The Russian Junior Ice Dance Champion Alla Loboda/Pavel Drozd won the bronze medal at the ISU Junior Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final and ISU Junior World Championships 2016. The couple will start their season at the Junior Grand Prix in Saransk, Russia, this week.
Q=interviewer (Tatjana Flade for ISU) A=Alla Loboda P=Pavel Drozd
Q: How did your preparation go over the summer?
P: Our preparation this summer went as usual. We put together new programs, in the beginning of August we had our test skates for the national junior team where we presented our new programs in order to learn the opinion of the specialists.
A: Our preparation was very productive. We worked intensively for one month at the “Chrystal” ice rink in Beliaevo (in Moscow). A choreographer from France, Benoit Richaud, came to us and the experience of working with him just cannot be described!
Q: You will start your season this week at the Junior Grand Prix in Saransk. What is your mindset heading into the season?
P: In the past season we did not achieve all the goals we had set for ourselves, therefore we have higher ambitions this season and as a result, we are in combat mode, towards the result.
A: We are very happy that the new season has started. We feel good, calm and we are very positive.
Q: When you think of yourself last year at the beginning of the season and now – what is different and how have you changed since then?
P: Absolutely, I think we have changed since the past season. I think that in this time we have grown as a couple, we have improved technically and also we have added to the emotional part of our program, namely in bringing across even more true emotions in our programs, although, obviously, you can judge this better from outside. So I hope that our progress will be noticeable.
A: In this year we are competing in the fourth event of the Junior Grand Prix. Before we started the season with the first event. Therefore we prepare and get into shape for the fourth event. Probably that is a major change.
Q: Please tell us more about your new programs. Why and how did you choose the music “St. Louis Blues” for the Short Dance and “Malaguena” for the Free Dance?
A: We picked the music with our whole team and we thought about it a lot. Eventually everything came together and we decided together with our coaches to do programs to this music. The Blues is a very sensual dance in which a lot depends on the close teamwork, the rhythm on the ice, I think it will be interesting to watch.
P: We listened to a lot of music before starting our preparation for the new season. I can’t say that the Blues is very close to me, but when our coaches Ksenia Rumiantseva and Ekaterina Volobueva suggested this piece, St. Louis Blues, to us, Alla and I liked this music, because it is interesting in itself. From the Blues, with which we start our Short Dance, it flows right into the Swing, which creates a completeness of the program.
Q: Malaguena is a very well known piece of music, what new or different aspect do you want to show with this music? Or did you pick it, because you love Spain?
P: Yes, this is a well known piece and it has been used by skaters before. We chose this music with our coaches. When working on it, we decided not to do a classical Spanish program, we wanted to do something new, so that the choreography will be remembered. Therefore we invited Benoit Richaud to choreograph the program. Working with him was really nice and interesting and thanks to Benoit in our skating something new appeared, I believe different from what we had before and I hope that the judges and spectators will appreciate it. We really like "La Malaguena" and basically I can say that thanks to the fact that I started to study Spanish and had a vacation in Spain and talk a lot with native speakers, I started to better understand the culture and character of the Spanish people which undoubtedly helps in understanding and expressing the music on the ice, because you start to feel it better.
A: Of course, our love for Spain is a solid reason! Also, we wanted to show the spectators something new, a more modern style and to try ourselves not in classics. We fell in love with Malaguena the first time we heard it.
Q: Let’s look back a little. How did you start skating? When and why did you switch to Ice Dance?
A: I started skating in a recreational group when I was four years old. I just went to the ice rink with a friend, her parents wanted her to become a professional skater, but the opposite happened, after a few years she stopped, but I liked it. Then my coach suggested me to go to CSKA Moscow so they looked at me and they took me. So it all kicked off. I loved dance since I was a child, I always was the first to run to dance classes and I didn’t want to leave. On the ice I always loved and still love gliding. My coach, Sofia Kitasheva, suggested me to try out dance in the group of Ksenia Rumiantseva and they took me. So I’ve been training in this group for seven years.
P: I started skating when I was five years old, in my hometown St. Petersburg. When you are only five years old, as a child you don’t really know what you want in your life, therefore it was the decision of my parents. Together with skating, I also did soccer, until I had to make a choice as it was impossible to continue both. It was a quite tough choice. My first coach said that I have to continue figure skating, because I am talented and I have all capabilities to succeed in this sport and I liked skating. At the same time, I passed all exams to become part of the junior soccer club of St. Petersburg. But now I can confidently say that I did not make a mistake in my choice, as figure skating has become a very important part of my life. I was a single skater before I went into dance, basically everyone starts like that. Everything went well, I competed at many major national events, but at one point they decided to build a dance group in St. Petersburg. In order to have a couple that could represent St. Petersburg well at national competitions, the coaches looked at many children and they selected me and Anastasia, my first Ice Dance partner. However, after two years we could not skate together anymore and a certain time after we split up I received the invitation from the group of Ksenia Genniadieva Rumiantseva and now I am very glad to be part of our great team.
Q: How did you team up?
P: Before I teamed up with Alla, I skated with Valeria Podlazova, but unfortunately Valeria had to retire from skating because of health issues and at that time Alla’s partner also stopped skating. After a while together with our coaches we took the decision that Alla and me will skate together and that we together can achieve our goals. I think it is going quite well for us and that we, step by step, move towards our goals.
Q: What do you remember from your first practice together? Did you believe it would work out?
A: I remember exactly how Pasha and I took each other by the hand and started, I even remember that it was March 10, 2012.
P: I remember most of all the moment when we took the decision to skate together and did our first steps on the ice together. You always need to have a goal that you want to reach and the belief that you can do it, therefore, as soon as we teamed up, we had common goals and tasks and we right away put in all efforts to realize them.
Q: What is your relationship like? Do you spend your spare time together?
A: Pasha and I get along very well, he is always by my side, he can encourage me or cheer me up when necessary. In Moscow we do not always have the chance to spend our spare time together. But when we travel to competitions we are always going out together, look at new places and learn about them.
P: We spend so much time together that we see each other more often than our families. When we have spare time and the opportunity, we enjoy going to an exhibition, to the theatre or something like that.
Q: What are you doing outside skating and how can you combine it. You said, you are studying Spanish, Pavel.
P: Yes, I am studying now at university and last year I decided to take up a second foreign language, Spanish. Why Spanish? First of all it is a beautiful language and I wanted to learn to speak it. Secondly, Spanish is widely spoken and the more languages you know, the more open you are for the world and more opportunities open up for you. When I went on vacation to Spain, it was really nice to speak to the locals in their language and they were surprised that I spoke Spanish like I did after having studied it for only five months. Combining studies and skating is hard, but I think that the most important thing is to strive for knowledge and for something new, and if you want to study, you always can find time for that. My hobbies are history, politics and I like to go to the theatre, to visit exhibitions and so on, because I believe that it is very important to develop different sides of your personality, especially the cultural and spiritual side. I love also travelling and to learn something new about the culture of the different countries. There are always new impressions, therefore in each city that we compete in, I try to visit the most important sights to understand the history of one or another city.
A: I finished school this year, passed the final state exam and now I’m starting university. I don’t really have time for hobbies. But I really want to improve my English. I understand quite well, when someone is talking to me, but I am shy to speak, there is a kind of language barrier. I also would like to study French. I saw how Pasha speaks Spanish and this motivates me a lot.
Q: Do you have other athletes in your family?
P: Yes, you can say that I come from an athletic family. My mother was a figure skater and skated when she was a child and my father played soccer, quite successfully, but he had to retire due to injury. My sister Daria (born in 2001), is skating as well, together with me in the same group, and it is really nice to see how she is growing and takes one small step after the next in her career.
A: In my family nobody has a connection to sports. I have an older sister, Lilia, she is an economist. She is always helping me in everything.
Q: What do you like best about figure skating? What don’t you like?
P: Well, first of all, figure skating is a beautiful sport and secondly I like it that you when you are performing your programs you can show and give out all the emotions that are on your soul and also you can express absolutely different characters and roles in your programs. If to say something about I don’t like in figure skating, I think that our sport, and probably mostly Ice Dance, can be quite subjective.
A: As strange as it sounds, but I like to leave tired after practice with the feeling that today I gave a 100 percent. And what I don’t like … I don’t even know. Maybe that the cost of one mistake is too high, although there is something interesting in there, a certain vehemence, that is the sport.
Q: Who are your idols and why?
A: I like many couples, but I don’t have an idol. I can name Maia Valentinovna Usova, Tatiana Navka/Roman Kostomarov, Meryl Davis/Charlie White.
P: You know, I wouldn’t say that I have idols either. I enjoy watching a lot of couples, from the past years and also contemporary ones and each of them has their own qualities, strengths that are worth to point out and try to adopt.
Q: What are your goals in the sport?
A: Absolutely the dream of each athlete is victory at the Olympic Games, Pasha and myself are no exception there. But also we would like to be remembered by the spectators, to make them happy so that they feel something or think about something when they watch our dances.
P: I’ve been in figure skating for 16 years now and once I changed my whole life when I took the decision to move to Moscow, because, I think it is clear that my goals are very high and like any other athlete who is serious, I’d like to win the Olympic Games.
Q: How do you feel about the past season when you won bronze at the Junior Final and Junior Worlds?
P: I think overall the past season was positive, not everything worked out and we didn’t achieve fully what we wanted, but there was a lot of joy and there is an additional motivation to achieve everything in our last junior year. I hope that it will happen.
A: The past season is already behind us, but I took a lot out of it. Obviously, I am ashamed that I made this big mistake in the Short Dance at the last competition of the season (she fell at Junior Worlds). But you learn from your mistakes. Our whole team supported me a lot, a big thank you to them.
Q: What is the character of your couple?
P: Most of all, for an objective evaluation, you need the view from outside. I think that Alla and myself are open and goal-oriented, ready to work as much as we need in order to achieve our goals and we are always supporting each other and we are on the same wave.
Q: In Russia the competition is very tough. What do you need to do in order to draw attention to yourself and to be successful? How do you want to stand out?
P: I don’t think that you have to draw special attention to yourself, I think that you just need to have something of your own, something different, a personal style you can say. When you skate your programs, you shouldn’t show artificial emotions, but the emotions you feel in your soul when you are performing. I think then everyone will pay attention to you and will stand out.
A: Really, we do have a lot of dance teams in Russia. I think that we just have to continue to work a lot and to follow what our coaches are saying.
Q: Describe your partner in three words, please.
P: Beautiful, goal-oriented, good-natured. :-)
A: Reliable, understanding, hard-working!
Q: Thank you very much for the interview and we wish you a successful season.