"I would do anything for skating"

 

by Susanne Kempf
Photos ©
Ayumi


One cannot say that Slovenia is particularly known for being a famous figure skating country - rather a nation which is famous for skiing and hockey - but it does host some interesting figure skaters. Gregor Urbas is certainly one of them. The 22 year-old from Hrusica even finished 6th at Junior Worlds in 2001. At the latest Europeans in Torino he finished 27th. It's a new start for him right before the Olympic Season - he wants to move to the USA permanently and work with his new coach Uschi Keszler. Gregor is now back in Ljubljana after having practiced in Moscow last month. He has already decided the music for his free program but wouldn't reveal it just yet….:)

Absolute Skating had the chance to sit down with a rather shy but very charming and polite guy - who loves sweets and kiwis. :)

At first, let’s talk a bit about your background, when did you start skating and why? I am quite sure skating isn’t a very popular sport in Slovenia…

No, you are right. Skiing is very popular. From the city I come from ice hockey is the number one, particularly. Actually it is quite a funny story how I happened to start skating... It was in 1987. My sister started to learn to skate and my grand mother always took her to the practices. One time I asked grandma if I could take my hockey skates to the rink and just skate around a bit. She asked the coaches and they agreed to share the ice. I was eight years old. My now former coach Mojca Kurbos saw me talking all the time to my little sister on the ice and asked my father to come after work and see “that little guy” skate (smiles). He did eventually and she wanted me to start skating.
The next year I did all single jumps (single axel too). I was mostly a jumper, not a nice skater. (laughs) Of course now it is more about the artistry and expression for me, especially under the new judging system. It is very important how you skate.

Do you have any memories of your first competition?

Actually I don’t. But I do have some early competitions of mine on tape. Sometimes when I am home alone I watch them and smile to myself thinking “Oh my God, I was such a small skater back then, without any experiences…” (laughs) I didn’t think I would become a skater who can even go to the European or World Championships. It is always funny to watch the old stages.

Do you remember your best skate so far?

I have attended 5 European Championships so far. Last season was great. In 2001 I was 6th at Junior Worlds in Hamar/Norway, that was a big success for me. I did triple axel, triple lutz, triple toeloop,… all triple jumps.

Which skaters have inspired you? Do you have any idols?

I like Alexei Yagudin, especially his short program “Winter”. When I was really young, it was Alexei Urmanov.

What does a common day look like for you? How many hours do you train?

When I am in Slovenia, I do one hour each of on and off-ice training every day of the week, except on Mondays, that’s my day off.
When I am in Philadelphia, I have many more practice sessions. Uschi Keszler is my coach there, and she made my programs last season (2004/2005). She is very good.

 

How would you judge your skate at the European Championships in Torino this year? What did you think of the venue and the atmosphere?

I don’t know what to say about my performance. Obviously I am disappointed that I didn’t make the final. I was sick the week before Torino, I had a fever. I went to the doctor on Wednesday, then I couldn’t skate on Thursday and Friday, and on Saturday I was on the plane to Italy. I had to take antibiotics which obviously made me very tired. At the practices I could only do one jump in practice – I was just so tired!
I was fighting until the end but it just wasn’t enough... I couldn’t help my illness.
The ice rink was really nice though. Also, the fans were great but the little schoolchildren who were brought in were a bit distracting. All this noise and the clapping….

Was it a test for you for the Olympic Games next year? Do you have any regulations to meet by your federation?

No, as long as I skate well, the federation will send me.

Do you like the new judging system then?

Well, I do think it is a step towards a fairer judging in general but frankly I also see some negative sides. For example, last year almost all the men did a triple axel but this year it was all about playing it safe and many chose other (easier) triple combinations or even double jumps…

How come you skated in the anniversary show in Sarajevo last year? Who did invite you?

It was so great! It was the first time I skated there and I love this city so much. The Slovenian Federation got one invitation, so they told Mojca (Kopac) and me that whoever would have the best European result in Budapest would go. I was 14th and Mojca 17th, so I won. But then the federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina gave us their spot, so in the end we could both go. I skated my short program “Carmina Burana”. It was such a nice feeling to skate in front of my people! (Slovenia and Bosnia both used to belong to Yugoslavia)
People were so enthusiastic, probably because of the war and as they haven’t watched skating live for ages. They were even clapping in the streets for Mojca and me, when we went around. They knew us from TV. I would really love to go there again.

Is it true that Tatiana Tarasova has choreographed a program for you?

Yes, she made“Carmina Burana” 4 years ago when she still worked with Elena Kustarova. She is just great - a legend!

Now you work with Uschi Keszler.

Yes, she is wonderful, and really interested in working with me. Last summer I spent a one month with her, and then again for a month in October, after the Finlandia Trophy.
I would like to start studying sports management in Philadelphia, so this summer I would like to go back there. In fact, I would like to move there for good. In the USA there are much better conditions, more ice time... Uschi works in 4 ice rinks! I can work all the time with her. Certainly it will be hard to leave my home country - but I would do everything for skating. (laughs)

How long do you plan to skate?

If I don’t have any injuries, as long as it is possible... 2010 at least. I just love skating.

How many foreign languages do you speak?

I speak English and Russian, and I also took German in school for 4 years (the interviewer gets really excited now but Gregor wouldn’t speak any German to her… :)). I also understand all languages of the former states of Yugoslavia (Croatian, Serbian etc.)

What’s it like when you are on the ice? Are you “in your own world” or do you notice the audience?

No, I don’t hear anything. You are just thinking about what you have to do.

Who does make your costumes?

Last year they were made in Slovenia and Philadelphia.

What do you enjoy doing when you don’t skate?

Right now, I would most of all like to start studying. Apart from that... Well, actually I don’t have a lot of free time, but when I do; I like to go out with my friends, especially now since I’ll move to Philadelphia. I won’t see them for a long time. I also like chatting on the Internet, e-mailing,….

You really have traveled a lot so far due to all the international competitions. Do you have a favorite place?

I like the USA, Japan and Djerba in Egypt. I went there last summer for 14 days. I still want to visit Turkey. I really like the sun – on the ice it is always so cold! (laughs)

Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us, Gregor! Good luck for the new season!


Want to find out more about Gregor? Visit his website here!






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