Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov: "Life without a goal doesn't have a meaning"

September 30, 2016
By Reut Golinsky
Photo © Anna Bertoloni

When I learned that during the "Ice Legends" show in Geneva I have a chance to talk to these decorated Russian champions, naturally, I grabbed it. But they were coming from their least successful season, after placing sixth at Worlds; it was also clear that their off season has just started and they still haven't decided how they plan to continue from there. That's why we ended up talking mostly about the show, their "Masquerade" program they revived especially for this occasion, and just about life. So don't expect any scoops and news in this talk, but I hope you will learn something new about this couple, thoughts that bothered them and their aspirations.

Tania, last time you were here too, but only as a guest, unfortunately. What were your impressions?

Tatiana: Last time it was St├ęphane's first show, and because we're very close friends I wanted to support him. I know how scrupulous and reverential St├ęphane is about every single detail [in this show] - what everyone is doing on the ice, what and how everything is done off the ice. He wants to organize everything and wants everything to be perfect. I don't know, maybe there was something he didn't like last time, maybe there were some moments they fixed towards this edition, but I only had very positive impressions. The atmosphere was amicable and joyful. And now too, the atmosphere is very nice, our entire team is very tight-knit, we all were friends since the times we all competed and we hang out together now, when we perform in shows. After the World championships we wanted to relax, have fun, spend some time with our friends and perform well. All the more so because we will skate "Masquerade", which is loved and anticipated by so many people. And after the show we have a very important mission: we'll meet with the representatives of the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, and we will hand over our costumes to be exhibited there.

Of course, we all were glad to learn that you will show this program again. I remember that after Olympic Games you mentioned in some interview that you don't want to skate your Olympic programs again, they are too close to your heart.

Maxim: To tell the truth I am very concerned about skating it, because it's hard to skate this program on a smaller rink (the ice surface in Vernets was smaller because of VIP parterre - ed.) This waltz impresses only when it is skated exactly to the music and with a good speed. We worked on every single element to be precisely to the music and you can't be late even for a fraction of a second, that's why it is difficult to skate it on a non-standard rink. And it's not because this program is our favourite or the winning one that we didn't want to skate it again, it's just we didn't want to perform it poorly. But St├ęphane really wanted it for his show, and for a long time I refused (smiles). Last year I let him down a bit when I couldn't take part in his first show (due to injury and surgery - ed.), that's why in the end I said: "OK". But this is a one-time exception.
Tatiana: We couldn't say "no" to St├ęphane. And we had to bring these costumes for the museum anyway.
Maxim: Hence it was a suitable moment, yes.

How was it for you to get back to this program?

Tatiana: This program is so vivid and I love it so much that it was really easy for me to recall it. Sometimes it's not the case with our old programs, I forget the movements. Maxim asks: "Do you remember we did this and that?" - "Honestly? I don't!" But with "Masquerade" everything went really easy, smoothly and naturally. When we stayed in the States after the Worlds we worked with our physiotherapist and had time to recall it.

I had this question for you for a long time already. A few years ago we had an interview with you in Oberstdorf, it was that season when you skated the "Black Swan" program. And when I mentioned that the movie had a bad ending, you, Maxim, objected by saying that the heroine fulfilled her biggest dream no matter the price she paid for it, so from your point of view it was a happy ending. And you added that if you win at Olympics you're ready, like her, to fall from the podium and die. I remember thinking back then what might happen if you don't win. Sometimes it's frightening when a person is so focused on his goal.

Tatiana: But when a person doesn't have a goal, I think, his life doesn't have a meaning. Whether you reach it or not... But you're trying to do it, maybe it takes your whole life.
Maxim: Maybe you never reach your goal, but you will know that you did everything you could. Of course, happy are those who pursue their goal their whole life and in the end they succeed. But those who didn't, whatever the reason might be - someone was stronger or luckier - and they know they did everything in their power, still will feel a certain satisfaction. It was the same for us with the last World championships, we left no stone unturned during our preparations toward it. People don't know everything, but we had a lot of obstacles. For example, just three days before the competitions we changed our blades, because the old ones broke...
We were upset with our performance, but we know that we shouldn't blame ourselves. We did everything possible, worked really hard, headed for the good results. Psychologically maybe it wasn't easy, but we worked, worked, worked. We are honest with ourselves, we did our best to perform well.
Tatiana: But we don't feel like talking about it, to tell the truth. We don't like to find excuses why something didn't work out... But it were not us in Boston... I don't know who skated there, but it wasn't me...
Maxim: It's just an example that not always you get to your goal...
Tatiana: And then you need another goal...

Luckily back then in Sochi you reached your ultimate goal and didn't need to die afterwards. The question is if you have such a goal now? Your next goal? Or was it a completely fulfilling experience for you?

Tatiana: Yes, now the motivation is different. Sometimes there is a slump, and sometimes there is a rise. You feel you're standing at a crossroads: do I need this at all? And this is what's impeding our preparation, our good performance at competitions. This is how I see it. You need to make up your mind: to forget everything at all and to find a new motivation for the Olympic Games as if medals from Sochi never existed. But it's hard to be at a crossroads...

A question not related to figure skating: I've got an impression that you're among a few sportsmen who are real celebrities in Russia. It's a detached viewpoint based on your interviews, photo reports and different articles in Russian media. Or based on the titles like "a couple of the year" which you acquired recently if I'm not mistaken. Do you feel like celebrities?

Tatiana: Probably it's still an "echo" from our victory in Sochi.
Maxim: Actually it's only a small portion of all the invitations we get. We're constantly invited to various projects and events. But it's impossible to take part in everything, especially when we were training and preparing for the competitions. You would have seen a lot more publications if we were retired.
Tatiana: Yes, we decline a lot of offers.
Maxim: Maybe the interest in us is so high also because people need some beautiful story...

And yours is definitely very beautiful...

Maxim: But we don't gain from it that much. Probably if we were living in a different country we could've had many contracts with sponsors and could've earned some good money. But in Russia it's less common. When you're on the cover of some magazine it's a nice feeling, but it's easier for us to earn money with our skating.

But for example to be named "a couple of the year" was nice, wasn't it?

Maxim: Actually, it was about that date itself. We agreed to take part in this only because it was on February 18th and it was exactly half a year since our wedding. We just thought it was an amusing coincidence.

Do you plan to stay in the public eye when you retire?

Tatiana: I think this will stay with us for a long time (smiles)
Maxim: It is hard to keep a low profile at once, when you're known and people are talking about you and then suddenly to change everything. I think it should change gradually. Or it can stay. I dream to become involved more in TV and in figure skating, in development of figure skating on TV. Something like what Dmitry Guberniev does for the biathlon now in Russia. My dream, if this would be possible, is to make a documentary series, to travel in different countries and show how people train there. For example, how they do it in Switzerland, to tell more about St├ęphane's school. Or even in Russia, we have so many skating schools, I would like to tell about their needs, to show people how this works for parents - is it easier or harder for them - in various regions. I think it might be interesting and I would've been glad to do something like this. I have all these ideas for which I need to be a public figure in Russia, that's why we don't plan to completely stop participating in various media projects.

Since you mentioned this - I know you were in Champ├ęry, did you visit St├ęphane's school? Or were there no lessons when you've been there?

Maxim: There were no lessons. We saw the rink, it was just across the street from where we stayed. But from St├ęphane we know how he organized everything there, how he invited the team he worked with himself [when he competed].
Tatiana: Maybe someday we will come to help too.
Maxim: Yes, he is really worried about the state of figure skating in Switzerland, he would like to have pairs skaters too. He even asked me to maybe create for him some pair to compete for Switzerland.

The last question is also not about figure skating. I'm really interested in photography and couldn't miss your talent for this, Maxim. I'm certainly not the first one who says this to you. Did you ever consider to move from iPhone camera to something more serious?

Maxim: (smiles) No, I will never do this. You see, I've already had all this in my life - SLR cameras, expensive lenses - and all this traveled in my bag. And then I saw that all these things are useless, I will take photos with my phone anyway. To carry the camera with me, to process the photos on the computer - all this is not for me. I had this in the past, I still have lots of CDs and flash drives with all these photos and I don't even know where which photos are. And with your phone you take photos, scroll over them and create an album. I don't even save them, don't have them on my phone, I publish and delete from phone at once.

So you don't plan to do something more serious with it? For example, I really loved a photo of the rainbow you posted just recently...

Maxim: It's just filters, there is no talent in this. I just took a photo from my window. I don't think I have some special talent for this. I always explain to Tania and Nina Mikhailovna (Mozer) when they suggest I do this: when I do something, I just try to do it well. And if I can't do something well, I won't do it. You know, there are amazing photographers in Instagram. My friend from Perm works for National Geographic, and he has only 200 subscribers...

Tania and Maxim's tentative plan, when we talked, was to take a six months break from the sport, to perform in shows and with fresh thoughts and motivation start season 2016/17 at Russian Nationals. But a few days ago the big news came out: they are expecting. And while Tania will be off the ice for some time she persuaded Maxim to take part in Ilia Averbukh's reality TV show "Ice Age", which premieres this coming Saturday. Tania is due in February so they still have time to get prepared for the Games in 2018. No doubt it will be a big challenge, but also no doubt it will help them to find a new motivation they lacked recently. Of course, nothing is sure yet, except that they will be missed now and will be welcome both in competitions and galas, whatever road they decide to choose when they are back.
We're wishing good luck to Maxim with his partner for the show, singer Yulianna Karaulova; and a happy healthy pregnancy to Tania.

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