Kutay Eryoldas: "In an ideal world I would fully focus on my skating"Â Â Â
By Nadin Vernon
Photos © 2010 Absolute Skating, Nadin Vernon
Kutay Eryoldaş from Turkey came 31 st at this year’s European Championships. He was competing in Tallinn alongside his country team mates Tuĝba Karademir (12 th) and Birce Atabey (30 th).
Kutay who used to train in Moscow had a rocky start to the year as he came second at his Nationals which were held only a week prior to Europeans, so it was a nice surprise to see him in Tallinn and find out a little bit more about him.
Hey Kutay. The short didn’t go so well for you, what happened?
To be honest it wasn’t that much of a surprise for me. I haven’t really been able to train properly. I moved back to Istanbul this summer but the opening of the new ice rink was delayed. And the closest ice to me was 2 ½ hours away, so that’s five hours of travel before you’ve even done any training. It’s been quite difficult to do that journey for 40 minutes of training time, so I’ve not been able to train every day. Overall, of course I’m disappointed, also because the training here went quite well but I can’t say I’m too surprised as I didn’t have the preparation I needed, going into this competition.
How did you get into skating? It’s quite an unusual sport for a guy in Turkey as it’s generally all about football, football and more football.
Yes, that’s right. Basically my family took me to an ice rink in Ankara when I was very young, and I didn’t even know whether I’d end up doing hockey or something else. But basically there was a coach who saw me skate and suggested that I should try figure skating instead. I only realized much later that that’s what I was actually doing (laughs). I started when I was 8.
And when did it all become more serious in terms of the hours you were putting in?
Probably when I was around 10. The problem was that I wasn’t working with the best coaches when I was younger, so that’s how I lost quite a few years and I feel like I’m lagging behind a little because of that. As soon as I started taking things more seriously, at 14/15, I changed to better coaches.
So when and how did you decide to move to Moscow?
I was eighteen and basically decided by myself one day that I wanted to move there. I heard about a coaching school that I could go to and since I was wondering what to do after school anyway, this sounded quite interesting to me. I was constantly thinking about figure skating and so I decided that Russia would be the best place for me. My old coach knew a coach over there, so there was a connection as well.
So you moved there all by yourself, did you even speak the language?
I learnt while I was there, but yes, I was pretty much on my own. In fact when I got off the plane in Moscow, I just thought to myself ‘what have I done?’ (laughs)
It worked out ok though and you got to know people once you moved?
Oh yes, I did. Naturally the people I got to know were mostly related to skating as that’s what I was doing most of the time. Basically I used to skate in the morning and in the evening and had Russian lessons in the afternoon.
Did you travel back and forth between Russia and Turkey?
I only really went back home for competitions and then for the summer when I had a month off.
And why did you decide to move back to Turkey?
I continued with my skating in Russia but then decided to come back because I won a place at the university in Istanbul which I had put on hold, but I have to take it within two years otherwise I’d lose it and I don’t want that to happen. So this summer I moved back to Turkey, to Istanbul.
What course did you enrol for?
It’s for a full-time degree in architecture. So I have to go every week day, but there’ll still be time for training. In any case the situation will improve from what it has been like where I lost 5 hours before I even did any training. Now I’ll have those 5 hours for training and also for coursework.
Are you confident you’ll be able to combine the two?
I think so and eventually I may be able to turn my full attention to skating. University is from 10:30 to 4:30, so I can probably train between 8-9 in the morning and again between 5-6, but we’ll have to see.
And when will the new rink finally open?
It literally opened a week ago, it’s quite near where I live so it’ll be very convenient. The Grand Prix took place there but then it shut again and now re-opened. It’s a big place and a very nice rink, so I’m quite excited. But unfortunately everything is very expensive and there are some issues that still need resolving because I can’t afford everything on my own.
Don’t you get any help from the federation?
They paid for my trip to Tallinn here, but generally they don’t really pay for training, no. However, I went and talked to them recently, so hopefully they will support me in the future.
Are you also changing coaches?
My current coach lives in Bursa (which is just over 100km away), but he’s going to try and come to Istanbul three days a week, so hopefully I can still train with him.
Will you have ice over the summer at the new rink?
I’m not too sure at this point, but it’s not that important because generally we all tend to go to summer camps elsewhere anyway.
Where did you get your programmes choreographed?
We did both in Russia. I’d like to go there again next year and get my new programmes choreographed, but we’ll see.
Do you generally get very nervous at competitions?
I do, yes. In fact that’s one of my problems, I tend to do really well in training but then get so nervous during competition that my whole mindset is affected and I suffer from it. I’d like to see somebody about it because at the moment I have to deal with it myself and I find it quite hard.
How do you prepare yourself?
I try to go through my programmes in my head and really think about every single element and move, the whole choreography. I also see the training at competition as a big part of that preparation, I really enjoy the practice sessions at competitions.
Where are you at with your jumps now, are you comfortable with all triples?
Yes, I can do all triples and I have a triple toe-triple toe combination in my programmes. I’m also training triple flip-triple toe. I was at a much better technical level around two years ago, but then got injured when I first went to Moscow and couldn’t do anything at all for six months other then skate in circles. And just after that I changed my skates and needed to get used to them, so lost another month or so.
Were you following skating on TV when you first started?
Absolutely, I basically started together with Plushenko. I’ve been watching since his first competition.
Is he your favourite then?
Overall yes. But in terms of the programmes I think St é phane Lambiel stood out as the best here.
Did you get to watch much here?
I did, yes. And there were some really original programmes, I really enjoyed Fernandez’ free. I think you can really tell that skaters are preparing for the Olympics because the programmes are really good. I really enjoyed watching them here.
Turkish TV has been really good with live broadcasts and webstreams, is figure skating that popular in Turkey?
I think there are people who like it and it’s definitely getting more popular, but it’s not like the press will cover this event in great detail.
You mentioned earlier that you wanted to go to the coaching school in Russia, but it didn’t work out. Is this something you could see yourself doing in future?
The school in Moscow was all about coaching, but unfortunately I couldn’t really go as my training times clashed with the classes and the skating was more important to me. But I’m definitely really interested in coaching, and it’s something I’d like to do after my competitive career. I just need to take things one step at a time, so probably start with that when I’m skating less. It was a shame it didn’t work out in Russia but to be honest with sports the practice can sometimes be more important than the theory, I’m not so sure now how much I would have learnt. During my time in Russia I learnt so much from my coach, so I feel a little like I’ve actually been to the course.
What about doing the skating full-time?
I’d love to do that, but unfortunately there is no security whatsoever from the government, so I can’t really give myself to it 100%. I need to think about my future and learn a profession. But even though I’ve enrolled in this architecture course, I’m much more interested in coaching. Unfortunately there aren’t that many skaters in Turkey though who go to international competitions. Only very few skaters even train triple-triple combinations. Hopefully the new rink will attract more children and improve that situation. In an ideal world I would fully focus on my skating.
Are we going to see you skate in Turin?
I’m not sure yet as we only have one spot and I came second at Nationals. It wasn’t clear whether or not I’d be able to come here, I only found out last week and wasn’t expecting it. So I’ll probably find out about Worlds towards the end of February after the Olympics.
What do you like to do outside of skating?
I quite like to meet up with my friends and read. Also I enjoy going dancing with my friends.
What do you think of the ISU’s decision to cut the number of skaters that make it to the free?
Of course that’s very discouraging for me and other skaters at my level, as far as I understood it’s to do with TV broadcasts. But what I found even worse was the break after the first group. People don’t come to watch one group and then sit around for 45 minutes. What was that all about?
Yeah, what was that all about?
Thanks Kutay for taking time out to talk to me and best of luck for making the World team.