Home Figure Skating News Aleksandr Selevko: ‘Spotlight shy’ but determined

Aleksandr Selevko: ‘Spotlight shy’ but determined

by Maya Bagriantseva
Krystal Yeung

Aleksandr Selevko

Aleksandr Selevko

‘Spotlight shy’

In the world of figure skating, there’s nothing quite like that one magical tournament where everything falls into place. For Estonian figure skater Aleksandr Selevko, the 2024 European Championships in Kaunas were exactly that. Not only did he win the silver, but he also became the first Estonian skater to medal at a senior-level ISU Championship. This feat came unexpectedly to many—including himself.

“I didn’t have high expectations for this season, especially after struggling with injuries for the past two years,” said Selevko, looking back. “So, I decided to simply embrace whatever this season had in store for me. Just being back on the ice felt like a huge success!”

“Making it to Europeans was a big deal for me, especially since I’ve had trouble qualifying in past seasons,” he added. “But winning a silver medal was beyond anything I could have hoped for.”

Surprisingly, getting on the podium wasn’t the biggest challenge for the two-time ISU Challenger Series bronze medalist. It was the buzz that this historic medal for Estonia created across the country that caught him completely off guard.

“I’m not a fan of being in the spotlight, so dealing with the media attention was a bit overwhelming for me,” he admitted. “Don’t get me wrong, I was thrilled to bring such an important medal home, but personally, I find it much easier to keep a low profile.”

“However, the invitation to the State reception was a big thing for me, and now my parents have some nice photos of me with the President,” he laughed.

While the historic photos were for the family, Selevko treated himself to something more relatable: a new Nintendo Switch, which now travels with him as a reminder of the big day. He says it comes in handy since skaters spend a lot of time on planes and buses.

Injuries and doubts

Selevko’s shoulder issues have been a long-standing struggle, but they hit a new low at the Olympics. A nasty fall during training just two days before his short program caused yet another dislocation, jeopardizing his Olympic performance. He refused to withdraw but finished 28th and did not qualify for the free skate.

Following his return home, Aleksandr underwent surgery. As a result, he had to sit out Europeans and Worlds, taking six months off to try and fully recover. Reflecting on his short hiatus from competition, Selevko says the break gave him some perspective.

“Even when I wasn’t competing, I still kept an eye on the circuit,” he said. “It was tough seeing others progress while I was at home. To distract myself, I picked up new hobbies, like learning to play the piano, for example.”

In fact, Selevko even considered retiring a few times, particularly after the Olympics.

“There was this feeling like, ‘maybe this is it, Sasha, you know?’ But figure skating has been such a big part of my life for as long as I can remember, so I didn’t want to end it all on a sad note,” he shared.

“Interestingly, I had no fear of returning to competitive ice,” Selevko continued. “In the past, I used to worry about not being able to show what I am capable of. However, this season was different. I wasn’t preoccupied with scores or placements. Instead, I skated purely for myself and for the enjoyment of the audience.”

And he did. Last July, the skater had the opportunity to participate in the “Fantasy on Ice” show in Japan.

“It was there that I had a sudden insight into my skating mission,” he revealed. “I realized that I want to be recognized for my performances rather than just technical elements. I would be genuinely happy if people appreciated and enjoyed my skating. I skate for the audience, judges included, of course, and my main goal is to emotionally connect with those who watch me on the ice.”

Team Estonia: Selevko and Selevko

Selevko’s younger brother Mikhail is also a competitive figure skater and is also his biggest rival at the national level. Both brothers boast three national titles each and are constantly pushing and motivating each other.

“We were both thrilled to qualify for the Europeans this season,” said Aleksandr. “Apparently, it was the first time ever in the tournament’s history that two brothers participated in the men’s event. It was an awesome feeling, even though it wasn’t our first time competing together.”

Even with the rivalry, Aleksandr assures that it doesn’t create any tension between them.

“We both skate for our country, and we’re genuinely happy for each other’s successes,” he said. “In Kaunas, he cheered me on and offered a lot of support, even after he had a challenging performance himself. We all have our bad days and even tough seasons; I am well aware of it myself. I hope that next season will be better for Mikhail.’

Mikhail and Aleksandr train at the same rink under the same coach and share the same roof.

“We used to live together in our parents’ house, and now we’re moving into a new apartment, just the two of us,” said Aleksandr. “We bought it a while ago, but it needed some renovation. A huge thanks to Dad for helping with that! Hopefully, we’ll kick off the new season in our new place.”

Both brothers have been asked if they ever get tired of each other, and surprisingly, they don’t.

“We often come home late, and we both respect each other’s space and boundaries,” said Aleksandr. “I understand when Misha needs some alone time, and I would never disturb him. We share a unique bond; for example, I can always tell when he’s starting to have an asthma attack while skating. We’ve both dealt with this condition for a long time and have learned how to manage it, but it can still catch us off guard.”

Health concerns and the future

Aleksandr is also concerned that his own health problems could derail his plans for the future.

“Milano 2026 is my ultimate goal, and there is no guarantee I’ll be able to skate beyond that,” he said. “My shoulder keeps causing issues. I just dislocated it again a couple of days ago. I don’t see this problem going away anytime soon, so I’m trying to be realistic about my future. Luckily, there are always good doctors around whenever it happens.”

“It’s quite demoralizing for me, too,” he added. “I lose any motivation to get back on the ice knowing it may be painful. But somehow, I’ve learned to cope with it. After my last shoulder dislocation, it only took me less than a day to get back to a full ice practice with quads and triple Axels.”

Once Selevko is finished with competitive sports, he plans to pursue a degree in physiotherapy. Though a coaching career is not off the table either.

“Why not? I’m already coaching young kids at my rink,” he pointed out. “I started giving classes after Europeans because suddenly people began approaching me with coaching requests. I enjoy it, although I’ll admit, it wasn’t easy at first. Coaching turned out to be quite exhausting!”

Off-season plans

As the season wraps up, Selevko isn’t slowing down. He’s not taking any breaks until he gets both of his new programs choreographed. In fact, he began yesterday with Rostislav Sinicyn.

“I’m thinking of sticking with the same style for my free program next season, though we haven’t picked the music yet,” he offered. “As for my short program, I’ve already chosen the music, and it’s going to be something different. I’ll be working on it with David Wilson on May 5th in Toronto. He sent me a playlist to choose from, and I really liked one piece in particular.”

This will mark the first time the skater has worked with the renown choreographer from Canada.

“We actually met last year in Japan when he was choreographing for Fantasy on Ice,” said Selevko. “I had a great experience working with him there, and I’ve always admired his programs for other skaters. It’s an opportunity for me to explore something different because I don’t want to restrict myself to just one style.”

Once that’s done, the skater will finally get to enjoy a much-needed vacation. Between coaching and training, Selevko hasn’t had a day off until just recently.

“I used to reserve Sundays for coaching classes with the kids,” he explained. “However, it became clear that I needed to rearrange things to keep my sanity, so now I coach in the evenings during the week, after I finish my own training.”

“It’s been quite a season, and I haven’t had a proper break in a couple of years, so I’m planning to make the most of it,” he laughed. “My brother and I are heading to the seaside, and I can’t wait to relax and enjoy every bit of it!”

After recharging on the beach, the two brothers will head to California in June where they will join Rafael Arutyunyan’s group for a training camp.

“This won’t be our first time working with him, and I’m incredibly grateful to my coach, Irina, for making it possible and handling all the arrangements,” said Selevko. “It’s a fantastic opportunity to improve and I’m super excited about it!”

“It’s always an incredible experience. Rafael doesn’t just guide me through the technical stuff; he’s there for my mental well-being too,” he added. “It’s hard to put into words but knowing that Nathan Chen’s legendary coach recognizes my efforts means so much to me. When Raf says ‘good job’ or ‘that was pretty good,’ it’s like a shot of motivation and confidence.”

From training to shows

After spending time in California, Selevko will head to Japan to perform in the “The Ice” show where he was invited to participate with “incredible” skaters. These include Ilia Malinin, Shoma Uno, Deniss Vasiļjevs, Kao Miura, Junhwan Cha, Nikolaj Memola, and Kevin Aymoz, among others.

“Being a part of such an incredible cast is a privilege and a chance to learn a ton from these guys,” said Selevko. “Shows like this really boost my confidence and provide invaluable experience. If I can land my triple Axel without much preparation in a show, then why can’t I do it in competition after a proper warm-up? It’s changed my mindset completely.”

However, while traveling for shows and competitions, exploring new countries doesn’t always mean getting into new cuisine for Selevko. He tends to be more conservative with food than with the music choices for his programs.

“I’m quite a picky eater, so I tend to stick to safe options when traveling,” he confirmed. “After all, there’s always plain rice on the menu, right? But I do have one craving: I have a serious sweet tooth. And believe me, I’m not the only skater who loves sweets! Dark chocolate and ice cream are my absolute favorite desserts!”

Goals for 2024-25

Selevko admits that the European podium has fueled his plans for more ambitious technical content in the upcoming season. While it’s still under discussion with the team, he promises two quad toes in the free skate.

“This season has shown that I get pretty good GOEs (grade of execution) for this jump,” he observed. “We’re also considering adding the quad Lutz as it’s been looking quite stable so far.”

The 22-year-old plans to kick start the 2024-25 season with the Challenger Series events.

“This year, there is even one in my beloved Tallinn, but of course it largely depends on my Grand Prix assignments,” Selevko noted. “I’m really looking forward to skating new programs because I’ve grown a bit tired of the ones I’ve had this season. Both of my routines are almost two years old, so I’m definitely ready for something fresh!”

These new programs could also potentially have a longer shelf life than just one season, as well, and possibly be used during the Olympic season.

“It usually takes me a while to adjust to a new program,” Selevko explained. “However, we’ll see. Maybe I’ve matured enough, and it won’t be a problem this time. But I like to keep my options open.”

Although to some, it may appear that Selevko has made it to the “big leagues,” the skater himself stays down-to-earth and keeps his perspective realistic.

“You might earn a major event medal and become a favorite for the next competition, but that doesn’t automatically classify you as an elite skater,” he pointed out. “Being at the ‘top level’ isn’t a permanent status. It all comes down to your consistency and hard work. I’m aware of my strengths, like some spins, certain jumps, overall presentation, and connecting with the audience, but there’s still a lot I need to improve on.”

Chartering new territory and inspiration

When asked about attempting the quad Axel, Selevko doesn’t say “no” outright, but he’s definitely being careful about it.

“Actually, my brother Misha has already attempted it,” he shared. “We even have it on video. He started trying it around the same time as Ilia Malinin, but then he encountered some foot problems, so he had to set aside that dream for a while. The jump was underrotated, with many falls, but it was definitely heading in the right direction. So, I know it’s possible, and I would love to give it a shot as well. I just need to address my shoulder issues first.”

If not for Ilia Malinin, the talk of quad Axels wouldn’t even be on the table, Selevko adds.

“Ilia is definitely a huge inspiration to all of us,” he affirmed. “We’ve known each other for quite some time. We both competed at Junior Worlds here in Tallinn in 2020 and have kept in touch since then. We had a practice session together before the show yesterday, and I have to say, the crowd was bigger than at some Estonian competitions! It’s incredible how many people came to see Ilia in action.”

“I honestly don’t know how he does it,” Selevko continued regarding Malinin. “His technical content is just unbelievable! While he’s undoubtedly a great talent and Rafael Arutyunyan has played a big part in his growth as a skater, I think a huge credit goes to his parents. They’ve really been there for him every step of the way and made all of this possible.”

According to Selevko, the same applies to his own parents.

“Behind every skater, there are incredibly dedicated parents,” he summed up. “My mom and dad introduced me and Misha to the rink because my cousin had started skating. We ended up falling in love with it and continued even after our cousin stopped. At first, I also played volleyball because my dad used to play it, but I never felt the same passion for volleyball as I did for skating. So, when the time came to choose, I decided to focus on skating. I’m really glad I made that choice.”

Loads of fans worldwide are happy with that decision as well.

Related Info:

Related Articles

Founded in 1999, Golden Skate provides resources for the sport of figure skating worldwide. This includes interviews, features, videos, club listings, a discussion board and more.

You cannot copy content of this page