Polina Tsurskaya: It’s important not to think that figure skating is your whole life
by Elena Vaitsekhovskaya for rsport.ria.ru
Interview with Polina Tsurskaya about her decision to finish sports career.
– I made the decision to finish my career. I go on vacation on June 1, right after that I’m officially quitting and … that’s all. Probably it’s worth saying that I’ve been going to this decision for a long time …
Wait a minute. We met and talked less than a year ago after you joined Elena Buyanova’s group, and it didn’t seem to me at all that you were tired of figure skating.
– That’s not the reason. Just as the USE (The Unified State Exam – ed.) was coming , and I needed to prepare, I began to understand very clearly that I didn’t really have a choice whether to continue skating or not. But I need to decide: either to leave everything as it is, go to the Institute of physical education and study to be a coach, or say goodbye to figure skating and get a good education in a completely different field. Trying to combine such an education with sports is pointless, study by correspondence also isn’t an option for me. So, after weighing everything, I realized that I have to make a choice anyway.
And you didn’t choose figure skating.
– I have weighed everything. My health doesn’t allow me to continue skating and train at full capacity. Moreover, our sport now really goes to another level, you need to learn quadruple jumps in order to fight with those who already have them. Everyone talks about this in interviews. Of course, it’s not a fact that it will be possible for everyone to learn quads, but I’m sure that many will try. Well, I know my body too well and I understand that, probably, it’s no longer worth the risk.
Making this decision, did you discuss all this with yourself or did you have some reference group whose opinion become decisive?
– Basically it was my own decision. Even after Russian Nationals, I began to raise these subjects at home, that it was time to end my career, but my parents didn’t want to hear about it. Friends also discouraged.
At the Russian Nationals you didn’t get into the top ten. I suppose, this failure made you think about leaving sport?
– I was upset then, not because of the place, but because it didn’t work out. I was very well prepared, but for some reason I had breakdowns. I won’t say that the Russian Nationals has become a turning point. I continued to train, work, we talked with coaches about the next season, new programs, but due to the fact that I was having the Unified State Examination ahead of time, I needed to take a two-week break to prepare for the exams.
Don’t say that you threw yourself into study, and unexpectedly liked it more than training.
– In fact, that’s exactly what happened. Every day for many hours I’ve worked with tutors, passed some tests and very quickly started to realize that all this really captures me. While you train, you don’t have the opportunity to study seriously: you come tired after trainings, with a loaded head, you want to relax a little longer. And here even my mother from time to time tried to distract me from textbooks: my zeal to catch up really scared her.
Didn’t you feel a traitor at this moment? Over the years, so many people have invested their strength in you, and they did it for the sake of sport results, not for the girl to enter a physics and mathematics department.
– No, not to the physical and mathematical department. International economy. In this regard, I have already made my choice. Then it was hard and even a little scary. Before exams, my mother began to persuade me to go on vacation for a week. I didn’t want to leave anywhere, didn’t want to leave school – we even quarreled for a while because of this. But then, when the last exam has passed, we flew to Paris for a few days, and I didn’t even tell my coaches. At that moment they probably already understood what was going on. When we discussed further plans with Buyanova and Tarasova, I honestly told them that I really wanted to study. Elena Buyanova was very surprised then. This isn’t typical for athletes to think about education. Then it seemed to me that I would be able to combine everything successfully.
Have you ever felt your lameness because you don’t read books that your peers read, don’t go to theaters, to exhibitions, that you are not always able to keep up the conversation on some topics not related to sports?
– No. I think the reason is that modern schoolchildren seem to deny education. They get tired of going to school every day and reading textbooks when there are a lot of various temptations around.
How do you know all this, if you didn’t actually study much?
– Well, I went to school, usual school – I took all the tests, did homework like everyone else. Actually I didn’t tell much that I did sports professionally, but I remember once I came to school and noticed that everyone looked at me very strangely. It turned out that someone saw in the news program my performance at some competitions. After that they started asking me some questions about my life. Many didn’t really understand: how is it possible to live when every day is scheduled? Well, yes it’s interesting to travel to different countries. But as it turned out not everyone is ready to sacrifice a normal life for this.
Then I changed an ordinary school to Sambo-70, but even there were all the possibilities to get education. In general, when I skated in Eteri Tutberidze’s group, she always encouraged her athletes going to the theater and ballet. She said that a skater needs to fill his inner world, that you need to read books and be a versatile person in order to stay interesting on the ice. Of course all athletes are different, but, for example, Anna Scherbakova doesn’t study at Sambo-70 and her parents are very attentive to her education. I know this because we are friends and even went on vacations together a couple of times.
Now women’s single skating is on the rise in Russia. How often did you feel that you need to be only the first?
– I definitely didn’t have such a feeling of being bad or worthless when I lost a competitions. Of course, unconsciously all the time you feel responsibility for the result. You understand that coaches are behind you, who are also responsible for the result to the federation, to the country. There is also a responsibility to parents who invest in you everything they can, worry about you. This, of course, no one speaks out loud.
But you have these thoughts in your head.
– Of course. This is also a responsibility to yourself. You work hard, overcome yourself, sacrifice a lot, but for what? To lose? Why do you need all this if there is no high result? It seems to me that’s how it works in any profession, if we take it seriously.
Why did you choose international economy, and not choreography like Masha Sotskova, who entered GITIS a year ago?
– Masha and I are very different both in relation to life and in our temper. Perhaps that is why we are so good friends, even though it is strange for professional sport. Masha is a very creative person, I have always been a “mathematician.” So I thought that the international economy is exactly what I need. I think it will be very interesting for me to study.
In your future life, do you plan to abandon figure skating completely?
– Finishing my career, I don’t deprive myself of the opportunity to perform in shows. I just don’t know if I want this.This is also a difficult topic for me, because I see that my parents didn’t fully accept my decision. They really don’t understand how you can give up everything that has been your life for many years? But this is normal. Many skaters, when they begin to think about finishing their careers, like to repeat that they don’t even imagine their life without ice, without figure skating. I think it’s important not to think that figure skating is your whole life, but to understand that sooner or later may come a moment when you can end up on the street with the thought that you can absolutely nothing but to skate. I don’t want that. Although there was a period when it seemed to me that sport is all that I have, the meaning of my whole life.
Why do people who have never done sport professionally have such a desire to see their child become a great figure skater?
– Honestly, I still don’t understand this. Mom is still very worried. Be that as it may, figure skating has changed the whole life of our family. Sometimes it seems to me that first my mother reacted so calmly to my desire to finish my career and study, because she was sure that soon I would run to the rink again. But the experiment failed – I was fascinated by my studies and do not regret it.
Do you consider participating in shows?
– I’m not sure. When I decided to end my career, there was an option with a long-term show in Europe, but I talked with Tatiana Tarasova about this and she explained that this is not the easiest life. Long-term travels, sometimes two or three performances per day, and so on for several months. And I have problems with my back. And no matter how great the enthusiasm is, you need to think a hundred times before accepting such offer. When I weighed it all, I realized that the show did not attract me much. If I really start getting bored without skating, I will rather be a coach. I coach children a little bit now. I have a lot of free time now.
Do you coach because you like it or is it just a way of income?
– At first I began to give lessons, because now it is the only available way to earn some money for me. But I liked it, despite the fact that I always understood that I would never be a coach and couldn’t devote my whole life to this. Yes, I’m interested, but nothing more.
Will you watch competitions?
– For the last year I have watched only the performances of those athletes for whom I really care. Masha Sotskova, Zhenya Medvedeva, Anna Shcherbakova, Alena Kostornaia – mostly those with whom we were friends. I’m very happy for Alina Zagitova, that she managed to win Worlds, but I didn’t watch her performances. In the same way, I didn’t like to watch my performances. Maybe only right after competitions, to see the mistakes.
In fact, I can’t say that I consider figure skating to be some kind of lost of time in my life. I’m very grateful to all those people who were with me during this short part of my life. This is a tremendous experience, the ability to organize yourself, your life. If there hadn’t been sport in my life, I probably wouldn’t have become such a responsible person. I wouldn’t have learnt to concentrate on the main thing, because sport teaches, first of all, to understand what you want and how to achieve it. Now, I’m sure, this will help me with plans and goals for the future and with a clear understanding of how to achieve all that I want. Every person who was in my life, starting from the very first coaches, gave me something, taught me something. The base was given me in Omsk, then it was further developed by Eteri Tutberidze and her team – they brought me as a figure skater to a really high level. Elena Germanovna wasn’t afraid to take me and supported me during not an easy period of my career, although she could have refused to take such a problematic athlete. Thanks to her, I learned a lot of new things, I got a completely different attitude to life. Tatiana Tarasova is not just an outstanding coach, but, above all, a person with a huge soul, whom I can still call at any time, ask for advice or help. If you look at my career from these positions, I was definitely lucky. All these people made me the person who I am now.
Probably, now there should be a big relief that you don’t need to go to the training camp, break into new boots…
– I almost never had problems with boots. Only once, for some reason, Moris Kvitelashvili and I decided to switch from one brand to another. It was terrible. Hard, heavy, impossible to jump at all. In two weeks we rubbed our feet to blood to such an extent that we could not walk. And a month after returned to Edea skates again.
And what do you do with costumes?
– They are at home. I have no plans for them yet and unlikely will have. So I’ll keep them as memory of my my wilder days.
Related topics: Polina Tsurskaya