“They sent a box to my father, my grandfather opened it – his arm was torn off.” American figure skater Misha Mitrofanov about his family departure from Russia and life in the USA
Interview with American pair skater Misha Mitrofanov. About leaving Russian, life in the USA.
source: sport-express.ru dd. 22d January 2021 by Dmitri Kuznetsov
Audrey Liu / Misha Mitrofanov are coached by Russian specialist Alexei Letov, who once trained with Stanislav Zhuk, programs are choreographed by Evgeni Nemirovskii from Odessa, American Adam Blake and Russian Olga Ganicheva.
Misha Mitrofanov has been going to the status of the leader of US team for a long time. He was brought to figure skating at the age of four because of poor health, as he himself said, all this was given through pain and tears. He had excellent grades at school and thought about leaving sport, but stayed. Now he manages to study at university and fight for Olympic spots at the same time.
However he didn’t make it to the Olympics, taking the bronze of the US Nationals. As an encouragement, the pair was sent to the Four Continents Championships.
Misha, when we see a Russian skating for the United States, his story is always interesting. How did your family end up in America?
Misha Mitrofanov: My parents, grandparents lived in Russia, in Tomilino near Moscow. In 1995, the parents moved to America, to the city of Madison in Wisconsin. And two years later I was born there.
Why did they move?
Misha Mitrofanov: It was a difficult economic situation in Russia. In addition, my parents run a business, and everything was very difficult and scary there. There were some really bad cases.
Misha Mitrofanov: Yes, there was a threat for life. A few years before they move, there was a story: a parcel was sent to my family, some kind of box. It was intended for my father, but it was opened by… it seems my great-grandfather, if I remember correctly in Russian. There was a bomb in it – his arm was torn off. This is still thank God, because everything could have ended sadder. Well such a business. So they decided to end it and leave. America was quieter. And many of my father’s partners, as I later found out, either ended up in prison or were killed.
Are you coming to Russia?
Misha Mitrofanov: The last time was recently, at the Grand Prix in Sochi. But usually only to competitions. Some relatives stayed here, we can call. I speak both Russian and English, although my coach Alexei Letov speaks Russian better than me. We communicate with him in Russian during the training process.
You have been competing with Audrey Lu for several years, but there is a feeling that something is constantly missing – third, fifth places, and you did not reach the Olympics.
Misha Mitrofanov: Yes it so. Of course, we want more. But we are looking forward to 2026. Of course, we are also preparing for Beijing, we are substitute athletes, and anything can happen. That is, we will participate in the training camp. Whether we will go to Beijing is not known yet. Moreover, the rules for entry there are strict. But we are fully prepared. I hope nothing will happen, I don’t wish something bad to anyone.
Well, as I understand it, both American pairs who go to the Olympics will retire after it. So we expect to take their place.
Did you watch the performances of Russian pairs at the European Championships?
Misha Mitrofanov: Yes! They are just crazy, of course. There was a time, we trained for three weeks with Tamara Moskvina, I will never forget this experience. We look at the Russians, learn from them, of course, they are head and shoulders above everyone else, except for the Chinese. It’s amazing how they literally kill each other in this competition! We are all so kind, smiling, laughing. I’m not saying that Russians are not kind. But they just kill each other! And that’s why they’re so awesome. We try to strive for it, change our brain to be at the same level. We have Russian coaches, this is also useful.
In Russia there is more money, is this why such success? Still, in the United States, the system works rather in line with a market economy.
Misha Mitrofanov: Something is paid for us, we receive money from various funds, we are very grateful for this. But I cannot say exactly how much they pay in Russia, compare these numbers. If Russians pay more, then it is logical that their results are better. It’s just that figure skating is not so popular in America. We are trying to promote it, there is a media team that is working on it. When figure skating becomes more popular, like American football, then the situation will change. I also follow American football, there is a lot of money there. That’s the difference. And in Russia, figure skating is popular, so they want to give money there, it makes sense.
You entered the medical university. Are you still studying and skating?
Misha Mitrofanov: I almost finished it. We moved from Texas to Boston two years ago, but I stayed at the university because I can do everything on the computer. But in the Olympic season, I decided to focus only on figure skating, so I took a sabbatical. After that, I have three more years left, and I will graduate right before the next Olympics.
But do you plan to become a doctor after your career?
Misha Mitrofanov: Yes, I have a dream – I want to become a sports doctor and work with athletes. We have a team that always goes with us. I also want to do that and help, especially the skaters. They helped me so many times, I want to do the same.
Relations between Russia and the United States are not the best now. Do you have an explanation why, and do you follow the two countries that have played the biggest role in your life?
Misha Mitrofanov: Honestly, I don’t pay much attention to it. Russia says one thing, America another. I’m not saying that someone is right, it’s just very hard to understand what is really happening. If you work as some kind of politician or diplomat, then yes, you know. And we just hear what they want to tell us. I understand that they always struggle. It’s hard to accept it. I would like everything to be calm with us, so that we can be friends. Hope it just takes time. We have a new president, and maybe in a couple of years we will again have good relations.
But can you say that Russians and Americans are really so different? Mentality? Like, Americans are always smiling and all that.
Misha Mitrofanov: I haven’t lived in Russia much, it’s hard to compare. But no, it’s not even about smiles. America always strives for freedom, its value is that a person can do whatever he wants. I am not saying that there is no freedom in Russia. Maybe there’s. When we were in Sochi and St. Petersburg, everyone around was cool, kind guys, we are very pleased to be in Russia. I personally didn’t notice a difference.
Let me give you an example of the difference. One of your skating colleagues Timothy LeDuc is a non-binary athlete. And in Russia, Alexander Zhulin criticized him.
Misha Mitrofanov: This situation doesn’t really bother me. If Timothy calls himself non-binary, this is his right, if he wants to – I cannot say that this is bad or wrong. It’s his business, to be honest. It’s not really about sports. Yes, he is a skater, a pair skater, maybe he wants to do shows off the ice. But that’s his business.
So the Russians criticize him for nothing?
Misha Mitrofanov: I do not really agree with this, but at the same time I understand Russians, Russian ideology.
Related topics: Audrey Lu Misha Mitrofanov
Evgenia Medvedeva: “I remember myself before the 2018 Olympics, when they made medal predictions, and this is not the most pleasant feeling when they decide for you which place you’ll take.