Joshi Helgesson - the firebird from Sweden


December 13, 2012
By Eva Maria Jangbro (EMJO)
Photos © Eva Maria Jangbro (EMJO)

Joshi Helgesson, a 19-year-old Swede, has competed as a senior for a couple of years already. Internationally she has been, so far, a little in the shadow of her older sister Viktoria. In Sweden however, she is considered a very promising skater, especially after her fourth place at the Junior World Championships in 2009. Joshi has a completely different style than her sister’s softer, more classical skating. Joshi oozes spunk and joy in her very energetic performances. She went to Paris for the Grand Prix event Trophée Eric Bompard, which was only her second competition this year due to an injury earlier in the season. I had a chat with her about what happened, the way back after a six week break, but also about her programs, where especially the short shows a new side of her.

Did you have something in mind for new programs already at the end of last season?

Well, I wanted to do something I hadn’t done before and that no one else had done either. I told my choreographer Catarina Lindgren and she came up with two music choices that I liked equally. But Catarina wanted me to make a final choice the night before we started the choreography, which I couldn’t, so I decided to wait and see what the choreography to the two programs would look like, and then I decided on “Taiko” from the Cirque du Soleil.

So you don’t stand in front of the mirror, dancing and trying to create and imaging how it would look?

Well yes, I do that too! (laughs)

Some skaters choose music that has been used several times already, but you found something new, again, and you portray a bird. How do you reason when looking for music to a new program?

Well for example, many skate to music Michelle Kwan has used, but when I hear that I think of her and then you almost have to live up to her skating skills and style. I like when you find something new and can do it your own way.

…and I like that you “dare” to skate to unusual music. It has almost become a Swedish skaters’ trademark.

But there is so much great music skaters have used, and sometimes you might want to try and make it better or different than others already have. That can be fun too and is perhaps the reason why some music is used so much.

Your short program comes in a complete package, which is sometimes missing even from skaters at a very high level. The costume, the makeup and the hairdo all match the theme of the music. Whose idea was it and who designed the dress?

Catarina came up with the idea. She has a program on her Ipad and shesketched the design of the dress directly onto a photo of me on the screen. The girl who finalized the design and made the dress is in our skating club; Kimberly Mitchell who is 21 years old. She made my dress last year too, and this year she even made Vicky’s dresses.

Then there’s your hair…

It is always Vicky (Joshi’s 5 year older sister Viktoria) who does my hair because she really enjoys it and I don’t. We are often going to the same competitions so she does it, but she has taught me how, and this time I actually did it myself.

I like the feather in your hair and so did the camera man at TEB!

Oh no, it’s not a feather, it’s my own hair colored with eyeshadow!

How clever, then it stays there during jumps and other speedy moves.

Yes. At first I was thinking about having feathers on my dress, but there’s that rule which gives a one point deduction if something falls off the dress.

Your make-up is very eye catching, who had that idea?

Well, it was Vicky again… (smiles) …who came up with the make-up style. If I wore these strong colors in my makeup and a more “conservative”, not so eye catching dress, I think it would be too much with the strong colors. But I have seen photos taken from a distance and then it all looks good together: the dress, hair and makeup.

In your free program you again have a new style, including the dress, hair and make-up. Your dresses are no longer the same every year, only in different colors.

Before we used to have the same design of the dresses, a pretty simple style, but the stones on the dress made the pattern. But this year and last we really tried to make something to match the programs.

I have definitely noticed that. The free program this year is a typical “Joshi program” and I mean that in a good way. You radiate this great energy that the audience feels. Did you consider any other music before you settled for the “Burlesque” soundtrack?

When last season was over I decided I wanted to skate to “Burlesque”. Catarina gave me the music to listen to, but I thought it would be boring to have so much slow music, so we added “Blues in the Night” as a tempo change in the middle part of the program.

Do you mostly like to skate to upbeat music?

Well, I like slow music too, but then I prefer it to be more upbeat at the end of the programs. That is what I like the best!

Did you prepare for this season the same as last year?

Yes, except we stayed longer in Chicago this time, four weeks.

What have you focused a little extra on?

The triple-triple combinations. I worked so hard on those it resulted in a beginning of a stress fracture of the fibula. I was doing triple toe-triple toe combinations but could no longer practice toe loop after the injury, so now I’m practicing triple Salchow-triple loop.

How does the leg feel now?

It was the take off leg that suffered the fracture. I had not been able to jump in six and a half weeks and I was going to Cup of China, so I started jumping right away when I was allowed to. Then the foot started hurting instead. I guess I was overdoing it, but it doesn’t hurt that much, only a little.

How did it feel to compete at such big events as the Grand Prix after only a few weeks of ice training before the competitions?

I just wanted to get started again and compete. I knew I wasn’t 100 % prepared then, and I’m still not. I had only skated two weeks before the Cup of China, and four weeks before the Trophée Eric Bompard. But I wanted to compete anyway since it is a chance to earn some important ranking points; I got some in China. Considering the circumstances, I was happy with my performance in China. But if I hadn’t been injured I would not have been happy at all. I went home to practice again for Paris and now I am here! The practice sessions have gone really well here, I just wish I would have been able to show that to the audience and the judges. Before the short program I think I got a little nervous, but it’s good to get into competing again, I need that.

Can you share some tips of what to do when you get nervous? You seem to handle the pressure well if you fall on a jump and not, as some skaters, single the jumps following.

I tell myself “come on!” and ask my mom [who is also the coach] to give me a pep talk to get me going again. If you fall during the program you can’t keep thinking about it; forget it and try to continue.

Have you noticed that Isabelle Olsson is catching up and getting closer to you and Vicky points wise?

I have not seen her skate this season, but I have followed the results. It’s really great that she is doing well at competitions now. She has been good for many years and I am really glad for her.

What happens next for you?

The NRW Trophy in Dortmund is next with Yuna Kim on the entry list. I had planned to go to Oberstdorf and Bratislava this fall, but since I couldn’t do these two competitions I’m going to Dortmund to get my points.

How do you feel about sharing the ice with the 2010 Olympic gold medalist, who will debut her competitive season in Dortmund? Will you watch her practice?

I have competed against Yuna before and she is really nice to watch, but in competition you have to concentrate on yourself. I have to do my best without thinking about what she’s doing.

[Update from the NRW Trophy: Yuna was of course first, Joshi was in fourth place after the short program. When all was said and done the bronze medal went to Viktoria; Joshi finished nineth.]

The Swedish Nationals are coming up and Sweden has two spots for the European Championships. What are your chances of earning one?

Isabelle has had a really good season so far and Vicky has too, and I have only participated in two competitions. I have not trained as much since I was injured so we’ll see how it goes. If it doesn’t work I know why!

This reporter has high hopes since I watched Joshi’s great practices in Paris where she really showed what she is capable of. I am sure looking forward to Nationals and the battle between the great Swedish ladies for the two spots on the European team. Go girls!

The Swedish National Championships take place in Växjö, December 15 - 18.

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