Golden Skate

Dark horse Olga Mikutina thrives in Feldkirch

Austria’s Olga Mikutina became a dark horse at the 2021 ISU World Figure Skating Championships in Stockholm, Sweden last March. In what was her World Championship debut, the 17-year-old jumped into the top ten with an eighth-place finish—the best result for Austrian figure skating in 24 years when Julia Lautowa placed eighth in 1997. With this accomplishment, Mikutina secured an Olympic quota place plus the option for a second quota place for the Austrian ladies. That is a big deal for the small European country which was once one of the leading nations in figure skating many decades ago.

Mikutina has the goods to bring success to Austria again. The teenager is a well-balanced skater with solid jumps, quality spins and strong components, and she has made a lot of progress since her ISU European Championship debut in 2020 when she struggled with illness and finished 24th.

“During the (2020-21) season, we worked a lot on the jumps, and thanks to the Corona pandemic, school was online and I didn’t have to go there,” the two-time Austrian Champion said. “I was able to study at home on the computer. Maybe because of this, I had more time for my training and everything became more consistent.” However, her ice rink in the little town of Feldkirch, which is close to the Swiss border, was closed during lockdown for two months and Mikutina trained off the ice on a parking lot when it was possible.

Mikutina started her season in Oberstdorf at Nebelhorn Trophy where she finished 13th. While this was not a spectacular start, she picked up momentum closer to Worlds, coming in second at the Tallink Hotels Cup in Tallinn, Estonia, and winning the Sofia Trophy in Bulgaria. In Stockholm, the 17-year-old turned in two strong performances—she ranked 11th in the Short Program and seventh in the Free Skate which lifted her to eighth place in the final result.

Mikutina enjoyed her first World Championship and gained a lot of experience. “Everyone in Stockholm was very strong and it was great to compete with them and to have the opportunity to compare myself to them. That was very helpful,” she noted. “I watched everyone who skated after me. Each skater was interesting. One has a lot of speed and so I thought I need to work on that. Others are jumping very high, so maybe I should train that as well. I want to continue to develop, make my jumps higher and cover more distance. You can always improve.”

“You get more experienced with each competition and I am learning every time that I need to shut off unnecessary thoughts so I don’t put pressure on myself but enjoy skating,” the teenager added. “When you do one event after the next, it gets easier each time and you are less nervous. The lesson is to remain calm.”

The Austrian Champion is very motivated for the upcoming season. She would like to learn a quad if possible. “It is interesting for me to see if I am able to learn that. I have always asked myself what are skaters thinking when they do a quad. But I didn’t talk with the Russian girls about that (in Stockholm) as everyone was focused on herself. Each one had her goals and we did not talk much to each other.”

Mikutina would not have had any trouble speaking with the Russian skaters as her first language is actually Russian. She was born in Kharkiv, Ukraine, and moved with her mother to Austria when she was 12 to have better training conditions. Her parents took her to skating and dance lessons when she was four and she picked skating as she enjoyed gliding on the ice, skating to music and also jumping.

The young skater started to compete when she was seven years old, but when she grew older, it became obvious that she needed better coaching and better training conditions. Her parents were told that they could try to go to Elena Romanova, who had been coaching in Feldkirch since 1995.

After a successful try out with the coach, the family decided that Mikutina and her mother should move to Austria. “At first I didn’t realize that we were really moving there,” recalled the skater. “I thought we we’re just training there for some time. It was all different at first. Kharkiv is a big city with a million people and compared to that, Feldkirch is a nice village.”

After a while, Mikutina fell in love with the place. “The nature, the mountains here are beautiful and the people are so friendly. I also liked my (new) coach right away because she is teaching the technique very well and we are working very well together on the ice.”

Mikutina spoke no German when coming to Austria, but she picked it up quickly and is now fluent. She is in high school with two years to go before graduation and her favorite subjects are languages, math, arts and drawing. In school, she is studying English, French and Latin. During the week, the skater goes to school and to training, and on her day off on Sunday, she enjoys day trips into the mountains or to lakes. Since she was busy training and had only short vacations, and also because of the pandemic, Mikutina has not visited her old hometown Kharkiv in two years. She has made new friends quickly in her skating club and in school in Feldkirch.

The skater, who received Austrian citizenship in January 2020, is now looking forward to the Olympic season. She plans to keep her Free Skating to “Primavera” and “Experience” by Ludovico Einaudi and is currently searching for music for a new short program.

“We’ll probably just change some transitions (in the Free Skate),” Mikutina shared. “I want to be more consistent with my elements and do more triples with my arms raised above my head. As for quads, we’ll see. It would be great if it works out.” She plans to attend a summer training camp in Switzerland where she has worked with well-known Russian coach Viktor Kudriavtsev in the past.

Mikutina is excited that she secured one Olympic quota place and that Austria can possibly get a second one at Nebelhorn Trophy in September. “I really hope to get one spot and that we can earn a second one,” she said. “The Olympic Games are probably for each athlete the most important goal. However, I want to appreciate and enjoy my whole journey—all competitions, all practices and I don’t want to think only about the final destination.”

The Austrian, who describes herself as “well-balanced, hard-working, ambitious and positive,” sees her strengths as a skater in her interpretation and expression of emotions. “I think I can feel the music well and I enjoy expressing the music so that I process it through myself and can dance with my soul.” While she feels spins and jumps come easy to her, she admits that her weakness is her perfectionism. “I always want to do better.”

Interestingly enough, Mikutina says she has no idols. “Each person is an individual and interesting. You can learn from everyone,” she pointed out. “I don’t think it is right to copy someone. It is better to be a good original than a bad copy.”

 

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