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Stanislava Konstantinova aiming for better, more consistent skating at Winter World University Games

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Stanislava Konstantinova was the least well-known of the Russian ladies competing at the European Championships. She seemed more mature as well, compared to teammates Alina Zagitova and champion Sofia Samodurova. She didn’t make it to the podium in Minsk, finishing fourth, but the 18-year-old delivered the second-highest scoring free skate of the event.

She took time to sit with NBCSports.com/figure-skating at the conclusion of the European Championships to explain how her late-blooming on the ice nonetheless enhances her maturity, and even could contribute to a longer-lasting career.

You were wonderful in your “Anna Karenina” free skate, but 11th in the short program. You also had to make up ground at Grand Prix France. Does that happen often?

No, not at all! I’m really upset with my short program in Minsk. I want to apologize both for my skating and my behavior, as I couldn’t find the words for the media. I’ll have to improve on this also [Editor’s note: Konstantinova declined to make any comments as she left the ice after the short program].

Legendary coach Tatiana Tarasova, who was commenting for Russian television, said that in her opinion you didn’t do to your short program only to skate, but to win. Did you feel the same?

Yes, I agree with this. I understand that I can be on the top, but I need to be more confident in the process. For me, failing in the short program was a real pity. I was not prepared for this. I came to Minsk to win. I’ve shown good results in the past, and I hope I can repeat them soon.

You once said that you were a late bloomer. What impact does it have on your skating career, in a country where wunderkinds seem to be the norm?

I’m not competing to hit the top for a short period of time. I’m competing to express myself and to show myself embracing a whole career, not to show myself as a baby skater or a wunderkind. I’m interested in a career like that of Alexei Yagudin’s. This is one of the advantages I have, being more mature. I understand more how I can express myself, not only showing elements but also displaying my choreography and what I have inside of myself during a performance.

I started to skate late, it’s true. In fact, I didn’t even start skating to become a good athlete. I was in a group of children who skated to be healthy. When [coach Valentina] Chebotareva saw that I had some potential, when I was 9 years old, she started working with me. I was then included into her team.

Sometimes I worry about the fact that I didn’t start skating at a younger age. But that’s also good, in a way, because it allowed me to mature.

I now have the strong intention to keep developing and bettering myself. I don’t think I’m old! But there’s no way my career could be like all the other girls who started to skate so early.

You are skating alongside Mikhail Kolyada in Chebotareva’s team. Both of you missed one of your two programs – you, the short, and he, the free. What does your coach say?

That’s quite a coincidence! I definitely need to change this situation (she laughs). Our coach is soft. She doesn’t say bad things. I’m grateful that she considers us as adults. We respect each other in the team – myself, the other skaters, our coaches. We have a great working atmosphere. Our coaches find the right words for me.

Your free skate was also very mature, and maybe that added to the support you received from the audience?

I’m glad people support me. I want to make them happy through my performance. This is my way to thank them.

Do you think you will be selected for Worlds? [Editor’s note: The Russian Federation has not yet announced their picks for the world championships in March, but will likely do so soon.]

The Russian Federation didn’t ask me for a place to achieve in Minsk. But it was important for me to take a good placement. For sure Russia has excellent skaters, and they can decide to replace me in the team. This doesn’t disturb me. It’s like competition – it’s good for me.

Securing a podium spot might have eased the Russian selection for Worlds, but before anything else it would have been good for me to be on that European podium. Now it belongs to the Russian Federation to take the results and make a decision.

What will be your next outings?

Now I’ll be preparing for the Universiades [Winter World University Games] in early March. My goal will definitely be to skate two clean programs.

Will you take your revenge there?

I don’t think it will be a revenge, as I’m always glad to compete and represent Russia. To go to the Universiades is a big honor for me. It will be a question of honor for me to show a good performance there. If it is a revenge, then it will be a revenge for myself to show good skating.

This European Championship was a failure for me. But it gave me the experience of competing at a higher level than I used to. It’s a way for me to grow.

Do you plan to learn other jumps, like quads?

I already tried quads and triple Axels, but I’m not working on them at the moment. It’s very dangerous, and actually not professional, to learn a quad during the skating season. It’s too risky. You have to think of learning harder elements later after the competitive season is over. I think I will work on triple Axel.

Are you on social media networks? What do you think of it?

It depends on my mood! My sports psychologist advised me not to go on social networks during the competition. I did close myself off during the European Championships, until the free program was over. After that I started answering the questions I had received again.

Do you have other endeavors, besides skating?

Yes, I love drawing. I make paintings of my own costumes. I like to view how I will be dressed. I participate in the making. I hope I can develop in this aspect.

Konstantinova does speak English, but she elected to give her answers in Russian. Her words were translated in English by Irena Zakurdaeva, a media coordinator in Moscow.

Four Continents reporter’s notebook: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4

As a reminder, you can watch the world championships live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

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New European champion Sofia Samodurova eyes longevity in the sport

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With the European Championships come and gone, a new ladies’ champion was crowned in 16-year-old Sofia Samodurova. It was her first major senior-level event, and, afterward, she spoke with NBCSports.com/figure-skating about her victory and what it means to her as a late-bloomer. Samodurova hopes to start a long career like those of her idols, including Italy’s Carolina Kostner, who she shares a coach with in Alexei Mishin.

You won the European Championships by more than 15.5 points. Did you think that it was possible?

I didn’t think about winning in Minsk. But I did concentrate on my performance, in order to present two solid skates. I didn’t let myself distracted by Alina’s performance or marks [the Olympic champion Alina Zagitova, who skated just before her].

I didn’t listen and really tried to focus on my performance. I didn’t think of winning, since my results at the Lombardia Trophy had not been so good. [Note: She ended second to Russian Elizaveta Tuktamysheva]. I only realized that I had won when I saw the marks come up.

Are you close from your teammates, like Elizaveta or Carolina Kostner?

Oh yes! Lisa and I are girls and we discuss girl things. You know, like skating things but also cosmetics as well. I am also in awe in front of Carolina’s attitude. She loves skating so much. I can see that in her eyes. She always does everything our coach says, and she is always so happy to be on the ice.

Alexei Mishin always have funny sentences. What did he tell you before you took the ice in Minsk?

He said: “Don’t jump off your pants!” (She laughs).

Do you think this victory will change your mind?

I remain the same Sofia Samodurova as before. Although defeating Alina is not usual for me, it will give me more confidence for sure.

You manage to embody genuinely your free program, to the soundtrack of “Burlesque,” and to make it live with the audience. How do you relate to your programs?

Ilya Averbukh chose the music for this free program. Well, I like this program very much. It’s a lot of fun for me to skate to it and… Obviously you can see it. I have other programs in store, though, like the ones I display at my exhibitions. They present different characters and I like that.

“Burlesque,” the American movie your music comes from, stars two great singers, Cher and Christina Aguilera, and you mention that you like singing. What do you sing?

Everything! I sing a lot, any style. But it depends on my mood!

You projected lots of emotions through you skating in Minsk. Do you feel those emotions yourself, as you are skating?

In fact, I may seem quite emotional during my performances, but I’m not very emotional in real life. I mean, I’m a rather shy person. At the European Championships I had more responsibilities, of course, and that gave me more emotions. But I try to control emotions during skating, because it’s better to be focused!

Many girls in Russia are getting great results in juniors. You are coming up as a senior. Do you think it plays a role in your career?

This is true! I didn’t have that great results in the junior ranks. But maybe it was better that way for me, as I had less pressure when I arrived in the senior [ranks, this season].

What elements do you feel you need to work at in order to improve toward the world championships? Quads?

You know, I tried triple Axel two years ago. I think I’ll develop into that direction in the future, in order to land that jump. But for now, I need to work on steps (in my step sequence), on my transitions, and on the quality of each one of my elements.

Do you have a favorite sportsperson to look up to?

Yes: it’s Martin Fourcade, the French biathlete [Note: he who won five Olympic gold medals, two in Sochi in 2014 and three in PyeongChang in 2018]. I’d like to be like him, show solid performances regularly and compete at the highest level all the time. His career is stable at the top. I’d be like that: stable.

Would you like to have a long career, just like Carolina Kostner and Javier Fernandez?

Yes, I would, definitely.

Samodurova does speak English, but she elected to give her answers in Russian. Her words were translated in English by Irena Zakurdaeva, a Media Coordinator in Moscow.

MORE: European Championships analysis: Female Russian skaters stars rise fast, but burn out too soon

As a reminder, you can watch Four Continents and the world championships live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

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Javier Fernandez’s last bow to Europe and the world

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The world of skating will realize his departure when the world championships opens in Saitama, Japan in less than seven weeks.

Spain’s Javier Fernandez has left competitive ice with a new achievement – his seventh consecutive European gold medal, thus becoming the first man since 1936 (and the second ever) to reach such a feat. Fernandez, the 2018 Olympic bronze medalist and two-time world champion, graciously took the time to answer NBCSports’ questions about his legacy and his future.

You are still positive that this European Championships will be your last competition?

Yes, this was my last competition. After the Olympics, I said that I would stop with this championship, and that is what I will do. I wanted to do the Europeans as my last competition. I didn’t want to end with the pressure I lived through the Olympics. The Europeans is more my house. Now it’s time for the next step in my life, after 21 years of skating, 13 straight European Championships and seven continental titles.

It’s a bit sad, of course, after all these years, but I’ll skate in other ways now. I’ve achieved every goal I had. Every one of my medals is so special. I am grateful I was able to accomplish much more than I ever thought I would be able to accomplish.

How difficult do you think it will be to switch to a new career?

At the end of the day you need to have your mind set. It will be difficult to switch from one life to the next. But the next chapter will still be related to figure skating. As long as I keep figure skating, which I have done all my life, I think it will be okay.

What do you think will be your legacy to skating?

I hope people will think of me as a different type of skater, a more complete one. Skaters are not jumps, they are about complete skating. Some skaters are like this and I am proud of them. I hope I have left something like that in figure skating.

Also, it’s good for the world to know that not only major countries can win. Everyone from any country has one’s own story. Coming from many different countries will make up different stories. I hope I can help figure skating grow in my country. I still have a lot of work to do!

Will you be a coach? How do you prepare for that?

I enjoy coaching. I’ve had many different experiences with different coaches, and I took the best part of them. There are many different ways to teach, and I took everything. I’ve always had this idea that one day I would coach.

Spain’s Javier Fernandez reacts after learning his scores in the men’s free skating at the European Championships in Minsk, Belarus. AP Photo

Will you keep doing shows?

Oh yes! That’s the point: I’ll be doing shows for some time, and coaching part-time, that means skating camps and summer camps.

I’ve already done skating camps in the summer [as a coach], but that doesn’t quite satisfy me. I’d rather work with skaters every single day. You need time to teach what I would like to teach.

Then, once my show time is over, I’ll embark into a full-time coaching career. In Madrid, if that works.

How do you explain that you managed to have such a long career? Skating careers seem to be so short nowadays. 

You need to understand the kind of a person and of an athlete you are. You can’t push you too much or too less. A skater needs to be complete – not only jump – right from the beginning, and to start growing with time. Don’t try to push yourself when you are a teenager, when your body is changing.

Also, you have to be 100 percent sure of your goal. And your goal must not be too far away. I see many people who fail because they have fixed too far away goals that can’t be achieved. You have to be fair to yourself. You know, I come from a modest family. I was raised that way: I never wanted more than I thought I could get. I always was the same person. That made my career last so long.

I could definitely have failed to win this seventh European title. You never know what may happen. But it was realistic. Had I not won, I had a back-up as well: I could have thought to myself that I came to this competition to retire, not to win. I’m glad I didn’t have to! (Smiling)

Could you talk about the way you see skating evolve? You seemed quite angry coming out of the short program. 

Yes, I was angry that my quad Salchow was deemed underrotated when it was not. Throughout my career I’ve been mad when the judges put me first after a bad skate. But I’m mad also when I skate well and get penalized. Judges have the slow motion and they can check.

You know what action I would like this to open? Judges consider landing to evaluate a jump, which is fine. But they should also consider the take-off. So many skaters rotate half a turn less just in the take-off. What is fair? And what is not?

How do you react to ladies doing quads now?

You know, some girls did triple Axels and quads already in the past. Now it seems that the sport is pushing in that direction. A Japanese and a Russian girl are landing a triple Axel again, now an American. Another Russian girl is landing a quad. It may be good, but we need to wait for a few years to evaluate how good it really is. The worst thing for skating would be that a 14-year-old girl has to retire because she can’t land her jumps anymore. Can a girl who lands a quad at 12 still land it at 25? That’s what remained to be seen.

NBCSports: Why do you think it would be the worst for skating?

Everyone who comes to the rink to watch a skating competition has to come for a reason. As a skater, you need people to follow you. I can tell you that if you skate for 21 years, you can get people to follow you and come to competitions. Otherwise why would you come, if after just a few years a skater you had enjoyed watching doesn’t even compete anymore?

Remember in not so distant years: the best thing with skating was that you could follow skaters for very many years. Those skaters contributed to skating’s popularity.

Javi’s legacy

Much has been said about Javi’s legacy, from his coach Brian Orser to worldwide skaters. Many fans and officials expressed their gratefulness in Minsk as well. We selected just four. Each one exemplifies a specific trademark from Javi.

“Javi? He brought Spain to the world of skating, and he brought skating into Spain. The first year he won the Europeans there was not even one Spanish journalist from Spain in the press room. Now his shows in Spain, Revolution on Ice, like the one he did last December, are now quite successful,” said a Spanish fan.

“His charm, his character. That belongs to him only, and he brought what he is to skating,” said another.

“He brought the balance between the two sides of skating: the technique of jumps, as he was one of the first ones to land two different quads in a free program, and all of what makes skating (speed, glide, edges, steps). He blended the whole into interesting and fun to watch programs.”

“Why will he be missed? For his character. He is a normal person. He is a big star on the ice, but he never behaved like a star out of the ice. Some people tend to ignore us. He, not. He considers everyone in the same way, and he is kind with everyone, be it volunteers, other skaters, fans, audience, coaches.”

MORE: Behind the scenes on Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 at the European Championships

As a reminder, you can watch Four Continents and the world championships live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!