Mikhail Kolyada at the press conference at Russian Nationals 2019
Mikhail Kolyada

Mikhail Kolyada:

“When the snowball crushes you, then you get the shovel and start digging”


World and European bronze medalist Mikhail Kolyada will remember the recent Russian National Championship for a long time. Just before the competition, the skater ended up in hospital and there was a big question whether he’d be able to compete. But Mikhail went to Saransk, took the silver  medal, qualified for the European Championships and drew important conclusions for himself: take care of your health, but when such a stressful situation arises, then learn to deal with it.

The Russian version of this interview has been published on the website of the Russian Figure Skating Federation here.



Q: Misha, you already have gold and silver medals from Russian Nationals. If you compare them, which place does this silver medal have for you?

A: I don’t know, I somehow didn’t even think about that. I just knew what I had to do and I did it and that’s it. Somehow like that.


Q: So tell us what all happened. You were training for Nationals at home and on Thursday, exactly a week before the Men’s short program at Nationals, you started to feel unwell…

A: Yes, it already started slowly. On Thursday on the evening practice I felt something was not right, I was off, although everything was fine in the morning. And Friday morning I already went to the hospital.


Q: Why?

A: I woke up in the middle in the night and felt that I am somehow really not well. I got up, rinsed my nose, put drops in my ear and it didn’t help. I realized that I have to go to Russian Nationals and I can’t miss a day (of practice). And the news that I had to stay in hospital just threw me off track. The doctor sent me to the x-ray, they did the x-ray, she looked at it and said: ‘That’s it, you have stay here’. I told her: ‘I can’t now, you understand, I cannot not go (to Nationals).!’ There was a pause and she says: ‘Okay, I will go to see the sports physician’. In this time I call the doctor that takes care of us and I say, ‘they want to hospitalize me’ and he answers ‘if they say so, you have to’. And I think ‘how can that be, I prepared, everything is good, the practice was good… Apparently, because of these good practices I was able to pull off these performances. There were some reserves and I was able to use them.


Q: How serious was your illness?

A: It was sinusitis. They had to do a puncture. That is a very unpleasant procedure. Once the numbing wore off and on that day when everything came out, everything hurt terribly. I had come to the hospital by car, they already admitted me, chose my room and I go to the doctor and ask ‘may I at least go home to get my things?’ She answers: ‘We do the procedure and then we let you go‘. They did it, injected me with antibiotics, put the catheter on my hand and sent me home. I went back to eat, took my stuff and returned to the hospital.


Q: How did you go home after that?

A: By car. In the taxi, again, you never know. I had to isolate myself from people completely, because my body is weak and I could catch anything. Therefore, I decided it is better to drive in my car.


Q: Why did they want to keep you in hospital?

A: Because I was not healed. They let me go on my own risk.


Q: On Monday you were released from hospital.

A: And on Tuesday I already sat in the plane to Saransk.


Q: How was the flight?

A: The flight was terrible. We had two flights – to Moscow and then from Moscow to Saransk. And from Piter (St. Petersburg) to Moscow my nose was bleeding, on the take off and landing everything hurt terribly, it was like the eyes were popping out of my head. I didn’t know what position to take anymore. That was because of the change of air pressure. And to Saransk it was the same. I arrived and I feel – that’s it, I put cotton in my nose.


Q: But nevertheless you really wanted to compete.

A: Of course! I knew exactly that even in this condition at the least the short I can skate. There were big questions about the long. I decided after the short, if I skate the long or not. We took the decision to skate, with an easier version and that was the right decision.


Q: Did you think there might have been any negative consequences?

A: You know, as they say – ‘it is better to try and to regret than to regret not to have tried’.


Q: To compete or not was in the end your decision?

A: Yes.


Q: What advice did your coaches give you?

A: They said – ‘everything depends on how you feel. They came to see me in the hospital. They told me ‚you need to get treatment and not hang down your head.‘


Q: In your first practice it was obvious …

A: Oh, the first practice was horrible! Probably, when you lie down and don’t do anything and then you get up and go to work, you feel that way. And there is physical exercise, you feel that. They put me from horizontal into vertical position and said ‘skate’. Then on the second and third day it was better and I started to feel the ice better.


Q: You said, you felt very strange…

A: Yes, my head was spinning. I was in that condition, somehow sluggish. When they released me from hospital, I had even trouble talking. That is, I was thinking, before saying something and I spoke slowly. Apparently that was some kind of reaction on the medication.


Q: But your illness wasn’t sudden, it had been dragging on for a while.

A: That’s just the point, in Zagreb I already had a running nose. But a running nose is just a running nose. Then I returned home, it became worse. I’m thinking – ‘well, it happens, I caught a cold, a draft.’ And then on Thursday suddenly pus came out and that was it. In August I had a similar situation (sinusitis), but then they just gave me antibiotics. I took them, I felt better and it was dismissed. I wasn’t in hospital. And then this situation.


Q: Well, the immune system of athletes at this level is always at the limits because of the constant physical strain.

A: The immunity is suffering a lot. The better your physical form, the lower you immunity. Therefore, Björndalen, the biathlete, has a whole team, a whole bus full of stuff. I read or I heard that when he arrives somewhere and sees a carpet, he asks for it to be removed, because he has an allergy and he can’t breathe normally. Asthmatics … they address this question in a more detailed manner. What we are not doing. You need to be more careful with your health.


Q: You really wanted to compete at Nationals, because you wanted to qualify for the team?

A: Of course, this is the starting point for Europeans and Worlds and I had to go through it. I am actually very happy with how it went: everything that doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. In people is so much more what they don’t even imagine. I think indeed I somehow switched my mindset, I didn’t think about Russian Nationals, I didn’t stress myself out with extra thoughts … That is, I left the hospital and I didn’t know what would happen. It was just interesting for me to watch myself like from outside – if I manage, good. If I don’t manage – that means there is room for improvement. Actually, there always is room for improvement. It was a kind of I wouldn’t say painful, but useful experience.

I don’t wish to anyone to go through it. But this allows you to open some reserves within yourself which gives confidence. Suppose, my situation with my foot: it hurt a lot, but I remember that it was worse then.


Q: When you broke your ankle in August 2014?

A: Yes. I stayed in figure skating nevertheless and I am still existing in it now. That means, you can go through that!


Q: So some of the problems in your other competitions … Many are saying, Misha does everything in practice but he cannot pull himself together in competition, he is not ready psychologically and so on. Maybe the main reason was after all in problems with your physical condition due to the not completely healed sinusits.

A: Maybe, I didn’t think about that yet, but maybe. Because it is like a snowball: at first a little bit, it is still okay, tolerable. Then – it becomes more and more, you realize that it is hard for you, but you still manage somehow, you forget about it ‘oh, it’s working, great’. And then, when this snowball crushes you and you realize that’s it, you can’t get out, then you take the shovel and start digging.


Q: Well done!

A: Thank you. Returning to the stress situations: I didn’t know what will be, I didn’t know how I will feel, I didn’t even want to think about that. I knew that it would be hard, that’s it. So I prepared myself for grueling, hard work. I didn’t set the goal to get the stars from the sky, I needed to do the minimum program. With the minimum program I almost coped.


Q: Yes, you did very well, except for that one fall on the Lutz.

A: There, to be honest, going back to the program – my consciousness was starting to fade away, I don’t even remember a lot how all that happened. That is, in the footwork I skated and half of it I now just can’t remember. There is a curtain


Q: Isn’t that scary?

A: Something similar happened to me in Boston, at the World Championship … But there it was a bit different. I was exhausted and emotionally I started to somehow deliver. There, my consciousness also started to play a little. And I think – ‘how is that possible?’ But as it turned out, it is possible. I felt something similar. That is, I realized that I got high from being tired. That probably sounds paradoxical for normal people?


Q: But after the free, you felt not good.

A: I felt terrible! Who came to me, said something, I don’t remember that at all. We went to TV, they did an interview, I don’t even remember what I said, not at all. I was in such a condition that I couldn’t even focus, my vision was blurry. And then, when they took me to the anti-doping control, I saw stars, spots …


Q: Well, yes you were really out of breath ..

A: It never has been as bad, in general. Although the elements were quite easy. During the normal training process that isn’t a big workload. The set of elements that I did is not that hard for a figure skater. But considering the circumstances, it was hard.


Q: There are about three weeks in between Russian Nationals and Europeans and you had time to recover. How are you now?

A: I returned home to Piter, got healthy, started to train after New Year. I’m preparing … Before I got sick, I skated my free program with three quads – Salchow and two toes. I think in Minsk I’ll skate that version. At the beginning of the season I said that this is my construction kit. That is, I tried this, I tried something else and I felt what I can do and what I can’t do and I chose a final version. I like it and I can do it and need to do it!


Q: Thank you very much and all the best for you. See you in Minsk.


 Tatjana Flade for figureskating-online.com and fsrussia.ru