“Today, I feel like I’m just suffering in sports.” Interview with Morisi Kvitelashvili
Interview with Morisi Kvitelashvili about this hard season and changes in his life.
source: sports.ru dd. 3 February 2023 by Maya Bagriantseva
Georgian figure skater Morisi Kvitelashvili is the oldest single skater in Khrustalny. He turns 28 in March. This season did not work out well for Kvitelashvili: after silver at the Finland Trophy, failures at the Grand Prix in Sheffield (8th) and Espoo (12th) followed. Hopes for the European Championship also did not come true: 16th place.
In mid-autumn, Kvitelashvili unexpectedly changed his place of training: from the usual “Khrustalny,” where he had been training for more than 10 years, he moved to the Italian Enya, to the academy of Lorenzo Magri.
However, he immediately emphasized that cooperation with Tutberidze’s headquarters continues, but problems with logistics require a temporary departure. In mid-December, the Italian internship ended as unexpectedly as it had begun: Morisi was preparing for the European Championships in Russia.
The European Championships are over; did you manage to recover?
Morisi Kvitelashvili: Well, I can’t come to my senses all season; I just can’t find the ground under my feet.
Does it have anything to do with going to Italy? Have you ever been away from home for such a long time?
Morisi Kvitelashvili: For so long—never. I travel a lot for training camps and competitions, so it seemed to me that it would be the same. The most similar experience was a year ago, before the World Championships in Montpellier, when we prepared for 2 weeks in Bergamo. I liked it, and, probably, there were thoughts that it would be something similar.
Whose idea was it to send you to Italy?
Morisi Kvitelashvili: This is a joint decision of my coaches and the Georgian Figure Skating Federation. That’s why I immediately said that I’m not leaving Khrustalny anywhere; we just decided to work a little differently.
In fact, everything happened very spontaneously. In October, I have the first competition of the season, in Finland. I had to break and go there 10 days before the competition. At that time, we were afraid that the borders would be closed and no one would be able to go anywhere.
First, I took a train to St. Petersburg, and from there, a friend took me by car; we crossed the border in a car with Finnish license plates, and then leapfrogging began already in Finland. During one week, I changed apartments and hotels six times.
Stress before competitions.
Morisi Kvitelashvili: But in the end it turned out to be my best competition of the season. Maybe I pulled it off with the remnants of the old training and strength. Then I flew to Georgia to get a visa to England, returned to Finland, and from there I flew to Bergamo.
I had a task to get there, settle down, and train normally. Everything was decided in an emergency; I didn’t even know where I would spend the night after my arrival. I arrived at midnight; it was expensive to stay in a hotel, so I decided to go towards Enya, where the skating rink is located. It looked like you could take three buses to get there. I went, and the adventure began.
I came to the bus stop at 1 a.m.; no one was around; the phone had a 10% charge; thank God, I had bought a ticket online before that. “I’ll charge the phone on the bus, and the Internet was also promised there,” I reasoned. I waited for the bus for half an hour. A guy got out of it and started swearing that someone stole his suitcase right on the road. And I needed to put my suitcase with skates on the same bus. I loaded my luggage there and nervously kept looking out the window to see if anyone would take my skates by mistake.
The phone was dying; there were no outlets. Thank God, my neighbor gave me the battery to recharge. Happiness that I managed to buy a ticket for the next bus while the charge was on.
I got out at my next stop—again, not a soul, three in the morning; there was no network; I was catching the Internet from passing buses. Then another Norwegian came up, saying that his wallet and documents were stolen and that he also needed to get on this bus. I was trying to buy a ticket for him on my half-dead phone, and in response, he offered me to live at his brother’s place.
It was already dawning. One without a phone, the other without money, some German came up, saying, “Guys, I’ll help you; you won’t be lost.” True, none of us knew where the stop was. This is how jokes usually begin: once a Georgian, a Norwegian, and a German met…
Okay, the bus was coming. I was trying to buy a ticket for a Norwegian, and then the driver came and said that the bus was full and there were no seats left. They still let me in somehow, and the doors close in front of the guy. Well, I managed to give him 50 euros so that he would not be completely without money.
In general, I arrived in Trento (another hour to the ice rink), charged my phone on the bus, exited at five a.m., no one around, and then my roaming disappeared. I’m out of touch. And I was supposed to be met by Masha Kazakova and Gosha Revia (ice dance duo who represent Georgia and train in Italy), who drove a car from Enya to pick me up. Miraculously, I caught Wi-Fi from passing buses and texted the guys where I was. They found me in this wilderness in an hour. They picked me up and brought me to one hotel, then to another. In general, it was a fun trip.
Adventures of a Georgian in Italy…
Morisi Kvitelashvili: Then it started to get better; the Federation helped; they rented me an apartment. However, I lived there without a washing machine and rode a bicycle to a neighboring town through apple plantations to a laundry. And just before leaving, I found out that there was still a washing machine in the house; I just had to go down to the basement.
How long did you end up staying in Italy?
Morisi Kvitelashvili: Almost two months. Everything happened so spontaneously: I left Moscow with practically no things, I bought something on the spot, and the coaches helped me with something. They arranged a bike for me. I rode it every day to the skating rink since the weather allowed it; autumn is warmer there than in Moscow.
Do you have any good memories of that time?
Morisi Kvitelashvili: In general, everything was fine. But something didn’t work. I tried to devote all of my time to training, doing extra cardio on this bike to overload myself more. But the jumps didn’t work out at all. The schedule was also unusual; we were already finishing trainings at three o’clock in the afternoon. Yes, training there starts very early, but the second half of the day is free.
Coaches from the Italian school say that you need to have time for life outside the rink.
Morisi Kvitelashvili: But I’m not used to it; in Moscow, on the contrary, there is an eternal race and you don’t have time to do anything. But there are friends, communication … And in Italy, my level of English did not allow me to communicate well. Although there were also Russian-speaking guys: Masha and Gosha, Vova Samoilov (who represents Poland), and coach Angelina Turenko. But for some reason I could not find myself there—somehow I lived neither here nor there, with my thoughts somewhere else.
Most likely, I still live like this. I can’t decide where I should be. Although this experience was very interesting, I did not feel bad there. Maybe I should have stayed and endured it…But I missed home. Also, my parents called all the time; they also missed me, and I was in a bad mood all the time. Of course, they felt it; they said, “Maybe you will come back?” That’s why I was constantly hesitating about returning or not.
Probably, it was necessary that they not touch me so that I could decide for myself. But I couldn’t decide. In general, I was constantly spinning in these thoughts. For me, uncertainty is the worst thing. You get very tired of it; it torments you all the time.
Athletes’ lives are very clear and predictable. Maybe a broken schedule knocked you off track?
Morisi Kvitelashvili: No, everything was the same—you train and compete. No need to bring it up as an excuse; I had to cope.
I think you’re being too hard on yourself.
Morisi Kvitelashvili: But in sports, there is no other way. You need to be strict with yourself to achieve results. Yes, I understand that it was necessary to endure. It was hard for two months—well, maybe after four it would have been easier; all my friends told me so. They even helped me find an English and Italian tutor. I understand that it is difficult without knowing the language.
There was a lot of free time, and I tried to study every day, but there was also some kind of despair: you study and study, but nothing is remembered and there is no progress. Everything is bad; I can’t really tell anyone anything, and I don’t understand anyone. It seems I can read, but in live communication, I’m in some kind of stupor.
In general, it didn’t work out for me to endure; these thoughts were already driving me insane. Therefore, we thought that it would be better to prepare for the European Championships in Moscow under the usual conditions. Therefore, I returned. But, as you can see, it also did not help much.
Maybe in Italy there was unusual training? Or did they try to change something in your technique?
Morisi Kvitelashvili: Everyone there took great care of me; everyone tried to help. It is clear that it makes no sense to start correcting the technique of an adult athlete immediately, and moreover, in the middle of the season. They had a task to adjust something. Well, I tried to train according to the usual system, as we always did with Eteri Georgievna.
We were in touch and tried to do something by video, but nothing worked out. The boots then became uncomfortable, as if they weren’t my boots at all. All this was knocking me down. And, to be honest, it still knocks, and I still can’t cope with it.
Did it get easier after returning home?
Morisi Kvitelashvili: That’s the thing; it doesn’t get any easier. I have only one thought: to live to the end of the season. For some reason, I still have this feeling that I got stuck between two worlds. When I left Italy, I was not sure that I was doing the right thing.
But an injury also intervened: at the last Grand Prix, I sprained my leg badly. I tried to do an MRI in Finland, but in Europe it’s not so easy: you need a doctor’s referral, and this costs 200 euros, not to speak about the cost of the MRI itself. I thought, “I will return to Italy and do it there; I will wait until then.” But there are also some nuances: first, you need to find a doctor; one is on vacation; the second is busy; and I need to at least understand what’s wrong with my leg. I limp; I can’t step on my foot.
All in all, it took about a week and a half. And as a result, I got to the tomograph already in Moscow—on the very first day after arrival. Then, in one day, I managed to close all the issues that had been hanging for two months. In Europe, everything is different, everything is not fast. And I grew up in Moscow and got used to a different rhythm of life. I need everything to be on pace and tense.
A relaxed atmosphere discourages me. If there is no tension, it is difficult for me to collect myself and force myself. And if everything around me begins to boil and move quickly, I begin to adapt. I see that everyone around me is working hard, which means that I also have to work in such a rhythm; it motivates me.
Are you going from Helsinki to Moscow?
Morisi Kvitelashvili: Yes, for now. To be honest, everything is still not very clear. It’s pointless to make plans, but I understand that it’s hard for me to skate now. All the time, I have the feeling that I do not understand why I’m doing it. Most likely, it’s a burnout. It’s like I’m working, but there’s no result, and this upsets me even more, and so on in a circle. This season, I have a lot of self-reproach.
Maybe see a psychologist? Almost all foreign skaters have a mental coach.
Morisi Kvitelashvili: I can’t imagine it yet. I do not want someone to get into my head and procrastinate this topic even more. My option is to plunge into work and forget about it; then everything will pass. But for some reason it doesn’t pass. But I used to cope on my own. And this year is likely to be the most difficult in my life, both morally and psychologically.
Do you have any thoughts about ending your career?
Morisi Kvitelashvili: I started thinking about it, I realized that sports are difficult and don’t last forever. Well, health also does not allow to go forward and improve. It doesn’t work out to improve some aspects of skating, and there is a feeling that even degradation has begun at my age. Figure skating is moving forward, and I feel that I have begun to deteriorate; everything is getting harder for me.
At my first European Championships, I was second in technique in the free program. And it seems to me that I was more motivated, had better technique, I was more hungry, or something. At the same time, ironically, there were no special results. And only last year and the year before, I got serious medals. At the same time, it cannot be said that I began to work more; probably, the effect of the invested strengths has accumulated.
But the strength is gone. And it won’t get any easier; I understand that.
Foreigners often emphasize in interviews that a competitive career is only part of life and that you can then live another life. Agree?
Morisi Kvitelashvili: No. We must have been taught this way since childhood. In Russia, sports in general are a slightly different story. If you play sports at a serious level, you give all your best for the sake of the future, and then it starts to pay dividends.
Morisi Kvitelashvili: Well, yes, probably. Changing everything and moving to another area is difficult. To do this, it was necessary to combine it with sports. We are also lucky that we have such a sport that there are places to go after: you can become a coach, a choreographer, or skate in a show. If you want to stay in figure skating, there are options.
That is, there is no such thing as “I don’t want to see the skating rink anymore.”
Morisi Kvitelashvili: It became difficult for me in sports. When I think about the show, I understand that it brings me pleasure. Today, I feel like I’m just suffering in sports. And I don’t get any positive emotions from what I do, and this is very important. Because I can’t set myself up in such a way as to understand what all this is for. Everything seems to be in vain and for nothing. That is, there is a path, but there are no results.
Did you have thoughts like, “It would be better if I skated in shows instead of all these competitions”?
Morisi Kvitelashvili: I have had these thoughts all year, to be honest. I thought to retire after the Olympics in Beijing. But this is how I was brought up: If you stay in sports, you have to fight. Athletes are accustomed to reaching the end of everything; you can’t quit halfway.
I had a similar story in Italy: two stages of the Grand Prix didn’t work out for me, so that’s why I hesitated to leave for Moscow. Because it looks like I’m giving up. It didn’t work out here, so I would go back. It’s kind of unsportsmanlike. Therefore, at home I also have a feeling of unfinished business all the time. It is a terrible state, to be honest, to live with the feeling that you have given up.
I have never withdrawn from a competition after a short program, never in my life. I skated with a fever and with poisoning, and I had to rise from such places, which you wouldn’t wish to anyone. I’d rather take a chance and fail than not try. You can’t be careful, you will regret it later—I know that for sure.
And what attracts you more in the future—a coaching career or choreographing programs?
Morisi Kvitelashvili: Everything related to the show. I have already choreographed programs, coached, and participated in the training camp as a coach. But still, I like the show more. Ice performances with a story, plot, or fairy tale, rather than gala programs. I love it; it’s close to me; I like playing with the audience, revealing new characters.
And I can’t say that fairy tales are easy. It’s hard there too. In the summer, I skated in the show with a fever and on antibiotics. You also need to keep in shape, that is, running, physical training – everything is serious.
Did you promise yourself something good at the end of the season? Something to please yourself and reward yourself for having endured all this.
Morisi Kvitelashvili: I try not to think about the future. And what does it mean to “reward”? For what? Didn’t I rest after the Olympics? I had a vacation; I traveled, did shows, and then flew to the sea. That is, everything was fine, and there was plenty of time to recover and enter the season well. But I feel like I’m losing a race against time.
It was the same in Italy. I seem to be training at full strength, but I still don’t catch up and even roll back. I can’t reach the desired shape all season. Some kind of vicious circle: I come to competitions, I perform poorly there, it discourages me, I return to training, I get angry with myself, I start to somehow push myself to move forward, and again I don’t have time.
It’s like I’m training and I don’t feel like I’m getting better; instead, it’s an eternal rollback. Just something started to work out—I got sick, for example—and everything that has been gained is lost.
There are no high results in the season, which means there is no prize money. You also do not participate in the show. Is the season unsuccessful financially?
Morisi Kvitelashvili: Yes, this year I did not earn anything by doing competitions. My last income is from summer shows. I’m not complaining, but it turned out that my decision to stay in sports for this season did not pay off in any way, neither in terms of results nor financially. I’m an adult, and I can’t stop thinking about it.
The season isn’t over yet.
Morisi Kvitelashvili: I understand that all I do this season is miss chances: at the Grand Prix, at the European Championships. And it will be more difficult at the World Championships.
Not all athletes can get to the World Championships. This is already an achievement, a great experience and memories, isn’t it?
Morisi Kvitelashvili: Bad experiences and bad memories — that’s how I’m going to take it. I’m not a tourist; I’m going to Japan as an athlete. And before that, I work and train—for what? To come and show the result. And if it is not there, are you coming to see the city or what? The coaches tell me that if something doesn’t work out, “Well, will you go as a tourist?”
Is that what the Italian coaches say?
Morisi Kvitelashvili: No, coaches from Moscow. But agree, it’s true.
What usually helps to cope with such streaks in life? Movies, music, computer games?
Morisi Kvitelashvili: It’s ideal for me when they just don’t touch me; then usually everything goes away on its own. I rarely listen to music, sometimes I can watch a series; sometimes I go to the computer club with Nika Egadze to shoot. A friend brought me a new Playstation from Finland for the New Year; my brother and I bought it. But I don’t play at all. There is some emptiness inside.
It’s very hard to live all the time with thoughts that you missed something. For example, at the World Championships, I finished fourth, just missing out on a medal. It is obvious that no one expected anything from me, but finishing fourth is still very disappointing. And it turned out the same at the Olympics: I was in good shape, but we did not qualify for the final part of the team event. Again, lacked a little.
Foreign athletes really appreciate even just the status of “Olympian,” because only the best get to the Olympics. They make tattoos with Olympic rings, order jewelry …
Morisi Kvitelashvili: It was my second Olympic Games, but there are no tattoos, as you can see. This is the difference in approaches. If there was an Olympic medal, maybe I would have a tattoo too.
“The main thing is not victory, but participation,” is not my motto. Well, if only at the beginning, when I just started to represent Georgia, everything was interesting to me, and I wanted to travel everywhere. But then the results came, the first medals, and I realized that I could. And I started to want more. And this season has definitely sank for me.
But you have the bronze from the European Championships and the victory at the Grand Prix. Don’t you have the feeling that your career is still a success?
Morisi Kvitelashvili: Unfortunately, no. Probably, the fact is that when you are surrounded by successful people in training, the bar is set high. Three Olympics have already passed in front of me at Khrustalny. I can write memoirs about how it all happened.
Yulia Lipnitskaya returned with team gold, followed by Alina and Zhenya with such difficult medals. In general, I cried at the last two Olympics because I was rooting for both girls, but there was only one gold medal. My heart was breaking for them. They grew up before my very eyes.
Well, it was necessary to console everyone, hug, support …
Morisi Kvitelashvili: Well, probably, to congratulate everyone. I think it would be more correct to say so. Maybe for someone there is only a gold medal but for me every medal is significant. I know how you feel when you stand on a pedestal. It cannot be described in words.
I was presented with a watch at that happy European Championships. So they are special to me. I look at them and I understand that the work was not in vain.
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