Sara Hurtado: “Before leaving for Russia, I was told that all Russians are cold and with a hot Spanish temperament I will feel lonely. But everything turned out the other way around”
Interview with Spanish ice dancer Sara Hurtado. About trainings in Russia in Alexander Zhulin’s group, programs and plans for the future.
source: matchtv.ru dd. 7th October 2021 by Maria Tchernysheva-Melnik
When I talked with one of your coaches – Dmitri Ionov, he said about you like this: “Sarochka has a mentality of “happiness all the time”. She is happy to live and work in Russia, to represent her country at the international level.” What is your spiritual harmony based on?
Sara Hurtado: I always find an opportunity to learn, everywhere. Heading to Moscow, I saw a chance to get to know a new country and people, learn a rich language, and gain experience from eminent coaches. I enjoy this whole process, because I develop through experience. It is the most powerful way to know different things. For example, Kirill and I were happy to return after the past difficult season. We spent the whole July in Novogorsk with pleasure, then returned to Moscow and went with the team to Bergamo. And in September we flew to Spain for a week to prolong the Russian visa and get vaccinated.
Which vaccine did you choose?
Sara Hurtado: Johnson, because it’s the only one that can be done in the shortest possible time. We did not have time to wait for the second shot, because we have training in Moscow. In Madrid we did everything quickly and comfortably. By the way, the Johnson vaccine is also convenient in terms of sports: it is recognized in all Western countries. Less time and effort will have to be spent on the medical bureaucracy.
Tell us about your new programs.
Sara Hurtado: This season we have prepared something unusual for us. For the short dance, we chose hip-hop and modern dance, a mix of different songs. I love doing this dance! On the other hand, we set the bar high with this kind of music: you have to be active from the first notes, and you have to have enough energy to the end. This is an experiment: we explored the options for creative artistic moments for a long time. We worked with the Altai choreographer Aykhan Shinzhin, who put a lot of energy into every movement. Our free dance is to the song “Since I’ve Been Loving You” by the British rock band Led Zeppelin. We took notice of this music a few years ago, preparing for another season. Back then for some reason we did not take it. And when in the spring we were thinking about a new program, we recalled this song, listened to it again and let it pass through our souls. We thought: “Why look for something else if the heart gives a hint?” We started to choreograph and everything worked out well.
You suffered a shoulder injury last summer. How did this happen?
Sara Hurtado: The trouble came out of nowhere. Kirill and I made a simple movement that we have already performed hundreds of times. Landing on the ice, I stretched out my arm, and at that moment my leg also dropped. We lost sight of this leg, and it hit hard with the arm. As a result, I dislocated my shoulder. It was a terrible feeling: for the first moment I thought that I had just fallen, but it became hard to breathe. And then I could not move a centimeter, since the pain was very strong. The guys immediately called an ambulance, but the doctors could not help on the spot. They urgently took me to the hospital, where they made X-rays and other tests. It turned out that the damage was serious and a surgery was needed. Thanks to the doctors of our team, who surrounded me with attention, did massages and gave me wellness exercises.
Many skaters talk about their fear of ice after injury. You have to go on the ice again, perform the elements, take risks … What turned out to be more difficult for you on the day you returned to the skating rink – physical or psychological struggle with the consequences of an injury?
Sara Hurtado: Psychological. After all, I was limited in movements so as not to aggravate. The doctor said bluntly, “Sara, the best thing you can do to heal right now is to do nothing. Your shoulder should rest.” At that moment I wanted to shoot myself, I was restless. After all, we, athletes, are not used to sitting around. And I was able to return to training only on October 1st – almost three months after the injury. It can be said that I had an additional quarantine. Everything made me crazy – ice, figure skating, coronavirus, injustice, my own negligence. The partner and the coaches were very supportive: they often called and said kind words. It was a tough experience for the entire team. There was no fear of ice after the break. I was more afraid of every new step because I still did not feel strong and recovered. And I’m used to physical pain. The main thing in such situations is to be patient and respect the capabilities of your body at a particular moment.
Even before those events, you did a short haircut. Usually a woman changes her hairstyle dramatically against the background of important life changes.
Sara Hurtado: When we finished the season at the European Championships, I decided to try a new haircut. I thought: there is a lot of time before the next competitions, and if it doesn’t work for me, my hair will have time to grow back. Initially, it was just an experiment, without any psychological needs. But when I cut my hair, I really felt like a different person – in the state of a child whose hair is naturally short. Parents and grandmother really liked it. In the end, I decided to keep this hairstyle.
What do you and your partner need to improve in the Olympic season?
Sara Hurtado: Presentation of every movement. This should come from the inside so that our duo looks big on the ice. When we start, stress makes it difficult to control ourselves, and we perform a little more modestly than in training. I’m talking about speed, power of the presentation. Therefore, in the new season, we want to show our energy at a decisive moment.
What is the atmosphere in your training group?
Sara Hurtado: Awesome! I love training with Vika Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov, because their level of skating is something special. I can just stand and watch. We have been training together for several years now, we see each other during periods of struggle, tears, victories and defeats. This is very uniting. In some ways, we understand each other even better than family and friends outside of sports. Therefore, we are very close. Pasha Drozd speaks Spanish and often practices with me. We also have Ukrainian and two French duos. In the summer, we celebrated Nikita’s birthday on ice with – presented him a birthday cake and a game console. He was so happy! Coaches are also like family to me. Before leaving for Russia, I was told that a coach here is a person whom you must obey unquestioningly. That all Russians are cold and closed, and with a hot Spanish temperament I will feel lonely. But everything turned out the other way around: the team gave me a warm welcome and we quickly became friends. Guys often greet in Spanish and ask: “Сómo estás?” I feel good and know that I am an important part of a friendly team.
Do all pairs skate together?
Sara Hurtado: Yes, just like in choreography classes, general physical training. The only thing when the coaches separate us is for the time of working on new programs with individual choreographers. Still, they show individual movements, and then we go on the ice and transfer steps there. Such training should be dedicated to only one duo.
How did you support Victoria and Nikita a year ago, when they had problems at competitions due to their health?
Sara Hurtado: Sometimes it’s enough just to tell a friend: “Everything will be fine! You can overcome it! ” You can laugh at something, tell a couple of jokes. When it’s hard for you and you want to give up, you stop believing in good things. But there is a person nearby who looks at the situation a little differently and understands that the problem can be solved. Therefore, it is important that this someone reminds you: “Don’t cry, get a grip and believe that dark times will end!”
How do you feel when watching your teammates’ performances at competitions?
Sara Hurtado: At such moments, I move with them. Because I have already seen their programs in training hundreds of times. I know what each movement is worth, which was especially hard. That is, I have a different perception of their dance. And when my friends succeed, I am happy, it seems to me, even more than they. They performed an element that was hard for them – and I shout: “Yes!”
How did you congratulate your friends after winning the World Championships?
Sara Hurtado: We were all happy for Vika and Nikita. I think I gave them jamon, a Spanish national delicacy. We don’t have any special champagne parties – I don’t think it’s necessary. Feelings are more important: when you see that your close person has a dream come true … And they dreamed of winning the World Championships! With about the same feeling I watched Javier Fernandez win the Olympic medal. At such moments it seems that you are near.
Tell us about the Spanish girl’s leisure time in Moscow.
Sara Hurtado: Oh, the winters are very long and cold here. But I try not to worry, I wrap myself in warm clothes. But the city is amazing – there are so many cultural events, museums and theaters! I love going to the ballet and I spare no expense on expensive tickets. I just love to walk around the city and admire the architecture, study the history of each building in the center.
What are your favorite places in Moscow?
Sara Hurtado: Patriarch’s Ponds and Alexander Garden. I also often sit on the river embankment and watch the sunset. When it’s warm in summer and the windows of restaurants are wide open, people sit at street tables – that’s so Spanish. Reminds me of my lifestyle at home.
How about a group trip to your native Spain?
Sara Hurtado: Oh, you have declassified my dream! (Laughs) I think it would be super motivation for Spanish skaters to see the level of skating and teaching in our group live. Because kids see professional athletes only at the local championships once a year. Therefore, I would like to take my friends on a tour of different cities in Spain. This is expensive due to the high rental price of the ice rinks. But someday I will realize my plan.
Your country is “non-figure skating”, there is no support of your judges. Do you feel the unspoken obligation to do twice as much in competitions as your competitors?
Sara Hurtado: When Adria Diaz and I were just starting to develop Spanish ice dance, there was a big difference. The situation was so difficult that, having agreed to team up, we waited for the coach for two years. There was simply no dance specialist in Spain, and we continued to skate in singles: I am in Madrid and Adria in Barcelona. For a long time they did not understand whether something would work out until they believed in our project. Then we started to show ourselves at international competitions. Finding out that we represent Spain, people asked: “Probably, you are from Russia or America and decided to represent Spain?” And we answered: “No, we are real Spaniards.” Breaking this barrier was the first major challenge. Of course, it was very difficult for us, as the founders of Spanish ice dance. But we managed to build this brand, and today we present ourselves with dignity, albeit in different duets. Now people know that there is ice dance in Spain. I hope it will be easier for the younger generations. Interest in figure skating in the country has also grown: children want to do this sport, because they saw that everything is real. Kirill and I also plan to raise the level of ice dance in Spain after the end of our careers.
In recent years, the duos from Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon group have triumphantly won medals at major events. You train in this group and, perhaps, you know the secret of the coaches’ success?
Sara Hurtado: They have a very well-staffed team – there are specialists in various aspects of skill. That is, a multilateral approach to the creation of each dance, as is customary in the West. Marie-France and Patrice also know how to allocate time for each duet. It is difficult when they are all of a high level and claim to win. At the same time, each duo is energized: they look at each other and get motivated. Competition within a group is frightening, on the one hand, and at the same time inspires.
In 2016, when you had already retired from sports, suddenly a call rang out from Russia, which radically changed your life. Did you immediately agree to skate with Kirill?
Sara Hurtado: It was magical. I knew how difficult it is to find a high-level partner, especially in the pre-Olympic season, when no one takes such risk. That’s why I said goodbye to my career. But, having received an unexpected message, I thought: “What if?” Of course, I understood that our desires alone were not enough. We need to see if we are suitable for each other in terms of parameters, whether the sports federations will agree, whether everything will work out with the coaches. Many factors must coincide, but I knew: “If I don’t try, I will definitely lose.” And I flew to Moscow for a try out. Imagine: each of us had experience with only one partner: Kirill spent all his dancing years with Ksyusha Monko, I – with Adria. It was unusual for us without the experience of change, and we learned to skate together for a long time.
You are studying to be a journalist. Why did you choose this profession and where do you plan to work?
Sara Hurtado: There are several reasons. Firstly, I want to competently present people with information about figure skating. The Spaniards watch programs, read the news, admire the skaters, but have absolutely no idea how grades are formed. This is because there is little communication between the sport and the audience. I just want to convey the essence in simple language. I think communication with people is one of my strengths. I wanted to develop this skill, and journalism is a great area to implement it. I don’t know where I will work yet. I want to work on radio or television. But I know for sure that I want to make figure skating a mainstream – so that people are involved in the atmosphere.
Related topics: Sara Hurtado Kirill Khaliavin