Roman Kostomarov: ''Kazan will host the world figure skating championships without any problem''

The famous figure skater became a guest of Realnoe Vremya’s online conference

Roman Kostomarov: ''Kazan will host the world figure skating championships without any problem'' Photo: Maksim Platonov

Ilya Averbukh's show 15 Years of Success will be in Kazan on 24 April. Last week, one of the participants of this play on the ice, Olympic champion in figure skating Roman Kostomarov became a guest in Realnoe Vremya's studio. During the online conference, he answered many questions about the world of figure skating – about the failure of Russian men's singles, Olympic scandals and if Alina Zagitova should continue her career.

''Maybe I will become a coach in five years''

How much time did it take to prepare the show15 Years of Success?

Of course, such performances need certain preparation, but the whole staging takes about a week. Every skater will perform their own performance they know well. It's not a musical and not a theatre staging, there won't be a single storyline among the performances. Spectators will see a so-called love story only in the second part. There will be a general picture of intertwined performances, about relations, breakups, love. I will note that apart from figure skaters' performances, there will be acrobatic and comic performances. We plan to visit 30 cities with this show.

Is it true you will be skating with your ex-partner Tatiana Navka?

I am not sure if she will be in Kazan at that time. But it's quite possible, as we perform with her in Moscow as a pair. I also skate with my wife Oksana Domnina, of course.

You've been working with Ilya Averbukh for 15 years. Could you tell how much the industry has changed during this time?

Everything began with some 2-3 shows in just several cities. We looked quite primitive – in terms of illumination, musical accompaniment, advertising. Now we can se it's Averbukh's huge company. The level is completely different, everything is serious.

In one of his interviews, Averbukh said that, at first, the show was loss making. Didn't you think of giving up?

We understood we needed to gain the spectator's trust so that people would come to a bigger show. Like in any business, you will be at a loss first. But Ilya and the company proved everything to everyone 15 years after. Few projects in our country survive over such a long period.

One can always learn something. In sport, we had other goals and tasks, now we have an artistic career. We don't forget that we should skate well. This is why we train. But now we don't have our hands tied, we are open for creativity, this is why we can do even more from an artistic perspective than athletes do in sport

How many years did it take people to go to the show without thinking twice?

Some five years. Maybe faster. Because the projects The Ice Age, Stars on the Ice and so on appeared on TV in 2006. They gave an impulse, made figure skating very popular in the country. It was a good effect for Ilya and his company. Television is television.

Does this mean that demand for the show is stable now?

Of course. Now we perform at least over 100 shows and plays a year. Last year, we performed in Verona, Italy, in Juliette's homeland, for the first time. The feelings we had there are unforgettable. The packed hall of the arena showed that people knew where they were going, whom they were going to see.

How can you personally develop in the ice show?

We try to make up something new because we can't perform the same programme every year. Averbukh is a generator of ideas, all stagings are born in his head. Everything began with Lights of the Big City musical. Then it was Carmen, Romeo and Juliette.

As for my own development, one can always learn something. In sport, we had other goals and tasks, now we have an artistic career. We don't forget that we should skate well. This is why we train. But now we don't have our hands tied, we are open for creativity, this is why we can do even more from an artistic perspective than athletes do in sport.

Plus, all the projects of The Ice Age helped us a lot, as we could learn acting from theatre and cinema stars. I will note that the project had a great influence on the development of figure skating in Russia. Ice skates were bought up across the country, it was impossible to find them in shops. The project's popularity was crazy.

Are the performances in the show your main activity now?

Yes.

If not the performances, what could you be doing now?

I can say whatever. But it would likely be coaching. This is probably the best thing figure skaters can do after ending the career. There are those who try to run a business, open their own restaurant. But I know enough cases when people got their fingers burnt. Because one should learn everything and be a professional in what he or she does.

But do you consider the option of working as a coach in the future?

I think so. I will maybe become a coach in five years when the show 20 Years of Success comes out (laughing). At the moment the show is all-consuming, what I am very glad about. I want to skate because I am ready for it both physically and spiritually.

I think Zagitova even shouldn't fight the growing generation. She's won all the titles one could win. In the situation with Zagitova, in my opinion, the best thing for her is to retire as a champion, better with your shield, or on it. Then it is going to be much harder for her

''Zagitova should retire as a champion, not fight against the new generation''

What can you say about Alina Zagitova's gold at the recent world championships? Does her first place mean she coped with all her psychological and physical problems?

It's hard to speak about her without knowing all the details. But, indeed, Zagitova had an unsuccessful performance at the world championships immediately after the Olympics. Olympic champions in women's singles rarely stay in sport, moreover, aspire to victories in other big competitions. But Alina proved everything to everyone at this world championships in Japan. She rightly deserves to be a champion and is the best in the world now.

She will decide herself what will happen next, if she will keep competing or maybe end the career and begin skating in some shows, maybe in ours.

How will you assess the result Evgenia Medvedeva showed?

A bronze medal in general isn't a bad result, given her age. Previously, she was going through puberty, she lost many things. But she managed to gain a lot by the world championships, compete at a decent level and finish third.

Young 14-15-year-old girls are showing fantastic results now, but they can't go to senior competitions yet. But they perform so complicated elements at their age that it's becoming tough for 17-18-year-olds. Young skaters are at their heels. This is why Zagitova won now, it's a big success.

Is it going to be tougher for her in the future because incredible competition awaits for her?

I think she even shouldn't fight against the growing generation. She's won all the titles one could win. In the situation with Zagitova, in my opinion, the best thing for her is to retire as a champion, better with your shield, or on it. Then it is going to be much harder for her.

Back to Medvedeva. Is her departure from Eteri Tutberidze was a mistake?

It's her choice. She is already an adult and made a decision on her own. I even find it difficult to say if it is a mistake or not. Yes, Evgenia made much noise – everyone talked about it. But as we see, this didn't bring a great result in general.

She shouldn't have undressed then, but she would have been criticised because she didn't undressed. People in our country like to discuss whatever. She took her clothes off – bad, she didn't take her clothes off – also bad. There will always be ill-wishers who will find something to talk about

''Men's singles is the most prestigious and popular event in figure skating''

What will you say about Yelizaveta Tuktamysheva's performance who takes her clothes off in exhibitions? Many suppose them quite debatable and even incompatible with figure skating.

She took a shirt off. Is it undressing? I think it's rubbish to be talking about it. She had another item under the shirt, so what? There is nothing special in her performance, this topic is exaggerated. Everyone is talking about it, but I don't understand why they are talking.

Many people criticise her…

She shouldn't have undressed then, but she would have been criticised because she didn't undressed. People in our country like to discuss whatever. She took her clothes off – bad, she didn't take her clothes off – also bad. There will always be ill-wishers who will find something to talk about.

Is this situation increasing interest in figure skating?

Yes, everyone is talking about Yelizaveta Tuktamysheva herself now. If not this situation, nobody would probably remember her. Now everyone is talking about her, about her undressing.

What's the problem of men's singles in Russia? There haven't been good single male skaters after Yevgeny Plyuschenko.

All new skaters have probably a weak spirit. There are candidates, of course, but they can't psyche up for some reason. Many of them are good in training, everyone skates correctly. But in a competition, they can't cope with their fears spiritually or something else.

Of course, we had such figure skaters as Yagudin and Plyuschenko who made men's singles in figure skating reach another level by competing with each other. They even had sports hatred towards each other. Plus, they were really strong men.

Though we have Aleksandr Samarin who has gone to the team world championships now. It's quite possible he will show off there. Aleksandr already was second in the European championships. He does a good job, but now it will be tough to outrun those whiz-kids in America and Japan.

Don't you think that men's skating lacks prestige? There is no such buzz like in women's skating.

I won't agree, men's singles have always been prestigious. It's the most prestigious event in figure skating, the most popular one.

In figure skating, the older you are the harder it is for you. Moreover, it is very hard to confirm your victory. One can once win the same world championships, but it's very hard to do it twice

About Russia's problems in ice dance

Russia hasn't had a gold since your danceduet with Tatiana Navka stopped competing. What do you think is the problem?

I think that the departure of many of our specialists abroad, mainly to the USA and Canada, in the 90s played a role. Many have still been working there. A generation of foreigners has appeared there who have grown up with Russian school, so to speak. The level of ice dance has gone up around the globe. Our country used to dominate in figure skating everywhere. There were successes still in the post-Soviet era. But then foreign pairs improved their level, now Canada has two-time Olympic ice dance champions. They won the Olympics at 23 years – there had been no such thing. When we were competing, partners matured, reached ''mature'' skating by some 30 years. Now the Canadians jumped over the bar. They are two-time Olympic champions, what should I say here? A great job. But our pairs are a bit at the bottom.

Again, the pair Ilinykh-Katsalapov broke up after the Olympics in Sochi. Nikita is skating with Viktoria Sinitsyna now. They broke up with Ilinykh for some personal reasons, though they had already been bronze medallists in singles and had a good chance to become champions in the future, the pair fell apart. There was a gap in results. But now our pair is already at the heel of the French who are now leaders in today's ice dance. They should prove their professionalism and show stability year after year. Because they often fail some elements and therefore lose.

Is it a good or bad that today's tendency is when the youth win the Olympics Games?

The youth have always won them. The bar has shifted in ice dance, yes. The youth have always won in other events. Girls under 16 years have always won, boys at 20 have always won. 30-year-old pairs have always won in ice dance. The age in pairs is approximately the same. In figure skating the older you are the harder it is for you. Moreover, it is very hard to confirm your victory. One can once win the same world championships, but it's very hard to do it twice.

You take part in the project The Ice Age. Kids. How does it affect kids' figures kating?

Judging by how many talented kids we have now, we can say that this project helps develop figure skating in the country. Of course, more children start doing this sport. They see our best girls skating, and many jump such very complicated cascades at the age of 10, which was hard to imagine 15-20 years ago. Technically, the level has gone upwards.

About Kazan and Olympic scandals

What's your attitude to the Olympics in Salt Lake City in 2002? As it's known, Russia was accused of conspiracy with a French judge. Is this absurdity? Why do you think that scandal was actively promoted in the Western press?

That scandal didn't refer to me. If Ilya Averbukh were here, he could talk about that situation in detail. I was then ninth, and I didn't care about this conflict at all.

How do you remember that Olympics? There were scandals in other sports, too, not only in figure skating.

There were scandals, but there were successful tours in America as well. Two pairs were on the podium on the first place then. Our Anton Sikharulidze and Yelena Berezhnaya and a Canadian duet. But everyone got the maximum from this scandal and earn good money then.

You qualified for that Olympics in the Russian Championships, which were in Kazan. What impressions did you have of the capital of Tatarstan then?

Tatneft Arena didn't exist then, we skated in the old Sports Palace. Generally speaking, we performed in Kazan quite often. We came here from America more often, this is why we saw nothing further the city centre. The jetlag made an impact – we wanted to have a rest. But we saw the Kremlin, went for a walk there, but not for long because we came in winter. We mainly saw the Kremlin from the bus window, the hotel and the ice rink. Now, yes, now we have time to go for a walk, see the city.

Is Kazan able to host big figure skating competitions?

Of course. There are all conditions for it. Kazan is a beautiful city that doesn't stay still and develops. There is a wonderful arena, there is an experience in hosting big competitions – the Universiade and the FIFA World Cup. This means a lot. And it's the capital of Tatarstan anyway. I believe that the world figure skating championships can be held here, too. Kazan will host it without any problem.

Photo: Maksim Platonov
Tatarstan

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