Evgeni Krasnopolski and Andrea Davidovich, first Israeli pair at Winter Olympics

February 11, 2014
By Reut Golinsky
Photo © Ksenia Nurtdinova, Reut Golinsky, Tanya Drubetskaya
Special thanks to Tanya Drubetskaya for the help with this interview.

Evgeni (Zhenya) Krasnopolski and Andrea (Anya) Davidovich were among the best surprises for me at the European championships, and perhaps of the whole season so far. This newly minted Israeli pair made their international debut at the 2013 U.S. International Classic last September. At their next event, 2013 Nebelhorn Trophy, in a tough fight they placed 10th and earned Israel its first ever pairs' entry at the Olympics. They skated off with the gold at the Golden Spin of Zagreb in December. And in January, at Europeans, they were seventh, a very decent result for a team which is less than a year old.
We met after the competition to get acquainted and talk about their team, programs and plans.

Ladies first. Anya, tell us about you. How did you start skating? When did you join the Israeli team? But first, is it Anya or Andrea?

Anya: (smiles) Andrea is my official name, the name I have on my passport, but my whole life everybody has called me "Anya".
I started skating when I was 5 years old. Until I was eleven I skated closer to my home, in Livingston, NJ. Then I changed rinks a few times, and two years ago I came to the "Ice House" in Hackensack. All of the Israeli skaters train there; Zhenya was there, ice dancers too. Since I got Israeli citizenship a few years before that, I could represent Israel, which I did at the novice level. And I was very proud; to represent this country is an honor for me.
A year later I was asked to try pairs. To tell the truth, I always dreamed about skating pairs, so last March my dream finally came true when I started to skate with Zhenya.

About Zhenya I know a bit more: I know that you were also in singles first and that you started in Israel.

Evgeni: We came to Israel when I was three years old. And I trained in Metula until I was twenty (in "Canada Center", sports and recreational center which provides various sports facilities including squash rooms, a basketball court, a swimming pool and the only Olympic sized rink in Israel - ed.).
We were living in Kiryat Shmona (a small city in the northern part of Israel, not far from Metula - ed). I loved swimming, so I went there, but not at first to the ice rink. But once I entered the rink and skated a bit, I liked it. My father wanted me to play hockey, my mother was for figure skating. For half a year I tried both, and then at some point, I even don't remember how and why exactly, I chose to continue with figure skating.
To tell the truth I didn't learn that much in Israel... I went to the U.S. as a single skater, and for a year I skated with Mr. Peter Burrows; Tamar Katz (2005, 2007, and 2008 Israeli national champion) was also working with him. Then I moved to Delaware, to Slava Uchitel...
And then this idea emerged to move to pair skating. I saw that in single skating I couldn't progress and I was debating about what to do... I said [to my federation]: "I'm leaving single skating", and I went home to Israel to rest for two-three weeks. And then practically at the airport on my way back to the States they told me: "You go to that rink and you will skate with Danielle [Montalbano], we'll see if it works out". And so I went...

Can you compare skating singles to pairs.

Anya: I think it's much harder to skate pairs because there are so many [different] elements. Yes, we only have two jumps, but we have twists and lifts, you need to know how to land the throws from such a great height. But the thing I love the most in pairs is that I'm not alone on the ice, I have someone with me, and I have someone to hold hands with while we skate together.
Evgeni: I'm glad that [in pairs] I don't need to jump so much, it's easier for me to throw than to jump. (laughs)
Anya: And for me it's the opposite - throws are harder...

Talking about elements, I see that you've mastered the triple toe loop. In your long program you also had a double Salchow-double Axel sequence. Are you training the triple Salchow? And why not double Axel-double Axel instead?

Evgeni: Our triple Salchow is still not ready to be in the program for a competition, so we prefer to skate it clean with the double at the moment. And then maybe we'll go with the double Axel, or toe loop, we still don't know.

Which throws do you have?

Anya: Triple loop and triple Salchow.

And you also already have a triple twist.

Both: Yes.

But how?! It is so surprising; you progressed so quickly! What is your secret?

Anya: We worked a lot.
Evgeni: We worked so much, the whole summer, sometimes without weekends and days off. Everybody around us took vacations, but we didn't. Even when my sister got married in Israel I only went for two days.
Anya: And of course we have our wonderful coaches and the support we get from our federation. We couldn't do anything without them.
Evgeni: Yes, we have a very good team. Galya, Gena...

Galya is Galit Chait, I guess. And Gena is Gennadi Krasnitski, your coach? How did you start working together?

Anya: When we first started, for two weeks, Zhenya was teaching me the lifts, and we tried the throws...

And two weeks were enough?

Evgeni: To tell the truth one day was enough. When we started skating I could see it would work out.
Anya: We started with the lifts immediately. Also I didn't want to learn single throws. We didn't have time and it was painful, because it was too high and you don't rotate enough. So we tried doubles at once. Of course, in the beginning they were two footed, and I didn't understand why he was so excited about it. (laughs)
Evgeni: For three weeks we skated on our own. We skated in a different rink, closer to her home. We agreed with our federation that it would be better to start at a smaller rink which was less crowded, because in Hackensack it's usually us and four ice dance couples. For a new pair team it's even a bit dangerous to start skating with all of them on the ice. We needed some experience together to not "get lost" among them.
Anya: Also we didn't want to start rumors and discussion about us before things were decided.
Then we got a call asking us to be ready and come on Sunday to the rink in Hackensack to meet our coach, Gena. And after the meeting it was just: "OK, 7:00 tomorrow you're coming to your practice here".

So, Zhenya, when you parted ways with Danielle, you also parted with Kyoko Ina.

Evgeni: Yes, these things happened together.

Ok, what was next?

Anya: A week after that we went to Israel. Nationals were there, and they invited us to be in the gala. In three days Galit choreographed a program for us which we didn't have time to modify (the rink used by the Israeli federation at the moment is smaller than the standard- ed). This was in March. And when we came back to U.S. in April, we'd already started with triple throws.
Our first competition was in mid-July in Pennsylvania, it was a very small competition, and there were only two pairs - the Estonian pair and us. They won. Our short program was more or less OK, but the long fell apart. Well, it was our first time.
Evgeni: There was also a competition at our rink, then we competed in New York, and after that we went to Salt Lake City, to the U.S. Classic.
Anya: And straight after that we went to Germany, [to Nebelhorn Trophy].

Did you expect to qualify there?

Anya: It was not our goal, we were not thinking about it. We just wanted to skate our programs as clean as we could.

Who created your programs?

Evgeni: Galit and Gena did it together.

Who creates your costumes?

Anya: We have a seamstress who works with all the skaters on our team.
Evgeni: She is the daughter of the seamstress who works with Maxim Trankov and Tania Volosozhar (Elena Danilova, very famous seamstress who worked with many Russian skaters, including Oksana Grishuk and Anjelika Krylova - ed).

Who chose the music for your programs?

Evgeni: Anya chose for the short program, and I did for the long.
Anya: We listened to a lot of melodies, sending messages to each other: "Do you like this? Do you like that?" And he didn't like anything! (laughs) Because he loves more soulful music and I love the faster ones. In the end, everyone contributed ideas for the long program.
Evgeni: We decided that "Romeo and Juliet" is a good choice; also I had wanted to skate to it for quite some time.
Anya: We have three parts. The first one is from the film (Nino Rota's score), the second one is from Prokofiev's ballet, and the third one is Edvin Marton's ["Stradivarius"]. Zhenya loves the first part, but I love the middle one more. I adore Prokofiev!
Evgeni: And for the third part we needed some strong music to "push" us forward. If the last part is too slow I can fall asleep which is not good.
Anya: Not good, especially if we're doing a lift! (laughs)
Evgeni: Yes, so I always prefer the last part [of the program] to be more energetic, that last minute and a half you need to work hard.

You have quite a big difference in age (25 and 16). Does it bother you? When they proposed that you try out with Anya were there any thoughts that you didn't want to start with this youngster?

Evgeni: Not at all, we work well together. And there isn't any immaturity with Anya. Also I don't think it really depends on the actual age, you know.

Four more years for sure?

Evgeni: Yes, for sure, 100%.

Let's talk about your families. Are your parents still in Israel, Zhenya?

Evgeni: Yes, but they moved from Kiryat Shmona to Tel Aviv. I'm glad because now it's easier for me when I visit. Twenty minutes from the airport and I'm home, instead of travelling three hours to Kiryat Shmona.

I also read that your sister skated too.

Evgeni: She did when she was little. She skated when we still lived in Ukraine, in Kiev. Of course, I don't remember that. When we came to Israel, she skated a bit, but then stopped due to some problems with her knees.
Anya: My brother never tried to skate. I have a younger brother, he is a musician.
I was born in States, but my parents are from St.Petersburg. They repatriated to Israel and later moved to the U.S. We have a lot of family in Israel - aunts, cousins. My very first visit to Israel was when I was probably three months old.

Your favorite place in Israel?

Anya: At my aunt's, in Bat Yam.

Because you love the sea?

Anya: That too, but also I just love to see all my family.
Evgeni: And if you want to have a good vacation Eilat is the best. But sometimes it's a little bit too hot there.

Your biggest expectation for your trip to Sochi?

Evgeni: Long program, to qualify for the long program.

But what are you looking forward to see, to feel?

Evgeni: First I need to go there, to be there...
Anya: We will fully believe [that we're Olympians] only when we get to Sochi, I think. It helped a bit [to believe that] when we got our Olympic attire, but still.

Practice on the main rink in Sochi

I hope they believe it now and enjoy Sochi. I want to wish them good luck for their short program and for qualifying for the long as they wanted. It is still unbelievable how fast they progressed, doubtless due to their hard work. And if they continue like this the sky's their limit.

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