The past season was like a whirlwind for Russian pair skaters Aleksandra Boikova and Dmitrii Kozlovskii. It was their first full season skating as a team – and skating pairs – and yet they claimed a bronze medal at the 2016-17 ISU Junior Grand Prix Figure Skating, then the Russian Junior title, and topped it off by winning silver at the 2017 ISU World Junior Championships. Not bad for the two skaters from St. Petersburg that had switched to pairs less than two years ago.
Now 15-year-old Boikova and her 17-year-old partner are well into their preparations for the upcoming season. They have analyzed the past season and have taken their newly gained experience to move forward from there.
“We are now working on the quality of the elements and the programs and trying to break them in as quickly as possible,” Boikova said. “For now, we are not focusing on quads too much as you need a 100 percent consistency of the elements in order to avoid injuries.”
Artur Minchuk, who mainly coaches the young team with the support of the legendary Tamara Moskvina, reveals that the team has been working on the quad throw Salchow and they are thinking about a quad twist.
“It is going well, but it has to be included into the program,” Minchuk said. “It is a different story to do just the element or doing it in the program, in the performance. With an element alone, you can’t win anything. Therefore, we are learning it now and once it is ready, it will be included into the program.”
Boikova and Kozlovskii have realized that their major weakness in the past season was that they still appeared to be two single skaters doing pairs, and they have been working hard to improve that aspect. This spring, the Russian Junior champions have worked with famous choreographers Peter Tchernyshev, Natalia Bestemianova and Igor Bobrin, not only on their programs, but on their overall skating, and feel that they made a lot of progress in the past few months.
“Obviously, it was very interesting to work with these choreographers,” noted Boikova. “The most important thing they taught us was to skate like a pair. Without that, you can’t get anywhere and it speeds up the process of understanding and also executing the elements.”
“To work with such masters is really inspiring,” Kozlovskii agreed. “For me personally, this is a very powerful motivation. When you are interacting with professionals, your responsibility is growing. I am striving to do everything and soak up everything to the maximum and give a 100 percent so that the expert who is working with us enjoys the creative process.”
“Natalia Bestemianova and Igor Andreevitch Bobrin are very creative,” he continued. “They really set a fast pace for us in the program. They are world famous experts, but at the same time, they are positive and open for discussion. The same goes for Peter Tchernyshev. We spent eight hours a day with him on the ice for a week. Peter has endless creative ideas, he is demanding, strict and patient with us. Aleksandra and I are thrilled to have worked with all of them.”
Bestemianova and Bobrin did the short program while Tchernyshev choreographed the long. Coach Minchuk is pleased with the progress of his skaters.
“Now we have a real pair skating team and not two single skaters that we put together,” he said. “Now it looks like they have been skating together for a long time. We are now trying to get them up to the senior level skating faster, because they have the potential to do well with good material.”
The athletes are not yet ready to reveal the name of their music for their new programs, but they shared a few details.
“Our new programs are different from each other and with interesting ideas,” Kozlovskii offered. “They are difficult and fast paced. We need to do run-throughs and present them at the test skates (in August). We can say more about the characters we portray at the beginning of the competition season.”
“We can just say that they are beautiful and interesting,” Boikova added. “We’ll try not only to execute the elements, but also to perform the programs so that the spectators and we can enjoy them.”
The World Junior silver medalists want to attend two Junior Grand Prix events in the fall, but they also hope to test themselves at the senior level. The plan is to do some Challenger Series (Senior B events).
“There is a big difference between junior and senior competition,” Minchuk pointed out. “They (Boikova/Kozlovskii) have to understand what it is like to compete with skaters of their age and with skaters that are few years older. That will be interesting for them.”
“Our main goal is to skate our new programs clean,” Kozlovskii said. “We want to make the programs harder with interesting transitions and elements, beautiful choreography and expressive performance of the characters.”
“We have big plans, but the most important thing is to fulfill them,” his partner added. “We have to pay more attention to skating together as a pair, and we have to go out to compete like it is a celebration and not thinking that something weird or terrible is happening.”
Kozlovskii feels that the psychological factor is very important as well. “Throughout the whole season, we need to keep our inner calm. We cannot become euphoric after successful competitions, but we need to learn to detach ourselves from results and approach a new competition without looking back, like starting from scratch.”
In May, Tamara Moskvina’s school moved from their old home in the “Yubileini” ice rink to a brand new practice rink in another part of St. Petersburg. The conditions are perfect. There is one ice surface reserved for figure skating and another one reserved for ice hockey. Boikova only regrets that the new rink is further away from her home. For Kozlovskii, who just graduated from high school with excellent marks, the move came at the right time, because his school was close to the old rink and he was able to attend classes in between practices. This wouldn’t have been possible now. He praises the new conditions.
“Here is a lot of ice, it is cozy and very comfortable,” he said. “I know that everyone in our group is very pleased. It is a pleasure to train in these comfortable conditions. Especially Tamara Nikolaevna Moskvina deserves credit for that.”
“We are working like in a dream now, because we have as much ice as we want, we can come any time and do what we want,” coach Artur Minchuk commented. “Before, we had one and a half hours in the morning and one and a half hours in the evening. Now we can work one and a half hours at five in the morning or at nine in the morning, the whole day, whenever we or the kids want it.”
The coach appreciates the character and the work ethics of his skaters. “They don’t have much experience, so sometimes you need to push them into the right direction and guide them and sometimes maybe even make them mad – at me, not at each other, of course. She (Boikova) is more emotional, she is a real girl. He (Kozlovskii) is calm. We don’t have problems in practice or competition. They are fighters and they can pull themselves together when needed.”
Boikova and Kozlovskii are Minchuk’s first pair at this level and the young coach is growing with them. “We also benefit from the help of our experienced older coaches Tamara Nikolaevna (Moskvina) and Oleg Kimovich (Vasiliev),” Minchuk concluded. “We are working as a team and Sasha (Alexander) Smirnov helped when he could and gave advice. When there is a team, it is always going better than when you are alone. One is good, two is better and three is even better.”