Adelina Sotnikova: "My rivals shouldn't write me off"


March 14, 2013
By Reut Golinsky
Photo © Eva Maria Jangbro (EMJO), Julia Komarova

She is the 2011 World Junior champion and a three-time (2009, 2011, and 2012) Russian national champion. Out of her four senior Grand Prix events she was on the podium three times and just recently she won a European silver medal. We met with Adelina Sotnikova the day before the opening night of "Art on Ice" in Zurich and had a nice chat about programs, costumes, school and the pressure she deals with being one of the Russian wonder girls and Sochi main hopefuls.

Adelina, congratulations on the European silver, a very important achievement for you. Do you remember you first "important" medal? When was it?
If we take into account only international competitions then it was probably my gold at the junior Grand Prix event in Graz, Austria. It was my first Grand Prix event, first big international competition, it was very exciting for me and I was happy to win it. And it was the first win in the chain of victories I had in my most successful season (2010/11).

Did you already feel the pressure on you back then? The pressure to win.
No, I didn't feel that the expectations were high. I thought that it was still just a junior competition, so I was calmer. On the other hand if you want to join the elite of your sport you need to make a good debut on the international arena, just like I did that season winning all the competitions I entered.

I just wondered when you started putting such high expectations on yourself. I know you were upset about your silver in Zagreb. While you understand, I guess, that any other skater at her first Europeans would have been happy to be in your place.
Yes, I was upset. I was first after the short program, Carolina Kostner fell three points short against me, I had rather decent long program... And when I saw my result, that I was third [in the long program], lost not only to Liza (Tuktamysheva) who had a great skate, but also to Carolina who hadn't done anything more complicated than me... I haven't watched the videos yet, I know that Carolina has a very beautiful style, has a high component score and it's thanks to the second mark that she beat me. Still I'm content that at my first European championships I was on the podium.

We can say that it was your best performance of the season so far.
Yes, best skates of the season. For sure in the short program, but also in the long. Apart from the jump I popped.

It was a flip which as I noticed causes you problems lately. What's going on with it?
Maybe after the combination - and I had a hard one with triple Lutz-triple toe - I let my guard down, physically also, and decided: "Well, I did that, now let's go on". But after I popped that jump I became angry, said to myself: "You need to pull yourself together!" And I performed the rest well.

It was your first Europeans but you've already gained some experience in senior competitions at the Grand Prix. Was this competition different in any way?
I didn't feel any difference: same people, same rivals, same judges, and the same rink. Just the title of the competition is different, but nothing new. I think it doesn't matter what the championships are, you need to do your best everywhere.

Maybe this is what helped you to keep your cool?
Yes, most likely. It helped me to think that there was nothing exceptionally difficult in this competition. I've competed with them already, I know all of them. I know Carolina (Kostner), and Liza (Tuktamysheva), Valentina (Marchei) too.

Let's talk about "Art on Ice". Have you ever heard about this show before?
I heard about it last year from Lena Ilinykh who took part in it. And when Elena Germanovna (Vodorezova, her coach) told me that I was invited, I was shocked. This show is very prestigious and I was glad they invited me. It was at the beginning of the season, in Oberstdorf, so I told myself: "Stop dreaming. First you need to do all your competitions well, till Europeans. What if they decide not to take you [if you don't do well]?"

But this is not your first international skating show, right? Can you compare the experiences?
Yes, there was this big show in Japan ("The Ice"), and Mao Asada personally invited me to come.
It's hard to compare as I still haven't performed here. That show was amazing, but it looks like this one is going to be huge too. Look how many seats they have here! And it's sold out! There will be lots of people coming, fans who love figure skating... I think, this show is more famous and has a more decorated cast, you have World and Olympic champions here. In Japan the cast was also very strong, but it was younger and consisted of skaters who currently compete, while here they have more skaters who've already retired.

I saw that in Japan you performed your "Bolero" as an exhibition program, I really loved it.
Yes, they asked me to skate "Bolero". Me too, I love this program.

I also really liked your simple black costume with the red ribbon, there was even some choreography based on it.
Yes, I tried to use that ribbon somehow. (laughs) First we even wanted to take the ribbon like they have in rhythmic gymnastics, but in the end decided to do something different. It looked beautiful, I think. And the costume, this is simply what I'm usually wearing for my practices, but with the ribbon it looked rather harmonious.

And what will you perform here, for "Art on Ice"?
They sent me the music by this Swiss star ("The Art is King" & "City of Gold" by Seven), I listened to it and I really liked it! I enjoy skating to it very much; I want to show the best I can do to it. We had the rehearsal just now, he sang live, and I was absolutely thrilled to skate to it! I'm so glad they chose this very music for me. Although I heard that Leona Lewis will be singing in this show, I could have done with skating to her song too... (laughs)

Was it easier that the music was chosen for you or do you prefer to choose the music for your programs yourself? Who usually does it for your competitive programs?
My coaches Elena Germanovna and Tatiana Anatolievna (Tarasova) usually choose it for my programs. They propose some pieces to me, I say if I like them or not. If I don't like, we try to find something else, but usually our opinions are concurrent and I like what they propose.
In a way it's easier when they already send you the music they want you to skate to. And in a way it's harder too, because even if you don't like their choice you have to skate to it. But I think with the music you don't like as much it's still possible to create a very good program.

You're here alone now, without your coach, for the whole tour?
Yes, right after the Europeans I took a flight from Zagreb to Zurich, while my coach went back home. My English is still not good, but I managed. Surprisingly I was able to understand everything and to answer when needed, even though I was very tired because I only slept for two hours the last night I spent in Zagreb. Maybe I should do this more often, not get enough sleep? Maybe it helps my English? (laughs) In general I understand when they talk to me, and I know what to say, but somehow I can't say it. Well, if I need it, Max Trankov will help me; he is not afraid to talk. Katia Bobrova too, she claims: "I don't care if I don't say something right, but I understand and can express myself." I can't be like this yet.

You're probably the youngest one in the cast.
Yes, I am. But I don't really feel that. I am here as an equal. I think it's a bit different with figure skaters; you always try to reach out for those who are better, higher than you. You follow them and see yourself on the high level too eventually, even if in fact you're younger.

How do you communicate with your peers then? Don't they seem too small to you?
No, girls at school don't look small, and they are becoming more feminine now. But they see one world and I see an absolutely different one. At school about half of the pupils are athletes and the other half are not. So athletes live in a totally different world. But I'm in touch with everyone, I'm a very communicative person, I'm liked by all.

So during Europeans did your class watch you? Cheer for you?
Not everyone. I'm not even sure all of them knew about it. Some are just not interested and I'm not talking about it much either, I don't like to "promote" myself. I prefer it to be more private, but those who, in my opinion, had to know about it, they knew, of course.

Don't they have some board at your school with photos of their outstanding and famous pupils?
It's not really a board, but they have my photo at school, yes. They even asked me recently to bring them something more updated. But I'm so busy that I haven't had time to do even that yet.

They don't see you that often at school, do they? Maybe they asked you to bring that photo so they don't forget what you look like!
(laughs) Exactly so! Well, this year it is different as we have finals and I want to pass them successfully.

And what is next? University?
Yes, I want to attend the Russian State University of Physical Education. I want to fulfill my dream to become the coach, to follow in my coach's footsteps.

I would like to finish with something I wondered about when I was preparing for this talk, watching and reading your recent interviews. You said in one of them that it's still too early to write you off or something like that. Why would someone young like you even think that people are writing you off? Your whole life is ahead of you!
You see, last year my Grand Prix events didn't go that well but I still medaled in both, this season I was third and fifth, I didn't qualify for the Final, while I knew it was definitely within my power. That's when I said not to write me off, said that I will show what I'm capable of. I clearly remember that [interview]. Because when you perform poorly, they probably start thinking that something is wrong with you, they are already looking for your replacement. At least these are the thoughts that come to your mind. And when you don't skate well at one competition, second, third one, you expect that they will start talking about that.

But who are they? Fans? Your federation?
No, the federation is the opposite I think, they will support me, because they know I'm doing everything I can to skate well. And I'm very grateful to the fans that believe in me, support me, and stand with the flags at the competitions. It is really nice to feel that. These are just the thoughts I'm having sometimes. I was having. But I don't have them now; I know nobody is writing me off. I just need to prove that with my performances. And in the first place my rivals shouldn't write me off. On the other hand, maybe this way it's even better. For example, they could think...

"We shouldn't worry, she has troubles with her short program this season..."
...and then in Zagreb I came on the ice and had such a great short program. So beware!
And yes, you're right that my whole life is ahead of me, but when you're in this sport for so many years already, when you grow in it, sometimes it feels like everything is already lost. It's not so, of course, just stupid thoughts I had in my head. I won't have them anymore.


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