Vladimir Samoilov: “In my opinion, there is bias in judging, not only towards me but also towards some other athletes who switched from Russia to compete for other countries.”
Translation of the interview with Polish single skater Vladimir Samoilov.
original source: Sport24 dd. 23d January 2024 by Alena Volkova
Two years ago, Samoilov switched his sport citizenship and began to represent Poland at competitions. At the 2024 European Championships he made it to the top ten, securing 5th place in the free skate. In an interview with Sport24, Vladimir Samoilov talked about his successful start, changes in life, and the biased attitude towards former Russians on the international stage.
Here’s a translation of the interview.
Q: What emotions linger after the European Championships?
Vladimir Samoilov: I was genuinely happy when I had a somewhat normal free skate for the first time this season. I’m glad to have made it into the top 10. Yes, the performances were not perfect, but much better than before. I experienced insane emotions in this arena because everyone was supportive, and I get charged up in such moments. Grateful for such support. Crazy emotions – for me and the coaches.
Q: It was visible in the broadcast how you moved everyone to tears.
Vladimir Samoilov: Even I enjoyed it. Let me always say that there is no need to cry, but when it’s tears of joy, it’s okay sometimes.
Q: How was this European Championships for you: the organization, the audience? What did you feel?
Vladimir Samoilov: The organization was very cool, even better than I expected. I liked the design – all in purple. Transfers, food – everything was done great.
Q: Did the federation set any specific goals for you at this European Championships?
Vladimir Samoilov: They always set one task: to do what I can. The federation and the coach know what I am capable of, but I can’t show it. If I can deliver everything I can, the result will be good, they understand that. Personally, I didn’t communicate with them before the Europeans; they were in touch with the coach. Maybe they told her something, but she didn’t bring it to me. This is important because before such major competitions, it’s better not to tell me about it. I start to psych myself out, get nervous, and it all goes downhill. So, maybe there were some goals, but the coach didn’t tell me about them.
Honestly, I went out and just enjoyed it. The short program was completely nerve-free; I just enjoyed the fact that I was skating, that I was here. The free skate was more nervous because I also skated for the girls (both Polish female athletes did not qualify – ed. Sport24). I think there’s no need to explain, but I went to skate as if for both of us.
Q: Was there any reaction from the federation after such a result?
Vladimir Samoilov: They were very happy, congratulated me through the coach as well. They expect that things will only get better and better. In Poland, there were two spots in men’s single skating 32 years ago.
Q: Your team is very close-knit: always supporting each other in the stands. How did this team spirit come about?
Vladimir Samoilov: I think it should always be like this. It helps a lot. For the first time, we went with such a large team to a serious competition: me, two girls, one ice dance duo, and one pair. They provided incredible support – they yelled during warm-ups and performances. There are moments when it’s always noticeable when an athlete is “dying” on the ice, running out of strength. I had such a moment in the free skate, passing by them. That’s when they started shouting, supporting, and the entire arena picked it up. Personally, it’s important for me; the feeling of a team is very helpful. Thank you to everyone for that.
Q: In smaller federations, there are often issues with funding and athlete support. How is it for you?
Vladimir Samoilov: They help me with training expenses, accommodation; all competitions are covered – European and World Championships, Challenger Series, “B” events. Scholarships started this season. They help me a lot. I’m immensely grateful for that.
Q: We recorded the last interview after your first international competition for Poland. Two years have passed; what has changed on a global scale?
Vladimir Samoilov: Earlier, I had a problem: I didn’t believe in myself. I could perform perfectly in training, land 9 out of 10 attempts for a salchow, and I can nail triple jumps even at night. However, as soon as competitions started, some stress appeared. Over these two seasons, there were two competitions where I overcame myself, and they changed me as a person. One was the World Championships in Japan. I went there with an injury, despite everyone advising against it and suggesting withdrawal. I needed to go there. Honestly, I don’t remember how I skated then, but I was satisfied with myself for competing, performing, and finishing the program. That’s when I thought to myself, “Man.”
You could say that the previous European Championships also played a role. Then, at my first European Championships, I got into a strong warm-up. I got lost, felt like I didn’t belong there, as if I shouldn’t be there. This season, confidence appeared because there are people who support me in any case. I think these changes were noticeable. Ask anyone: if I don’t land the first element in the free skate, there’s no point in watching further. After such a mistake, thoughts usually pop up in your head: I messed up this, so there’s no use trying, nothing will work out. Over these two seasons, confidence has come.
Q: Back then, you said you wanted to prove to people who didn’t believe in you in sports that you are still in the game. Have you come closer to that?
Vladimir Samoilov: Yes, definitely. I understand that this is not my maximum, but I am on the right track. I used to constantly recall the saying: it’s like talking to a wall. My first season for Poland was very tough; I hardly did any quadruples. Now I understand that it was not in vain.
Q: There is an opinion that those who switched from Russia to compete for other countries face a particular attitude at international competitions. Have you noticed any bias from judges or athletes?
Vladimir Samoilov: If we talk about organizers, federation presidents, team leaders from other countries, athletes, there is no biased attitude. In my opinion, there is bias in judging, not only towards me but also towards some other athletes.
Q: You are learning Polish now, but you live and train in Italy without knowing Italian. How does that happen?
Vladimir Samoilov: I always wanted to start learning Italian, but my head is already a mess. I even have problems with English: I can speak, respond to something, but in everyday life. If there is a complex topic related to other spheres, I won’t understand. On top of that, I started learning Polish. I know a few Italian phrases. Due to this mess, I can come to Italy and answer people in Polish and speak so confidently, as if they will understand me. When you communicate, sometimes this mix of three languages comes out.
Q: What is the motivation to learn Polish?
Vladimir Samoilov: In the team, there are Poles by origin, and I always wanted to talk to them. At first, it resembled Russian a lot, so I thought it would be easy, but it turned out not to be. Fans often write to me in Polish, and I want to answer them, give interviews. I think they will appreciate it if I respond in their native language. I will also need it to obtain citizenship.
Q: Are you not working on that yet?
Vladimir Samoilov: We are in the process.
Q: You used to say that you don’t follow figure skating as a viewer. Has something changed now?
Vladimir Samoilov: I don’t know what happened to me, but at some point, I started watching a lot of competitions, even the Junior Grand Prix, although I hadn’t watched it since I competed there myself, which was in 2017. Now, I follow juniors, World and European Championships, and Challenger Series. Honestly, I’ve watched almost all Russian competitions. I’m very happy about Roma Savosin’s comeback. We are in touch sometimes, and I was curious about where he disappeared. I’ve known him since childhood, and I was thrilled with his performance, a perfect stage. I can only imagine how physically and mentally challenging it was, and he handled it. I’m so happy for him. Most likely, everyone had written him off, but there he is.
Any specific goals for the World Championships?
Vladimir Samoilov: I can’t set such goals: to score over 280 points, to enter the top five. If I start thinking like that, it’s all over. Right now, I want to refine my programs, stabilize the free skate. I need to work on components because if the short program is somewhat okay, in “Notre-Dame,” perfection is still far away. This will be the last competition of the season with this program, and I want to skate it on maximum. Not just technically, but also to tell the story.
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