Figure Skating News
When Spanish ice dancers Sara Hurtado, 25, and Kirill Khaliavin, 27, stepped off the ice after their free dance at the Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, Korea, last February, the thought of retiring never crossed their minds. For many figure skaters, the Olympic Games represent not only the pinnacle of their career, but sometimes marks the end as well. Whether a medal is involved or not, competing at the Olympic Games is a major achievement for any athlete. Some tend to lose motivation to continue after this special competition, even though they are still young and healthy enough to go on. For others, it’s the opposite and they feel fresh motivation.
“For us, the Olympics were like the start of something instead of the end of something,” Hurtado said. “We finished the program, we went off and I was like, ‘now what?’ I was so motivated, I didn’t want it to stop. I felt like tomorrow we do can do another one (competition).” The team came 12th in South Korea.
Her partner agreed. “I think we didn’t show our best yet and that is the best motivation – when you know you can skate better and do better elements and better programs,” Khaliavin pointed out. “You know that you haven’t reached your limit yet and you can grow and grow. We knew already that we weren’t going to Worlds, so I saw it as a good finish of the season. I already looked ahead, what else we can do, what we can improve, and what we can make better in this part and in that part.”
The Spanish Federation had decided to send Olivia Smart and Adria Diaz to the World Championships and so Hurtado and Khaliavin got an early start to the upcoming season. However, before that, they went to Spain and met King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia, who invited all the Winter Olympians from PyeongChang.
“First we met the prime minister and then suddenly we get another phone call – the King and Queen want to see you on Tuesday,” Hurtado recalled. “We were like, ‘wait a minute – the King wants to see us?’ It was great! It was a nice way of them to appreciate the results of the winter sports. It’s been 25 years with no (Olympic) medals for Spanish winter sports and now we got Javi (Javier Fernandez) and (snowboarder) Regino (Hernandez, who won also a bronze medal). So inviting the whole team, and not only the medalists, showed that they wanted to encourage everybody.”
Khaliavin even changed his travel plans. “I was supposed to leave earlier, but when I heard that the King invited us to a reception, I obviously changed my tickets. It was worth it,” he noted. Meeting a king was something completely new for the Russian-born dancer as Russia has not been a monarchy since the last tsar was forced to abdicate in 1917.
Back in Moscow, the team got back to work right away on building their new programs and searching for music.
“We created new lifts and new elements and we got some Tango classes off the ice,” sad Hurtado. “It was really fun, we liked that.”
The dancers enjoy the Tango Romantica pattern dance in this year’s Rhythm dance and feel it suits them well. For the music, they picked “Libertango” by Astor Piazzolla.
“We have the classical Libertango, but in an interesting arrangement,” Khaliavin revealed. “It won’t be just one rhythm as usual, but it will be in two parts. One is softer and the other part is faster. It is very interesting and the elements should go well with it. I think it will be really cool.”
The dancers chose the music themselves. “We were listening to a few pieces,” Hurtado explained. “We found a really cool vocal (interpretation) of “Libertango” and I said, ‘everyone knows this melody, so let’s do it in a different way.’ It’s not the Yo Yo Ma “Libertango” that everyone knows. Also, the fast part is with classical guitar and sounds Spanish.”
For the free dance they picked “Great Gig in the Sky” by Pink Floyd and “Sign of the Times” by Harry Styles. The goal was to do something very different from last year’s Don Quixote free dance.
“We wanted to do that, because it helps you to grow to try other styles,” noted Hurtado. “It’s so refreshing. You learned to move like this, now let’s learn to move in a different way. It is a kind of soft rock, lyrical rock. That is also a way of capturing the young people. It’s a very fresh song and we mix it with an old one. We didn’t want to do the typical tribute to Pink Floyd or just a tribute to this Harry Styles song.”
The skaters are excited about the rule changes that were adopted. In particular, the fact that they took out one step sequence in the free dance.
“Now you do the choreographic step sequence and basically you can do there choreo or steps, and there is more room for interpretation,” Khaliavin said.
Hurtado appreciates especially that creativity is more rewarded. “It’s really great that they are focusing not only on the elements. Of course, the rules are there, and you have to hit the features, but it gives space to actually create something,” she pointed out.
“It’s good for ice dance as a sport to become more attractive and entertaining,” Khaliavin agreed. “Now you can create things that people can appreciate not only inside the figure skating (world), but also people who are not following figure skating at all.”
Hurtado and Khaliavin are pleased they were assigned to two Grand Prix events in Helsinki and Moscow and plan on competing in a Challenger event before the Grand Prix. At press time, they were not sure yet which Challenger they will do, but they thought about Finlandia Trophy. They are also looking forward to continuing the friendly rivalry with Smart and Diaz. “I think it is pushing both of us to become better. It’s also putting Spanish ice dance on the map internationally,” Hurtado noted.