Tuktamysheva’s quest for perfection
On a sunny afternoon in the mountainous resort of Pinzolo, Italy, Russia’s Elizaveta (Lisa) Tuktamysheva is on the ice practicing footwork and connecting moves in a session with renowned American choreographer Tom Dickson.
The Youth Olympic Champion arrived the previous day with her training group from St. Petersburg, Russia, to take part in the first of three summer camps of her coach Alexei Mishin and his wife Tatiana.
Following the practice session on ice, the skater went jogging for half an hour and then was ready for her interview with Golden Skate.
The Russian figure skating “wunder babies” are growing up. Two years ago Golden Skate featured Tuktamysheva for the first time just before she hit the Junior Grand Prix.
This past season, the now 15-year-old won her two senior Grand Prix events at Skate Canada and Trophée Bompard, becoming the first Grand Prix debutant to do so. Even Yuna Kim and Mao Asada didn’t win both their Grand Prix events in their first senior year.
Tuktamysheva went on to place fourth in the Final and ended her season with a gold medal at the inaugural Youth Olympic Games. Her weakest competition was Russian Nationals last December.
The skater said she felt really tired at Russian Nationals. She made several errors to finish sixth, her lowest result since she came in 10th in her debut as an 11-year-old in 2008. The 2011 World Junior silver medalist is pleased with everything else she has achieved this past season.
“The season was very successful I can say,” Tuktamysheva noted. “Most of what I planned, I fulfilled.”
The Youth Olympic Games in Innsbruck, Austria were a highlight of the year.
“They were great,” said Tuktamysheva. “It was the right step from the IOC to organize this event for the children, well the 14, 15, and 16-year-olds, to take part in this major competition. They push young athletes at an early age to aim for victory.”
Now the Russian skater is getting ready for the next step in her career.
“Now I have to look forward to and focus on the next season and give it all and do even better in competitions,” Tuktamysheva said.
For this, she went to Toronto for two weeks in May to work with another famous choreographer, David Wilson. Tuktamysheva really enjoyed working with him.
“I think my (new) programs this year are more emotional,” the teenager stated. “I want to improve my skating skills and my spins and achieve more consistency in my jumps. There is no limit for perfection. There is nothing that you can’t improve. You have to work towards each element being perfect to the fingertips.”
However, although Tuktamysheva came back from Canada with two new programs, she is also working two other programs with Dickson in Pinzolo.
“I’m not a 100 percent sure yet about my short and long programs,” she shared. “I don’t have the final version yet. Basically I have two programs ready, but now Tom Dickson will choreograph another short and long program for me and we will decide later which ones we will use.”
This is not because she didn’t feel comfortable with Wilson’s programs.
“I really like these programs,” said Tuktamysheva. “It is Love Story and a beautiful gypsy program, but apparently Alexei Nikolaevitch (Mishin) wants to have more choice and that maybe I can develop even more. It is the right thing to do. I want to try different things.”
When the time comes to pick a program for competition, Tuktamysheva is involved in the decision.
“Of course I can say that I like this program more and feel it more,” she said. “We’ll sit together with my team, my coaches, and choreographers, and will discuss what is better. We will decide where the plusses and minuses are and decide together.”
The same goes for the costumes.
“Again, everybody is taking part in the decision, but I have the final word if I like it or not,” said Tuktamysheva.
The Grand Prix Finalist has landed triple Axels in practice in the past, but she didn’t attempt any (or many other jumps for that matter) in her first days in Pinzolo.
“After Canada I didn’t skate, and right now I’m breaking in new boots, so I’m not working on the triple Axel at the moment,” Tuktamysheva revealed. “I will continue to work on it, but I don’t know yet if we will include it into the program.”
Tuktamysheva would like to perform this three-and-a-half revolution jump that only a few female skaters have landed in competition.
“Obviously I would like to show what not everyone can do,” she said. “I think each athlete has this wish, but not everybody can fulfill it.”
Her coaches, Svetlana Veretennikova and Mishin, decided that her season ended early this year in February with the Youth Olympic Games and thus, skipping Junior Worlds.
“There were too many competitions,” said Mishin. “We needed time to work in practice.”
“The coaches decided this way and I didn’t question their decision,” Tuktamysheva confirmed. “I was training and started to prepare for the new season right away. I wasn’t just sitting around.”
Mishin sums up the goal for the upcoming season: “To skate better.”
His student names consistency in first place when asked about what she needs in order to win.
“But in general, when I do everything a 100 percent what I can do, then it could be enough for the victory,” Tuktamysheva added. “The triple Axel could help, too.”
To skate two strong programs means happiness to her.
“Happiness can be explained in different ways,” Tuktamysheva explained. “In general, happiness is when everything worked, when I did everything. Victory also means a big joy, when you won deservedly. Happiness is also when the people around you are happy, my mother, my sister, my coaches, and choreographers.”
Tuktamysheva has been selected for the same two Grand Prix that she did last season—Skate Canada and the Trophée Bompard—and is very pleased about it.
“I really wanted to go back to Paris, and I wanted to go to Japan,” she shared, “but Paris and Japan are back to back and I can’t do that. The best option for me is Canada and Paris. There will be very strong competitors in Paris as Carolina Kostner and Miki Ando are coming back. It will be almost a little World Championship. It will be very interesting.”
Another big motivation for her is that she is age-eligible for the European and World Figure Skating Championships this upcoming season.
“Finally!” exclaimed Tuktamysheva. “It is very motivating! I hope that Russian Nationals this year will be successful.”
Competition at Nationals will be tough with strong competitors such as World silver medalist Alena Leonova, Adelina Sotnikova, Julia Lipnitskaia, Polina Korobeynikova, and others.
However, there is half a year left before Nationals will kick off in December in Sochi. Meanwhile, Tuktamysheva is enjoying the summer camp in Pinzolo, which is surrounded by beautiful mountains.
“I like it here very much,” she said smiling. “It is so small and cozy, nice, and clean. There are a few shops in the centre and there is a swimming pool. On a day off we can go to the next big city which is Verona. When there are more days off, you can go to Venice.”