Latvia's Angelina Kuchvalska breaks through to the big arena

February 16, 2015
By Ia Remmel
Photos © Ia Remmel, Joy Geurts

It looks like Latvia is going to be a country to pay attention to in the future of figure skating. In January, sixteen year old Angelina Kuchvalska had a very successful debut at the European Championships, finishing in 7th place. It was preceded by good results at the Junior Grand Prix events and by becoming the national champion in December. Additionally, she recently placed 5th at the Youth Olympic Festival in Austria just before the European Championships.
Angelina lives in Latvia's capital Riga and her training platform has always been located there as well. She currently belongs to the skating club Kaskads and her coach is Ekaterina Platonova.
I had a talk with her and her coach at the Tallinn Junior Grand Prix. Some details were added after Angelina's successful debut at the European Championships.  In our talk, they revealed some details about her background, training habits, Angelina's programs and skating in Latvia

You are doing really well this season. How long have you worked together with your coach Ekaterina?
Angelina: It has now been almost thirteen years since I started working with her. She is my one and only coach.

At the moment, you're competing at the top level and attending big competitions but at what age did you begin figure skating and how did it happen?
Angelina: It started when I was three and a half years old. My mother took me skating because I was a very restless child at home and my parents decided that I should do some sport.

When did you feel that figure skating was something  you wanted to do and succeed at?
Angelina: Actually I liked skating right from the beginning. All these years I didn't get bored and decided that it was something I wanted to do. I had a strong feeling inside that I would not stop skating.

What exactly do you like about skating?
Angelina: First of all I enjoy performing! And I like to create programs, try different things, different styles and dances.

Do you practice ballet as well?
Angelina: I practiced it more earlier... now, not so much.
Ekaterina Platonova: Angelina practices ballet in parallel with choreography with her choreographer.

Let's speak about the programs. Your short program's music is “Carmen Suite” and your performance is really striking and memorable!
Ekaterina Platonova: Angelina often has temperamental, active roles in her programs. For example, our programs so far have been Carmen, Tango and the Ukrainian national dance. She has an impetuous nature and active themes with a lot of character suit her well.

You have such a dazzling costume for your short program as well, a tutu!
Angelina: We decided on that in consultation with my coach and dressmaker. My coach has seen another skater wearing this kind of skirt and thought it would work well. First we planned just an ordinary dress for my short but then we decided to change it to the current one.
Meanwhile at Europeans, Angelina changed her tutu back to the ordinary skirt because she and her coach wanted her to portray a more mature Carmen.

Would you like to say anything about the free program?
Ekaterina Platonova: It's a tango to the music “El Tango de Roxanne” from the “Moulin Rouge” soundtrack. We changed it a bit and added a slow section from Nino Rota's “Romeo and Juliet” soundtrack. We are, in general, very pleased about the choice because it suits her temperament and femininity and she can express this kind of music in the best way.

How do you make your music choices?
Angelina: My coach chooses all my music. Of course I can always tell if I like it or not.
Ekaterina Platonova: We often test selected music. Angelina improvises to it and we see whether we can come up with something. Angelina is actively taking part in creating programs; she has a rich fantasy and she adds a lot of her own ideas to the programs.

In figure skating the most challenging are always the jumps. What feelings do you have when faced with them?
Angelina: I think every skater feels nervous when she is going to take a jump and asks herself: ‘can I do it?' In competitions there are moments when I have thoughts like ‘anything but a fall!'. But on the other hand we learn jumps at a very young age and they stay in our muscle memory.



When I watch you skating you seem calm and fearless.

Angelina: I am not a very jittery person. Sometimes I feel more nervous but it's rare.
Ekaterina Platonova: In training we are strict and I don't let Angelina give up even when there are days when something doesn't work. We try to overcome fear and not to show it. You must be strict, keep trying and I always say – it must be done! When you start to comfort your skater and show her too much compassion, she becomes sloppy and in the end starts to fear jumps.

Which spins are your favorites
Angelina: Mine is the layback spin.
Ekaterina Platonova: Angelina is by nature very flexible. That allows her to try and perform successfully many complicated positions. I'd say that it's easy to train her because she learns everything very fast. We can also try and test different elements and new positions.

What plans do you have with regard to the technical aspect? Angelina has already performed the triple toe loop-toe loop combo and the double Axel-triple toe loop combination.
Ekaterina Platonova: We have practiced the triple Lutz–triple toe loop combo and hope to try it in a senior tournament. Angelina's age permits her to compete in the seniors. So we hope to show that technique soon.
The only thing that we miss is more ice time. We can practice 1–2 hours a day and it's not enough for her to be steady and solid technically. It needs to be practiced into the body.

Do you have idols or favorite skaters?
Angelina: I like Russian skater girls, Adelina Sotnikova, Julia Lipnitskaia... all of them.

Do you keep track of other skating disciplines? What do you like there, men's skating, pairs?
Angelina: I watch men but I just don't have a favourite. I like Russian skaters and in pairs I like Volosozhar and Trankov.

I believe you don't have much spare time but what do you like to do?
Angelina: I'm occupied by school and if I can, I go out with friends.
Ekaterina Platonova: Meanwhile she has learned to play the guitar...
Angelina: Yes, I did, but now  unfortunately I had to drop out because practising sport at a very high level doesn't leave me much spare time for it.



A
question to you Ekaterina – Latvia is quite a “young” country in figure skating. How is the current situation in figure skating in Latvia? You have such an explosion of young talents right now – also a very talented boy, Denis Vasiljevs.
Ekaterina Platonova: Yes, he is a very talented skater and I hope he gets good results soon in senior competitions!
Latvia has some promising young female skaters too. Lately, many ice arenas have been built in Latvia – that is important as it gives people the possibility to develop this sport. Of course figure skating is a very expensive sport and demands a lot from the skaters' parents. It's hard to get individual ice time and many times you must practice on public ice, where there are 15–20 skaters on the ice at the same time. But now at least you have a possibility to go to an ice arena, pay and get ice time.
For us it is also very important that we can go abroad to skating camps and seminars. The ISU is doing a lot in that sense; especially useful are the development camps. PreviouslyAngelina has been in the Budapest and Brno camps. There you can develop new emotions, new ideas. Also from a technical standpoint it is very important to skate with your competitors, your peers. This kind of sparring helps you a lot to grow as a skater.
The ISU coaching seminars are highly appreciated. We gain very valuable knowledge. Before, for instance, we had almost no one to teach triple jumps and now, we are able to do it. With Angelina we didn't even look for external help and she learned all her jumps at home with me. I can't say it was easy because in my work practice Angelina is the first pupil with such high abilities, but with educational help we managed to do it.

It looks like everything is done very well and Angelina gets good marks for her jumps.
I hope so. And Angelina is of course a big natural talent, she has all the abilities that are needed to skate well and achieve good results.

Angelina said that she was so excited to perform at the European Championships in Stockholm. “Of course I was a bit nervous but deep in my heart, I felt that everything was going to be ok. The audience was fantastic; they gave to every skater such strong support and it was a pleasure to perform for them and for the judges.” Angelina's next competition is the World Championships in Shanghai. As her coach says, they want to prepare well, maintaining this positive outcome from Stockholm.








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