“We will definitely be competitive. We would like to become US champions; that’s the title we aim for.” Alisa Efimova about starting a new partnership with Misha Mitrofanov
Interview with Alisa Efimova. About starting a new partnership with Misha Mitrofanov in the USA.
source: MatchTV dd. 25th June 2023 by Maksim Khorenkov
Alisa Efimova was born in Finland, her parents moved from St. Petersburg shortly before the birth of the future athlete. The girl started skating in Finland, but her desire to develop led her to Russia. Alisa trained with Tamara Moskvina and Alexei Mishin. The next stop for the figure skater was Germany, but in March of this year, her partner decided to end his career. In June, Efimova moved to the United States, and this is her first interview after another change of country.
What did you do after parting ways with Ruben Blommaert?
Alisa Efimova: Ruben announced the end of his career in Japan after the competitions. Fortunately, my mother was with me at the time of the announcement. It was easier to go through it with her support and presence. There was no shock. Everything was resolved quickly, and I wanted to resolve the partnership issue as soon as possible.
Didn’t you try to convince your partner to continue?
Alisa Efimova: This situation had been looming for a long time. He said that the process was not enjoyable for him. As a team, we wanted to find a sporting path and help him. We worked with a psychologist to understand why he felt uncomfortable and didn’t want to continue. In the end, nothing worked out.
Who suggested working with a psychologist?
Alisa Efimova: The idea came from our coach, to maintain the partnership and find a comfortable approach and a joint path. Each person had to find something for themselves, rather than going to a psychologist and discussing the partner – if we were together, it should be about shared things.
Some people are skeptical about psychologists.
Alisa Efimova: I mainly had mental training. I learned to deal with emotions. I worked with a psychologist from a young age, even when I was skating in Russia. Psychologist has always been a part of my sports career and taught me how to handle various situations.
You have a very unusual career with frequent changes and federation switches. Have you ever thought about why it turned out that way? Did it not weigh you down mentally?
Alisa Efimova: It’s not easy. But I realized that “easy” means doing nothing and lying on the couch. In any craft or endeavor, there are difficulties. If you want to become better, to improve, you have to overcome yourself first and foremost. You can’t achieve success by doing nothing. I perceive it as part of an athlete’s life. I’m not the only one in this situation. Sometimes it seems like your situation is the most difficult, but there are so many athletes with different episodes in their careers, and the strongest ones manage to cope with them. I also want to cope.
It would have been easier for you if you had found a skater in the German federation. You wouldn’t have had to change countries at least.
Alisa Efimova: I thought about that. The problem is that there are no German partners, specifically with a German passport. For the Olympics, you need a passport, and if you start a new project now with a foreign partner (not German), you won’t be able to make it to the next Olympics due to document processing. Of course, I got used to my coach, I’m grateful to him. I felt comfortable. You’re right that from a certain point of view, it would have been easier to continue there.
In terms of financial support, everything is not ideal in Germany, right?
Alisa Efimova: Not everything is covered in Germany. But when I was skating and part of the national team, they provided decent support compared to other European countries. I paid for accommodation myself, as well as costumes and equipment.
Could you fully support yourself? Or did you have to ask your parents for help?
Alisa Efimova: No, I didn’t have enough money. There is no support like in Russia. Russia strongly supports figure skating, again comparing it to Europe. I needed financial support from my parents, and it had to be quite substantial.
Every family has different financial possibilities. So, it turns out that in Germany, not every athlete can stay afloat, let’s say, for two years?
Alisa Efimova: Yes, but in Germany, many athletes are soldiers; it’s like a job for them. They receive a salary for it. I wasn’t in the military. If there is a salary, I think it’s possible to cover the expenses.
How did you part with your coach?
Alisa Efimova: I was in touch all the time, and he initially understood that the option of staying in Germany was unlikely for me. He was with me all the time.
Did the federation let you go easily?
Alisa Efimova: Yes, they didn’t try to hold me back and gave me the release. In any case, according to ISU rules, I’m not allowed to compete internationally for one year.
Did they ask for a transfer fee?
Alisa Efimova: As far as I know, no.
I think in Russia, you could have easily found a partner. Did you have such thoughts?
Alisa Efimova: At the time of the search, I was open to any possibilities. If an offer had come from Russia, I would have considered it along with others.
I think now it’s not possible to consider an offer from Russia on the same level as others because of the restrictions.
Alisa Efimova: Yes, but finding a partner is a delicate matter. If I found a person with whom it would really work out… I would act according to the situation.
You said that the ultimate goal is the Olympics. If you were in Russia, it’s unclear whether you would ever achieve it.
Alisa Efimova: Perhaps that would have played a role if such a situation had arisen. But I don’t know. I can’t even speculate. Everything changes very quickly.
Would you be able to have super motivation being in a vacuum?
Alisa Efimova: I can imagine what it’s like, I wasn’t able to compete for two years after transitioning to Germany. I think athletes miss international competitions. It’s a different atmosphere, traveling. As for motivation, it all depends on the person and their plans.
While in Germany, you supported Russian figure skaters after their suspension. Were you concerned about possible feedback from Germany?
Alisa Efimova: I definitely had no concerns. I understand what it’s like to train without the opportunity to compete. I genuinely wanted to show support. It’s tough for athletes, and it’s unfair.
From an outside perspective, one might think you’re inconsistent. Why aren’t you afraid of these changes?
Alisa Efimova: Uncertainty always scares, but I have strong support from my family. I’m never alone. My parents always say that no matter what, they will buy me a return ticket. I can always come back home. As for the inconsistency, well, this is how my career unfolds, it’s my sporting destiny. It’s my story. I understand for myself that I want and can skate. I know my goals in sports.
Many athletes compete because they can’t find themselves in something else. Is that not the case for you?
Alisa Efimova: No. I’m interested in psychology, cognitive science, questions about the human mind, how biochemical processes control a person. I imagine I could study that and pursue it in the future. It can be integrated into sports. I’m also interested in medicine; my dad is a doctor. I would derive pleasure from a profession that brings direct benefit. I think I could work in these fields.
When you made the transfer, there were reactions from various figure skating figures. Do you follow that?
Alisa Efimova: Yes, I come across them, I open and read. Right now, I’m in a different place, I have a partner and a team. We work, we do our job. At this moment, their observations and opinions are the most important. I try to focus on their opinions. I receive both positive comments and constructive feedback, and I’m very grateful to everyone who supports me.
Lakerik made a comment about your transfer: “The girl has problems with jumps, if someone in the world can teach her how to jump, honor and praise to those people.” Do you see such a problem?
Alisa Efimova: That’s his opinion. I know how to jump, that’s the most important thing.
Do you agree that the world of figure skating in Russia is toxic?
Alisa Efimova: I have also thought about it. But experts’ opinions are being asked, which means the interest is fueled by journalists. No one will just express their thoughts without being asked. Moreover, it’s the offseason now, so that’s how the interest is being maintained. From the perspective of maintaining the audience’s interest, it makes sense. As for toxicity, well, it seems to be a reality not only in figure skating. In the modern world, everything is in the public eye, and anyone can comment on something. There are also constructive comments.
How did it happen that Misha found you so quickly?
Alisa Efimova: Misha reached out the next day after I returned from Japan, explained the situation, and said he was looking for a partner. Figure skaters communicate with each other. I asked coaches of pairs skating if there were any guys looking for a partner. That’s why the word spread quickly among people.
Tell me more about how you made this decision.
Alisa Efimova: Misha texted something like, “Hi, I heard that you and Ruben are not skating together anymore. Would you like to try with me?” I had only seen him once before when he came to Moskvina with his previous partner. I understood that he was an experienced partner. We had a phone call, talked, I found out where he lives, who his coaches are, all the details. Then I called the coaches, asked if they were interested in a new pair. Once I had all the information, I bought tickets and flew there.
Your new coaches are Russian speakers. Is that a plus for you?
Alisa Efimova: Yes. Language is an important detail. When I was adapting in Germany, there were times when I couldn’t catch what someone meant due to cultural differences. Sometimes a person wants to convey one thought, but you interpret it differently. They are Russian speakers, and I can comfortably converse, use certain idioms, and be understood. It’s great.
Besides the language barrier, there’s also the issue of adaptation in a new country — daily life, customs. Did you consult with anyone before moving to the USA?
Alisa Efimova: Yes, I looked for information, but you don’t learn everything until you arrive. Everyone has different situations. I tried to find out certain things in advance, but you can’t solve everything beforehand; you have to experience it yourself. Misha and the coaches answered any questions I had.
Did the American federation accept you without any problems?
Alisa Efimova: I don’t know yet, I haven’t personally met anyone. The coaches have more communication with the federation, and they know them better. So far, I’ve only sent an email regarding the release.
You have already moved to the USA. How is the adaptation process going?
Alisa Efimova: I’m living in a suburb of Boston, in an apartment with my partner and other skaters. I have very little free time. There are differences, even in the schedule. In Germany, the first training session was during the day, and the second in the evening, but here, everything starts in the morning and practically continues without a break until around 3 p.m. The daily routine is different. The training process is slightly structured differently. I need to get used to it.
Besides skating, what do you talk about with Misha?
Alisa Efimova: I’ve only been here for two and a half weeks. We don’t have much leisure time; we train a lot, and we get very tired by the evening. My birthday is on June 8th, and Misha’s is on the 12th. We went to the center for mini-quests and challenges. We communicate, and we are friends with all the skaters on the ice.
What did you do in the first few days in the new country?
Alisa Efimova: I arrived in the evening, and the next morning we had a choreography session for the short program. We have already choreographed both the short and free programs. We are starting to get into the routine and simultaneously working on the elements.
You speak Russian, and your partner and coaches do too. In what language is the training process conducted?
Alisa Efimova: In Russian. Sometimes I switch to English when it seems like Misha doesn’t fully understand me, considering he has always lived here.
In Russia, some people are now aiming for quadruple jumps. How is it with your jumps?
Alisa Efimova: Well, there has never been a quadruple jump in pair skating, so I’m not sure how possible that is. As for the quadruple elements, the throw and the twist, I sometimes contemplate them. But their value was recently reduced, and it has become easier to execute clean triple jumps than to take the risk with quadruples. As an athlete, it would be interesting for me to try a quadruple throw or twist. It brings excitement and challenge.
What are your primary goals right now?
Alisa Efimova: We can compete in domestic events, and our task is to perform both programs with all the triple elements. The competition calendar isn’t fully clear yet, but we want to showcase ourselves and see each other in a competitive environment. The goal for the season is the U.S. Championships.
Is the competition weak in the USA currently?
Alisa Efimova: I haven’t seen any pairs from the USA yet, but we will definitely be competitive. We would like to become champions; that’s the title we aim for.
Have you thought about the Olympics in Milan?
Alisa Efimova: Yes, of course. Whether I can compete in it is still unknown. It can’t be said for certain that I won’t.
To compete, you need to have the country’s passport.
Alisa Efimova: Yes, I plan to find out how that process works. It’s currently being initiated.
When was the last time you were in Russia?
Alisa Efimova: It was around the end of April. I visited my grandmother, and I miss her a lot. She lives far away, and we haven’t seen each other for a long time. When I used to skate in Russia, I stayed with her. As soon as I had the opportunity, I went to see her. I love walking along Nevsky Prospect, going to the theater, and taking excursions. I always feel a lack of cultural activities, so I want to make up for it in St. Petersburg. And all my relatives are in Russia.
How was your childhood?
Alisa Efimova: My mom is a figure skating coach. As far as I can remember, I always skated. There is no memory of me not being a figure skater. My dad is a doctor. It was a normal childhood.
Why did they decide to move to Finland?
Alisa Efimova: I was actually born there. My mom went there to work, and my dad went with her.
What is home for you now?
Alisa Efimova: Probably Finland, where my parents live. And for myself… I don’t know. I hope my home in the world of sports is the USA.