Mikhail Kolyada (RUS)
Mikhail Kolyada (22) has had a breakthrough season with winning his first Grand Prix medals – gold and bronze – and qualifying for his first Grand Prix Final, where he got on to the podium again. He is now a top contender for the upcoming European Championships in Moscow.
M = Mikhail Kolyada, Q = Interviewer Tatjana Flade for ISU
Q: End of December, you successfully defended your national title. They say it is harder to defend than to win the first time.
M: Yes, that is true. Probably there is some added psychological pressure. And it is not only you tightening up, but also everybody around you is expecting something.
Q: What role did it play that this is also the Olympic season?
M: Obviously, these thoughts creep in your mind. If you want it or not, you think about it, you want to go further, you want to qualify for these Games. You need to prepare the right way, and so on, but you forget the main thing – you need to skate now, you need to work now and everything else comes later. If you take the last pre-Olympic Russian Nationals, I just withdrew. A hook (on the skating boot) came off and I was not able to finish the free program. At that Russian Nationals, I went out calmly. I was really, really calm but then it didn’t happen for me, okay. At this championship now I was basically calm, but I felt anxiety, wrath. My fists were clenched, when I went to warm up, I thought, I will be fierce. But maybe I grew tired from that and I think I didn’t have enough élan.
Q: You also competed at home, in St. Petersburg.
M: To skate at home wasn’t easy, let’s say it like that. Although the audience supported me a lot. I don’t know, somehow the competitions away from home are easier for me. At home, you want to show more, but if you want it so much, it doesn’t work. Here, it cuts both ways. On the one hand, you should be relaxed, calm, you are at home, and it should be fine, but no, inside something is pushing and you want to jump out of your skin, but that actually never helps, no matter if you are skating at home or not.
Q: Even though Nationals was at home, you stayed in the official hotel.
M: Yes, because you need to create a competition atmosphere. When I packed my suitcase, I was thinking – did I really take everything? I checked on myself, because you could think, it doesn’t matter, if I forget something I can go home and get it. But no, I had to make sure I got everything.
Q: You come to Europeans as one of the top contenders. How do you deal with that?
M: Calmly. Again, in some moments you need to be able to calm down, to gather your wits, take a breath. You need to take one or two days off of skating, to switch your mind to other things in order to come with new energy and do some good work. At Europeans, with each year I am getting more confident and I think this time it will be a bit easier for me than in previous years.
Mikhail Kolyada with coach Valentina Chebotareva
Q: You coach Valentina Chebotareva said in an interview that sometimes you are still lacking experience as you missed one complete season because of your broken leg. How do you feel about that?
M: I think she is right. Really, I don’t have so much experience competing at the senior level in major events. Therefore, maybe this leads to some mistakes. But with each year it gets better and better and I get more confident. I think we’re moving upwards, slowly, and maybe not always as we would like to, bang, fly high right away – no. For me this is a slow process, step by step (smiles).
Mikhail Kolyada takes the gold medal at the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating - Cup of China 2017
Q: Nevertheless, in this season you have some very good results, you qualified for the Grand Prix Final and even won the bronze medal in Nagoya.
M: Again, I was lucky. I don’t exclude that, because in sports, good luck plays a big role. In China (at Audi Cup of China), I was lucky. At the Grand Prix Final I can’t say that I got lucky, but there was a percentage nevertheless. With the whole situation around Russia right now, the Olympic Games and the doping scandal, the scenario could have been different.
Q: Were you afraid that all Russian athletes would be banned from Olympic Games?
M: I hoped they would not be excluded. I understood that there was a chance (for everyone to be banned), but it was small. I hoped for the best and in the end they allowed Russian athletes to compete and that is good.
Q: Do you feel yourself as a leader among the Russian men? Last season you won Nationals, but you were a bit in the shadow of Maxim Kovtun who already was National Champion three times. This time, you came as the Russian Champion to Nationals and your season has been successful.
M: Yes, I feel like the leader. Success gives me extra confidence. You go out more confidently, calmer and you approach some things in cold blood. You get used to it, you aren’t here for the first time and that makes it a bit easier.
Q: You not only have great jumps, but also excellent spins and footwork. How did you get all elements on such a high level?
M: You just have to pay attention to everything – to the spins, to the steps, to the jumps. Figure Skating is such a cumulative sport where each detail is important. You cannot forget something. Obviously, for the men the jumps have priority, for the girls spins and spirals, for the pairs throws and lifts, but nevertheless there are lot of other things left and you can earn many points with them.
Q: In your training, how much time do you spend on jumps and on other elements?
M: Obviously I spend most of my time for the jumps, but in the off-season we work a lot on spins and footwork. During the season, we just need to maintain them at that level. Actually, the spins take very long to work on and you lose them very fast. So you need work on them constantly, do them every day and not give up on them and think, ‘spins, I’ll do them anyway’ – then they will look that way, too. Nevertheless, you need to refer to them diligently and carefully. I like spins, but they get harder year by year (laughs). A jump – you go for it, you do it, you land, it takes a maximum of ten seconds. But a spin takes like 30 seconds, so it is at least three times harder! You stand with your leg in a horizontal position, then you are in the sit position. That puts strains on the muscles. The static strain is sometimes harder than the dynamic strain. So, a jump means, you jumped, landed, continue. I am not saying that the spins are always harder than the jumps, sometimes you can inwardly prepare yourself that you can even rest a little bit during a spin. But that is not always the case.
Q: You are also quite flexible.
M: Yes, I am trying to maintain that. I can’t stand still and be stiff. You can see immediately if someone is stretching and working on flexibility. If he just goes out, skates and does his jumps, you can see that. Figure skating is such a smooth sport, everything should look like a knife cutting through butter. You need to strive for being like the dancers. They are flying over the ice. Ideally we all should strive to be like they are. I watch the ice dancers, how they are doing all this, so softly how they stretch their legs and arms and it is all beautiful.
Q: You do three different quads – Lutz, Salchow, toe. Do you think about trying other quads?
M: No. My flip is from the wrong edge and everyone knows about that, so it is useless to learn a quad. My loop is not consistent enough in order to learn a quad.
Q: Which performances of other skaters inspire you?
M: In general, I like watching a lot of skaters, not only in men’s singles. I try to follow each discipline and take from each something and to note something for myself.
Q: So what can you take from dance, pairs and ladies?
M: In pairs and dance I can take something from the choreography, the way of presenting the program. In pairs, actually, it is easier to bring across the idea of the program, because there are two people and you watch their interaction on the ice and you forget about everything else. You watch it like a mini- movie.
From the girls I can take the spins. Most of them have good spins. Sometimes you see some positions, some variations and you try them in practice. And now many girls jump with their arms up. I am really impressed. Honestly, for me that is hard. I learned a few jumps with both arms up, but I don’t do them yet in the programs, because it is hard. I am used to jump all my life like that (arms crossed) and then you have to jump differently. Why it is easier for the girls – maybe because they learn it from childhood, first doubles, then triples. They already do it automatically. But if you did it all your life one way and now you are told to do it in a different way, obviously it is not comfortable.
Q: Which pairs and dance teams do you like?
M: In dance, I like Tessa (Virtue) and Scott (Moir), in pairs the Chinese pair (Wenjing Sui/Cong Han), our pair Vova (Vladimir Morozov) and Zhenia (Evgenia Tarasova) and also Fedia (Klimov) with Ksiusha (Ksenia Stolbova). I also enjoy how Lesha (Alexei) Rogonov and Kristina Astakhova present their programs. From the girls, I like Carolina Kostner.
Q: In Men’s singles you can also tell a story in your program. Your music this season is Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23 for the short and Elvis Presley for the long. What is the story of your programs, what do you try to tell?
M: Well, here I can either give a short answer or the answer is so explicate that you could write a book. Let’s stick with the short version, okay? (laughs). I start with the free. I am trying to show that character that Elvis is singing about. There are three songs and three different kind of moods in the program. I think that it suits me very well. The singer is close to my temperament. I look at him and I understand how he lived, what he felt. Obviously I am not a badass rock’n’roller, but I can get the character and it is understandable for me.
In the short program the character is an angel that descends from the sky down to earth. He experiences some emotional stress and wants to return to the sky, but for some reason stays here (on earth).
Mikhail Kolyada with Stéphane Lambiel
Q: Who thinks of these ideas behind the programs? Is it you and your choreographer Olga Kliushnichenko or did that come from Stéphane Lambiel with whom you have been working as well?
M: The music and the character in the programs is completely the idea of the choreographer. The music for the free program was my spontaneous idea. Everything else is a bit from everybody – something I added myself, something I took from Stéphane, something from the choreographer. So, from all sides we put together what came out. This might be some emotions, the mood, some glance.
Q: Was it easy for you to get into these characters?
M: At the beginning it was not so easy, there were some problems with the short program especially. But now I got into it, I think, and the program is going better than at the beginning of the season.
Q: Your component score has been going up. What else can you do to improve it even more?
M: That’s a difficult question (laughs). Basically, if you skate clean then the components will go up, but to say what exactly needs to be done, in order to grow in the components, then I don’t really know, maybe show more expression, maybe I need to work more on my inner condition to be able to give more to the spectators and judges.
Q: How do you feel about the discussion of limiting quadruple jumps in the free program to maybe a maximum of three?
M: Basically my maximum right now is three quads in the program (laughs). In general, everybody chooses himself, how many quads they do, because if someone feels strong enough, why not jump, if it gives you a lot of points. To skate with triple is obviously a lot easier and the program as a whole looks different. I skated my programs with triples and with quads in practice and I although from my inner state these are not two different programs when I skate with triples, I still feel the difference. I even asked my choreographer and she said that it was different. As for limiting the quads, honestly, I don’t know. Now we have a very difficult situation with the jumps in figure skating, because someone does triples, does them cleanly and gets high scores, and someone tries to do quads and he doesn’t get so much. So I don’t know and I leave this question to be decided by the folks up top.
Q: I am asking, because Javier Fernandez said in a recent interview that if there was let’s say a limit of three quads in one program then really the best skater would win – the one who is the best in all aspects, not only in jumps, but also in spins, footwork, presentation of the program. The conditions would be the same for everyone.
M: Yes, here I agree. True, if the frame is the same for everyone and if everyone would skate the same – although of course not everyone can skate the same – it would be a lot harder for the judges to determine whom to rank higher, whom lower. But I think I do agree with Javi. Although then again the suspense would get lost, or to be more precise, there would be less of it.
Q: At the press conference at the Grand Prix Final you said that you need to set almost unreachable goals for yourself and strive for them. Do you set those goals or does you coach set them? What are those goals?
M: In general I am setting these goals for myself and my coach helps me to achieve them. Which ones? It is very easy – ideally, two clean programs. That is a good goal, like a guiding light that you follow. Ideally, there should be a goal for each competition in order to move forward and to progress, because if you are saying all the time that you need just to skate clean, then you’d bang your head against a brick wall.
Q: Do your parents come to competitions to watch?
M: No, they don’t! (laughs) I just get nervous for them and I don’t need this extra stress at all. If I know that my parents are sitting on the tribune and have the jitters, I will also get the jitters. I don’t need to think about that. I am calmer when they are at home and watch the competition on TV. They can come to the exhibition.
Q: What is the best way for you to relax?
M: The best way to relax is for me to go to the datcha (summerhouse) with my family. Our datcha is about 120 kilometers south of St. Petersburg, there is a small river nearby and we have a pond on our property. Datcha – that is forest, quietness, there is nobody, there is no internet, even no mobile phone connection. That is great and you realize that there are other things in life than figure skating. You can help working on the datcha and go to the (Russian) sauna. The sauna really distracts you, seriously. For me, when I have a lot of thoughts, I just have to go to the sauna, you heat up and you come out like a new person. What helps me best to tune out completely is the sauna, I don’t know how, but it works for me.
Q: Thank you very much for the interview and good luck for the rest of the season.