Being “international” is not extraordinary in figure skating. You are born in one country, train in another, and/or team up with a partner from a third country to represent a fourth country. Misha Ge is as international as it gets.
Born in Russia, Ge moved to China as a child where he lived, trained, and skated at the national level. He also trained in Hong Kong and Taiwan before his family moved to the USA. He now represents Uzbekistan in competition.
Ge’s international competitive debut happened quite late, just a year and a half ago at the Asian Winter Games in Kazakhstan. Though he never competed internationally at the junior level, fans nevertheless discovered this unusual and expressive skater who has become increasingly popular.
So how is it that a Russian-born skater who grew up in China and now lives in California is now representing Uzbekistan?
“This is a very long story,” said Ge. “I have some relatives from my mother’s side in Uzbekistan and my parents have known the Uzbekistan Federation for a many years. My parents decided that it would be better for me to skate for Uzbekistan.”
It turned out to be a good decision. Ge found a country he could compete for (and it would be a shame if he hadn’t) and Uzbekistan got a promising young skater.
Ge’s parents are coaches and choreographers. His mother, Larisa, is Russian, and his father, Yun, is of Russian and Chinese descent. Their son started skating in Moscow when he was four years old.
“So I took my first step slowly,” the 21-year-old explained. “I skating with my mom and with my dad, and my mom started to coach me.”
The family was going back and forth between Russia and China, and when Ge was ten years old they relocated to China for eight years.
“When I was ten years old my parents decided that I should do it (skating) at a professional level and started to work with me every day with a professional schedule,” recalled Ge.
Ge competed in China at the national level, but was never selected for a Junior Grand Prix. When he was 18 years old, his parents took the opportunity to coach in the USA.
“On one hand, they moved there because of work,” Ge explained, “On the other hand it was so that I’d have better conditions for studying.”
Russia, China or the USA, Ge doesn’t really have a favorite.
“I like all,” said Ge. “Each country has its beauty and its plusses. Right now I like Los Angeles, but it’s a little hard to get out of the habit of Asia. Each time I go to Asia I feel at home there. It doesn’t matter if I’m traveling through Korea, China, Japan, Taiwan or Hong Kong. I really like Asia. I think I like Los Angeles and Asia best.”
One advantage of having lived in different countries is that Ge was able to learn the languages.
“My native tongue is Russian,” Ge pointed out, who is now fluent in English. “Then I started to learn Chinese. I don’t know all the characters, but I speak it like I speak Russian, therefore they are more or less the same for me. My father is part Chinese and I speak Chinese with him, therefore I speak Chinese like Russian, without an accent.”
Being coached by your own parents has its advantages and disadvantages, as Ge can attest to.
“The advantage is that you have the possibility to train with them as much as you need it, but it is very hard to live 24 hours a day with figure skating,” Ge shared. “That’s not easy to deal with, but it is a big plus to always have two people next to you. I also work sometimes with Frank Carroll now, and we also have some other coaches, for example Lukash Abrahamyan. It is a big team. I am glad to have this opportunity in America to work with different people.”
Ge started to compete much later than other skaters of his caliber due to the difficulty in finding a country to compete for when he was moving from one place to the other. Now he seems to enjoy every second he is out on the ice in front of an audience.
“I think it is not bad that I started to compete late,” offered Ge. “There are plusses. I learned something in those years when I didn’t compete. I am glad that I now have the chance to compete in international events and I really enjoy it.”
The skater was pleasantly surprised about the positive reaction of the crowd wherever he competed.
“It was really nice,” Ge said. “I didn’t have competitions for several years. You are training, you are motivated, but still it is hard. You try to work, but you don’t know how the judges and the spectators will evaluate it. When I competed and the audience like it and cheered, I was surprised and I was very happy. What we did in the past years wasn’t for nothing. What we did paid off and the spectators appreciated it.”
It is his total commitment to his programs, as well as the emotion and passion he exudes when he is performing on the ice, that has won over the fans so quickly. The skater said that he has many idols in the sport, however, the ones he looks up to the most were and are Alexei Yagudin, Evgeni Plushenko and Daisuke Takahashi.
“Each athlete has something special, very unique,” Ge pointed out. “I could say so much about them right now. I think they are unique each in their own way, in their character, in their mind set, performances, and elements. These three my biggest idols from which I look up to and try to learn from.”
Many people felt that his short program in the past season to The Swan reminded them of Johnny Weir’s program to the same music a few years ago. Ge confirmed that Weir is another skater he looks up to, but he didn’t want to copy him.
“Many people compared my program to Johnny’s, but in fact we tried to do it in our own way. The idea of the “dying swan” came to us from the Bolshoi Theatre,” he elaborated.
“Our choreographer, Lukash Abrahamyan, was a ballet dancer himself,” Ge continued. “He showed us the video of (ballet dancer) Galina Ulanova, and he showed us the best Swan of the recent past. We really liked it. It was very touching and it even gave me the goose bumps and touched my heart.”
“While Johnny used this music, not many other have, and I think this is why people started the comparison,” Ge explained. “We tried to do everything like in the ballet. There are certain moves in the ballet and they were similar. I like Johnny very much, he is always interesting and unusual. It would be great if he really returns and I’ll be happy to learn from such a remarkable athlete. However, we tried to do something of our own. I’m far from Johnny. He did it much better.”
Ge usually chooses his music together with his whole team.
“We tried to do two completely different programs, completely different styles,” the skater offered. “When we did classical, ballet, drama for the short program we wanted to do passion, emotion, love in the long program. Therefore they came out differently. Probably I really like the idea of Yagudin’s Gladiator.”
“I think maybe there was something from Alexei’s Gladiator in there,” continued Ge, referring to the long program to War and Love by Invincible. “This is one of the best programs of the last ten years. There were so many emotions in it. When you watch it ten years later, you are still surprised. I think it left a big impression on me when I saw it as a child, but I did it my way in a modern way.”
Next season, Ge plans to surprise his audience with two different programs, but is not ready t to reveal the music choices just yet.
“The two programs will really have a big contrast,” he stressed. “I don’t want to be the same. I want to always be different and creative. You will see it at competition. It will have little surprises in it.”
Ge also revealed that both he and his mother, Larisa, did the choreography for the new programs, just as they had last year.
His talent and love for music and dance were obvious again this summer when the skater posted a few dance videos of himself on YouTube to the delight of his fans.
“Dance is my passion,” said Ge. “I love dance! I did the video as a hobby to share with my friends.”
As a result, a Korean entertainment agency saw the video and have shown interest.
“I’ll have an audition for future entertainment work,” Ge revealed.
The company invited him to Vancouver, however, at press time, Ge was unsure if he could go due to his busy training schedule, shows, and competitions.
Ge describes his character as “manifold”.
“I can be like a child sometimes, like a ten-year-old who runs around and screams, ‘Let’s go play!'” admitted Ge. However, I also can be very serious, act my age, trying to be smarter and more grown up. Therefore, I’d say I am diverse. I have diverse moods, but I always try to be positive.”
Ge is preparing for the new season in different places as his parents are working in different ice rinks. His main focus is on getting the triple Axel consistent and working on the quad toe.
“I landed the triple Axel last summer, but because I had too many international competitions, seven all together during the season, I was unable to spend more time to focus on practicing it and getting it consistent,” the skater shared.
Ge added that he was close to the quad toe last summer and hopes to improve it this year.
Right now his life is committed to figure skating. When asked what he does off the ice, the Uzbek athlete laughed: “Figure skating! 24 hours…. I spend time with my parents when they have time, but as coaches they are also very busy. I have a lot of practices myself, from morning to evening. Therefore, I’m happy to do anything.”
“The most important thing is that it is something cheerful,” Ge elaborated. “This can be going in the park with friends, with the parents, watching a movie, shopping, and doing other sports. I like all kind of sports.”
“Unfortunately, as athletes, we cannot play all kinds of sport as some of them are dangerous. So sometimes you have to hold yourself back a little,” Ge added with a smile.
For now his online studies at an Uzbek university are on hold.
Ge is an avid user of Twitter and Facebook and likes to communicate with his fans.
“Twitter and Facebook are great social networks which help you keep in touch with your great fans all over the world,” Ge acknowledged. “The fans’ support helps me a lot. They give me energy and power to be better and to improve and work hard to show them better performances. I’m always doing my best to reply to them. For my fans who will be reading this – Thank you guys so much for your support!”
Ge hasn’t decided yet where he wants to compete this fall, but plans to start his season a little later. He is looking at some international senior B events and still hopes to grab a spot on the Grand Prix as a substitute. He knows that this will be an important year to get closer to his dream of competing at the Olympic Games in Sochi, however, this is not his only goal.
“I prefer to look at life realistically,” he said. “I hope to be a top skater, but I want people to enjoy my skating and like my skating. I want to share emotion and how I feel when I am skating. I think that’s the most important. Of course I want to be on the top. I want to be the best I can be. That’s my goal.”