reacted differently to your trip. Many called you the winner of the third spot, but there were also those who said that Misha Kolyada and Zhenya Semenenko did everything at the World Championships, and whoever was sent to Germany would still be in the top 7. Do you put yourself on a par with Misha and Zhenya when it comes to this achievement?
Mark Kondratiuk: No, I don’t. I honestly think I made a smaller impact on these spots. If not for Misha and Zhenya, no one would have gone to Germany. Would any of those “whoever they sent” take a spot or not – another question. But if it were not for the successes of Semenenko and Kolyada, then nothing would have happened at all and this is a fact.
How much do you rate your contribution as a percentage?
Mark Kondratiuk: If divided into three, then let Misha and Zhenya have 40% each, and me – 20%.
At the Nebelhorn you had quad toe loop and salchow. Are there any plans to complicate the content?
Mark Kondratiuk: At the end of October I am going to the Denis Ten memorial in Kazakhstan. There are plans to show a quadruple loop there.
Are we talking about the short program?
Mark Kondratiuk: Yes. I want to show there loop, axel and salchow – toe loop. Maybe the loop will be in combinations, let’s see how it goes. If we talk about my ideal free program, then it consists of four quadruples and two triple axels. But in Kazakhstan, definitely there will not be a loop in the free program, but maybe I’ll try the second axel. Four quads in the free program are more of goal for the Russian Nationals.
That is, it is hard to compete with three quads?
Mark Kondratiuk: To be honest, I think that it’s possible. With a clean performance with two quads in the short and three quads in the free program, you can become a prize-winner at the Russian Nationals. But it will be very difficult to get on the podium at the World Championships.
It is clear that working on a loop is an attempt to collect strong content for the Russian Nationals, but in a global sense it is work for the future.
You entered the Plekhanov Russian University of Economics. How are the things going with your studies?
Mark Kondratiuk: Yes, I am at the Faculty of the Hotel and Restaurant, Tourism and Sports Industry. Now I am studying hotel business, but I plan to transfer to the sports department later.
Do your classmates know that you are a prize-winner of the Russian Nationals in figure skating?
Mark Kondratiuk: Well I don’t tell everyone I meet about it. (Laughs.) At some point – yes, they found out. In one of the first days of study, we told about ourselves, and I said that I was a master of sports in figure skating.
And when I was at the university after the Nebelhorn, I was recognized three times. I’m like, “Lord!” (Shows pleasant surprise.) But, of course, I am no longer embarrassed. It’s pleasant. And I can talk to everyone.
You started skating when you were two and a half years old. Do you remember anything?
Mark Kondratiuk: No. The first vivid impression remained in my memory when I was about 6-7 years old.
I was the first in the group to jump a double loop. I remember how they gathered the guys so that I showed this jump to the whole group. And … I fell. 20 times in a row. In the end, nothing worked out for me, and the coaches told everyone: “Well, go ahead and skate.”
As for me at 2.5 years old, I immediately fell down as I stepped onto the ice. Some at this age can stand at least, but I immediately fell over. They told me this later.
Because of the falls, the coach nicknamed me Plukhshenko. Yes, it was Plukhshenko with the “kh”. He had such humor. (the word “plukh” in Russian used to denote the sound caused by an object falling flat -ed.)
Your grandfather is a skier. Why not ski?
Mark Kondratiuk: If it had been my grandfather who brought me to sports, then, perhaps, it would have been skis. But my mother did. Although I can ski and snowboard. And in general, at 2.5 years old, they taught me both to skate and to ski. I was told that I was fearless on skis. All the children on the top of the mountain were scared. But I wasn’t.
You have a video on your VK page where you go to workout at night through the cemetery. What was it?
Mark Kondratiuk: Haha, that was in Poland. Competitions in the city of Torun. It so happened that it took a long time to walk from the hotel to the ice rink. There was no transfer. And between the hotel and the arena there was a cemetery. Of course, it could be bypassed. But it is rather narrow and long. If you go around, then this is an extra 10-15 minutes. Or you could walk through. And what will I choose when my workout starts at 7 am? The choice is obvious. And this short journey was lit for me by the candles that stood on the graves. Sorry, at 6:40 it is really hard to take the detour.
Is this the strangest story that ever happened to you at competitions?
Mark Kondratiuk: A couple of times I overslept official trainings. It was in Kazakhstan two years ago. The training started very early – around 7 am, plus time zones. I slept facing the window. I open my eyes and realize that it is suspiciously light for six in the morning. (Laughs.) I frantically poke at the phone, I see the conditional 8:30 – 9 o’clock there and come to the conclusion that this is a failure. I jump up and cannot fully realize it. On the one hand, I understand that I … did not attend the training session. But it took me some time to realize this.
Had to train in the room?
Mark Kondratiuk: Yes. (Smiles.) This is not a joke. It was a lucky coincidence that organization was on incredible level in Kazakhstan. Everything was very cool. The rooms were gorgeous and very large. There was enough space to jump. In general, I had a warm-up on the floor.
Did the coach scold you harsh?
Mark Kondratiuk: It was not Svetlana Vladimirovna (Sokolovskaya – ed) who was with me, but Stanislav Zakharov. Answering the question – yes, harsh.
Stanislav came to practice and didn’t find you there?
Mark Kondratiuk: Exactly.
Why didn’t he call you and wake up?
Mark Kondratiuk: It is a common practice for an athlete to come earlier than a coach. And he thought I was already there.
And the second time you overslept not at an international event right?
Mark Kondratiuk: Yes, that was a long time ago. 5-6 years ago.
So it happens to you every 4 years?
Mark Kondratiuk: Yes, in two years I need to be careful.
What kind of relationship do you have with your teammate Alexander Samarin now?
Mark Kondratiuk: At first they were neutral, and over time it grew into friendship. Or even something more. You can say that I consider him my older brother.
Have you discussed Nebelhorn with Sasha?
Mark Kondratiuk: Yes. When I was in Germany, and he was in Syzran at the stage of the Russian Cup, we were in touch.We watched each other’s performances, support each others. I don’t think it’s necessary to point out mistakes during competitions. He only said that I should not add a combination with a toe loop in the free program, ha-ha.
And I texted him after the short program, which was very cool. 106 points! It was really solid. And he wrote: “Well done, hold on, everything will be fine.” Well, he also congratulated me after the free program.
Did your love for art originate in London?
Mark Kondratiuk: Yes. I once went to Tate Modern. At first I thought it was something crazy. Okay, Salvador Dali. I agree, he is famous. Rest? Well not at all.
I came there again a year later. And everything was perceived differently. I watched with my mouth open. After that I decided to try it myself.
How many exhibitions have you had?
Mark Kondratiuk: Two personal. Just with my participation – 5-7.
How do you rate their success?
Mark Kondratiuk: It’s cool that I was able to do the first one almost completely myself at the age of 16: find a place, organize everything. I did 90 percent of everything. Somewhere, maybe they helped me bring something. But in general, I did everything myself.
The second time was already easier, because they wrote to me and offered to make an exhibition.
In one of the videos on your Instagram, you take paintings, throw them out of the window, and then jump on them. What is it?
Mark Kondratiuk: The sense of the randomness of how colors end up at work. You throw, everything mixes up, and you get a random set. Something vaguely similar is being done by one of the most famous English artists Damien Hirst. In no case now do I put myself on a par with him. He took big canvas, climbed up and threw paint. It splattered and created a random color canvas.
Is there a painting that you consider the best?
Mark Kondratiuk: Yes. (Mark takes out his phone and shows a picture.) It was bought later. I don’t remember the exact price – around $ 500.
At the time of its creation, I was as pleased as possible with the result. It seemed to me that this is the best thing that I have done. And not because it was bought for $ 500, especially since the purchase took place after a year and a half. I drew it together with another artist Sergei Nikitin. He taught me a lot. This is one of our first joint projects. This is a large format painting, which was made in a few hours of hard work and a serious splash of emotions. Then I sat looking at it and thought: “Wow, this is probably the first thing that I did that I really liked.”
When the news about your exhibition was published on the Sports.ru website, people expressed mostly negatively in the comments. And the most popular was: “Let’s be honest, he draws some kind of garbage.”
Mark Kondratiuk: It seems to me that I have already seen it. I take it calmly. I am pleased when they praise me. But, if someone writes not very good things, I do not care, honestly. I’m not offended. I can even laugh. I have self-irony.
But it can upset me when they write badly about someone else. I may or may not know the skater well, but when I read hate about him, it’s unpleasant. I treat everything with humor, but there are those who can be very offended. People, think what you write.
It seems to me that this happens in any sport. Just on a different scale. It is clear that in our case the scale is large, because figure skating is one of the most popular sports in Russia. And the fanbase is large, and as a result, there are more haters. But in percentage terms, there are not so many of them.
Are there haters in art too?
Mark Kondratiuk: I didn’t really come across this. Rather, I have not seen hate towards any particular artist. They can hate contemporary art in general. But someone in particular … In figure skating, it happens that a particular person or a particular club is criticized.
Can you talk now about the time you missed because of Osgood-Schlatter’s illness?
Mark Kondratiuk: Yes.
How did it all start?
Mark Kondratiuk: It was about four years ago. I came to the rink and felt that my knee hurt. Then we started visiting doctors, did some kind of MRI. What I remember specifically is that it started to hurt in April, and for about three more months I skated, went to training camps in Italy. I could not work at full strength, but still skated, did general physical training, choreography.
In July, I stopped skating at all. Why? Let’s say you don’t skate for a week, then go on the ice and think, “Oh, it’s okay now.” It takes 15, 30 minutes or an hour, and you realize that knees hurt just like they hurted a week ago. Endure? Perhaps someone can. I could not. As a result, I missed a year, and if you count the competitions – one and a half.
Maybe now I could endure. I don’t know, I don’t really remember this pain. We talked with Svetlana Vladimirovna and decided that we would take a break, undergo treatment and come back later.
What did you do during this pause?
Mark Kondratiuk: This time has passed quite productively. More productive than quarantine due to a pandemic. We went to the sea, to the Czech Republic. I began to read a lot, go to auctions. Didn’t sit at home, in general.
Does the knee bother you now?
Mark Kondratiuk: No, now everything is fine.
You said that you often watch the free program of Alexei Yagudin “The Man in the Iron Mask”. Are there any other performances that you watch from time to time?
Mark Kondratiuk: Of course. But this is not the top, I list in random order. Go! Yuzuru Hanyu’s “Seimei” at the Olympics and the Grand Prix finals in Barcelona, “Karenina” by Zhenya Medvedeva, “Schindler’s List” by Yulia Lipnitskaya, “The Greatest Showman” by Alexander Samarin at the European Championships in Minsk, Dima Aliev’s victorious skating at the European Championships, Kamila Valieva’s “Storm”, as well as Anna Shcherbakova’s “Perfume” and “Firebird”.
And still. Who comes first?
Mark Kondratiuk: Probably Seimei. I just think this program is brilliant. No more, no less.
Do you watch other disciplines at competitions?
Mark Kondratiuk: I try, but at the test skates we had such tickets that I had to leave for the airport right after my free program. I really wanted to watch the girls, I talked about this with Svetlana Vladimirovna, but she said that we had to fly, because we have a lot of work.
But they took me for doping, and I didn’t fly away. I was so happy! I quickly passed it and went to the stands. We did not have enough time to catch the initial flight anyway.
Which of the girls impressed you?
(Mark was about to answer, but thought)
Mark Kondratiuk: I don’t even know if it’s worth talking about it now, haha. Or will figure skating fans kill me? Whoever I name, I’m done.
In general, “all did well”?
Mark Kondratiuk: Yes exactly! All did well. Of course, there are those who I liked more. But let’s not name them. (Smiles.)
Are you rewatching something from your performances?
Mark Kondratiuk: Probably the Russian Nationals.
Was it more emotional than at the Channel One Cup?
Mark Kondratiuk: No. It’s just that I’ve already rewatched the Channel One Cup. Maybe this comparison will seem strange, but … In general, there is a music album that you really like. And there’s a super favorite song there. But at some point you already start listening to other songs from this album. And that one … Yes, it is very cool, but you have already listened it so many times.
It’s the same here. I watched that performance many times. Now sometimes I watch others.
Is there a chance that you will bring back one of the old programs this season?
Mark Kondratiuk: No. But I can tell you why we changed the free program at all. It was Svetlana Vladimirovna’s idea. If I had asked to keep the old one, they would have met me halfway. But at some point I myself realized that I could not skate it the way I skated before. Not in terms of elements, but in terms of emotions. I had a specific amount of thoughts and emotions that I could express.
Do you have ambitions to become a choreographer?
Mark Kondratiuk: I thought about it a lot. But I don’t know the answer to this question yet. If I want to? Perhaps. I can probably be a choreographer. But I want to be not one of the many, but an interesting choreographer who creates cool programs. But I don’t know whether I can become such a choreographer.
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