Sergei Voronov: “I am now looking ahead and not looking backwards”


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

We met Sergei first in May in Moscow and then again in July at the Denis Ten Memorial show in Almaty, Kazakhstan.


I think it was no question for you to come to Almaty and perform in the memorial show. What does it mean to you?

First of all I came out of respect for Denis and his country. The second reason is that last year Denis helped me a lot when he agreed to mount my program. That was a noble gesture from his side and I appreciated that already last season. It was really interesting to work with him. He had a personal approach, to the person and that is very important for a choreographer. When all this happened, maybe it sounds banal, but at the competitions, at each of my events, when I took my starting position I thought, 'Denis, if you are watching, help me a bit', because it was a big responsibility and a lot of pressure. As they say, God takes the best and he probably was one of the best of us. But I believe we'll all meet in the other life, I believe that and I want to see them all.


How does the preparation of the season go, how was the training camp?

The training camp was hard, especially after you've missed so much time. It was very difficult to come back. I now fully understand the words of these only and few people that came back at such a responsible age, believe me. I am not even for my competitors wishing that. No matter how much I like them or not, I don't wish for that for them, because it is a tough path. It is not the easy way that many take. They retire, that's it. This is really something different and only those who went through that, can understand it. The preparation during the summer is as always not easy. The first step will be the test skates, but all steps are important to me and as always you have to go step by step. There will be a starting point, these are the test skates. Then ... hopefully it will be like a spiral that is unfolding upwards and does not get dizzy.


Last December, just before Russian Nationals, you got injured and were unable to compete. That was a bad setback, but nevertheless you came back from it.

It was a bad situation, one of the most upsetting in sports, when you are not just having a bad competition, but you get injured and you can't skate because of that - not bad or good, but not at all. You're sitting at home and watch as a spectator. For an athlete that is tough psychologically. Now some time has passed. These things break the weak ones but make the strong ones even stronger. In my case, I think, I didn't give up, which is good. I am now looking ahead and not looking backwards. Yes, it was a great season and I'm happy that I was able to do well on the Grand Prix. I didn't get to the Vancouver Olympics, but I went to the Grand Prix Final eight years later.


Did you think about retiring?

A lot of other people are thinking about that. I'm not blind or deaf. But everybody has his time, his expectations, his patience, his will. I still want to skate. I discussed it with my team and nobody said something like 'what? Don't even think about it'. It is my personal desire and when you really love what you're doing, then some of these setbacks motivate you even more. In life we all have challenges and in sports there's not only glory and victories. There are failures as well and either you are a strong athlete and overcome them or you are weak and you break.


Real champions as they say aren't the one that come and just win, but those who went through a path.


Yes, of course. Your compatriot (Aljona Savchenko) is a prime example. She went through so much. In Russia they already wanted to bury her and in the end she got the gold medal at the Olympic Games and everyone shut their mouths quickly. This is character. In sports you can't do anything without character.


There are quite a few older skaters out there like you, Alexei Bychenko, Michal Brezina for example.

I think we're not lowering the level of worldwide competitions. I think this is just interesting, people from different age categories. This is like in arts, there are different epoques like the Renaissance and the Antique and you cannot say what is better or worse. It's probably the same in sports. There are these athletes and those athletes. There some that do several quads and some that do one quad. I think everyone should try their best so that it is interesting to watch him.


You've worked with ice dancer Dmitri Soloviev on your new programs. How did that happen?

Last year we couldn't work together because of conflicting schedules. I'm very grateful to Dima that he found the time to work with me for this season. I think especially one program ... I'm listening to the music and each time and every day and I don't get fed up with it. This is the short program. The long I love as well. It's been a while that I'm enjoying so much both programs. Usually you prefer one program, but that I like both equally... I can't even say which one I like better. This happened probably for the first time to me in my career.


Who chose the music?

This time it was my choice. I won’t reveal it right now yet.


How was it to work with Dima? He competed not so long ago himself.

I don't think he's mounted a program before. As he wrote in Instagram, this is his first experience, but he committed to it fully. Some people are mounting programs like chainwork one after the other or are not really interested in doing it, and there are quite a few like that. But when it is something new for a person, it will be always interesting for him and it doesn't matter which athlete it is. Dima always has been ambitious, and for him this is a kind of challenge, just in a different way.


Did he teach you some ice dance steps?

Last year, yes, we worked on skating skills a bit and he showed  me some things. Obviously a lot of things in ice dance we (single skaters) don't know. Of course, I'm trying to remember this and soak it all up.


You seem to like to experiment with your choreographers.

I wouldn't say it is an experiment. I like people who are interested and want to work. I don't like people who are not enjoying their work. This is not for me, because I like to work. I like figure skating and I enjoy doing that. If someone doesn't feel comfortable with me, why should he work with me.


What are your plans for the season?

Obviously, nobody likes the daily training routine, I tell you honestly. I'm not a masochist who likes to torture himself. But, when you go out to compete that makes up for all this routine work. Yes, it doesn't always work out, but that makes it even more interesting. What will be in Canada, what will be in America? How can you deal with the spectators? Either you like that or it is not your thing at all and you don't have to do it.


You have been competing for so many years, but you still feel the excitement.


Any person, any athlete no matter how long he has been competing, each time is like the first time, because you don't know for a 100 percent what will happen. Nodody is sure. I am even sure that the two-time Olympic Champion (Yuzuru Hanyu) is not sure what will happen and how he will perform when he takes his starting position. We are not the ones above that decide what happens, we are all walking on Earth, even Yuzuru and Nathan (Chen). You even like that or you don't. I'm one of those who like that, damn. It's like a kind of a drug. Find something in life that gives you that kind of adrenaline shot.


The rules have changed last season with the shorter free program and the wider range of GOEs. How do you feel about that now after the season has passed?

I don't master all the quads, so I can't complain that I can't repeat enough of them. I don't have that problem. I'm calm about it. The GOE I think is interesting. You can earn more, but when you make a mistake, you loose a lot. If you do well, you get more. That's an important component - you fell or you didn't fall. That they cut the program short has a minus. They cut it for quite a bit, but for us men we only have one jump less. But a jump means just two, three cross overs, step and jump. That doesn't take more than 10 seconds. We now are confined to a very strict frame. You need transitions, you need a character. There are strict frames, if that is good or bad, I think the people in the ISU also have thought about it. Let's see what happens before the Olympic Games. Maybe there will be some changes in the rules. But I don't worry about it. But I think they should give us a little more time, because a jump doesn't take so much time. That's just my opinion. But they make the rules and as an athlete I accept them and play according to them. It wouldn't be interesting either if everything is made easier. We are living in modern times after all, everything gets more difficult. We can't go back to triple jumps - not doing any quads or triple Axels.


What rules would you change if you could?

That's an interesting question. Maybe I would change the system for the second mark. I wouldn't split it up into transitions, skating skills, but I would do it a bit differently. Different components. Maybe I would do it like that that the technical score would not influence at all the component score.


There was even an idea that you have two different judging panels - one for the technique and one for the components.

I think that would be really interesting. For example, you have someone jumping very well, getting very high scores for the technique, but the panel was not impressed by his program and he gets quite low components. Another one messes up, gets the minimum for technique, but he skates like Patrick Chan and the choreographer hit the nail on the head with the program. Maybe you could give a small medal for the technique and a small medal for the components. This would be another possibility.


If there was a competition for a technical program and one for the artistic program - which one would you like to compete in?

I would like to compete in both, because it is interesting to test yourself in both areas.


How do you see the development of figure skating? Girls are doing quads now, for example.

At least figure skating gets on a higher technical difficulty, but the concerning the character and performance aspects of the program, it lost a bit its value in figure skating. Basically we went into the direction how can we make the programs harder.


In Russia the men are now in the shadow of the girls. How do you feel about that?

This is reality, I'm not blind and I see very well that our girls are the strongest in the world. The boys ... I don't know. I won't speak for others, but I might have been in last place at the Grand Prix Final, but I was the only one of the Russian boys who got there.


Is it upsetting for you that the girls are doing more quads than some of the men?

The girls are very young. For me that is not upsetting at all, because I did a lot of quads in my life. I am very happy for these girls - for Anna Shcherbakova, Alexandra Trusova, Alena Kostornaia. I know how much hard work that is and how much strength and health you have to input and all that. Only someone lazy can feel jealous. We are not competitors. I respect the little girls that do these jumps.


Maybe it is easier for them to jump like that because they are tiny and light.

That's a popular provocative question - when they grow up we'll see. I didn't go through puberty, so I don't know. But maybe someone will remain. Everyone thinks they'll stop (doing quads) but I don't think they will. Someone will survive.


Do you think they can do quads, because they rotate very fast?

They can do it, because they're working very hard, believe me.


Was there are kind of mental barrier to overcome to do quads?

Yes. It needed someone to do it and then you go out and think 'if he did it, why shouldn't I try at least'. And when they are skating in the same group, you see all that every day, then the mental barrier will fall quickly.


Some guys have been working on a quad Axel. What do you think about that?

If they are confident in their abilities, why not. I saw that Keegan (Messing) did it in practice and I think Yuzuru (Hanyu) tried it. This is very interesting. The triple Axel used to be considered one of the most difficult elements and it is still not seen as easy. We'll see. Four and a half revolutions - that puts a different strain on the body. If land in a bad way, it is something different. The price for error is high. It would be great  - it will be a royal jump.


You have a great, high triple Axel, too. Did you ever think about trying a quad?

Honestly, I still want to be able to walk. Then it's also one thing to learn something when you are 19 years old or before you are 19 and when you learn something and you're over 30. It is even not so much a physical, but a mental question. Even with the quad loop. When I'm in a normal shape, what is the difference (to younger skaters) maybe only that I need more time to recover than a 16 year old. But the mental part - it exists, nobody can get away from it, everything comes from the head - is a little different. You are more conscious about everything, you have gone through more injuries.


On the other hand, as an older athlete you are more experienced, which is also an advantage.

Yes, it can be a minus or a plus. It depends on how you approach it yourself and look at it and from what angle.


But you did the quad loop.

I didn't land it cleanly in competition.


In practice you did it, didn't you?

You know, you can say you did it only when you landed it in competition. When Yuzuru did it in competition, he can say he landed it. But nobody else can say that they did it, including me. I can only say that I tried it, but so far it didn't work for me. If I manage it, if it is recognized and in the protocol, then I can say that I did it. But to film it on video ... we have many clowns that post videos. That's funny. Practice is one thing, competition is another thing. You can be a practice king, but to go out in competition, at the right time and the right place, when you are on adrenaline, go out and do it. You have one attempt. This is high level sport, this is the price for a medal and then you can say I did it. And there are only few who can say that. There are a lot who did jumps in training.


So is the psychological factor the most important difference between competition and practice?

Fear, let's be honest. Everybody is afraid, everybody is nervous, but someone can handle it sometimes and someone can't. This is what makes the sport interesting - are you able to handle yourself in the given situation, the given moment or can't you? It happens even to great athletes that they couldn't handle themselves at a competition and fell apart. Nobody is eternal and everyone makes mistakes. The competition is this state why people can't stop competing. It is this kind of state, you are in a different psychological situation, you are in a different dimension. You can ask anyone - when you are on the ice - where else in life do you feel these emotions? Maybe it's like when you are parachuting for the first time. That's probably the same. Or ride a racing motorcycle at 300 km/h. Then you probably feel the same kind of adrenaline shot. But you can't jump constantly with a parachute or not get off the motorcycle.


How do you prepare for a competition?

Actually there are no secrets or special manipulations. First of all it is daily work, slave work. You come to competition and you have to pull yourself together not so much physically, but in your head to go out in the needed mindset. These are personal things. You need to be on your wave, that is comfortable for you. Then you have a higher chance for success.


Do you follow any rituals?

No, I don't burn any papers, I don't have any voodoo dolls. No. I just believe in work. I believe in material things. If you worked on something you show that. When you are not ready, it is silly to hope for a wonder. Sometimes you see it, someone comes to competition, he hasn't really done anything for two months, what is he hoping for? Only if he is lucky, it's a chance 1:100, but that can happen once. There is work and not for nothing all coaches that know what they are doing in any sport have a system.


You had many coaches, so you tested many systems.

Yes. There were a lot of systems. I have a certain system now that I know and that works for me and that has been tried.


Thank you for the interview and all the best for the season!