Stanislava Konstantinova: “People still often ask me how much I weigh. Are you sure that in the 21st century, discussing someone’s figure is necessary?”
Big interview with Stanislava Konstantinova. About her retirement, opinion on switching sports citizenship, switching to coaching and life after sports.
source: sport-express.ru dd. 23d June 2023 by Rustam Imamov
Stanislava Konstantinova is a unique figure skater. She started skating at the age of seven, entered senior sports at 17, and became the last member of the national team to compete in major tournaments without ultra-c elements before the era of total dominance of the most difficult elements. Konstantinova demonstrated mature skating and a sensible approach to children in sports, which was advocated by supporters of strict age limits.
However, Stanislava herself did not stay in figure skating as an athlete for long. After two peak seasons, there was a decline, and a year ago, she decided to quit skating. However, she didn’t completely leave the world of sports and is now trying herself as a young choreographer. In a big interview with Sport-Express, Konstantinova talked about her progress in her new role, why she wouldn’t change her citizenship, and the moral and ethical responsibilities that the media should take on in the era of gender equality.
How long have you been working as a coach?
Stanislava Konstantinova: Exactly a year ago, I went to my first training camp. I started working on programs even earlier, but I fully switched to coaching and stopped any attempts to resume my own career last summer. In my mind, I had long realized that I was unlikely to return. But many people tried to convince me to give it another try, to please my family, fans, and myself… It was nice to hear that, and for a while, I actually left the door open for that chance. But a year ago, I realized that it was definitely time to quit.
You posted on social media that you didn’t see the point in returning because it’s difficult to compete in Russia. But what if you try yourself abroad? Isn’t Nastya Gubanova’s example encouraging?
Stanislava Konstantinova: Nastya is a great girl. The most important thing in such a transition is to maintain motivation. Not just leaving, running away from problems. But purposefully understanding that you came not just to try, but to work in a new national team for several Olympic cycles. I thought about it even before we were no longer allowed to compete. But I also understood that it is a very lengthy process, and I simply couldn’t handle it anymore. And I didn’t have the motivation to skate. There were too many “buts.” And the main thing was that I had already achieved a lot in sports, and it’s unlikely that I could do better. My peak had passed, so it was time to retire.
Did you receive any specific offers from other federations?
Stanislava Konstantinova: No, at the time when I was considering it, I was no longer a top-level figure skater.
Nevertheless, for most European countries, you would be number one without question.
Stanislava Konstantinova: That’s understandable. But honestly, it wouldn’t be so easy for me to switch to another flag. I have skated for Russia my whole life. It’s one thing to switch in pairs or ice dance, where you adapt to your partner. But in single skating, just because you can’t break through in Russia… It sounds like you’ve lost to yourself because I had chances in Russia.
Is changing citizenship a question of patriotism for you?
Stanislava Konstantinova: Not always. I understand that people can have different reasons for taking that step. I, on the other hand, was raised as a Russian athlete from childhood, representing the national team from a young age… Of course, if I hadn’t been selected and hadn’t competed in serious events, it would have been interesting for me to go abroad, bypassing the competition. But since I had already competed for Russia almost everywhere except the Olympics, I don’t think I would change my flag. The country has invested a lot in me.
Some Russian athletes are now considering switching to another team. Do you agree with the categorical critics of such an approach?
Stanislava Konstantinova: I don’t like categorical judgments, regardless of the subject. Everything needs to be evaluated individually. It would be foolish to deny that the athlete’s own career is the most important thing. So, I won’t condemn that approach. It’s wrong. The situation has fundamentally changed, the world has changed. So, you need to choose your priorities and move accordingly. Changing federations is one of the possible options. I can understand these people.
The transfer of Diana Davis and Gleb Smolkin to compete for Georgia sparked a strong reaction. How do you feel about it?
Stanislava Konstantinova: Again, everyone has their own reasons. When so much effort has been invested in one’s career, a person has the right to make decisions about their own career. On the other hand, equal conditions for everyone would be desirable…
The most severe comments about them were made on the non-sports show “There’s a Topic.” Have you seen that episode?
Stanislava Konstantinova: I’ve heard about the program, seen some excerpts, but I haven’t watched it. I would be interested in participating there; I enjoy having conversations. However, the format of their discussions is not close to me. Analyzing specific individuals, picking on them… it’s unethical. Bringing up personal matters is completely out of place. At least invite the person you’re talking about to the studio, try to reach out to them. When someone is not present and unable to respond…
How can we solve the issue of transfers? Leave everything as it is and decide on an individual basis, allow everyone to switch, or establish clear regulations with buyout clauses?
Stanislava Konstantinova: Clear regulations are needed. It’s not always right to allow everyone to switch; after all, the country has invested resources in the athlete. On the other hand, the current situation raises many questions about the individual approach. When people find a new coach or partner abroad and are no longer needed in their home country… But they are told that it’s not allowed. It’s prohibited, and that’s it. Why is it that some athletes can switch to compete for another country, and everything is resolved quickly and promptly, while others have to languish with their talent and career?
So, the concept of buyout clauses doesn’t seem wrong to you? Critics say it’s like paying a ransom to the baron under serfdom.
Stanislava Konstantinova: It’s a complex question. We don’t have a club system; it’s budgetary. We skate thanks to the support of the state. Whom would then we pay the buyout fees?
The state. The Figure Skating Federation of Russia as a public organization.
Stanislava Konstantinova: And would they have to account for every meal voucher we use in Yoshkar-Ola? I don’t know how to accurately calculate the expenses for a figure skater.
They calculated $25,000 for two seasons for Ivan Desyatov in Belarus. Is that a reasonable amount?
Stanislava Konstantinova: I’m not sure. There may be buyout clauses in the regulations, but the amount shouldn’t be pulled out of thin air or be unaffordable to ensure that no one switches. There should be some realistic money involved.
How much would you pay for yourself?
Stanislava Konstantinova: It depends on the situation I would be in and my future prospects. Let’s say I see Olympic potential – in that case, it would be worth investing. But if not, why bother? When sports no longer brought me income, I started wondering if my current investments would pay off. Thoughts arise that figure skating is an expensive hobby, not a job. There’s no satisfaction or earnings from it. So, why do it all?
Ideally, the athlete’s new country should pay for them. Isn’t that the case?
Stanislava Konstantinova: The problem is that the skater is often more interested in the transfer than the other federation. In many European countries, the state doesn’t heavily invest in sports, and even for major competitions, people often pay out of their own pockets. So, what transfers should be paid for? For a Russian, it’s unfamiliar because when you perform well, you live in clover. You don’t think about anything.
Is that the right approach? On the other hand, in the West, athletes from a young age already know about the advertising market and where to find sponsors… We don’t have that.
Stanislava Konstantinova: Maybe that’s true. But it’s a question of setting goals. Results are paramount for us. When you start spreading yourself thin, achieving results becomes difficult. When I was in the national team, everything was planned for me; I didn’t worry about anything. But when you have a dozen organizational issues in front of you, and you still have to perform well… Where do you find the time and energy for everything? In America, even the coach doesn’t monitor you; they only control you on the ice. After that, it’s the choreographer, off-ice training, schedule – you handle everything yourself.
What are your ambitions now in your coaching career?
Stanislava Konstantinova: I want to develop as a choreographer. Work with well-known top-level athletes. If there’s an opportunity, I won’t miss it and I’ll try to bring out my maximum creativity. I would also like to fulfill myself beyond coaching, beyond sports. In other areas. I don’t know specifically yet. I’m contemplating.
Are there specific people you would like to work with?
Stanislava Konstantinova: All the top Russian skaters, as well as foreign skaters. The list is long.
Is it more interesting to work with a ready-made athlete or to train your own champion from scratch?
Stanislava Konstantinova: In terms of choreography, of course, it’s more interesting with a senior athlete. It’s harder to grow a group from scratch, although preparing an Olympic champion is also intriguing. Right now, I don’t see myself in that role, but perhaps it’s because I’m still young. I think I will come to that with age. I can do it well because I prepare children for competitions, understand their state well. I can apply my competitive experience. But it’s not in my immediate plans.
When an athlete switching to coaching, one of the most challenging aspects is psychology. Have you been able to restructure your mindset this year?
Stanislava Konstantinova: I’m still in the process. A year is still very little time; I work with different coaches and observe their work. I evaluate them not as an athlete but as a coach. During training camps, it’s most important for me to work with various experienced specialists and learn from them. I already have my own experience, but I want to improve and work on myself.
Honestly, every athlete is used to having attention focused on them. These emotions help find motivation and overcome difficulties. But when you train children, it will be them who perform, not yourself. And the attention will be on them. It can be mentally challenging. But I’m searching for new meanings for myself.
So, it seems that your focus in coaching is primarily on choreography right now?
Stanislava Konstantinova: Yes, that’s where it works out better for me. I feel like a professional in this field, confident in myself and my actions. I was a decent jumper, but I could have been better. So, in terms of technique, I’m not yet at that level of expertise; I’m still learning and discovering many new things when working with experienced coaches. And when I was an athlete, albeit in a conscious age and training with Victoria Butsaeva and Alexander Volkov, I learned many important nuances in technique. I want to convey that to the child, to correct their issues, rather than pretending I explained the element and then forgetting about it.
But do you still work on jumps?
Stanislava Konstantinova: Sometimes I correct technique, but mainly during training camps, I’m responsible for program choreography. I enjoy it. Once, on my birthday, someone wished me to find a job that I would even do for free, the job of my dreams. And this, perhaps, is it. I will continue to develop and progress. I have experience; I’ve already choreographed many programs. Now I plan to work with seniors as well. Older girls are already approaching me, and it’s much more interesting. I try to reveal athletes from new angles.
Sometimes children are given programs that are not suitable for their age by any parameters. For example, a girl who isn’t even 10 years old is skating to Harley Quinn. How right and ethical is that?
Stanislava Konstantinova: It’s definitely wrong. The music should suit the child, bringing out their essence. It’s unlikely we should be portraying a young girl as Harley Quinn or performing to “Fifty Shades of Grey.” What message are we trying to convey? There is an enormous range of music to choose from; we can find interesting options without going to extremes.
Usually, I recall skaters who are stylistically and physically similar, go through their successful programs in my mind, and choose something similar. Character is crucial both on and off the ice. Emotional expression matters. There are many nuances, but the most important thing is individuality. With children, you can still experiment and explore their image. It hasn’t fully formed yet. However, with a senior girl who has been performing lyrical programs for 20 years, suddenly giving her a Latin program… It’s probably not the best idea. There’s no need to fixate on one image, but it’s also unnecessary to bury your own individuality.
Furthermore, when working with a nine-year-old girl, you probably need to limit the flight of fantasies and not overload the program with meanings…
Stanislava Konstantinova: I had such an excess of ideas and emotions only in the very beginning when I was just learning program choreography. Now I understand how to work with the youngest ones, how to find that balance. The program should be choreographed slightly higher than the athlete’s current level, allowing them to grow. But at the same time, not overdoing it, ensuring the program flows, looks interesting, and is advantageous.
With seniors, there are different opportunities. I have a desire to try programs that I wouldn’t perform myself and to implement my ideas through other skaters. I did that with a program for my sister. Although she’s still young, just starting in sports, it was very interesting for me to work with her. I would make a movement, and she would replicate it exactly. The same fluidity, talent, so it’s a chance for me to showcase myself through her to the audience.
Is it more challenging to work with your own sister? From an educational standpoint, it seems like a risky idea…
Stanislava Konstantinova: Training is definitely more challenging. We had limited time, but there was room for creativity. Yet, it’s probably good that I don’t work with her constantly. Initially, people would write to me about how many times we argued during training. And I didn’t understand why should we argue? Everything was fine. But on the fourth day, I found myself raising my voice at her… It’s difficult to maintain the fine line between support and motivation, subordination with a close person. Although I’m a strict coach, I’m not rigid.
When I worked with a small group for a short period of time on a regular basis, I tried to maintain discipline to the maximum. Now, when I mainly work during training camps, the approach is much softer. You can’t completely transform a child’s mindset in just one or two weeks; you can’t get inside their head. You have specific tasks in front of you; you need to work on technique, elements, and artistry. So, you concentrate on that, try to inspire and engage the skaters in the sport.
Figure skating is a sport closely tied to Moscow. What do you attribute that to? Have you been able to understand the issues in the regions by working in different parts of Russia?
Stanislava Konstantinova: The regions have different priorities. For example, in Kazan, the focus is on hockey. Moreover, there are objective reasons. Moscow and St. Petersburg have more people, more ice rinks. There is more attention from the government. And there are more specialists. Specialists are crucial. People travel for the coach, not just for the ice rink.
Currently, the focus is on Moscow. But for years, figure skating in St. Petersburg was at a high level. At some point, it was even better and more interesting than in Moscow. But now it’s sad to see the level decline. However, after skating in both St. Petersburg and Moscow, and comparing the intensity of the training, I understood it for myself. So now, in St. Petersburg, only exceptionally talented children can achieve success. However, off the top of my head, I can’t even recall any young talents from St. Petersburg. Moscow is moving forward, while St. Petersburg is stagnant. It’s harder to succeed, with fewer opportunities… In Moscow, there are many young specialists. Eteri Georgievna is an example for many, showing how you can reach the top, get the best athletes, and build a team through your own ambitions and character.
Would you like to work in Tutberidze’s team?
Stanislava Konstantinova: It would be very interesting to me. Immensely. They have such talented skaters; it’s paradise for a choreographer. And the girls who absorb your ideas and showcase them in the best light. Their programs are seen by millions… So it would be a unique opportunity. But it’s unlikely to be realistic; they usually work within their own team and even stopped inviting top choreographers.
So, are you thinking more about Moscow?
Stanislava Konstantinova: I don’t know… I love St. Petersburg; I lived in Moscow at some point, and I really liked it. But now I’m back in St. Petersburg, and I feel calm and comfortable here. With my family and loved ones nearby. Everything is close. And there’s much more time. In Moscow, everything is so hectic; whenever I come there, I have so many things to do, rushing around the city and not accomplishing everything. Life in St. Petersburg is more understandable, measured.
Did you have more free time after ending your career?
Stanislava Konstantinova: I have a strong feeling now that I didn’t have any time before. I still can’t get enough of my freedom. It’s much easier; there’s no constant tension, no need to watch myself, my weight, my routine. But, on the other hand, in sports, everything is predetermined, many things are decided for you in advance. And you live as you’re accustomed to. That’s why many athletes are reluctant to admit the inevitable and end their careers. To leap into the unknown, to take responsibility for their lives… It’s scary. You have to work, deal with “adult” matters. Yet, athletes can sometimes live like children. After all, they ask us how we ate, how we slept. Like children.
Did you have plans for what you wanted to do after ending your career?
Stanislava Konstantinova: I’ve done almost everything I wanted to do. The most significant thing was to go on vacation in the fall or winter. For a figure skater, that’s impossible because it’s the peak of the season. I was always so exhausted during that time. And waiting until May to go to the beach… It’s tough. Now, I plan to finally go on vacation in the winter.
Overall, during my athletic career, I held myself to such strict standards that it’s scary to think about. It applied to everything: behavior, diet, daily routine… So now, I feel lighter. I’ve become calm and positive. But I’m not complaining; high-level sports cannot exist without controlling your body. If you drink Coke and beer, you won’t be sharp and fast.
Can you now afford everything you want?
Stanislava Konstantinova: I don’t really watch my weight anymore. It’s not relevant to me now. It’s always important for me in life to focus on something. And now, with a lot of work, I’m constantly on the ice, searching for music and ideas for programs… Alongside that, I have studies and other tasks. Weight is no longer a priority. I try to live within normal limits, but I don’t control myself.
So, did you eat chak-chak in Kazan without feeling guilty?
Stanislava Konstantinova: The fans gave it to me! By the way, I used to feel sad that the fans forgot about me. But then I calmed down; after all, attention and fame are always fleeting. Even for the biggest stars. But when fans come up to me for a photo, invite me to meet them, I genuinely rejoice. And the fans in Kazan also decided to meet with me, they gave me chak-chak with my photos on it, it was very nice. When I was in sports, these things seemed ordinary. Fans made videos of me and gave me gifts. I thanked them, of course, but I truly began to appreciate it only now.
You say that people forgot about you and don’t write about you. But that’s not entirely true; lately, you often make headlines. However, these news articles have a very specific nature…
Stanislava Konstantinova: My bikini photos? Oh, how tired I am of that. I don’t search for them myself. My grandmother sends me photos from the newspaper, and she received them from the Vologda region. They published my photos from the Maldives in the newspaper. My grandmother asks me, “Stasya, how is this possible? How will you find a husband after this?” But I don’t even look at these news articles… Moreover, in my opinion, the photos are absolutely fine, ordinary. But the headlines are so terrible! Does it really attract a lot of clicks?
Unfortunately, it does. That’s why they write like that.
Stanislava Konstantinova: Honestly, it’s unpleasant. For me, my media image is associated with my career in sports. That I was very polite, educated. I was passionate about literature. Of course, I’m growing up, changing, I won’t always have a hairstyle like Anna Karenina’s and read Leo Tolstoy. I have different aspects in my life. I enjoy taking photos, publishing them on social media… But I didn’t expect this presentation and reaction. Although someone in my place might even be happy.
It depends on the person’s character and goals.
Stanislava Konstantinova: I don’t have a goal to become famous in this way. It offends me as a woman. If my dad suddenly sees those articles, he will be crushed. But I won’t stop posting photos on social media because of yellow headlines. Why should I deprive myself of the opportunity to share photos just because they will be discussed afterwards? Do you not go to the beach or wear a swimsuit?
The news itself is not the problem. Why do they use such sleazy, completely base and vulgar headlines? They depict everything in such vivid colors… I want to see changes in the media’s approach, more ethical self-restraint. After all, there’s a global trend of accepting oneself and the people around. And, to put it bluntly, it’s not your business how someone takes photos… But we don’t have that culture yet.
For example, people still often ask me how much I weigh. Are you sure that in the 21st century, discussing someone’s figure is necessary? It’s a personal matter for each individual – how they want to look and live. It would never occur to me to write to someone that they have weight issues. Especially not to a girl.
On the other hand, during the World Cup, they recommended refraining from photographing beautiful fans in the name of equality. Perhaps that’s going too far in inclusivity?
Stanislava Konstantinova: Perhaps it’s better to avoid such excesses. It’s strange. There may be some logic to it, but everything requires a reasonable balance.
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