Golden Skate

Russia’s Andrei Lazukin skates out of the shadows

Russian figure skater Andrei Lazukin has been around for a while, but over this past season, he has skated out of the shadows and right into the limelight. The long-time student of Alexei Mishin got into the 2019 ISU World Figure Skating Championships in Saitama as a substitute for Russian Champion Maxim Kovtun, who withdrew citing medical reasons (and who recently has announced his retirement from competitive skating). Lazukin finished a respectable 10th with solid performances and setting season best scores.

Just two weeks later, Lazukin was called up again on short notice to replace Mikhail Kolyada, who fell sick, at the 2019 ISU World Team Trophy. Once again, Lazukin skated well, setting a new personal best in the Short Program and Total Score and helped Team Russia to secure the bronze medal.

The skater from St. Petersburg seized these opportunities and made the most of them, feeling that the 2018-19 season was a certain breakthrough for him.

“Actually, I always did a lot of competitions, but they were a bit different at the end of the season,” Lazukin said with a laugh.

In the past, while his teammates went to the larger international competitions, Lazukin was competing at national or smaller international events instead.

“I think I got a lot of useful experience,” he noted. “I know what it is like to compete at the World Championships and the World Team Trophy. I’m really happy with what happened and how it went, it is a great opportunity fate presented to me.”

Lazukin remained calm when he was sent to World and the World Team Trophy events, not feeling much pressure since he was coming in as an alternate.

“I tried not to let down the team at Team Trophy,” he said. “I just tried to show what I can do and maybe not the maximum, but to do what I’m ready to do at this point. Therefore, there weren’t too much nerves and I was able to deal with it. At Worlds, I was also quite calm, honestly. I thought it would be more nerve-racking. I was just confident in myself, knowing that I am able to do this, that I’ve done it a million times in training and therefore it came out that way.”

The Russian skater sees his biggest progress this season in gaining more consistency.

“I messed up the short once probably in the season, and this was the same situation. I came in as a substitute and I hadn’t yet overcome the Grand Prix in Finland that didn’t go too well for me,” the 21-year-old explained. As for the free skating, I made mostly mistakes on the triple Axel, which is not the most consistent jump for me. It wasn’t that I was lacking confidence, I was always confident in myself, there were only mistakes in the middle of the program, but this is probably more a technical question. I proved that I am mentally ready and that I can do it.”

Following World Team Trophy, Lazukin went back to St. Petersburg with his teammates from the same training group, Sofia Samodurova and Elizaveta Tuktamysheva (who happens to be his girlfriend). They’re scheduled for a training camp in Estonia in the beginning of May before going on vacation right after that. Tuktamysheva and Lazukin are headed to Cyprus for their vacation. After that, they’ll continue their preparation for the upcoming season in various training camps in Europe and also in Florida this summer.

Lazukin, whose best result at nationals so far was fourth place in 2019 and 2017, is looking ahead now for the next season.

“I plan to include the quad Lutz in my program,” he revealed. “I’ve done it in the beginning of the season and last year I tried it in competition in St. Petersburg. There probably wasn’t just enough time to prepare this element because I was thrown off due to some health problems—I caught a cold and I was often sick this season. Therefore, I was not able to prepare the quad Lutz that was consistent or that I was confident about. Now, consistency is very important. I did it in practice and I am basically ready for it mentally and physically.”

The athlete wants to change both programs, but is still in the process of searching for music.

“I am always suggesting something, but my ideas don’t get realized every time,” he said. For example, in the first half of the season, Lazukin skated to a Prelude by Sergei Rachmaninov in the Free Skating, which was his own idea. However, coach Mishin didn’t like the program and the skater had to dump it and came to Russian Nationals with a new program to Tchaikovski’s Romeo and Juliet.

“I think the Rachmaninov program would have developed together with me as the season went on. Then I got the order [to change it] and there was nothing I could do about it,” Lazukin recalled with a laugh.

In regards to his goals next season, Lazukin just wants to “skate clean programs” and understands how important that is. “I want to continue to progress,” he said. “I don’t want to talk about placements, I just want to grow. A lot.”

While figure skating is hugely popular in Russia, the female skaters are at the center of attention with stars such as Olympic and World Champion Alina Zagitova, two-time World Champion Evgenia Medvedeva, and Tuktamysheva, who came back strongly this season to take bronze at the Grand Prix Final and to win the Ladies Free Skating at World Team Trophy. The men are in the shadow of the ladies “and I’m in the shadow of the Russian boys,” Lazukin added and laughed again.

The Russian media and fans criticize the men skaters quite harshly for not achieving the same results as the ladies. However, Lazukin tries not to let that criticism bother him.

“I am very relaxed about that,” he said. “I think it’s even funny to read comments like ‘Lazukin can’ skate, why was he even sent.’ This is entertaining for me. This even fires me up and motivates me. The higher you get, the more criticism you receive, and it gets worse. They’ll always criticize you for something. We’re not (Evgeni) Plushenko and (Alexei) Yagudin. I’m calm about that. I know myself and I can judge myself adequately. In skating, I think I can achieve quite good results if I continue to progress.”

Lazukin also doesn’t mind being in the shadow of his popular girlfriend.

“I’m cool with that. I am happy for her, especially that it went so well at World Team Trophy, because this whole situation with the World Championships affected her,” the skater said.

Lazukin and Tuktamysheva enjoyed competing together at a major event for the first time in Fukuoka.

“Obviously, we feel each other’s support and it is a different feeling. You feel that you are not alone,” he noted while admitting that he was very nervous watching Tuktamysheva skate. “Everyone stood up at the end, while I was still sitting there, tense. I just wanted to watch until the very end. She just skated lights out and I am proud of her.”

Lazukin, who is originally from the Samara region, but moved to St. Petersburg in 2010 to train in Mishin’s group, is currently studying in his third year for his sports diploma at the Lesgaft University.

“Next year, I’ll have to write my diploma thesis and I’m trying not to delay it because I like to protract things,” he shared.

The athlete would like to expand his studies after graduating from Lesgaft University and has an interest in journalism.

“I like to listen to people, to find out new things and to write about something,” said Lazukin. “Maybe I’ll be a journalist in the future, I’d like to, but I haven’t chose my path yet. I still have time to think about it.”

For now, however, his focus is on skating and he is not only eyeing this Olympic cycle, but the next one as well.

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