Polina Tsurskaya: You should never give up
Interview with Polina Tsurskaya about hard season, not getting to the Olympics and plans for the future.
Polina, it seems that you have been in figure skating for so long that it’s even hard to believe that the last season was your first senior season. How was it?
– The beginning of the season turned out good. In Japan, at my first senior Grand Prix, I showed good skating for myself. The best for the last 2 years. This gave me strength, there was a hope that it’s worth fighting for a place in the team, that everything can work out.
Despite the fact that I started to prepare for the season late, I was in a good shape at the grand-prix in Japan. I came there absolutely calm, not thinking about the importance of the competition, that this is my first senior Grand Prix. There was “homey” atmosphere, and we communicated with Zhenya (Medvedeva-ed.) and Eteri Georgievna (Tutberidze-ed.) especially warmly. I think that it helped me a lot to take the third place.
The next Grand Prix in America also turned out well, I became the fourth. Although the short program has slightly let down, but I coped with the free program. In general, I did the task that was planned, to take at the Grand Prix places from 3rd to 6th.
I can’t say that I was very upset because I did not qualify for the Grand Prix Final. I began to prepare for the Russian Nationals. But, as Eteri Georgievna said after, I approached the championship a little relaxed when it was necessary to fight to the end. If I had got myself together, skated well, then the Olympic season could have been different for me. But now nothing can be changed.
What prevented to skate clean at the National championships?
– I think the main mistake was that during the preparation for this competitions I was a bit absent-minded, there was no 100% concentration. This affected the performance. I skated the short program well, was the third, with a small gap from the girls. And in the free … It was my fault. In the next season I’ll be angrier and will try to prove that I can do more.
You were second substitute for European and World championships. Did you have hope that you could go there, after all the ice is slippery?
– To be honest, I thought that I would unlikely get there. After the Russian Nationals, there was a week before the New Year, and all this week I trained lazily, without mood, although Eteri Georgievna reminded me that I was a substitute, that I can not relax, need to prepare, work, because everything happens and perhaps I will have to replace someone. But, to be honest, I did not believe that.
And after the New Year I twisted my ankle at the first training session. I missed almost two weeks. But, it may sound weird, I’m already experienced in this matter, so I recovered quickly enough.
In this situation, the coaches did not push me. I practiced, but the programs were not ready to compete at the World Championships. And it’s impossible to keep the shape so much time without competitions.
So, the first senior season for you ended at the Russian Nationals?
– Yes, the season turned out short. And for me it started later because I was treating my back. Honestly, by that time I was already tired of injuries. In the summer I even wanted to give up sports. I skipped trainings, I did not want to see anyone, I did not want to talk to anyone. The mood was terrible.
How did coaches and parents react to this?
– Coaches at first persuaded, explained. Then they scolded, said that I will regret if I quit. But I did not listen to anyone, I was in some kind of corridor, on my wave. Of course, parents were worried. At first they did not believe my words, they thought it was the whims that it will pass soon. But when everything was drag on, then Mom and Dad, probably, became scared. At night, I cried. Mom was upset … Only in September it turned out to bring me to a normal state.
– When all the methods have been tried, they just made me to go on the ice and said: “Enough whims, everyone is tired of your whining, go and skate.”
I remember that I went to the ice without any desire. Just because they forced me. But after a while I felt that I like to glide. Just glide. Although before there was one thing in my mind – jumping, let me just jump. In general, I realized how I missed figure skating, training, ice … Gradually restored jumps, caught the training the rhythm.
I’m very grateful to the coaches, parents, our Federation, friends that at that moment they did not abandon me, gave time, endured and helped me to get out of the pit.
Could you really quit skating?
– Then it seemed to me that I could quit easily. I was not afraid of that. Mom asked: “Well, how? Spend on sports all your life and just quit? Isn’t it pity?” And I thought that sooner or later the sport will end, and I will have to switch, look for something new. Why not now?
What would you do? Study?
– Yes. Now I’m in the 10th grade, the next year I’ll have exams. When I wanted to quit, I thought that I won’t do not want to connect my life with figure skating, I started to think about the Higher School of Economics. I still do, I do not want to be a coach in future, I want to study at the Higher School of Economics. I know it will not be easy, it’s hard to combine sport and study. But if I get the chance, I’ll try.
Mathematics is easier for me, it is easier than to write essays. My father prefers geography and biology. Mom is a doctor, so she is also good in biology. They are also very fond of reading. But I do not like reading. This does not mean that I do not read at all. I read, but reading does not captivate me.
Most likely, after school I will go to the sports university, and then, when I finish my sports career, I want to get a second higher education.
What changed in you after you changed your mind about quitting the sport?
– I changed. My attitude to training has changed, Now I understand that if you do not do something today, tomorrow it will not work either. It is necessary to do everything now, not postponing for later. Is you think I’ll do it tomorrow, it’s not gonna work out. You won’t approach competitions in a good shape with such a mood. We have to work, fight against each other at every training session, at every competitions.
You know, probably, difficult periods in a person’s life are not just happening. During the time that I was treating my back, I had time to think, to understand how to live. Now, going on the ice, I enjoy, enjoy gliding, jumping, everything .. I do not know what I would do if I left. It would be very difficult to return. I’m a tall girl, and without physical exertion I could grow up. Most likely, I would gain weight. And my return to the ice would be unlikely.
During this year I have rethought a lot. Now I’m waiting for the choreography process to begin. I know that it will be difficult, but you need to be able to overcome yourself. I have never had such feelings like at the grand prix in Japan where I skate my program clean. I was really proud of myself that I did not quit, I did not leave sport, but I overcame it, I managed it.
When I was a child, everything was easier. I went on the ice, did, jumped, turned out, won. And now, when you are going through a difficult path, any victory, even over yourself, becomes more valuable. With age, experience, failures, losses you begin to appreciate things that you simply did not notice before.
Do you already have ideas about new programs?
– In this matter, I fully trust the coaches and I want programs that I will feel and understand. My most favorite are “Chess” and “Games of Thrones”.
Last season I really liked my short program. And the free, my artistic image in it, it was not completely clear. So when it became hard for me during the performance, I just “dumped” the program, coaches scold me for this. But it was really hard for me to understand what I was skating about, so I did not show everything I could.
Of course, this is not an excuse. At the end of the season, I realized that I just didn’t try hard enough.
Have you watched the Olympic Games in Korea?
– Of course.
What did you feel?
– I was sad. But whom to blame but yourself? I sincerely worried about our girls. But sometimes I had thoughts that I lost my place in the Olympic team. That I could be at the Olympics and experience unforgettable emotions, which all sportsmen talked about in an interview.
On the other hand, I felt that this is the heat of passion, emotions, tension, such an “infernal meat grinder” … For myself, I concluded that during the Olympic season the price of any miss, mistake, skipped competitions increases a lot. The Olympic Games are a huge stress, even if you win Olympic medals. I saw Alina and Zhenya after their return. They were burnt out, devastated. Zhenya, who is always cheerful, sociable, always ready to listen, give advice, she was completely different. And only a month later, Zhenya became the same.
It was hard for Alina. I saw how she prepared for the World Championships. Day after day in training, fighting with herself. The Olympics is, of course, a holiday. But for an athlete this is a difficult test.
What was most memorable about the Olympics?
– During the Olympics, I cried twice. Because of joy for Alena Savchenko. And the second time when I woke up and saw the results of the ladies’ event. I watched Zhenya’s performance. It was so emotional that it touched me to the depths of my soul. And when Zhenya splashed herself completely on the ice and cried, I also burst into tears … Alina – well done! But Evgenia gave everything she had! It was the best skate in her life! Such emotions! Such skating!
And Alena Savchenko. I watched their free program live. And when they finished the program, I experienced joy and pride that everything finally turned out for Aliona, because she has been going to this for so long, she loves figure skating and achieved what she wanted! This can not but be admired! Alena’s victory changed a lot in me. I realized that, no matter what, we must go to our goals.
Of course, in pair skating the age threshold is higher. Alena Savchenko is older than Alina Zagitova on almost 20 years! But both for the first time became Olympic champions. It is clear that in women’s single skating, few people remain in sports until such an age. 25 is already a “veteran”. But this does not cancel what I said, the desire to achieve the goal.
Women’s skating is changing. The rules change. I do not set the task to learn a quadruple jump, a triple axel, do difficult jumps like Sasha Trusova. Everyone has his own path. But with the example of such figure skaters as Carolina Kostner and Alena Savchenko, you understand that in life one should never give up. And I will not give up, I will fight.
by Olga Yarmolina for fsrussia.ru