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30 July 2008 @ 01:35 pm
Sokolova interview  

I am the gentleman



“You have a great Ice palace”, Elena Sokolova, the figure skating World vice-champion with Mordovian roots, noted during her first visit to the historic homeland. “In time, Saransk will become a famous figure skating center. I will do everything I can to that end!”

Is she planning to open a figure skating school in the Mordovian capital? Why isn’t she taking part in the popular Channel One “Ice Period” project? Is she getting married? Taking part in the pair journalistic “skating” with this sports star is EVGENY NAUMOV.


“S”: Lena did you like the Saransk Ice palace? 

I was honestly in awe. The conditions are superb! I’ve never seen a rink quite like that. Even when I performed abroad, the conditions are far more modest. Therefore, sooner or later, world caliber skaters will grow up in Saransk. I will help. How? I will conduct monthly master classes here. Rather, even the minor training camps. I will bring my leading students here, and together we will conduct joint classes with Mordovian kids. We’ve already discussed this with the rink director Valentin Knjazkin.

“S”: Would you agree with have t he Mordovian figure skating school carry your name? There is a precedent: Republican boxing Youth Sports School is named after the professional world ex-champion Oleg Maskaev.

I don’t mind. (smiles – “S”) Especially since I will take part in the rink’s work.

“S”: Is it true that you’ve wrapped up your athletic career, and have now switched to coaching?

No. I train others, but I also train myself. I spend about eight hours a day on the ice, though most of this time is spent as a coach. My best student is Yekaterina Shingarina. I even brought her to Saransk, so she could see the great conditions for herself. She, too, really liked your rink. The girl is very talented, the best of my students. She’s already Moscow champion, and I’ve only trained her for half-a-year. Katka is sure to get to the Sochi Olympics and win the gold medal there!

“S”: Would you perhaps like to move to Saransk, may be move your students here as well…

We can’t do it now, because I also work in journalism. So you and I are colleagues. I have my own show on “Sports Radio”; besides I am working on a special TV project on “Russia”.

“S”: During your first visit to Mordovia, did you get to visit your grandfather’s historic homeland – the Dolgoverjasy town of the Krasnoslobodsk region?

Of course! It’s a great town. Remarkable area. Nature there is amazing! Oh, and we were so well received! I even found some relatives. They showed me where my grandfather’s house used to stand. I even cried. In August, I am sure to take my mom to Dolgoverjasy again. I want to visit Mordovia often from now on.

“S” By the way, I heard you have a godson in Saransk?

Yes. Unfortunately, I won’t get to see him on this visit. He is in France with his parents. He’s a great boy. He takes after his godmother, meaning me. May be he’ll become a skater. Or, perhaps, a hockey player.


“S”: Athlete, coach, journalist… How do you manage it all?

Sometimes I wonder. The challenge is to get enough sleep, all other time I’m at work. I don’t have days off.

“S”: Do you enjoy it?

I enjoy skating. I skate often and a lot. Therefore, I’m lucky at work.

“S”: What about journalism?

I like that too. I wouldn’t do it otherwise.

“S”: A trick question: did fellow athletes ever refuse to grant you an interview?

My editors arrange all the interviews. I am just a host.

“S”: Just curious, what’s your relationship like with your former team rivals – Victoria Volchkova, Irina Slutskaya, Maria Butyrskaya…

Vika and I talk all the time. Ira and I talk sometimes, too. You wouldn’t call Slutskaya and me close friends, but we’re just good pals. We can have lunch at a Japanese restaurant sometimes. Ira and I know each other for twenty years. At one time, we started skating in the same Moscow sports school of Olympic reserves. As to Butyrskaya, we’ve never been close, since she’s significantly older than me, and ended her athletic career relatively early. When we see each other, we talk.

“S”: Do you find common ground with male skaters? They’re supposed to be quite difficult…

I am a regular reasonable person, so I am on great terms with all the guys. There haven’t been any conflicts yet.

“S” Which of the skaters would you call a real gentleman?

Elena Sokolova!

“S”: I meant male skaters…

Don’t try to trick me. I won’t answer anyway, because I don’t consider it a proper question.

“S”: You glanced at the photo of Ilya Averbukh at the Ice palace with some disdain. Is it personal?

No, no, no! It is just that Ilya directs the Channel One project, whereas I work with TV channel “Russia”. We have no issues with each other. We just work for competing companies.

“S”: Didn’t Averbukh ask you to join “Ice Age”?

He did, but I declined because I was already under contract with a different station.

“S”: What’s your take on those TV shows in general?

I am not against them, but I am not really for them either. Those projects give the TV audiences an idea that becoming a skater isn’t too taxing. The actors do it! Just a month of training and you’re a skater. In reality, you need to train for many years to become a pro. Trust me; you can’t do it in six months. “Ice Age” and “Stars on Ice” give an erroneous impression of figure skating.

“S”: Nonetheless, you were once on the jury of the “Ice Age”. Did you mark from your heart?

All depended on how much money each one gave me (laughs – “S”). I came in and said right away – “You want good marks, you pay me a little bonus” (laughs again – “S”). For real, of course from the heart. How can it be any different?

“S”: Do you personally enjoy watching the performances of professionals with the amateurs?

Let me reiterate, it’s not really right. Each one should do what they’re good at. Singers should sing, actors should act, and dancers should dance. Figure skaters should skate. That’s my opinion.

“S”: Competitive figure skating in Russia is now in crisis. In your opinion, will it be for long?

Until my Katka Shingarina learns to skate! Seriously, though, I think we’ll gain speed by Sochi. Though I don’t think we should expect much in 2010 in Vancouver. We should wait until those like Katka grow up.

“S”: You’re a champion of Europe, and a vice-champion of the World. Are you happy with your career?

I know it will get even better.

“S”: You mean as a coach?

Yes. I don’t doubt that I’ll have a great coaching career.


“S”: Were the judges often unfair to you?

Unfortunately, that happened many times. For example, at the 2003 World champions, I came in second after Michelle Kwan. I am absolutely certain that I should have won, because I skated significantly better than Kwan. It’s not just my opinion, but that of many world specialists as well. However, the championships took place in the US, so the judges chose not to deprive the American darling of the golden award. I, therefore, ended up in second. There are many other examples, but I won’t go there. You must admit it’s not the best memories.

“S” Are skaters superstitious?

I am a rather religious person. I always pray at the boards until the music starts up. However, I am also into superstitions. For example, I always do costumes with one sleeve and one long glove. That goes back to 2003, when my career really took off in a dress like that. It became my trademark. Also, I have the Russian flag inlaid in stones and my name written on my blades. Everyone has such quirks. Ira Lobacheva also carries with her a little talisman she’s had since childhood. Before taking the ice, she kisses it and puts it on the boards. Lena Berezhnaya used to always put up a picture of her mom and brothers on the boards so they watch over her during performances. Many guys forego shaving before competitions.

“S”: Did opponents ever play dirty with you?

One time, I went to a practice, took the ice, started to warm up… and fell. I fell once, I fell twice, I started wondering. My coach and I start looking – the blade is all cut up on purpose. This was two days before Worlds. I managed to get new skates, but this incident really played with my head. Masha Butyrskaya had her skates stolen right from her hotel room on the eve of a competition. It’s not for naught that skaters now either keep their skates with them or give them to a coach even when they go to the bathroom. And that’s really nothing! Now, some go to even greater length. You can’t believe it – back magic, evil eye, and all that! Even my coach’s wife Marina Grushina, a former skater, is really into it. Many athletes are so afraid of the evil eye, they won’t take home the toys the fans throw them. They give them away or throw them away altogether.



Ptichka: Linksptichkafs on August 12th, 2008 05:16 pm (UTC)
Ptichka: Linksptichkafs on August 12th, 2008 05:16 pm (UTC)
Ptichka: Linksptichkafs on August 12th, 2008 05:22 pm (UTC)