Lina Johansson - back in business

 

Text and photos © EMJO

On a rainy Tuesday I went on a mission with my beloved and almost worn out camera and Magdalenas taperecorder, which I call Thing (as in the Addams Family; it talks back after you recorded something and your voice comes out weird). The mission? To interview and take pictures of Lina Johansson. The thought was to do the photoshoot outside, but the weather disaggreed, so we had a nice chat in her kitchen instead and naturally a photoshoot in Lina’s room. Of course Lina is her sweet old self, chatting, giggling and posing.

Europeans are coming up and Lina is ready to compete again although the road’s been long. She missed most of last season because of injuries and didn’t do as well as she’d hoped at Nationals a few weeks ago. Yet she’s optimistic and brings an update on her training, programs and life in general.

How much were you able train after the injuries?
Well, the first injury was to my right foot and I wasn’t allowed to jump at all. But I could still skate and practice some steps, spins and spirals. Then I started jumping, and when I had all the jumps again I broke my other foot. That was last September and I was totally off the ice for two months. Then it was like starting from square one, even single jumps were hard! Once I mastered the doubles I took on triple Sal and loop. The flip and Lutz came back later.

What about the Axel?
I broke my left foot so it was hard to take off on the Axel. My ankle was too weak so I worked with a physical therapist to strengthen it. I worked a lot on a small trampoline and a wobble board. And at home I spent hours doing toe raises on the stairs.

Sounds like a lot of fun… What did your days look like?
I got up around 6 am, went to the rink and did what I could on the ice, then did ankle exercises and ballet. Then I was off to school and later back at the rink. Since I was so out of shape I ran and exercised some more in the afternoon. The whole week was like that and come Saturday afternoon I crashed in bed too pooped to move a muscle. It was tough! The worst time was a year ago and all through summer. I ran a lot in the heat, very tough interval training. By the time I came to the camp in Flims the jumps were more consistent and I gained some confidence.

You also lost almost 10 kilos; can you give us some tips?
Well… I just trained hard and ate only healthy stuff, it kind of just happened! Overall I’m doing much better. I have all the jumps again so I don’t have to do the killer long sessions anymore. During the competitions I don’t want to wear myself out completely, so shorter sessions are fine.

We’re sure glad you’re doing better! You’ve also been training in Moscow with Viktor Kudriavtsev.
Training with him is always great. He’ll say the same thing as other coaches but maybe word it differently. And he notices little details in my steps that can be improved, for instance to enter a jump. Not necessarily anything big, but still things I wouldn’t reflect over on my own. And I get to share the ice with other skaters my age. Some are even younger but they have all the triples and when I see them doing something I want to do it too, it pushes me forward!

Describe a session with Viktor!
The rink is real close to where we stay and we usually don’t get started until about 9.30 am, so we get to sleep in every day! We warm up; do some steps and then work on our programs. The sessions last an hour fifteen minutes at the most.

How does it feel to be back in competition?
It feels great actually. It’s good to be back in the routine, I’ve really missed it! And things have gone ok so far. Of course I wanted to do better, but I try not to think so much about how I place. How I performed is more important and how I can improve. So far I haven’t really been able to show in competition what I’m capable of doing.

What competitions will you skate in this season?
Europeans is first and then the Nordics in Finland in February. The outcome there will decide if I get to go to Worlds.

At what point do you start getting hyped about a competition?
Maybe not going there, but when I see all the other skaters I know it’s the real thing and not just camp. But practice is still just practice until the morning of the competition day. I spend time resting in the hotel room just counting down the hours, and then it’s time to get all made up. I start with the hair and sometimes it works right away and sometimes not. When my hair and make up is done I listen to music for about an hour. Some of the songs are very upbeat to wake me up, but when I get to the arena I listen to softer music. I like doing that, soothing and relaxing music helps me keep the anxiety away before the warm up

Tell us about your dresses!
It’s like this, when the music for my programs is picked out we send it to my Czech seamstress along with some color suggestions. She may or may not agree and she sends some drawings of what she has in mind. We discuss it and then she starts on something and sends it to me. I try it on and send it back to her so she can finish it. She’s working on a dress for my short program right now; I hope I get it before Europeans!

What does it look like? Show me! Where’s the drawing?
*bursts out laughing* Honestly, I have no idea! Hanna (Gradevik, the club choreographer) visited her while I was in Moscow. Hanna has relatives there and she picked out the fabric. This new dress will replace the blue one I wore for the short program at Nationals. I have a black dress for the long program, but it’s not very comfortable and needs to be altered. But there’s no time to do that before Europeans so I might wear the red gala dress instead.

So the “Lina dress mysteries” won’t be solved until we see you on the television screen from Warsaw! But why replace the blue dress?
I don’t know really, but I don’t mind since I like to have lots of dresses. I usually get 3 new ones, the third is kind of a back up, and I use it for galas.

"with her first competition dress"

And how many pairs of boots do you go through?
I just got new ones. I normally don’t switch in mid season, but they get too soft after a while and I don’t want that for Worlds, if I’m going. I’ll continue getting two new pairs per season, that way I know I’ll have good, stable boots the entire season.

You also have new programs this season.
Yes, my coach found the music to the short (Lord of the dance). She says we used it in practice at some ISU camp in Finland, we did steps or something to it but I don’t remember that. Anyway, I’m used to skating to slow or classical music, and the more I listened to this piece the more I liked it. I wanted to try something Spanish, but it doesn’t really suit my style, or rather I can’t bring out me to it, so this will work better. The long program (Turandot) is classical. When I get stressed out I try to do the moves slower, and that helps me stay relaxed. The short program is so intense while the long offers possibilities to conserve energy in some places. The gala program is to “Memoirs of a Geisha”. Salomé Brunner suggested it for my long program, but we found out there were other skaters using it so we turned it into an exhibition number. That program is a bit different.

We saw it at Nationals and it’s beautiful. Now, with Europeans coming up you’ve been in the lime light a lot, how many interviews have you done?
There’s been a few. I did one yesterday for TV, we’re here now and there’s another tomorrow… But I didn’t do any while I was injured since I didn’t go to any competitions, and reporters usually want to talk afterwards. But it started up again around Nationals.

How do you feel about getting so much attention?
I usually don’t mind, although when I train at home before a competition it’s nice to just be able to practice and concentrate on what’s ahead. Once I get to the competition photographers and such don’t bother me, and I don’t mind being in the paper, it’s kind of fun!

 

"with parts of her medal collection"

Do you ever have time to just be Lina the person, and not Lina the skater?
Well, during Christmas we often ended practice a bit earlier, which gave me time to be with my friends, we did things together all the time. So yes, I was able to be just me and not think that much about skating. Of course I’m fully concentrated at practice, but it was over around 2 pm. Sometimes I need to do other things and skating has a way of staying in my head. Like when I’m relaxing in a tanning booth I visualize performing my program, and it’s always perfect! *laughs* Even if there’s music in the booth I only hear the music to my program.

Do you hear the applause too?
Aah, no actually, I usually don’t. *giggles*

 

Do you have a favorite hang out in Malmö?
It’s not a huge city so when I’m off I go shopping with my friends and then we might drop into the Espresso House and just sit there and talk and relax. It’s nice to get out sometimes because I usually just go home between practice sessions.

A few years ago you said you don’t get nervous at competitions. How will you get back to that?
I try to think of different things, but I don’t really know what I did back then, if I did anything, it just worked! A competition was like no big deal. Like the Junior Grand prix Final in December of 2003. I was so calm and I couldn’t wait to get out there and show everyone what I could do. I knew many in the audience were rooting for me, they wanted me to succeed! And I wanted to show them I could do it. I felt calm, like hey, I can do this, I am doing it, and I enjoyed every second. I was a little tense before the long program but that all went away after the second jump as everything came together, it felt so good! But it was a wonderful relief when it was over and the audience was screaming. The best part was being received by Hanna and everyone, she cried so hard!

Does she usually go to competitions with you?
She’s been to Nationals and she came to Karl Schäfer.

What kind of pep talk do you get before you start a program?
I have two coaches, Ela Magnusson and Laco Vince. Laco is very calm but Ela gets nervous, I noticed that at the JGPF. I was first after the short program and Laco kind of took over after the warm up before the long. He just smiled and chit chatted as usual, totally calm. Ela gets nervous for all her students so she and Laco go very well together. If he’s nervous too it sure doesn’t show. But being a coach must be so hard, they can only say a few things before the skate but not really do anything. The performance is up to the skater.

What do you want to hear before you get on the ice?
There is something, and at Worlds in 2005 I tried to get Ela to say it. She didn’t get it at first, but then she said it and I did alright. What I want to hear is: “One thing at the time!” If I don’t keep that in mind my thoughts race and I get way ahead of myself. I need to hear those words so I can put all my concentration on the next move. If I can do that I’ll do that jump with just the right amount of energy and then move on to the next element. And it’s easier to keep going even if I’m tired or fall. So that’s what I’ll try at Europeans – one thing at the time!

And hold your spin positions and your spirals! Do like Shizuka and say “One ice cream, two ice creams…” and you’ll make the two revolutions.
She does that? That’s awesome. When I spin I don’t have time to think about how many revolutions I do. I listen for the specific part of the music telling me to move on. In the long program there’s a bit of time to improvise, but not in the short. Even if I’m behind I have to get out of the spin and move on to the spiral sequence. And if I count 3 or 4 seconds, Ela and the judges have only counted 2, so I try to rely on the music and the distance instead. But if it’s only been 2 seconds and I’m already close to crashing into the boards… There’s so much to keep track of!

Lina is so right about that, but she has a good head on her shoulders and we have no doubt she’ll sort out all the technicalities. Before we part she answers a few fun things:

Morning or night
The movies or a book
Jeans or a dress
Sneakers or high heels
The sea or the jungle? Hmm, neither?
Go shopping or go to lunch

Good luck at Europeans, Lina! And remember, one thing at the time!

We also welcome Lina to the Absolute Skating family of official skater websites.
Read more about her and see fabulous photos and videos here







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