Deniss and Stéphane work on "pies"

June 8, 2017
By Reut Golinsky
Photo © Reut Golinsky

"Hello..." "Nice to see you..." "How are you?" ..."It's a beautiful day outside!"... "No sun, raining, a bit cold..." "Today is the first of April..."
Deniss Vasiļjevs and Stéphane Lambiel are sitting with me in the press room of the Hartwall Arena in Helsinki and fooling with my voice recorder. Suddenly I'm having a flashback: the Youth Olympic Games in Innsbruck, in a fully packed bus, and with fifteen minutes till we reached the rink, this is all the time I have to finish The Interview of My Life. I was working so hard to prepare it; it was supposed to be The Interview which would sum up Stéphane's competitive career. Unfortunately he just wasn't in the mood for a serious talk; instead he was making funny voices and talking into my recorder, in Russian. Five years later it is he who says "OK, that's enough" after a few minutes of silliness. And even though he'll deny it afterwards, I believe becoming a coach did make him grow up, at least a little bit.

As Stéphane and I already have a tradition of doing "interviews of a different type" this time we started with something different again. Both of the skaters have mentioned in various interviews that they love baking, which leads me to the idea of "pie charts." Stéphane and Deniss each gets a page with a few circles divided into sectors. I name pairs of opposite or completing concepts, and they will need - without looking at each other's answers - to divide the circle or "pie" into slices in proportional quantity to what they feel about those concepts or to how those concepts are present in their lives. Although I don't require being exact, they start counting the number of sectors in each circle - "Oh, yes, we're always precise with Deniss, we're masters of precision." Both of them being perfectionists is not news, and there will be more predictable answers during this task, but some unexpected things are about to happen too. And here is a challenge for you: if you feel like you know the guys well, try to guess their answers before you check how they answered.

Some concepts are easier, some require more explanations. The first two pairs - "athlete/artist" and "performer/creator" are answered quickly. (Deniss: "Full circles, both of them!" Stéphane: "Yeah, that's what I think too!").
The third one - "emotions/intellect" - prompts discussion.

Deniss: Do you mean: control or emotions? Because intellect, I mean, you always need an intellect, right?

For example, when you make a decision, does it come from emotions or from your mind?

Stéphane: Heart or brain?

Not "or", it can be both.

Stéphane: OK, but in which function? Because as a coach I'm more...

In your life, in general, try to define it overall.

Deniss: (thinking out loud) Emotions or brain? Of course, it's always supposed to be the brain, but emotions sometimes overcome.

Well, there are people who always go after emotions, there is no correct answer here, right?

Deniss: Of course, but that's what I think...

Eventually they make their choice and we continue to the next pair - "talent" vs "hard work."

What percentage of these does one need to have to succeed?

Deniss: That's an easy question. Actually a talented person is not a person who can do something well, it's a person who can educate himself to do everything well.

I still think we're not really equal from birth, and that there are people who are more talented in certain areas...

Deniss: For example, for some skaters it's easier to land jumps because they are shorter?
Stéphane: Don't compare yourself!
Deniss: I'm not comparing. I'm working.

"If you look at your life as a whole, how will you divide it between on ice and off ice?"
The answers are filled in without additional questions, although some interesting stuff will come up when we compare results afterwards.

Number six - "celebrity or just a regular person"? For example, now, here you're definitely celebrities. How much of your time does it take "being a celebrity"?

Deniss: Ah, when you're just by yourself, normal as you are or...
Stéphane: ... on "celebrity mode".
Deniss: I'm never on celebrity mode! I'm only myself. (Thinks about it a bit more and starts drawing) Here I'm smiling when I don't want to smile, and here I'm not smiling when I don't want to smile. (Stéphane and I laugh at this definition).

And the last one - "child or grown up" is not so much about the actual age, but more about your inner feeling...

Deniss: (talking to himself while colouring the segments) That's a super hard one... I'm not counting myself "fully" child because sometimes I can organize myself, in certain things, at least to say "no" to things I want, so let's say I'm not completely a kid.

Now we can compare. Pages are shared in the middle of the table and we go over the "pies" and concepts again.

I already can see something very interesting - the coach is more child than his student! (Stéphane laughs) What else is very different let's see.

Stéphane: What was the first one? "Athlete" - I said 25%, Deniss said a bit more than one third (Deniss coloured 4.5 sectors out of 12).

"Creator" is...

Stéphane: Fifty/fifty.

Stéphane: Talent is... twenty percent, the same.

Stéphane: He is more "intellect" than "emotions", and I'm more "emotions".

Deniss: I think that emotions have to be controlled.
Stéphane: You're definitely more "intellect".
Deniss: I'm a very emotional person.
Stéphane: No, I'm definitely more emotional than you are.
Deniss: I really like to organize my emotions by the brain, I see it as my weakness that I cannot always control what I do without analysis, but I'm trying to.
Stéphane: For sure! The next one is "on and off ice experiences"?

Deniss: I put more "off ice"...
Stéphane: Yeah, me too...
Deniss: Because off ice...
Stéphane: more important.
Deniss: Basically "on ice" is only our result of everything what we do off ice, where the basis comes from.
Stéphane: True, completely true.

That's interesting, I would say that any training you do off ice is "for the ice", so it should be a part of "on ice" in the diagram but...

Stéphane:, but everything you live...

But when Deniss draws, for example...

Stéphane: All experiences off ice are helping your skating, all of them.
Deniss: My life is figure skating now, everything I do is basically to be ready for the training, to be better.

Stéphane: Number six is the same.
Deniss: In six I put a bit because sometimes I have to smile.
Stéphane: OK, I'm old enough to just be who I am.
Deniss: But I don't really think that it's so visible, because... actually you have to put one, because... (hints to something that I can't understand, but Stéphane does)
Stéphane: Yeah, but no... That's not celebrity mode, that is diplomacy. So it's "normal" 90% of the time and 10% for "diplomacy".
Deniss: In that way I don't have to put anything at all, most of the time even while being diplomatic I'm myself.

And then "child/grown up"...

Deniss: I'm more child because I still have...

No, Stéphane is more child than you! He is 100% child!

Deniss: I disagree with that! He can take care of me!
Stéphane: OK, but I'm very... Can I say that I'm a 100% child but (writes it down near the chart) a very responsible child?
Deniss: In that way I'm completely child, without any responsibilities.
Stéphane: Because I'm responsible for you...
Deniss: Exactly! That's why I see you as an adult, because you can take care of me! And that's not childish. And although you like chocolate you still can...
Stéphane: ...make a nice soup...
Deniss: ...make yourself not to eat chocolate all the time. And you're taking care of what we're eating, although you yourself maybe prefer to eat more chocolate. You're taking care of all the plans...
Stéphane: Does self-control make you an adult?
Deniss: Yes, because it's one of the steps to educate yourself and grow up. You're educating me, that's also...
Stéphane: Adult is someone that doesn't need assistance... Well, no, it's not true. I don't know what an adult is actually...
Deniss: You can do everything by yourself and you can take care of someone else, that's why I think that you are already a very responsible adult, not a kid.
Stéphane: Yes, I am. Especially when we sing out loud in a Helsinki park!
Deniss: That was fun.
Stéphane: Come on, I was not very adult there.
Deniss: Who said adults are not enjoying life?

Go to Part II

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