Figure Skating News
Russia’s Mikhail Kolyada has been on the rise and has established himself as a top skater in the past season, medaling in nearly every event he entered, including a silver medal with the team at the Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang. Last March, the cheerful 23-year-old became the first Russian man since 2011 to earn a medal at the ISU World Figure Skating Championships when he took the bronze.
On May 22, Kolyada, who just returned from his vacation on Tenerife island, resumed practice at his home rink at the Figure Skating Academy in the north of St. Petersburg, Russia.
“I have started the season,” he said following the first practice session. After Worlds, the Russian Champion had been quite busy: Breaking in new skates, mounting a new free program, working on his thesis for the master’s degree at the Lesgaft University of Physiculture, Sports and Health, and then going on vacation.
Now the hot phase of preparation for the season is starting. “The plans are to get started, then to go to three training camps,” Kolyada shared. “The first training camp will be in Switzerland and we’ll work with Stéphane (Lambiel).”
The skater worked with Lambiel last season as well, and felt it helped him a lot to grow as a skater. “Stéphane will choreograph my new short program,” the two-time European bronze medalist revealed. “I am still looking for the music and right now we are thinking of different ideas.”
For the second training camp, he will go to Latvia for three weeks with his training mates and coach Valentina Chebotareva, and for mid-July, he plans to go with his coach to Lakewood, Calif., to work with Rafael Arutyunyan for two weeks.
Kolyada himself was keen on working with Arutyunyan. The skater noted that the coach was named the best coach of the US for the third year and feels that this speaks volumes.
“Secondly, the current World Champion (Nathan Chen) is training in his group and it is very interesting for me to have him as a sparring partner in practice,” said Kolyada. “Maybe I can see some new nuances that I don’t know yet. Nobody can know everything. We go there for an exchange of experience. To see something here, to take note of something there.”
Kolyada is also looking forward to discovering California. “That’s at the other end of the world. I hope I will like it there. There is the ocean, sun and it’s interesting to see how people live there in a different way.”
The two-time Russian champion, whose jumps are among the best you get to see in Men’s figure skating these days, hopes to gain more consistency. In order to achieve this, he and his coach have analyzed his and other skaters’ programs and drawn some conclusions.
“You can say that we have looked more carefully at the layout of the elements in the program. Maybe we have included a somewhat bigger break somewhere, somewhere a little bit less of a break. So these are details, but I think it will work out well,” the World bronze medalist noted. “As my (university) teacher Vladimir Alexandrovitch Aparin said, to do a jump in the program, in competition, you need to do 11 out of 10. You need to be so confident and so consistent with this jump that you can do it out of any situation, at any time. I am jumping a lot, and with each competition confidence is building, but apparently it was not quite there yet. In general, the process of learning jumps takes long for me.”
While the new free program has been built according to the new rules (trimming the men’s free skating from 4.30 to 4 minutes), there are still open questions for the skater and coach. “We are still in a state of uncertainty as the ISU Congress didn’t happen yet and nobody didn’t say anything clearly about the next season,” Kolyada observed.
He feels that the four-minute program will be harder than the four minutes 30. “Now I think for most (skaters) there won’t be a break, because there is not enough time for all the jumps and spins. They took out one jump and took away 30 seconds, but one jump doesn’t take so much time, therefore the program will be more intense, that’s for a 100 percent sure,” he pointed out. “When we skated in juniors, we had that (4 minutes free program). I’ve been skating in seniors for almost six years and now I have to remember how that was (in juniors).”
The charismatic skater is not ready to reveal his music choice yet. “I can say that it will be a very well known, very powerful music and it is in the classical direction,” Kolyada said, adding that he selected the music himself. “I’ve liked it for a long time and I thought, ‘why not take it?'”
“I think it will be good, because I feel this music,” he added. “I like it and I think that I’ll be able to get into the role, although I’m not similar to the character that I’ll portray.” The skater likes to keep it secret for now, “maybe to create some intrigue,” he said with a laugh.
Kolyada is in the last stage of his studies and will have to defend his thesis on the jumps in figure skating in the middle of June. “Then I hope that’s it! Ten years in school and six years in university is a lot,” he joked, but at the same time he has no regrets to have studied. “Anyway it is interesting, it’s new knowledge that you can use in life. It is not for nothing.”
The athlete feels that he has changed quite a bit over the last year. “I’ve grown up a lot. It was such an intense season, a lot of events, it was a very interesting and hard (season). The experience of life is adding up little by little and with that season, it has become more. I started to look at some things in a different way. It has been a tough path,” he shared.
There were highs such as winning his first Grand Prix event, the Cup of China, qualifying for his first Grand Prix Final where he won the bronze medal, and defending his national title. However, there were also disappointments such as the less-than-perfect performances in some competitions, in particular, the tough short program in the team event at the Olympic Winter Games. After this performance, Kolyada was deluged with criticism, scorn and even hate by Russian media and fans, but received support from his teammates and people close to him.
“It was very tough on that day after the short program,” he recalled. “I don’t remember how I went back home to my bed, because I was totally devastated. I didn’t want anything – not to skate, not to live, not to eat, not to sleep, nothing. Those who could, helped. Of course, everyone there (in the team) helped. Someone wrote to me, someone called and all that helped little by little. Somehow I was able to recover and went out in a different way for the free. I later watched the performances and really, if you look at the short and the free, it is like two different people are skating.”
Looking ahead, the World bronze medalist will debut his programs at the Russian test skates at the beginning of September in Moscow and plans to compete at two Challenger events, probably Ondrej Nepela Trophy and Finlandia Trophy or Tallinn Trophy, and then the two Grand Prix events. If he was able to choose one, he’d like to go to the Cup of China again.
“As usual we’ll test different options,” he concluded. “In one competition, we’ll skate with these jumps, and in others with other jumps. The (judging) system is a bit new and everyone will get used to it. You can say it is a kind of trial season. It will be hard as always, but interesting.”