Alena Leonova: „I could
enjoy the Olympics as a fan“
Following a tough season
with some ups and downs Alena Leonova, 23, is on the comeback trail.
Q: The last season was
tough for you. What went wrong?
A: Probably it started
already when we could not decide about the short program. We first
did a Tango, I did it at the test skate and the judges said that they
don’t see me in this program and I myself did not really feel it.
Then I got injured (ankle sprain). I had to withdraw from Skate
Canada and I went to NHK with my old, old program “Pirates of the
Caribbean”, because we did not have time to put together a new one
and I had to show something. Then we came back home and we did a very
good new program, the Russian dance. I went to Russian Nationals and
I was really well prepared for Nationals. I qualified for Europeans
and I skated well there. Once I changed the program, everything
Q: You indeed skated well
at Europeans, but it was already clear that they won’t select you
for the Olympic Games.
A: Yes, I realized this at
Europeans already, even when I went there.
Q: How difficult was it
to deal with that?
A: Basically I was already
happy that I went to Europeans, so that the judges could see me, that
I am still there and that I did not disappear. There are another
Olympic Games to come, so I wasn’t too upset. I didn’t really
think about it and just skated.
Q: Then you decided to
change coaches and went from Nikolai Morozov to Evgeni Rukavitsin.
A: After the Olympic Games
the financial support in Moscow stopped for us and I could not stay
any longer in Novogorsk and Nikolai Alexandrovitch (Morozov) couldn’t
stay there either. He left for America and I had to decide what to
do. I had one way, back to St. Petersburg. I called Evgeni
Vladimirovitch (Rukavitsin) and he agreed to work with me. I returned
to St. Petersburg. In May I had a show in Korea and we started to
work at the first training camp in Nice. We went there in early June.
Q: You were a substitute
for the Olympic Games, so were you training all the time?
A: I was training and I went
to the Olympic Games. I had some PR events and I went to watch. I
really liked it. There is no comparison to Canada (Olympic Games in
2010), it is like earth and sky. I had completely different feelings,
maybe because I did not compete, but I went around everywhere and
watched. It was a real Olympics. I went to watch skiing, the team had
a great spirit and I really like to support our athletes. I had flags
and painted my face, I was a real fan. I could enjoy it. Some people
even cannot watch on TV, for them is everything bad, they are not
there and so they don’t want to see it. I am not like that. Of
course, it was a shame on the one hand (not competing there), but at
the other hand I was happy for our girls who could represent our
country. They did a good job.
Q: How did you get used
to your new coaching environment?
A: I knew that they will
demand a lot from me. I knew about that they are going to change my
Lutz right away. I was ready for that. I didn’t have any problems
with the new team. I basically got along well with Evgeni
Vladimirovitch and his choreographer Olga Glinka. We had a good
relationship. I had skated at this rink before, I returned home you
can say. Everything was very comfortable for me. I am living at home
with my mother. I have an apartment close to the ice rink, but I am
there only in the break and I return home (in the evening) anyway,
because it is boring to live alone and I’d miss my family. And my
mother is cooking (laughs). I can’t live alone. Loneliness is the
worst thing for me, it is like I am killed. I like to talk to people.
Q: How different is the
training in this group from your previous group?
A: I feel the difference
especially in the attention I get. I get advice from all sides all
the time and I have a good off-ice coach. I feel very comfortable
working with him. I used to work with him before when I skated in St.
Petersburg. I get a lot of attention. We know have a lot of strong
athletes in the group and the group was even divided. Kostia
(Konstantin Menshov) and Mashka (Maria Artemeva) are skating in one
group and I am skating separately in another group so that everybody
Q: But isn’t it nice to
have competition in training and to practice with other strong
A: My coach is pushing me
(laughs). In the training camp I was skating with Masha in one group
and of course it is really pushing me and also at the test skates.
Q: Who supported you in
A: My mother is very
supportive. My mother and my fans who do not stop believing in me
even when things are bad. I do not give up.
Q: How did you come up
with the idea for the Charlie Chaplin short program?
A: Olga Germanovna (Glinka)
came up with the idea to do something completely new for me what
nobody had seen yet. She wanted event to do something very modern,
but I was careful about it, because I never tried it. But it was
clear that I had to do something new. When we tried it on the ice,
some moves, I did not really feel this style, to be honest. So I
suggested my version, that is I suggested Charlie Chaplin. Olga
Germanovna liked the idea, but Evgeni Vladimirovitch said, this is
just you again, you will smile… He said, you don’t want to
change, you only want to do what you do well. I know you will do it
well and everything will be really good. But Olga Germanovna insisted
and said, let’s try it. When we were in Latvia and mounted the
program, Evgeni Vladimirovitch joined us and also choreographed
steps. He started really to like it. When they saw how I am skating
it, they realized it was still different from what I did before.
There is something childlike in it. This program really touches the
soul and everybody likes it right away.
Q: Is it now your
favorite short program you ever had?
A: Before the “Pirates of
the Caribbean” was my favorite program, and also the spectators
liked it a lot. Now I think they both will be on the first place for
me. It is important for me that the spectators and the judges like
it. When I receive feedback I can digest it and then take a decision.
As for the lightness of skating, this is a great program. I feel good
Q: For the long program
you have a Tango, although the Tango short program in the past season
did not work out.
A: Yes, I still insisted
that I will have a Tango in my career. Olga Volozhinskaia
choreographed the program, I had especially invited her. This was
before Nice (training camp). She came for four days. She also cut the
music back home in America. I sent her my suggestions she sent me
hers and we threw it together while in Korea. So she put it together
and I was happy with it. I enjoyed working with her. I hadn’t
worked with her in a long time, the last time was in 2011. I saw how
she liked working with me and I liked it. We did it really quickly.
We had three hours on the ice every day and we put together the
program in one practice and then polished some details.
Q: Some fans and
journalists already wrote you off and say, you won’t have any
chance anymore. How do you react to this opinion?
A: I want to prove, first of
all to myself probably, that I still can skate well and that I can do
other elements not just toe-toe. Today (in the free skating at
Nebelhorn Trophy) I did to my own surprise and to everybody’s
surprise (triple) flip- (triple) toeloop.
Q: What did your coach
A: He said, don’t do any
surprises like this again. But I came here with this goal in mind. I
thought that I will do a flip-toeloop, even though I did not do it a
single time in practice and he (coach) did not tell me to do it. I
thought he is not expecting it from me and it turned out he really
didn’t. The only thing I did in practice was double-triple flip-toe
at the second practice at the main arena. I had asked him, if I can
do double-triple and he was like why? Do toe-toe. I did it and said,
maybe I can do double flip-triple toe and he said, go ahead, if you
want. Now I have to work on it and in the Grand Prix I have to do it
Q: Which goals do you set
for yourself for the season?
A: I set my goal to skate
well, to skate clean programs and obviously to do the maximum in the
program. I do not only have a flip-toe, but also a double Axel-triple
toe in the second half of the program. I think with this array I can
count on high placements in the Grand Prix. I am competing at Skate
Canada and in Japan, my favourite ones. I especially like Japan,
because everybody is so supportive.
Q: Thank you for the interview.