Yana Khokhlova: “I don’t want to break up any teams”
Russian skater has gone to America to search for a new partner
One of the thrilling ice dancing teams of Russian figure skating, Yana Khokhlova and Sergei Novitski have announced they were breaking up. The reason was Sergei’s injury, forcing him to wrap up his career. 24-year-old Yana, then, decided to try her luck one more time to fight for the Olympic gold. This time, the goal is Sochi. To this end, she started looking for a new partner. Now, the skater is trying to team up with Fedor Andreev, the son of a famous coach Marina Zueva. Yana has recently returned to Moscow from Detroit where she trained with Fedor. Yana has talked to us about the trip and about her plans.
“It was great”, said Khokhlova. “The flight, though, got delayed because of the volcano, so I stayed in Detroit for two weeks instead of one. However, this ultimately gave me more time to look and orient myself.”
“How did you first practices with Andreev go?”
“I’ve skated with the same partner, Sergei Novitski, for many years. We’ve gotten used to each other, and that means a lot. Now, though, I must change if I am to stay in the sport. In my opinion, our practices with Fedor went well; we had no trouble in either skating or communicating. We’re both happy with it.”
“Does this mean the issue of your partner is already settled?”
“Not yet. We’ll know for sure by early June.”
“Did you consider anyone else?”
“You see, it’s hard to find a partner at this level. Purely theoretically, we looked at many options, but in practice I could only skate with someone who already has a partner. Breaking up successful teams is not my style. That’s why we decided to search for a partner abroad.”
“Are you scared of partnering a singles skater, who’s never done ice dance before?”
“Scared but excited!”
“You’ll have to start from scratch.”
“I’m prepared for difficulties, though it’s not an easy decision for me. If Fedor and I skate together, I’ll have to change my life drastically. I thought a lot about it as I was going to Detroit. However, our practices showed that even though he’s never had a partner, he works well in a team. Besides, he is a very quick learner. We had no problem understanding each other.”
“Andreev has represented Canada. Will he have any problems seeing as you want to represent Russia?”
“He has dual citizenship, so it should be OK.”
“Many Russian skaters who’ve gone to train in America have complained of difficult adaptation.”
"I’m an adventurous person; I make decisions easily and get used to environments quickly. Moreover, my future partner has Russian roots, so that should help. I’ve been very warmly received in the group of Marina Zueva and Igor Shpilband, more so even than I expected, so I won’t be lonely. Though I guess their company is not what we call a group.”
“Things are very different over there, the relationships are different as are approaches to training. Nobody puts together a group; athletes themselves approach coaches. Some skaters train there all the time, others come and go, so there is no monolithic group as we tend to have. Only the Canadians Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir and Americans Meryl Davys and Charlie White train their constantly.”
“Are you afraid of competition with them?”
“It will only do as some good, providing us with added incentive.”
“Did you make the decision to no longer skate together with Novitski on your own?”
“It was our common decision. Sergei has many health problems. He understands that he can’t risk remaining in the sport. We considered skating in shows together. However, considering everything carefully, I decided to remain in the sport. Sergei was understanding about it.”
“How did your coaches Alexander Svinin and Irina Zhuk take to the news that you’ll most likely go to America.”
“It’s so hard… I am grateful to them for everything they did for Sergei and me. The four of us discussed the situation together. Each one expressed their view, and ultimately we all came to an agreement.”
[RIGHT]Interview by Valentina Karelova[/RIGHT]
I think Jana should get ready for more cultural shock than she currently realizes.
Tripping on the Podium
There isn't enough new stuff there to do a full translation, so I'll just talk of the overall impression of this interview. Clearly, Sergei is extremely uncomfortable about this. He badly wanted to continue skating with her, though he understands her decision. He hasn't met Fedor yet - he isn't exactly avoiding him, but he isn't eager to have anything to do with the new partnership; he hasn't seen their tryout tapes either. He is being a good sport but clearly hates being in that position. He keeps trying to joke to wave it off but it clearly shows. About his knee, he says "the clinic doesn't have angles or the Good Lord working there", so there are no guarantees of anything. He also joked that his knee joint is like a "Lego" set pulled apart.
Jana is not all that relaxed either. Written interviews do not reflect this unease from both of them. One interesting thing she does mention (it's not in the written version of the interview) is that the job is made easier by not having compulsories - teaching those to Andreev would've been more difficult.
Novitski does not think his comepetive career is over? Or he wants to skate in shows with Khokloova with both of them retired from competition?
I think he's just understandably depressed about the whole situation. His knee is likely to heal enough to do shows; also, he might be holding out some hope of healing it completely. In any case - skating is all he knows, and he has no interest in coaching, so he is in a rather unenviable position any way you look at it. Once again, though, let me re-iterate that he is being very civil, that's why you can't even tell from written down interviews how upset he is. When you watch it, though, you clearly get the impression of someone who's using humor to cover up his unease.