“When we met with Defense Minister Shoigu, I couldn’t breathe from this insane energy. I asked Mark ‘Do you understand now where we skate? And what is the CSKA club?” Svetlana Sokolovskaya, Kondratiuk’s coach
Interview with Svetlana Sokolovskaya, coach of Mark Kondratiuk.
source: russian.rt.com dd. 9th September 2022 by Elena Vaytsekhovskaya
According to her, for the sake of a personal meeting with the president, she would be ready to have any quarantine, like the skaters who got such an opportunity. The coach also spoke about the transfer of Sofia Samodelkina from the group of Sergei Davidov to her group, Mark Kondratiuk’s system of perception of the surrounding reality, and told how she determines whether programs are suitable for the skaters.
Now all Russian athletes are faced with the most incomprehensible period of their careers. What do you feel in this situation as a coach? Thinking about future plans? And is there any understanding of what to do and where to go?
Svetlana Sokolovskaya: It is my profession to think. And overcome obstacles. I have no right not to think, especially after the Olympic season. Should Mark and I prove that that brilliant performance in the team event was not an accident? No pandemic, no suspensions matter here. Moreover, all of us, in our incomprehensible situation were very well supported by the country. Both morally and financially. The whole team.
Did the financial motivation soften the feeling that your athlete still does not have an Olympic gold medal and it is not clear whether it will be awarded?
Svetlana Sokolovskaya: Well, who said that softened? We just accepted the situation, and we don’t fixate on it, because it has already happened. Sure, in any situation you want certainty, but, unfortunately, we do not have it. What will happen next is no longer dependent on any of the guys – they honestly did their job in Beijing, skating one better than the other. And they fought to the last.
Which of the post-Olympic events was the most memorable for you?
Svetlana Sokolovskaya: There were a lot of various meetings, and all are very different. Everything was easy and simple with Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin, I would even say, with a home atmosphere, but when we met with Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, I got goosebumps right through my body. For the first time in my life, I got into the Ministry of Defense and I could not even breathe from the feeling of some kind of insane energy. I don’t know how to explain it. But Mark felt it too. He just had to go to the army, I hear him muttering to himself: “Oh-oh-oh …” I say: “Son, do you understand now where we skate? And what is the CSKA club?”
Did you have to meet with the President of the country at a distance?
Svetlana Sokolovskaya: Yes, because the coaches did not go into isolation before that meeting. For me, as a person who grew up in Russia, in the North, and feels Russian to the marrow of his bones, all this was like in a fairy tale. I sat in the hall and thought that for the sake of the possibility of a personal meeting, as it was with the guys, I would be ready to have any quarantine. It really was worth it.
If we talk about the state of Kondratiuk after the Olympics, what was felt more strongly: an emotional decline or motivation to continue skating?
Svetlana Sokolovskaya: We haven’t had any ups and downs. After the Games, we skated in Beijing on the same ice with Yuzuru Hanyu, Nathan Chen, and Shoma Uno. Then there was the Channel One Cup, then, when it was announced that we were not allowed to the World Championships, shows followed, where Mark jumped all his quads. Well, then everything is as usual: vacation, training camp, one, another. If Mark had won the Olympic Games in individual competitions, perhaps everything would have happened somehow differently. But he messed up in the individual event. And immediately got to his feet. Came down to earth, so to speak.
Before the Games, you said that you had never been to the Olympics before and did not know what it was. What will you answer now?
Svetlana Sokolovskaya: The Olympic Games are cool. Adrenaline is surging when I think about it. I liked everything there, no matter what. In general, everything.
The Olympic season is also the appearance of Ilia Malinin, who, at the age of 17, performs all quadruple jumps, including the axel. Do you think this skater will greatly change men’s single skating?
Svetlana Sokolovskaya: I don’t think about it. We also work on new jumps and develop. And we work on new spins. Which is much more difficult than quads, I think.
Why is it more difficult? New requirements?
Svetlana Sokolovskaya: First of all, retention, static. You need to hold a spin and show all positions according to the rules. Sasha Samarin – he is more disciplined in this regard, and Mark is constantly moving, in his system of perception of the surrounding reality, there is no static at all. Therefore, in programs, he sometimes improvises. Today he made two turns, and tomorrow he has a different mood – and he will make nine. He just caught the rhythm in the music. Am I supposed to “kill” him for this?
You have always seemed to me like a coach who cares about making her athletes happy.
Svetlana Sokolovskaya: Why did? There is so.
How can a girl who enters puberty feel happy? I’m talking about Sofa Samodelkina, who moved to your group from Sergei Davidov in the summer.
Svetlana Sokolovskaya: Well, we try, although it is not easy.
Was her transfer unexpected?
Svetlana Sokolovskaya: I was blown away, to be honest. At one time, Samodelkina skated with my student Lilia Biktagirova, that is, I know her, as they say, from the cradle. But then something didn’t work out for them, and I myself recommended the girl’s parents to go to Davidov. In my opinion, they had a very good tandem. But Sonya wanted to return.
Do not you ask in such cases why the person made such a decision?
Svetlana Sokolovskaya: Why bother digging into this? You know, in my life I have not invited a single athlete to my group. And if they come to me, I ask them just one thing – to think about the correctness of this transition. Because if you run away from yourself, you can’t run anywhere. So I give time for a person to think carefully about why he does this. You never know, the coach yelled at him or quarreled over something. Everyone fights, even in the family. But if the transition is conscious and the decision is already there, the athlete will leave anyway. Not to me, but to someone else.
Did you immediately agree to take Sofa to your group?
Svetlana Sokolovskaya: At first I asked: “What’s wrong with your leg?” I saw how she skated at the Channel One Cup. Well, she also came to me for the first time with a langette. Therefore, we agreed: first we heal the leg and then we will talk.
Do you see any qualities that can distinguish this skater from those with whom she will compete in the near future?
Svetlana Sokolovskaya: At this stage, I do not have the right to talk about this topic. I don’t have results working with girls yet. None. There was Lilia Biktagirova, who twice became third at the Russian Nationals, but then she began to grow and grew into my second coach.
But, if we speak in sports language, did you get good material?
Svetlana Sokolovskaya: Yes. Sonya has an incredible character, she is a fighter, and a great one. In general, she is inherently a winner, an athlete to the marrow of her bones. That’s why I want to try to help her. She has another absolutely wonderful quality. If you notice, she always takes attention to herself when she skates. She does not impose herself, but you involuntarily follow her with your eyes all the time. This is a rarity in our sport.
How soon will you be trying to restore quad jumps?
Svetlana Sokolovskaya: We’re definitely not in a hurry. Moreover, Samodelkina, as it turned out, had a very difficult injury. Sonya still skates with tape. Also, she is growing, she does not feel as usual in this regard. It is necessary to put the body in order, to restore complex elements. That is why I decided to have both short and free programs in approximately the same style. Develop Sofa in this direction, and then see what else we can give her.
Did it take long to find ideas for new programs?
Svetlana Sokolovskaya: I’m not a very big specialist in terms of women’s programs. There was no such experience. And I rushed about there, and here, realizing that I didn’t like anything. We did a short program with Nikita Mikhailov, everyone seemed to like it, we started skating it. And then I suddenly heard the music Can’t Help Falling in Love performed by Diana Ankudinova – Sasha Trusova and Dima Mikhailov skated to it in a show. I called Nikita and said: “Compose this music for two to fifty.” – “For whom?” – “For Samodelkina, short program.” “Are you out of your mind?”
This is how we changed the program. Removed some emotions here, changed a step sequence there, Sonya didn’t understand what was going on. But now I really like what we got.
Returning to Kondratiuk, do you plan any tasks for yourself this season?
Svetlana Sokolovskaya: Each competitions we have this year should be a holiday, that’s what I’ll say. Mark now has a lot of fans. Isn’t that the purpose of making them happy? Especially if there was an opportunity to perform throughout the season in our own country. Sochi, Saransk, Perm, Chelyabinsk, Krasnoyarsk…
Are you trying to convince me now that you can be happy skating only inside Russia?
Svetlana Sokolovskaya: That’s not the point. It’s like with an Olympic medal: there is a certain situation, and you either disperse it inside yourself, or you accept it and continue to work. And just waiting for your chance.
I know that Ilia Averbukh did one of the programs for Mark.
Svetlana Sokolovskaya: Yes, for the gala.
Ilia is generally our godfather, as they say. He raised Mark as an artist: from the age of ten, Kondratiuk performed in almost all his shows. In “The Nutcracker” he played almost all the roles: a soloist, a Christmas tree … Ilia always took him to his shows. Therefore, I do not even perceive Averbukh as some kind of third-party choreographer. For us, he is family.
Why didn’t then ask Ilia to do programs for competitions? Moreover, he always understands the figure skater’s character and knows what will suit him.
Svetlana Sokolovskaya: Perhaps in the future, we will come to this. Now we decided that, firstly, we have our own wonderful choreographer Nikita Mikhailov, who himself grew up in CSKA, and in comparison with him, Ilia is still a much busier person. Secondly, now is not the Olympic season. You can afford to try a lot of things, experiment …
How do you define for yourself: this program is good, but this one is complete nonsense?
Svetlana Sokolovskaya: Intuitive. A lot of things happen by chance. Once I was looking for the options for one of the programs: this is not good, this is not good, this is not good. No no no no. Then, out of desperation, started to choreograph something, I looked, and the program turns out to be cool. They laugh: “But you said just a week ago that everything is really bad!” I’m like, “Yes? I was wrong…” On the other hand, now we have already choreographed programs, there are ideas for the next season. There are several options for Mark, one for Sasha.
What is Kondratiuk’s life outside the rink?
Svetlana Sokolovskaya: He goes everywhere. Theaters, some galleries, he goes to hockey, rides catamarans, meets friends, eats delicious food in restaurants. Has time for everything. He moves. He moves all the time.
Anastasia Mishina and Aleksandr Galliamov: “To be honest, after the Olympics, we needed to rest longer. After the Games, we didn’t want to do anything at all, too much power has been given.”