The coronavirus ruined her career, but not her character. Anastasia Shpilevaya about her career and new life in figure skating

Posted on 2021-01-30 • No comments yet


Interview with Anastasia Shpilevaya. In a very open view Anastasiia told about the beginning of her skating career, its brightest moments and how coronavirus broke it.

source: by Anastasiia Panina for dd. 29th January 2021

Anastasia Shpilevaya – Grigory Smirnov were charismatic duet, with high hopes and prospects. The pair won the Youth Olympic Games, but the transition to seniors wasn’t successful due to health problems.

In the past season, Anastasia and Grigory decided to changed their coaches. After many years of cooperation with Irina Zhuk and Alexander Svinin, they switched to Denis Samokhin and Maria Borovikova.

Then there was a quarantine and coronavirus, which the pair didn’t get through without consequences.

Shpilevaya became the first among the Russian skaters who had had a covid, and it affected her really tough. And if Anastasia had a hard time enduring the coronavirus itself, then Grigory had a hard time enduring the uncertainty due to his partner’s illness. The pair parted in early September 2020.

We met with Anastasia for an interview to sum up her path in sports, but in the form of a monologue, her story sounds particularly touching.


Anastasia Shpilevaya: I have never been pushed onto the ice, although I cannot say that I loved figure skating from the very beginning. Parents brought me to the figure skating section, and I believed that for some reason I needed this. Then it started to work out. I learned a new element, someone praised it, someone told my mother “Your daughter skates well” – it’s nice. But I really fell in love with it when I switched to ice dance. Then I realized that this is my life, and here it started. (laughs)

I started skating in Sokolniki, then Irina Zhuk and Alexander Svinin coached ice dancers there. I always looked at them holding my breath and thought that someday I will also skate like that. Dreams Come True! They have such a feature.

I have always loved to glide, spin, and most of all I loved when my first coach Olga Vladimirovna Parakova was saying: “Now I will turn on the music, and you will improvise.”

Jumps restrained me, maybe I did something wrong, but they did not turn out. Ice dances have become the perfect alternative.


Anastasia Shpilevaya: At first I was afraid to skate with a partner. I was eleven, still a little girl, I don’t know anything, but here the boy is next to me, I have to hold hands with him. But I quickly got used to it. Andrei Lebed was my first partner. He is wonderful, and I am glad that ice dance began with him for me, but we could not continue to skate for a long time.

When we paired up with Grisha Smirnov, I was twelve, and he was fourteen. I remember thinking “Wow, how fast we are skating!” (laughs). He had a strong partner hand. All people are different, and in a pair it affects. Even one finger on your hand moved to another place and it’s already uncomfortable. So at first it was uncomfortable for me, but I understood that this was going to work well, so I fought. I saw that Grisha had similar thoughts. Something he doesn’t like, but he tries, because he also believes that we will make a good pair.

I will never forget the Youth Olympic Games where we won. The atmosphere there was incredible, as if you came to a holiday, and not to a competition. Everything is convenient, thought out for athletes – you go- on the ice and skate with a big smile. I did not get to the senior Olympics, but I hope I will go there as a coach.


Anastasia Shpilevaya: We missed almost entire 2017/18 season due to injuries. It all started with Grisha having a detachment of the thigh ligament. We had twizzles with a leg to the side, we trained them a lot, and at some point the ligament could not stand it. Rarely, but this happens, despite the fact that he warmed up before training and generally did everything right.

Then I skated myself and fell hard on my knee, and my cartilage broke. A cyst has formed, fluid has accumulated. It was possible to pump it out, but I was told that due to the fractured cartilage, it would accumulate constantly. I agreed on surgery, Grisha and I had surgeries almost at the same time. The two of us were recovering.

You can say we learned to skate again. We did basic things on the ice that even kids sometimes don’t do anymore. We missed almost three months. We wanted to prepare for the Junior Championship, but did not have time physically, and could not afford to go not prepared.

There were many problems that season. Apparently, after the surgery, the body was weakened – I had chickenpox and bronchitis.


Anastasia Shpilevaya: My favorite pair is Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. They are delightful. In the Grand Prix Final, we competed together, only we were juniors, and I could watch their skating live. Their rhythm dance to Prince, this moves in the beginning – just cosmic. I also love last year’s Egyptian dance by Madison Chock and Evan Bates.

Moving from juniors to seniors is something incredible. You’re actually starting to compete with people you used to look at as idols. For example, Grisha and I skated at the Finlandia Trophy in the same warm-up with Madison Chok – Evan Bates. You look and think – wow, it’s Madison! Sits in the locker room next to you, doing her laces (laughs).


Anastasia Shpilevaya: Our last start with Grisha was the Russian Cup Final in February 2020.

After that, we switched to new coaches to the group of Denis Samokhin and Maria Valerievna Borovikova, but we did not skate for long, because quarantine began. For obvious reasons, there was no ice, everyone was sitting at home and doing physical training on Skype. I also ran every day because I live in the private sector. I ran in a mask and I must admit that it is disgusting. Thank God I have a younger brother who entertained me – the quarantine was not so dreary.

What is the reason for leaving Zhuk and Svinin? Probably we wanted to develop further. At some point, Grisha and I realized that we took everything from our coaches, and we ourselves gave them everything we could. This does not mean that they teach poorly or we learn poorly. We just needed a fresh perspective.

Denis Samokhin and Maria Borovikova base in Balashikha. This is the other end of the area from where I live. It took me a maximum of three hours one way for the road. Sometimes my mother drove me, but since she often had to take my brother to football, I, as an elder and an adult, got there myself. Sometimes Grisha picked me up, but at first I got to the station, which is located near him.


Anastasia Shpilevaya: When the quarantine was over, we was back on the ice for a week, and then I got seriously ill. Coronavirus. First I was treated at home. I called the doctors, I knew what could be taken, but nothing helped – temperature was kept for two months.

There was no improvement despite two courses of antibiotics. My kidneys started to hurt, and other problems began. Insane shortness of breath – I got up from bed to toilet and began to choke. I tried to walk, do breathing exercises, but nothing helped.

We decided to go to the hospital in the center of Gamaleya – this is our sports hospital. I spent ten days there, all this time they cleaned my blood, because it was very bad. Complications went to the whole body. There was a strong intoxication. It got better, I was released from hospital, but at home the temperature still rose for some time. And since I was quarantined again after hospital, the total break without training turned out huge.

Then I went on the ice, I’m not exaggerating, for one hour. The next morning, my foot hurt so badly that I simply could not stand on it. I did not understand what was happening – there was no reason for such pain. Of course I immediately went to hospitals, for examinations, and there they told me – you have reactive arthritis. Complication after coronavirus. This happens, sit at home for another three weeks. I told my partner and coaches about this, and I sat at home – what to do.

All this time I tried to do something at home. I did crunches, worked on my back and legs on the rug. But anyway it’s not the same – not ice, not aerobic exercise. But I seemed to be cured. We started skating, and a week later my legs hurt again, now both and twice as bad. At first I thought that I could not miss training any more, and started taking painkillers. All athletes know that it helps for a few weeks, and then it only gets worse. Because, firstly, there is an addiction to pills, and secondly, you are not treating anything, and the problem is getting worse. So it became worse for me than it was. I went to the examination again. Found a fracture of the metatarsal bone of both legs.

According to the doctors, after the illness all my joints weakened, my bones were not ready for the load, although I gave half the load than usual. What to do? I told my partner and coaches that I was being treated.


Anastasia Shpilevaya: Initially, I didn’t think of ending my career. I was in the mood for recovery, striving forward, development and all that. But one day, while I was lying at home, my partner wrote me a message. That he was tired of being in the unknown and would be looking for a new partner. That he is tired of waiting for me and does not know when I will be healthy.

It was a hard blow for me. I realized that, I could no longer go on the ice. Well, that’s all – depression, apathy.

I had no idea how to look for a partner, especially given the general situation in the world. Breaking up someone’s pair to pair with an experienced guy is ugly, I would not want to do that. Finding an inexperienced beginner in dances is difficult. Grisha and I skated together for ten years, and I couldn’t imagine anyone else next to me.

The post that Grisha and I will no longer skate, I posted on emotions. Then I realized that it was not necessary to voice it all yet, and deleted it, but it was too late – many saw. It was still important for me to remove it from my page. A rash act on my part, but what happened happened. Now we do not communicate with him, but before we were good friends.

We were both dancing, good at fast programs like Tarantella and quickstep, and there were many more similar tempo programs. We had good lifts, because I am compact, we had an optimal height difference, I always trusted Grisha. Well, we also had a connection – chemistry, as they say.

For a long time I tried to recover. I am not the kind of person who tells someone about my problems, especially close ones. I worry that they will worry even more than I worry (laughs). So I just ate myself from the inside.

Thank God, I have attentive parents who noticed this and helped. They said that they would accept any of my decisions and would always support me.

My mother and I went to Belarus to my aunt, she lives in Mogilev. Then the borders were still open. There, one might say, I was reanimated. I even went to a psychologist a couple of times. I returned from there as a different person, with new goals and understanding of my capabilities.


Anastasia Shpilevaya: At first there was a resentment, sometimes I even thought, maybe it’s worth coming back? These thoughts always come to people who have recently retired from their careers. I could not honestly admit to myself that this is the end, the sport is over. The psychologist helped me to understand that figure skating will leave my life anyway.

We had such a dialogue. “What age do people stop skating as late as possible?” “Well, about thirty years old.” “How old are you now?” “Twenty one.” “Well, in the best case scenario, you will skate for another 9 years, and then it’s all over. So what are you going to do?” “I do not know.” “So what difference does it make when you are tormented by this decision, now or in nine years.”

I thought – really! (laughs). I am grateful to everyone who walked this path with me, both the coaches and my partner. But now is the time to try something new.

I realized what I want to coach during the same trip to Belarus. I realized that I wanted to stand on the other side of the board, although I didn’t have much experience as a coach then. Now I am finishing my studies, getting a higher education.


Anastasia Shpilevaya: I try to communicate with children as with people of my age. Seriously and on an equal footing. It seems to me that children like it, they feel more mature and significant. Children love me, and this is important for a coach.

Almost immediately, after returning to Moscow, I started working. At first I just gave lessons, but now, six months later, I am already having a group.

I still cannot believe that all this is happening to me.

I will work with children from 4 to 6 years old, this is the youngest age. My task is to teach them how to skate and make them fall in love with figure skating. Someone may want to do it seriously later. Someone will just come to learn how to make a spiral and show off to friends. But love to figure skating will make any of these scenarios more enjoyable.


Anastasia Shpilevaya: I see myself as a single skaters coach rather than a dance coach. All this time I have been working with single skaters and I realized how comfortable I am. I can teach them to skate beautifully and jump at the same time, because I have a very good base for single and double jumps. For triples and quadruples, God blesses, later I would like to invite a second coach specializing in jumping. But this is a very distant prospect.

Choreographing programs is also interesting to me. I love to create some transitions for myself, to improvise, and work with other people is even better, because you see everything from the side.

It seems to me that figure skaters and coaches should look more towards modern music, try new styles in choreography. Single skaters are a little freer in this regard, and in dances and pairs, classics and proven options are still more appreciated. I would like to note, by the way, that the group of Zhuk and Svinin is trying to find some original compositions, modern and youthful.


Anastasia Shpilevaya: I watched the Russian Nationals. Former teammates they are as relatives, I cheered for Sasha and Vanya (Stepanova – Bukin) and worried, especially since they also had coronavirus in the fall. I knew from myself how hard it is to recover and get in shape, when at first you can’t even skate a circle on a warm up. I would like to congratulate both them and the coaches on the victory.

I also worried about Liza and Egor (Khudaiberdieva – Bazin), they are also my former teamates. In principle, we communicate well with Liza, she supports me in everything.

I cheered for Makar Ignatov and Sasha Samarin, it’s a pity that Dima Aliev did not go – we are all friends, just do not see each other as often as we would like, because everyone has his own schedule.

Well, and girls, of course. Sasha Trusova improved incredibly in skating. Anechka Shcherbakova is a fighter. I can’t figure out how she did it. I don’t know all the details of her condition, but we all saw how hard it was for her after the short program. Her act is adult and about sports. She is a hero. To be honest, I cried at the end of her performance.

Heroism in sports can be a common thing, you often have to endure something. But all the same, we must approach this thoughtfully. If you understand that you definitely cannot make it, it is better to refuse, wait it out, recover. If you feel at least a little confident that you can handle it, you should definitely try.

Anastasia Shpilevaya: I’ve already said thanks to the coaches and my partner. I also want to thank the audience. Even when I had not yet announced that I was finishing my career, many wrote to me, asking how I was. I am grateful to everyone, although I rarely answered, simply because then I was not able to. You have no idea how important it is for athletes to be supported by the fans for whom we skate.

It is important that to be kinder to each other. No one knows what is in the soul of another person at the moment, and a careless, harsh word can seriously injure him, even fatally. Now I’m speaking not only about figure skating, but about life in general.


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