Ivett Toth: Hungary's new breath of talent
January 27, 2015
By Melinda Sandor and Csaba Suba
Photos © Ivett T├│th, J├║lia G├│r-Sebesty├ęn, Daphne Heij
Ivett Tóth is only 16 and already a two-time Hungarian senior figure skating champion. She has earned the bronze medal in Graz this year and she has certainly been noticed by the judges, landing a perfect triple flip-triple toe loop combination in her short program. Ever since Júlia Sebestyén has retired, we’ve been waiting for a talented Hungarian skater to show up, and now Júlia’s student is starting her way to the top by earning a medal at her first senior competition.
As we know, your father took you skating for the first time. Did he ever think that his decision will have this kind of impact on your life?
I can’t be grateful enough to my parents for all I have now. They noticed my talent early on, because they are gym teachers. They know me very well and are able to tell what I can really do. I am sure they don’t regret giving me an athlete’s life; however, we have had a few difficult situations.
Tell me about your usual day.
I get up at 5:30 AM and start my ice training at 7 AM. After this I go to school (Babits Mihály Gimnázium – ed.), where I spend 2 hours before my 11:30 AM training. Then I have ballet or a stretching lesson with Anna Gellén from 1 PM or an off ice training with Bianka Juhász. I usually finish my day at 4 PM and go home to study. Saturday is a day off when I sleep and try to study more. I don’t have much free time.
In April 2014, you started training with Júlia Sebestyén (European Champion of 2004). What has changed in your training schedule?
I have more ballet classes and off ice training. Besides that I work on clean edges once or twice a week with Attila Elek. My training sessions are more planned out and more precise. We work on every movement in a lot of detail. Júlia is very consistent about what we work on and I have to work hard on every little movement. She is taking me very seriously which is new for me, but that’s great. Sometimes I don’t even have to ask for anything; she is giving me what I need. Júlia is also a technical specialist and this is very reassuring, because she knows all the rules and how they are changing.
Tell me about your programs. You’ve skated a previous version of your short program in the exhibition of the 2014 European Championships and I think your long program is from last year, but the choreography for it has been changed.
That’s correct. I had my music from last year and there were so many changes for me this season that we didn’t want to make yet another one. Júlia has also suggested a program to Monti Csárdás, she has experience with this music. Our main goal this season was learning and practicing the technical elements. But I also like the different music choices.
How was your summer? Did you participate in a summer camp?
Yes, I’ve worked in Ljubljana for two weeks with Júlia and Shanetta Folle. Then I’ve worked here in Budapest for two weeks, followed by a one week holiday. After the holiday, we got back to the usual routine.
You don’t have real competition here in Hungary. Does that make it easier for you or not?
It’s easy and difficult at the same time, depending on the aspect. I’ve learned that I can’t underestimate others because I can be overtaken by anyone anytime. That’s why I work hard at every training session. The real motivation comes from within, but I like the Four Nationals Championships (joint Slovak, Czech, Polish and Hungarian national championships - ed.) concept because it gives me a real competitive feeling.
How do you choose your costumes and who creates them? Do you make the dress or the program first?
After we choose the music, we send it to the seamstresses and they make some drafts. We discuss them and after we all agree on the design, they start the actual work. Of course there are little changes during this process. My designers and seamstresses are Adriana Patru and Oxana Szalogub.
What type of boots and blades do you have and who is your sharpener? Does it make any sense to have new boots?
I’ve just got my new boots yesterday. I wore the previous pair for 5 months, but the leather started to tear. Getting used to the new boots takes about two weeks.
Are you excited or nervous at competitions? What stresses you and what calms you down?
I try not to get nervous about a competition until the very last moment. When I start my off ice warm-up, I try to calm myself down. Excitement comes just before the competition, at the ice warm-up session. I’m still learning to cope with it. I try a lot of different techniques to allow myself to remain calm and focused no matter what. I had a stressful situation during a competition once. When I was 9 years old, my music couldn’t be played and I had to skate to someone else’s music. After that I’ve learned to think about such things. Music really helps me to calm down, and having Júlia by my side makes me feel safe.
What does Júlia do just before you take the ice? Do you have any personal lucky ritual or charm?
I don’t have any charm or ritual. Júlia’s support depends on what she thinks I may need at the moment. For example, my ice warm-up before the free skate in Graz wasn’t that good, so after the first minute she called me to the board and gave me the proper push.
You’ve earned a medal in Graz, finishing ahead of Alena Leonova and Nicole Rajicova. How did you feel skating on the same ice with them? Did that make you feel more stressed or motivated? Did you even hope to win a medal?
Even if Brad Pitt was skating on the ice next to me, I wouldn’t care. I only concentrate on my own program because it is very difficult to execute. If I thought who I’m up against, my performance would be worse. I am motivated to perform the perfect program. I didn’t think about the medal, it was only the cherry on top. I didn’t even have an exhibition program because we didn’t think I would earn a medal.
You competed as a junior just a week ago, and now you came to a senior competition. How did you manage this?
It was planned. After the competition in Zagreb (JGP Croatia Cup 2014 – ed.) I was working with a half minute longer free skate - we added a step sequence at the end of the program.
How do you analyze you scores and levels?
Well executed triples and level 4 spins come first. When we stabilize them, we’ll also work more on the step sequences. In addition we discuss every program because it is important to know what needs to be fixed.
We saw you do more combination jumps. Do you work on the popular 2A+3T or 3T+3T combinations?
I practice both of them with very good success rate and I also try 3F-1Lo-3S, 3S-1Lo-3S and 3Lz-1Lo-3S combinations. We try to maximize the possibilities given by the rules, so we include the jumps that can give me higher scores for a program.
Do you have a favorite choreographer?
I didn’t even think about it. I don’t think I am mature enough to choose my choreographer, I still have to learn a lot. Júlia’s experience and knowledge are enough to make these choices for me right now.
Do you have a role model - except Júlia?
My motto is to work humbly like a Japanese, hard like a Russian and perform like an American. When I was little, I liked Sasha Cohen and even learned her split-jump. I watched a lot of jumps by Patrick Chan and Alexei Yagudin, and I also liked Mao Asada’s triple axel. I can give a lot more examples, but nowadays my role model is Adelina Sotnikova. She is perfect from every aspect.
Do you follow competitions?
Yes, when I have the time. I watch all disciplines and I can say there is a lot to learn from the guys. Javier Fernández has great programs this season.
Your long term shot is to qualify for the 2018 Olympics. What other plans do you have?
My most important goal is to execute a triple-triple jump in my free skate - Lutz-toe loop or flip-toe loop - and to have a stable triple loop. I would like to improve my performance and my edges. These are the key ones because they are the base of everything else. I want to perform great at the 2015 European Championships. My ultimate goal is to do everything I am capable of. And then? We’ll see (smiles).
Are you going to the Junior Worlds after the Europeans?
What about the Senior Worlds?
I’ve qualified. If they want me to, I’ll go.