Meet Sondre Bøe

July 15, 2019
By Reut Golinsky
Photo © Mireille Geurts, Reut Golinsky

Sondre Oddvoll Bøe is a Norwegian figure skater, 2019 Nordic champion and a three-time Norwegian national champion. Fans know and love him for his passionate and sincere performances.
We met after his short program at 2019 European Championships in Minsk and discussed his decision to return training in Norway, his programs, hobbies and more

About moving back home, his favourite movie ever and why he is loved by his fans

You looked very happy after your short program today.

This whole season so far has been very good for me. I've been doing a lot of good short programs but it's a whole new situation to skate at a big arena with so many people. Also, I had to think that I needed to qualify for the free skate. I have the scores for Worlds in the short, but not in the free. So I really had to get to the free here. It's also technically more difficult for me this year because last year I did a triple toe-triple toe combination, this year I do the Lutz-toe, so it was new for me.

It was nice to see such a sincere reaction after your skate. Tell me more about this program. It's very poetic, lyrical and beautiful. Is it a style that you love the most?

Yes, I'm very comfortable with this style of music, I really liked this song before I chose it as my program. I made this program with Mark Pillay, that was new for me as I hadn't worked with him before.
He choreographed for my best friend, Emmi Peltonen. I always liked his work and decided to try something new. I asked him and he wanted to work with me. We really struggled to agree on music, he sent me something and I didn't like it and I sent him something and he didn't like it. Then one day I had to practice early in the morning, I woke up and saw he had emailed me something, but I thought: "I'm too tired to listen now, I'll do it later." And as I was driving to the rink this song ("You Are the Reason" by Calum Scott) was playing on the radio. And then I recalled that I need to check that mail, I checked, and it was that song. It was meant to be! I emailed him right away: "We're doing this!"
I really loved his style of work; he works with the music and the rhythm, and every note is important to him.

Did he choreograph both of your programs?

The free I made a few years ago with my now ex-coach Michael Huth. Last year I had another program and this year I took that one back. I changed it myself, but the basis is from him.
"Les Misérables" (music for FS) is my favorite movie ever. It sounds like I'm 70 but I really like this movie — or musical — and the music itself. When I did it two years ago I never had "the moment" with this program, I never did it really, really well. When we were looking for the music for the free, I had no idea what I wanted to do. First, I thought to do something different because this is closer to my usual style of music. So we were back and forth with various musical pieces and we couldn't decide and then I just texted my coach: "Why not 'Les Misérables' again?" And she said: "That's the best idea I've ever heard!" I got on the ice that day and we fixed it over two days. Luckily, when I did it two years ago, I skated both in juniors and seniors so I already had the perfect cut, I just had to change the order of the technical elements a little bit. And I kept changing things a bit during the season, so this year it worked better than last time.

You mentioned Michael Huth; based on your profile you still continue practicing in Oberstdorf during the off-season. Why did you decide to move back to Norway and what is your arrangement now?

I skated in Germany for three years. I moved there because we don't have the best level of skating in Norway; basically, I'm the only male skater. I wanted to try somewhere else with more boys skating on a higher level. I've skated in Germany every summer since I was eight years old, so I decided to try to move to Oberstdorf and see what happens. Obviously, I also had technical goals, and in the end, I didn't manage to achieve all of them...

It all happened after the Nebelhorn Trophy 2017, which was an Olympic qualifier. I didn't expect to qualify for the Olympics, but I really expected from myself to show that I'm in the competition for it. I was in a very good shape, but I didn't do that well, and it was a very hard situation for me. I felt I had to take some time off, so I went home to Norway and had a week off the ice just to breathe.
My coach in Norway has been my coach since I was three years old, and every time I went home I skated with her and we were still a good team. When I came home and started skating, I felt how I really enjoyed being at home. I am a person who really needs to have people around me; my family and my good friends, they all are in Norway... So during that visit home, after the Nebelhorn Trophy, I really enjoyed it. Then I was back to Oberstdorf to train, but when I was back home for Christmas I decided — I'm not going back, I'm staying. I talked to Mr. Huth about that and it was OK with him. I kept in touch with him and this last summer I was there to skate for a few weeks, and then I went to Italy to skate with the Bergamo (IceLab) team.
We have a very good communication with my coach, she honestly really, really cares. And I think that's very important for me to have someone by the boards who I know really believes in me. We work well together and we're just a really good team.

These are your fifth Europeans.

Yep. I'm almost old! (laughs)

Which one was the most memorable for you, the most fun, the most...

OK, the worst one was in Bratislava (in 2016), but that was because I was sick for the whole event. I managed to skate the short program and then in the free I was about to die. (laughs)
Last year, in Moscow, was really special. I'm not usually nervous in competitions, I'm excited, but last year, after moving to train at home only one month before that, I was really nervous. I felt like I had to prove something. But it went well so that was really special. And also everything in Russia... they go all in — the banquet was beautiful, the arena was beautiful... Still I think my favorite of all was in Stockholm (in 2015) because it's close to Norway and many of my family and friends came to watch.
Europeans are definitely my favorite competition of the season. Even if the skating wouldn't be that good, I just love being surrounded by all the skaters, we're such a good group now in Europe and I have a lot of friends here, we all understand each other well. And that's really fun.

It's not your first time in Minsk because you were here for the "Ice Star" earlier this season. So did you have a chance to explore?

Not really. I arrived at this competition [Euros] later than the other skaters because usually if I'm at the competition for too long before I compete I get really mentally tired. So I haven't had much time, I came Tuesday evening.

But last time I came here our bags didn't arrive, so I made really good friends with one of the volunteers at the competition, he helped us to get the bags the day after. He lives here and on Sunday, when the competition is over, he's going to show me the city.

One of the reasons I wanted to do this interview with you is I knew there will be fans who are interested to read it. You have a lot of fans.

Yeah, mostly in Russia and in Belarus. (smiles)

So you must learn to speak Russian then!

Oh, I'm far from learning Russian, not even close. I know "spasibo" (thanks) and some bad words. (laughs)

Why do you think you are so loved?

I think in skating there are a lot of people who are very focused on their skating, which is good; and I am too, but then they don't always show the appreciation for a good skate or for the audience sometimes. And I think... I don't know... I'm just being myself and maybe that's good. I think people like when skaters show real happiness after a program or when they see their points.

Do you also keep in touch with your fans?

Yes, mostly on Instagram, I try to reply to their direct messages and things like that. They are fans, but it's almost like we're friends a bit, you know? Because they keep up with me and I think that's really nice.

You mention in your profile that you love photography and videography. And you also have a blog, right?

Yes, I love everything creative and I really like taking pictures and editing pictures, and same with videos. I'm not that good or professional, I don't know how to work with camera really well, and it's more convenient for me to take photos with my phone. It's something I really want to learn more about and work on later but now it's just a hobby and I don't have that much time.
And about the blog - I just really like writing, it's mostly about me and skating, I want to make skating a more known sport in Norway, so that we'll have more children who'd want to try it.

Do you have some statistics about how many people read it?

It depends on what I'm writing about, but is from three hundred to a thousand readers per post, which is really good considering that I do it only for fun. Sometimes I post videos on YouTube but that's rather new, I don't do it often.

It's also time consuming...

Yeah, I didn't expect it will take that much time. I knew editing would take time but I'm a perfectionist, so if the video isn't perfect I won't post it and so I probably filmed around ten videos I haven't posted because they were not exactly how I wanted.

Pity you didn't post them in the end. It's always nice to get this different angle about competitions and "life of a skater". And I think videos work better for the young audience...

Yes, I agree. Me too, I think videos work better for the young audience, also it's easier to show than tell. And I think it's important for the general public to see that figure skating isn't just about nice costumes and pretty faces, it's much more than that.

Rapid-fire Q&A

When I make an interview with someone for the first time, I love to add a few rapid-fire questions, not necessarily about figure skating, just for our readers to know my interviewee a little bit better. Sondre kindly agreed to take part in this game.

When were you happiest?

When was I happiest? (takes some time to think) Well, actually, today! Because I did a good program, and my mom who is the team leader here was with me in the Kiss&Cry and she was crying...

Tell me a secret about yourself, something your fans don't know.

I go to bed at 21:00? I know that sounds boring. (laughs)

If you could edit your past what would you change?

I would try to enjoy more and not be so serious about everything, because when I was younger I was so serious about competitions. And it didn't always work and now I'm more open to enjoy and it's better for my skating too.

What is your favorite book?

It's called "Everything, everything" and they made a movie based on this book recently. It's about this girl whose mom told her she was sick and can't go outside. I read it and loved it!

But it's a sad story...

You know, all my friends think of me as "the happiest person with the saddest music taste".

Saddest music?

Yeah, my playlist is really depressing. (laughs) Just because I think it's beautiful and I like when people show emotions. I think it's the same with books, I really like when people make me feel. And that's the same with skating! That's why my favorite skaters aren't always the best technical skaters but people who can make you feel.

Okay, since you mentioned it, who are your favorite skaters?

Carolina Kostner - 100%. Guillaume Cizeron and Gabriella Papadakis, I watch them on YouTube literally every day. Well, maybe three times a week. And I loved Aljona and Bruno (Savchenko/Massot), last season they were really special. And I also like Javi (Fernández).

What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?

Music.

So what is your favorite music?

All the depressing songs... (laughs) No, but seriously. For example, before competitions I always listen to "Imagine Dragons" and stuff like that to get into the mood. But that's not depressive. I love Adele, I love her music and her voice.

What would your superpower be if you could choose one?

That I could fly. That's my biggest dream in life. Also, I love, love, love traveling, but I hate airports and I'm bored when flying. I just want it like bang — and I'm there. But I want to fly on the ice too, to be able to do quads, so flying, yes.

About new choreographies and summer preparations

Before the publication of this talk, we caught up with Sondre again to learn about his news and see how his off-season preparations are going.

What happened since we talked last time in Minsk? How did your season go after that and how do you feel this last season went for you overall?

This was a dream season for me, except that I didn't qualify for Worlds. I did six clean short programs in competitions, which is much better than what I have ever done. The free program has always been the hardest program for me to do, but during the season it started going better and better. At Europeans I did it almost perfectly. The "almost" was the reason I didn't get to Worlds though. So it was a bittersweet experience. Later on, I won the Nordic Championships, and became the first Norwegian senior skater to do that in over 50 years!

Tell me about the new programs you're working on now.

I loooove my new programs. Over the past couple of years I've gotten more and more comfortable in my style of skating, and learned more about which musical pieces work for me and which don't. The performance side of figure skating is my absolute favorite, so I take very seriously the whole process of picking a music and doing choreography. Last season Mark Pillay made my short program, I loved it and was sure I wanted to work with him again this year, but this time for the free program. For some reason we could not agree on any music, the search for the perfect music was about to literally make me give up and not do a new program at all. Then one day he texted me two songs he wanted to put together, and I loved them as soon as I pressed "play"! The songs are "Loving You" and "Wildfire" by a band called "Seafret". I love the product we made, and I'm super excited to compete with it this coming season.

For my short program I didn't want to skate to a song people expect from me. I wanted it to be a little sexier, and not "slow and lovely". I actually found the music a year ago and I had the vision right away. The song is "I Found You" by James Bay. Throughout the season, I played that song at practice so my coach would get to know it and begin to like it. When we were searching for music, I showed her the song, described her my vision and we agreed right then and there. Since I had such a specific vision for what I wanted to do, how I wanted the song to be cut, I felt it was best to do the choreo by myself. I have never done that before, and it was definitely a new and challenging experience. But in the end the product came out exactly how I wanted it. And the coaches and judges who have seen it gave me a positive feedback.

I think I also saw mentioned somewhere that you choreographed for other, younger, skaters.

Yes, it is true, I choreograph for younger skaters in Norway. I actually do the programs for half the national team here in Norway! Being a choreographer has always been a dream of mine. A few years ago, my coach asked me to make some programs for her youngest skaters and I guess she liked them, because she kept asking for more programs, and for older skaters too. This year was very busy; I think I made over 20 programs in two months! I did a senior free program, something I haven't done before. Our junior national champion wanted two new programs that I made. In our club, we also have a super talented 14-year-old who does all triples and a very nice triple+triple combo and who is debuting in the junior Grand Prix series this season. She also needed two new programs. It is obviously more fun to work with skaters on a higher level, but it adds more pressure.

How is your off-season going and have you decided already where, with which competitions you'll start this coming season?

My summer is going pretty well. I am normally a skater who is at his best during the season, but this summer I have so many goals, and so much I want to work on that I have really found some extra power. I'm spending most of my summer in Italy with the IceLab team. I really enjoy the whole team here in Bergamo, with Franca Bianconi as the head coach. I also learn so much when I skate alongside one of my best friends, Matteo Rizzo. This club trains harder than what I have ever seen before, and my body really has to work hard to get through the week, but with my current motivation I get the job done.
As for my competitions in the coming season, I haven't fully set the plan yet. But I'm thinking of beginning my season with Lombardia Trophy and Ondrej Nepela Trophy in September.


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