Sofia Samodelkina: “Every night I’m praying that the Olympics are postponed to 2023. I think this will be my only chance.”
Big and very open interview with 14 years old skater Sofia Samodelkina coached by Sergei Davydov. About quads, injuries, dreams of the Olympic to be postponed because it may be her only choice to get there, age minimum and longevity in women’s single skating.
source: matchtv.ru dd. 22d December 2021 by Vlad Zhukov
This season you could have had another important competitions besides Russian Nationals – the junior Grand Prix Final. But the qualifying rules were a mess and you did not made it.
Sofia Samodelkina: Yes. It was hurtful, disappointing. If it were not for this triple axel, which didn’t turn out at both stages, I could have skated better. And so … Well, we were sad for a day or two, and then we realized that we had two more stages of the Russian Cup and qualifying for the Nationals. Therefore, we did not even think about it.
Then there was news that Isabeau Lievito had withdrawn from the Finale and Nastya Zinina was supposed to go instead of her. And it was really a shame, because I lacked some one and a half points. Well, and almost the next day they announced that there would be no Finals. In general, everything is for the best.
And what happened to the axel? And in general, it seemed that it was quite difficult start of the season for you.
Sofia Samodelkina: By the the Grand Prix in Krasnoyarsk, I jumped triple axel on the floor, on the ice, from all entries. We tried to lift up my double axel. And before Krasnoyarsk there were 70% of successful attempts. But I have, let’s say, a feature: when in competitive training I have full concentration, I can do all the difficult jumps. Even quad lutz, which I don’t really “take” at my rink.
And in Krasnoyarsk, in training, everything was very stable. Including before the short program. And when I got into the starting position … The state was strange.
Got too nervous?
Sofia Samodelkina: Yes, after all, the first junior Grand Prix for me. And when I fell on the axel so terribly, I realized that now I was no longer afraid of anything (laughs). I almost landed it on my head, my thigh was all numb, because I fell on it.
After a short program, I cried a lot – I thought it was a nightmare, everything was lost. And for the free program we planned a triple axel and a quadruple salchow. And so we decided that since the axel does not work for me, I should try what I can’t do. So the idea came up to try a quadruple lutz. I jumped it just in Krasnoyarsk in training – I did it twice.
And the morning training before the free program. At that time, I probably still hadn’t fully recovered after a short program … In general, it was just a terrible training session, I have never had one like this before (laughs). I couldn’t do this salchow, lutz, axel – just horror!
There were still four hours before the start of the competitions and I cried every 10 minutes for any reason. And then Alexandra Romanovna Kravtsova (coach at CSKA) called me and said: “Come to me. You will stay with me, put on makeup, do your hair.” We lived in different hotels – my mother and I were in one, and she was in another.
Well, and I thought – I’ve already tried everything, nothing helps. So we decided to go. We talked, listened to music. And I somehow forgot a little, calmed down. And I went to the free program with a completely different mood – probably also because I did not count on a pedestal. I thought that after such a short program I have no chance for a medal.
Therefore, when I did this lutz in the free program, I was just shocked (laughs). I thought: “Wow!” Then there were two quad salchows … I have never done such before even in training – not only lutz, I also have never skated a free program with three quads. It felt great.
But then, when the scores appeared… I got 141 points – not super many for three quads.
By the way, can you explain if it makes sense to keep track of planned content at all? Almost always skaters do not follow it.
Sofia Samodelkina: It is hard to say. It may be that today, relatively speaking, you jump loop, salchow and axel in the free program, but tomorrow none of them works out. In such cases, you have the right to change your content – it’s good that there is such an opportunity.
They are generally sent very early. For example, we sent the planned content for Russian Nationals a week ago (9th December) – then I could, roughly speaking, jump a quadruple flip and then change my boots and there would be no flip anymore. I usually put a weaker content that I can definitely do. That is, planned content is more likely an assumptions.
Is the story about boots real?
Sofia Samodelkina: Well, yes (laughs). I jumped a quadruple flip on my old boots. A day has passed – it seems, there were four weeks left before the Russian Nationals – and we realized that the leg isn’t well fixated in the boot. I also had a slightly different model.
We decided to change boots. An acquaintance of Sergei Dmitrievich (Davydov) helped. We ordered new boots – RisportPrime. The newest model, they are made right for the foot. I put them on – tough. And I didn’t even put a sponge, nothing like that, because I usually don’t use slip-ons and plasters.
The first training session ends, I take off my skates, and I have all my feet covered in blood! I look at them and cry not even from pain, but from the sight of it and from the fact that I have to wrap it up somehow. The next day I bought sponges, silicone, everything like that and put it on. And to this day I skate like this. It is enough to remove literally one kind of plaster and that’s it, in that place I rub my foot again.
Let’s go back to the problems with the triple axel in the offseason. Was it growth, discoordination?
Sofia Samodelkina: Yes, I grew up. For some reason I am constantly growing (laughs). I haven’t been the same height even for at least six months. For some reason, I constantly grow by a centimeter, by half. Last season I started 152 centimeters and finished 156. Grew by four centimeters.
Four centimeters during the season? You generally become a different person.
Sofia Samodelkina: Yes! But four is still okay. I had a season – like, 2018/19, when I added 13 centimeters! It was horror. I restored my jumps, restored and then boom – I grew up again.
Now I am 161 centimeters. But it’s ok. Everyone grows – either early or late. This can only be avoided if your parents are not tall. My mother is 164cm, and I seem to be like her.
Do you have any jumping competitions in a group?
Sofia Samodelkina: We play a game called “sunny”. For example, three people are playing. The first makes a triple axel, the second repeats the previous jump and adds another jump. Etc.
We played with all quads. And when you are already doing the sixth or seventh quad on the floor, you have no strength at all. On the floor, we tried a 4-4 combination, a 4-euler-4. But we ddin’t reached the quadruple axel.
A combination of two quads on the floor? Is this is real?
Sofia Samodelkina: Well, it’s much easier on the floor than on the ice (laughs). In fact, on the ice I also tried a quadruple toe loop – euler – quadruple salchow, but the last jump was already half a turn under rotated, and it took a great effort.
I remember your interview where you said that working on triple axel you did 500 double axels a day.
Sofia Samodelkina: Yes, it was at the training camp. Sergei Dmitrievich and I went there for a week, and there was 4 hours of ice a day. We set a goal to work on axel. And all these seven days I jumped only double axel for about 2.5 hours. Up-up-up …
I told Loena Hendrickx about those hundreds of your jumps. She, in my opinion, said “How much?!” eight times.
Sofia Samodelkina: (laughs). This is a very time consuming job. Of course, I was not on the ice for all four hours – I used to went on the ice after the kids warmed up, about 20 minutes later. But the very fact that you are jumping the same jump for about three hours … But in the end we were able to make it higher.
Do you have any free time?
Sofia Samodelkina: Nope. We usually finish late in the evening. Today Sergei Dmitrievich took pity on me, otherwise I would have had a whole hour of cool down. I also have a second ice in the evenings sometimes. Today I have been spinning for half an hour, and sometimes there is an hour of gliding or an hour of choreography. Then I still have an hour of cool down on the floor.
That is, we finish about 8 pm. At nine o’clock I come home, go for a walk with the dogs, and at 10 o’clock I should go to bed, otherwise I simply will not get enough sleep and I will not have enough strength.
And what time do the trainings start?
Sofia Samodelkina: At 9:30 we have a warm-up. I get up at 7:30 or 7:00.
Once Sergei Davydov said: “Samodelkina is maybe the leader of our group, but not a star.” Do you agree with him?
Sofia Samodelkina: Honestly, I haven’t even thought about it. It’s just that in some moments I’m the best in the group, and in some I’m not. Yes, I have all quads, but they still have to be done. It is not enough to jump them once.
Perhaps Sergei Dmitrievich was right when he said about me – “leader”. And still that is doubtful. In general, I don’t like to be singled out somehow. Once in some article there was a headline: “The best junior in Russia.” I don’t like it. Let them say so in my family, praise me, I will be very happy about that. But in society … I’d better prove it first. Then maybe I will be able to admit it.
So you think you haven’t proven it yet? Sorry, but you are really one of the strongest juniors in the country.
Sofia Samodelkina: Well … A training champion isn’t the best status (laughs). You have to become a champion of the competitions. Let it be horror in training, and consistent in competitions.
And nevertheless, you are one of the best juniors in Russia. And we all know that as soon as some of the promising skaters are doing well, various proposals start to come. For example, to change the coaching team.
Sofia Samodelkina: Personally, I have never received such offers. Perhaps they turned to my mother or to the coach. But I haven’t heard of that.
You say that figure skating is your life. What should happen in this life so that you can tell yourself that you have not lived it in vain?
Sofia Samodelkina: I have a lot of figure skating dreams. Of course, I would like to win the Olympics, become an Olympic champion. But I have already fulfilled one dream by jumping all quadruples. It was a very big goal for me. As a child, I could not even imagine that I could jump at least some quadruple, but now I have them all.
Perhaps I cannot do each of them like 10 in a row, but nevertheless I have them. And there is video evidence of this. If suddenly someone once asks who among the girls could jump all the quads, they will tell him – Sofia Samodelkina. And they will show the video.
And of the current dreams and goals … I don’t know. It seems to me that everyone dreams about the Olympics. Actually, I’m praying that the Games are postponed to 2023.
Sofia Samodelkina: Yes, I read prayers at night for this to happen! (laughs). I just think so: “Damn, the next Olympics is in 2026. I will be 17-18 years old. Well, what five quads can be at this age, well, seriously?!”
Do you think this is impossible?
Sofia Samodelkina: No, it is possible, of course. There is an example of Sasha Trusova – she collected five quads at the test skates. Anya Shcherbakova collected three. But everyone has their own source of motivation. Sasha, for example, has a goal – the Olympics, and she is moving towards it. And she understood that even if this Olympics was the only one, she would definitely get it.
And I don’t have the right year of birth. And because of this, one more cycle, another four years I need to go through this … In this case, I will have another goal – just to become famous so that they know me.
You know, this is very honest. I thought there would be this typical phrases “we shouldn’t think, but just work and then the work will bring the results”. But prayers for the postponement of the Olympics are just ridiculous.
Sofia Samodelkina: Come on, I think about it every day! (laughs). When the Grand Prix Final were postponed, I thought: “Well, please, let’s move the Olympics as well, and then my whole life will succeed!”
Of course, I have nothing against the girls who are now fighting for the Olympics. This is purely my desire. Although in 2023 other girls will be able to qualify for the Olympics by age.
Well, of course there’s a probability of postponement. But it’s very small.
Sofia Samodelkina: Yes … I look on Instagram – there are constantly pictures pop up “50 days before the Olympics” and all that. It seems that everything is already built, adjusted. I don’t really believe it’ll be postponed either. I think the maximum that will happen is that the skating rink will be closed tightly, and the skaters will skate in closed mode.
In general, let’s better count on 2026 right away.
Sofia Samodelkina: Yeah. But if it is still postponed to 2023 (laughs) ….. then it will be just destiny! I think this will be my only chance (to get to the Olympics). If I find out that the Olympics will be in 2023, I just won’t leave the rink (laughs). I will live here for 24 hours!
But it’s dangerous.
Sofia Samodelkina: It’s clear that you need to know the limit. I already had this when I was chasing three quads and in the end got a not very pleasant injury. After that I decided that I need to do as much as I can at the moment.
Was the injury last season?
Sofia Samodelkina: No, this year. Thank goodness it didn’t happen at some competitions. It was two weeks before the stage of the Russian Cup in Sochi.
Sergey Dmitrievich posted a video where I made four triple axels in a row. “Triple axel – a pair of cross overs- triple axel” – and so four pieces. And it so happened that on the fourth axel the video was cut off. At that moment, Sergei Dmitrievich asked me why I didn’t add one more? And I went to the fifth axel.
Apparently, I didn’t want to, and this worked badly for me – in general, I twisted my leg badly. I suddenly felt pain, even cried, and not from the pain itself, but rather because it was unexpected. The next day I wake up with a swollen leg. I couldn’t even get into a sneaker. It hurt to stand.
I did MRI and was told that something like a stone had formed in the ankle. And this is either a shadow from the bone, or a piece of it, and this would already be considered a fracture. The doctors said to come for a second examination in a week, and if they find this piece again, they will put a plaster cast.
Of course we were terrified. On the other hand, I could walk. There was no wild pain so that I could not step on my foot. For three days I sat at home, did not go on the ice, because it was unreal. I ran on a treadmill to maintain my respiratory system and physical shape, because otherwise you can gain weight. In the sneakers it were more or less ok.
As a result, by the end of the week the leg started to be back to normal. It still hurted, but at least I could get into the skates and start jumping. Painkillers, freezing – and let’s go. There was a week before stage of the Russian Cup in Sochi, and before that I hadn’t jumped anything at all – neither quadruples, nor triples. Sergei Dmitrievich said: “Let’s withdraw.”
And I thought, “Well, there is muscle memory. If I jumped four triple axels a week ago, then what, during these seven days, will I forget how to do it, or what?” I said: “Let’s see in three days. If everything goes wrong, we will decide according to the situation.”
As a result, on the very first day I jumped a triple axel, quadruple salchows and toe loop. And we calmed down – it means everything is fine with the leg. For the rest of the week it healed completely, everything was fine. I just taped it just in case.
After that we forgot about it. We performed in Sochi, then there was a Challenger in Kazakhstan, a stage of the Russian Cup in Kazan. And everything worked out. And we did not go for a second examination, since everything has healed.
Wonderful. Athletes have “great” attitude towards their health.
Sofia Samodelkina: Well, what can you do here? (laughs). It’s impossible to do without injuries. Not a single season passes without damaging something. In general, sprains constantly occur – land a jump just a bit wrong and immediately this aching pain … But this is true for everyone.
These stress fractures are generally horrible. In principle, this is an ordinary fracture – just with it, as I understand it, you can walk. But, fortunately, I didn’t have anything like that.
Well, everyone says that there’s no sports without injuries. But the body is one, there will be no other. And in sports, this is your main tool. Is this disregard for pain a consequence of what we talked about earlier? That you need to do everything in time.
Sofia Samodelkina: Well, there just wasn’t any particular danger. It’s just that Sergei Dmitrievich loves to panic with any injury (laughs). Immediately begins: “Oh, what to do, what to do?” He is very worried about us.
Relatively speaking, he did not tell me have a strong pain-relieving injection and go skating at the competitions at any cost. No. Sergei Dmitrievich, on the contrary, is strictly for health.
This is what many coaches do. but a lot depends on the personal desire of the athlete. For example, when he said that I would not go to Sochi and Kazakhstan, I thought: “I am left without one stage of the Russian Cup and without Challenger. Besides, this is a trip abroad, and I really want to perform abroad.”
Plus, in order to qualify for the Russian Nationals, I had to skate at two stages of the Russian Cup. And if I had withdrawn from Sochi, then I would have had to go to Perm. And I thought: “Oh no, I’d better skate now” (laughs).
Regarding what you said about the Olympics and 2023. I got the impression that you don’t really believe in a long career in a modern women’s single skating. Is this true?
Sofia Samodelkina: I think yes. It’s not very possible. And, probably, not so much physically as morally. In this regard, Liza Tuktamysheva is a very great example for me. To skate for so long! And jump triple axel! Also to learn quadruple toe loop!
Moreover, Liza was also able to restore the triple axel in adulthood. And now she continues to jump it.
Sofia Samodelkina: Yes! She began to jump it at the age of 12, and now she is already 25. That is, she has been jumping the most difficult jump for 13 years and almost does not lose it. Even now it happens to me that for a month I can forget how to do the jump. After rest, for example, the jump may not return for two months.
And Carolina Kostner too. She skated at the Olympics at the age of 31. But I think the average when they retire in women’s figure skating is 16-17 years old. After that, they go to universities, colleges, live a different life.
Do you think it’s okay?
Sofia Samodelkina: Honestly, I don’t know … It seems to me that this is a consequence of quads. Such a strong load on the female body – I think it’s bad for health. When you have an already formed, adult body, and you overload it so much … As for me, you can’t do that.
Got it, let’s make an emergency proposal to limit quads in women’s single skating.
Sofia Samodelkina: No way! (laughs). As for me, it would be better if they also allowed it in the short program. I wanted it so badly, but now they said that it is not even considered. Very disappointing.
Of course, a lot here depends on the desire of the athlete. Liza wants to restore the triple axel every year – she does it. Sasha Trusova wanted five quads – she did it. I think she will definitely show them. Ideally, do it at the Olympics. And then go further through life, as you planned for yourself.
What is your Olympic dream team?
Sofia Samodelkina: I don’t even know. It’s not that I’m afraid to offend someone. I just would have sent all five! Liza is worthy, Anya, Sasha – of course. Kamila has been working towards this for two years. Maiia is now making these quads. And Dasha Usacheva could have also deservedly gone to the Olympics, if not for the injury. She is very consistent. I would love to cheer for Alena. It’s a pity that it happened.
In general, it’s a pity that we don’t have five spots (laughs). Our girls now, it seems to me, are stronger than boys.
Well, almost none of the guys have all the quads, like you.
Sofia Samodelkina: Nathan Chen has.
Also Vincent Zhou.
Sofia Samodelkina: Yes. But Yuzuru Hanyu, for example, doesn’t do all quads. On the other hand, he has a loop, plus the boys jumped their quads in competition, not just in training.
In general, I thought so – okay men, most of them do not have any special choreography. Just skate, do some arm movements and jump quads. And we need to reveal this image, show it … Well, we are still more plastic than men. And now we have to collect a triple axel and five quads in one program – it seems to me that all this will immediately fly by the program. You just won’t have time to show anything. You will only make jumps.
Like Sasha Trusova this season. But, it seems to me, they placed these quads very successfully in the program.
Sofia Samodelkina: Yes, I also really liked this program. It suits her so much … Of course, it lacks some kind of superb choreography and special features. But for example, I did not notice that something was not enough. On the other hand, I’m so fascinated by these quads that I don’t even look at the rest of the program (laughs).
By the way, returning to the topic of long careers. We have named five girls who were contenders for the Olympics and among them there are three girls 17+.
Sofia Samodelkina: Yes, but it’s still easier to jump for girls who are smaller in age and weight. Relatively speaking, a girl is jumping who is 140 centimeters and a girl who is 160cm – a difference of 20 centimeters in height and 5-10 kilograms in weight. Of course, it will be easier for the first one.
But speaking about you, do you think you can hold out until the 2026 Olympics?
Sofia Samodelkina: I do not know. Maybe this one will be postponed after all (laughs). In general, who knows what the world will be like then. Maybe quads will be banned and you will be able to skate even until you are 30 years old. Or some kind of age minimum will be introduced.
But this is if the age minimum is not raised. By the way, how do you feel about it?
Sofia Samodelkina: Well, it is clear that when you are younger, you treat it very negatively. And when you grow up, you start to understand that with age it is all much more difficult. Rather, I am also for a raise.
For example, like Zhenya (Medvedeva) and Alina (Zagitova) did it at the Olympics. If there was an aga minimum, Zhenya would be beyond competition. But then it was possible to get to the Olympics from the age of 15, and Alina was smaller … Although, of course, Alina’s victory is entirely her merit. She worked a lot, overcame difficulties, did all the jumps in the bonus zone. But the fact that Alina was younger still somehow affected, in my opinion.
But the age minimum of 17 years old will leave many without the Olympics-2026.
Sofia Samodelkina: There will simply be less choice. Let’s say, not like now, when five people are competing for the Olympics spots, but two or three. And there will be no doubts. Perhaps this will make it easier to select the national team.
On the other hand, the age minimum will force you to skate in juniors till 17 years old. Where do to get motivation?
Sofia Samodelkina: The juniors also have the Grand Prix Final, and stages, junior “Worlds”, “Russian Nationals”. You can become, for example, a five-time world champion among juniors and move up to seniors. By that time, you will have an international rating – and quite a large one. Although junior one. I think this will create some balance.
What about international competition? There is an opinion that the age minimum will allow foreign skaters to catch up with our team.
Sofia Samodelkina: I think Russia will stay ahead anyway. We just have the strongest coaches, they build tactics faster and more flexible. Abroad, it seems to me, everything happens a little later. In a lighter mode.
Here you go to practice and the jumps fly back and forth. And there he did one, he stopped, stood at the board, talked to someone. Went on the second jump – popped it, talked again. This is impossible for us.
In Russia, every minute counts. Sometimes literally. We have such an exercise – we turn on the stopwatch and see, for example, how much triple axels I can jump in two minutes. I think I had a maximum of four. You need to do everything much faster in order to do more.
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