Petr Gumennik: “It is likely that changing sports citizenship will be the only way out if our suspension is continued.”

Posted on 2022-12-09 • No comments yet


Interview with Petr Gumennik. About his interest in bioinformatics, mathematical approach to jumps and possibility of changing the sport citizenship.

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source: dd. 22d November 2022

Petersburg figure skater Petr Gumennik won the Russian Grand Prix stage for the first time in his career, increasing his fortune by 500 thousand rubles. In an interview with Fontanka, the 20-year-old athlete spoke about where he would spend the money, his desire to make medicines, and a possible change in sports citizenship.

A new star has emerged in men’s figure skating. 20-year-old Petr Gumennik became the winner of the fourth stage of the Russian Grand Prix, a competition that, in the absence of international starts, has become one of the main ones for domestic skaters. Petr began his career with Alexei Mishin, but then went to Veronica Daineko. He also studies at ITMO and wants to study bioinformatics. What is it, and why is it needed? Now he will tell himself.

Victory at the Grand Prix—how significant is this achievement for you?

Petr Gumennik: This is very significant because I haven’t won in a long time. You could say the entire season. So it was especially pleasant to take first place.

In men’s skating, you have a very serious competition. There is no one or two leaders. Does it help in the absence of international competitions?

Petr Gumennik: Oh, sure. Despite the fact that all competitions have been narrowed down to one country, the competition is still at a very high level. All competitors are very strong, and that’s great. There is no time to relax. You still need to keep improving.

This season, record prize money is being paid for victories. Have you already thought about what you will spend the 500 thousand rubles on?

Petr Gumennik: Not yet; I decided to keep them for now. Or maybe I’ll try to multiply by investing in something.

In bitcoins?

Petr Gumennik: No, something more conservative.

As far as I know, you study at ITMO and, in your free time, you are fond of programming, mathematics, and, in general, you want to study bioinformatics. As for the last one, what is it?

Petr Gumennik: While I have not yet plunged deeply into this, I planned to do so during my graduation year at the university. Therefore, there is little I can say. But it’s connected with genetic engineering. There are many different directions in bioinformatics. For example, you can analyze the genome, look for some patterns, and figure out how to make substitutions in the genome. In general, bioinformatics is a variable thing. There, you can be just a programmer who knows nothing about biology or a geneticist-doctor who knows nothing about programming. You can also combine them. So it’s quite interesting and versatile work.

What is the goal of bioinformatics?

Petr Gumennik: The main one, probably, is the creation of medicines. In principle, this is what I would like to do: create drugs to cure genetic diseases.

So you have already decided on a profession?

Petr Gumennik: I can’t say that completely yet. I think that in the process of studying, it will become clearer to me.

What attracted you to bioinformatics?

Petr Gumennik: I’ve just loved biology and computer science since my school days, and here they can be combined. My mother is a neurologist.

Is your father a priest?

Petr Gumennik: Yes.

Why didn’t you follow in his footsteps?

Petr Gumennik: Well, I do not know. Perhaps the Lord should call.

Do you believe in God?

Petr Gumennik: Of course.

Aren’t genetics and belief in God mutually exclusive?

Petr Gumennik: I don’t think so. On the contrary, they complement each other perfectly.

In computer science, you received 100 points for the state exam, and, as I understand it, it was a challenge for you, not a necessity. How long have you been preparing?

Petr Gumennik: Yes, that’s right; prepared for four months.

Did you have to sacrifice figure skating time?

Petr Gumennik: No. I started preparing in March, when all the competitions were over. I prepared in my free time. I had time to relax. I can even say that it was not very tense.

In general, you took exams in seven subjects. Why so many?

Petr Gumennik: When I graduated from school, I took exams in mathematics, Russian language, biology, and chemistry. Then I decided to retake mathematics and biology because the first time it didn’t work out too well and I wanted to get closer to the maximum. As a result, I passed biology with 98, chemistry with 97, Russian with 98, and mathematics with 78. And this year I passed computer science with 100 points.

Isn’t it very difficult to combine all this with figure skating, especially when you strive for the highest possible level here and there?

Petr Gumennik:  On the contrary, figure skating helped. It did not take time and effort, but it helped diversify leisure and switch the brain’s concentration.

Most of your competitors study to be coaches. Have you thought about it at all?

Petr Gumennik: I thought about it, but decided that I didn’t really want to become a coach.

You have both figure skating and scientific interests. What will become the main thing in your life in the coming years?

Petr Gumennik: I perfectly understand that at some point I will have to finish with the sport. You can’t skate forever. Then I’ll go take the medicine. The coaching career at the moment does not appeal to me at all, although everything can change.

You said: “I used to think that it was impossible to combine training and study, but the example of Nathan Chen is inspiring.” In the end, what scheme did you create for yourself in order to be on time everywhere?

Petr Gumennik: At some point, I decided for myself that studies should not interfere with figure skating; I will skate as much as I need and will not limit my training, but in my studies, I will try to keep up with what I have time for, and do the minimum amount of work that will bring the maximum result. Do what I need first.

I read about how you calculate the probability of a successful jump. Do you use it later in practice during the competition?

Petr Gumennik: Actually, there is nothing complicated. Yes, I also use it.

Do you discuss the probability of jumps with the coach?

Petr Gumennik: Yes, just at the last competition. We decided that it was better not to take risks with the lutz; the percentage of successful execution wasn’t too high, so it was more logical to change it to salchow.

So you always have such a pragmatic approach?

Petr Gumennik: Yes.

I know that the coach fully trusts you in this matter, and even says that you, as a mathematician, should calculate everything. How do you calculate it?

Petr Gumennik: The most relevant thing is to count the successful executions during run-throughs or trainings. And the decision to change or not to change is made right before the start of the competitions, after the last training session.

In football, basketball, and hockey, there is a huge base of advanced statistics. Is there something like that in figure skating?

Petr Gumennik: I have come across this, but it does not have a single platform. Basically, such statistics are kept by individual enthusiasts. For example, who performs elements at what level, who jumps and to what height, and how often they make mistakes—it seems to me that we can do even better. Figure skating in this regard is not yet up to basketball and hockey.

Would it be useful?

Petr Gumennik: At least it would be interesting. We won’t know how useful such statistics are until we investigate them. 

That is, you never take risks on the ice. Do you always have a cold calculation?

Petr Gumennik: It can still be called a risk. If I can do a triple jump with 100% probability and a quad jump with 80% probability and it is more profitable for me, I will do the quadruple.

At the stages of the Russian Grand Prix this season, skaters are often overscored. Don’t you think that this can relax Russian skaters? Sooner or later, you will have to return to the international arena, and there you will be judged much more strictly.

Petr Gumennik: Personally, I always treat scores only from the point of view of a specific competition. For me, the ratio of points between different athletes is important. Because it has always been like this: with the same skate at different competitions, you can score different points.

Does the lack of international competitions put a lot of pressure on you?

Petr Gumennik: I would like, of course, to perform somewhere else, except Russia. You already want to compete with the whole world. But, in principle, our federation has done a good job, so we do not get bored here. We have enough competitions.

Coach Velikova recently said in an interview that many Russian skaters will either retire or compete for other countries in the near future. Have you already thought about what you will do under the current circumstances?

Petr Gumennik: I still hope that we will be allowed to compete in the near future. I don’t plan to retire. I am not going to change sports citizenship yet, but it is likely that this will be the only way out if our suspension is continued. Everyone wants to compete at the Olympics. If this continues for a few more years, some difficult decisions will have to be made.

How are things going with the quadruple axel?

Petr Gumennik: I’m not going to try it right now. During the season, it is better not to train this jump due to injuries that can prevent me from performing well.

What is the secret of this jump from a mathematical point of view?

Petr Gumennik: Jump higher and spin faster, and spin from the moment you take off on the ice until you touch down.

In the scientific works of Alexei Mishin, a lot of attention is paid to jumps, namely, the analysis of their technical and physical parts. Would you like to write something similar in the future?

Petr Gumennik: It’s still more connected with physics, mechanics, and kinematics. I’m not that good with these. So, no.

By the way, why did you stop working with Mishin?

Petr Gumennik: Until the age of ten, I progressed very quickly. I had mastered all of the triple jumps and triple-triple combinations by this age. At 11, I started learning axel, and then I had my first problems. Time passed. I was already 12, 13, 14, 15 years old, but I couldn’t learn this jump. Other athletes my age and younger, on the other hand, have already jumped quads. So I decided that since I reached a dead end, something needed to be changed, and maybe a fresh coaching look would help me. And I was not mistaken.

You also said that it was more Mishin’s assistants who worked with you. Did it bother you a lot?

Petr Gumennik: Yes, I really felt the lack of attention, especially in the last year, when even his assistants almost stopped working with me. Because Tatiana Nikolaevna Mishina worked more with Zhenya Semenenko, and Alexei Nikolaevich had Liza Tuktamysheva, to whom he tried to devote all his attention. And I wanted to be the main athlete, so that the coach was interested in my success as well as in his own.

Former Mishin athletes frequently discuss hazing in their groups. Did you face this?

Petr Gumennik: There was no such thing. It was most likely a long time ago, during the times of Yagudin and Plushenko. When Plushenko trained, I was in a locker room with children. So, I don’t know anything about it. But, according to the stories, things are much more civilized now. Senior skaters, on the contrary, often helped resolve some disputes.

You suffered from Osgood-Schlatter syndrome, when your knees hurt badly. Have you completely healed?

Petr Gumennik: Yes, now, thank God, my knees do not hurt at all. Nothing reminds me of this. But at one time, I suffered a lot with this. The cast helped. At some point, the pain became so severe that they decided to take such drastic measures. I was in a cast for two weeks and had forgotten about my aching knees. Apparently, the joints have grown together.

You once said that from the age of eight, coaches began to constantly tell you that you needed to lose weight. And mom kept you on black bread and broth. Isn’t it too harsh?

Petr Gumennik: Probably harsh, but I always managed to find something sweet, eat a bun, and eliminate the whole diet.

Have you been scolded?

Petr Gumennik: It happened.

What is your current diet?

Petr Gumennik: I just try not to overeat and eat healthy food. Basically, this is enough.

What does your lunch look like?

Petr Gumennik: If it happens, then I just take in the university canteen the first dish, second dish …

Pasta, cutlet …

Petr Gumennik: Yes. I don’t exhaust myself in any way. Nothing is forbidden. The main thing is not to overeat.

Does Tamara Moskvina participate in your training process?

Petr Gumennik: Yes, she often comes to the ice, or I come to the pairs’ ice. She always shares advice.

You won the Grand Prix stage. Next goal?

Petr Gumennik: Russian Nationals. I plan to do everything in my power. I think it’s realistic to get into the top three.


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