Tomas Verner - On the way to Torino

 

by Daphne Heij, Pavla Stejskalova, Jana Vanova
Photos © tomasverner.com, Jana Vanova

There's also a Czech Version! read it here!


Tomas Verner, 19, from the Czech Republic, appeared on the senior scene when he was just 15 years old. His best result so far is a 10th place finish at the European Championships in 2004. After being out for most of the 2004/2005 season, Tomas Verner started out his new season very well!  Winning bronze medals at the Ondrej Nepala Memorial and Nebelhorn Trophy, and a gold medal at the Karl Schaefer Memorial, the beginning of his season was very successful, dazzling everyone with his wonderful programs. The winning of the Karl Schaefer Memorial also succesfully secured a spot for the Czech Republic at the Olympic Games in Torino, Italy. After this competition we travelled to Prague to have a little chat with Tomas.

 


How did you get into figure skating?

I was about 6 years old and there was this girl I liked and she was a skater, so I wanted to take up skating too! Though she herself quit after 2 or 3 years, I am still a skater, so guess I fell in love with the sport somewhere too.

What was your first competition like, do you remember?
*smile* Yeah I still have it on tape and when I feel miserable or in a bad mood, I play it and then I feel better. The competition took place about 2 years after I started skating. It was a small competition in Czech Republic. I skated to "Cirkus Humberto" which is a very famous piece of music here in the Czech Republic. I think I came in last or second last.  During the first years of my career, I always came in last or second last.

What has been the most important moment in your career so far?
When I had to choose between skating or football. At first I was doing 3 sports; athletics, football and figure skating, but it was too much for me.  I stopped athletics first and then I had to choose between football and figure skating, so I chose skating!

Are you happy with that decision now?
Yeah! I could have made more money playing soccer, but money is not so important, it's not the main thing.

So who do you root for in soccer?
My favorite player is Pavel Nedvěd and I like his club Juventus Turin and I also support Chelsea.

What is your hobby?
I don't have enough time for hobbies after skating. I sometimes play football or basketball, and I just got a new bicycle, so I try to ride it as often as I can.

What keeps you motivated?
It's a secret! If I told you that then everyone would be as motivated as I am!

What do you think about the COP?

I think the first mark, the technical mark is good, very good. You get points for all the elements: spins, steps, jumps etc. But the 2nd mark, the component scores, are still too subjective. For example, one judge gave me a 4 for something and another a 7 for the same thing! That's a huge difference! How is that possible? And if you are from a 'big' country or in the last warm-up group you get more by default. Overall, I think that the first mark is three times better than in the old system and the second mark is twice as worse. But I wouldn't want to go back to the old system.

How does a typical day in your life look like?
at 7am I get up, sometimes I have breakfast, sometimes not. I can be really lazy in the morning and get up half an hour later and then I don't have time to eat breakfast in the morning.
At about 7.30 I leave home for school and I stay there until about 2 or 3pm. Then after school at about 3, I have my first practice for 1.5 hours. After that I have a short break and then I have ballet class.
Then I have a short break again and at 8pm I have my second practice for 1.5 hours again.
At 9.30pm I'm finished and I go up to my room. I rest my feet and I watch TV for half an hour to clear my head.
At 10pm I get my school books and look inside them, not doing anything yet, and at 11pm I go and eat dinner, something small. After that I do my homework for school and then I go to bed.

Do you ever sleep?
Not much. In the previous years I got maybe 6 hours of sleep each night. Sometimes I had to wake up at 6 to do more homework because I couldn't finish it the previous night.

How long have you been living and training here in Prague?
When I was 11 I came to train here only once in a while, but when I was 14 I moved to Prague for good with my older brother. It was a really hard time for me, I also had to change schools. It was one of the hardest moments in my life.

How much does figure skating cost you and how do you fund it?
How much? A lot! I don't think ordinary people can even imagine how much figure skating costs! For example in the USA, only children of doctors, lawyers etc. can do figure skating.
My parents work really really hard so that I am able to continue my sport. My dad is a doctor and he often works from 8 AM to 8 PM and a lot of the money goes to m√Ņ skating.

Who are your friends in the figure skating world?
Hmm.. I have so many friends in this world. The skatingworld is like one big family: some people you like more than others, some you don't like at all.
It's nice to have someone from your own team at the competition. Twice I qualified for the JGPF and I was there all alone, there was no other skater from my team. And at the banquet there were several tables: one for team Russia, one for team USA, one for team Canada etc. and just one chair for Czech Republic! Luckily I was "adopted" by the American team the first year and next year by the Canadian team.
But it feels better to have people of your own team there, you can hang out together and support each other.

Do you like music? Do you play any instruments?
*laughs* No, I don't play any instruments. My sister got a piano for her birthday and I tried playing it, but I was terrible! My sister is 7 and she plays very well though, and my father plays about 12 instruments. I guess I didn't inherit that talent from him.

Would you rather have one Olympic title or 4 world titles?
Hmmm...tough choice! Four world titles - that means that nobody could beat you for 4 years, but an Olympic title is of course something really special. I guess I would go for the 4 world titles though.

or perhaps both?
*laughs* Yeah, that would be great! Like Irina Rodnina, do you know her? Nobody beat her for 10 years! She was never second, even when she changed partners, it's amazing!

What would you like to achieve in your career?
Some day I would like to be among the top skaters. I would like to know what it feels like to be among the best.

How do you want people to remember you when you quit skating?
I just hope people will remember me. Not as an ordinary skater, but as a skater with original programs. Someone who brought something to the sport. I think I have the best choreographer to create never-before-seen programs for me - he's very good. My choreographer and I work very hard to create something special, to please the audience. Not something like every other skater, but something different, for example like this year's SP. It's really blues, it's original.

How does the audience affect you when you are skating?
It's great when there are people in the audience cheering for you. I do not only skate for myself, but also for the audience. Then when they are cheering it means a lot. When you¬īre feeling miserable, are in a bad mood or when you are tired at the end of your program, it helps.

How would you describe yourself?
I don't know, I really cannot answer that. You should ask my friends to describe me.

What is it you don't like about yourself?
*laughs* Do you want just one thing or more!?

I don't know, just tell me something...
Well, I'm a lazy person and I would like to change that. For example - Staurday is the only day I am at home. I would like to help around the house, but all I do is sit and watch. I would like to help out my mom and dad because they work so hard for me, maybe do some cleaning or something, but in the end I usually don¬īt bring myself to it.
A second thing I don't like about myself  is that I like chocolate so much. I used to like dark chocolate the best, but now I'm starting to like milk chocolate more, but please no white chocolate!

Do you know the chocolate sprinkles they have in my country? (Netherlands)
Oh yeah! I was in the Hague a few times and they had these tiny boxes with pieces of chocolate in them. They are excellent. But they only have them in your country.

What was the worst moment in your career so far?
I don't know, maybe injuring my ankle last year and being out for most of the season...

Stupid doctors for not noticing earlier it was actually broken...
No, definitely not, I don't want to blame the doctors because they were the ones who helped me in the end. I was stupid though skating on with the pain.

Well, athletes are often stupid like that...
Yeah... you know once I had this problem with my foot.  It hurt so much that I went to a doctor and he said, "Maybe you should quit your sport!" and I said: "What!? Yeah sure...goodbye!" and I left in a hurry.  It wasn't a sportsdoctor, it was a normal doctor. The foot now doesn't bother me anymore at all.

What sites do you visit on the internet?
*laughs* I just check my email and sometimes my own site to see if there is something new, but that's it. I don't have internet here in Prague, only at home so I don't get to check it that often.

 

Do you have a message for your fans?
I want to thank them all very much for being there for me. I'm happy with all my fans and I hope they will enjoy my programs this year. It's great to know that there are people behind you and with you when you are skating. I don't just skate for myself and it means a lot to me when people come to me afterwards and are smiling and saying they enjoyed my performances. And the messages I got before competing in Vienna were really important to me as well. To read that people are 100% behind you whether you qualify or not, land a jump or not...it's great.


Like at junior worlds in 2004, I was there and you fell all over the place, but people still liked your performances, including me.

Really?
Junior worlds is a nice competition. You are there for 2 weeks and there are many friends  with you But unfortunately I didn't skate as well as I had wanted to there. I'm surprised to hear people were still talking about me and my programs...

As a last thing, we asked Tomas to tell us about his favourite things...

Color?
black, red and blue

Singer/song?
James Blunt - You're Beautiful

Food/drink?
chocolate and cola

Animal?
the singing flower.
(This is a present he got from us. It was a twirling sunflower singing: "You are my sunshine...")

Movie?
- Forest gump
- Gladiator
- Pretty woman

Actor/Actress?
George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Tom Cruise

 

The singing flower

Book?
Catch 22

Tv show?
WATTS on Eurosport

Cartoon?
Tom and Jerry

Present you received?
SINGING FLOWER! WOW!

Present you would like to receive?
Chocolate

Competitions you have been to so far?
- Washington DC, USA
- Pjong Jan - North Korea
- Beijing - China

 

Skating program (yours)?
This year¬īs programs

Skating Program (of somebody else)?
- SP Winter from Yagudin
- LP Gladiator from Yagudin
- LP Once upon a time in America from Plushenko in Bratislava 2001

Skating element?
the straight-line stepsequence in my long program

Skater (s)?
Plushenko

Jump?
Flip

Least favorite jump:
Salchow

Country/City?
- 3x Beijing
- Colorado springs

Place you would like to visit in the future?
- Bankog
- Dubai
- Johannesburg
- New york
- Calgary
- etc.

   


Don't forget to visit Tomas website: www.tomasverner.com!

Thank you Tomas for the interview! Good luck for the rest of the Olympic season!






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