Sometimes persistence really does pay off. For up and comer Andrei Rogozine of Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada, this word has never been more true or appropriate – at least in terms of his fledgling skating career.
Rogozine debuted on the Junior Grand Prix circuit back in 2007 as a fourteen-year-old with only one medal of note on his very short resume- a silver from the Canadian Junior Championships earlier that year. He responded to his first international assignment with a fourteenth place finish and followed that up with a respectable eighth place in his second event.
“I was so young then, and I was just really competing to gain experience,” Rogozine explained. “It seems so long ago.”
In the next two seasons Rogozine was again invited to compete in the Junior Grand Prix events, and started to make the climb up the ranks. In 2008, he finished in thirty-first place among all competitors on the circuit, and went on to win the Canadian Junior title that season.
“The junior title was exciting after finishing in fifth the season before,” Rogozine said. “I started to build more confidence, and was motivated to continue to improve.”
Last year as national champion, Rogozine earned his highest finish yet in a Junior Grand Prix – sixth, and moved up ten spots in the overall standings. An eleventh place finish in his debut as a senior man at Canadian Nationals earlier this year earned Rogozine the opportunity to compete in the Junior World Championships.
“I was supposed to go to Junior Worlds the previous season, but I got very sick before the competition and it was determined that I wasn’t ready to go,” he recalled. “When I learned that I got another chance to go to Junior Worlds, I started training really hard because I didn’t know if I would ever have the opportunity again. I was really focused on what I had to do there, and I was able to hold it together and finish in sixth place.”
Born in Moscow, Russia, Rogozine and his parents immigrated to Canada when he was just five years old. Rogozine’s mother, Olga, works in a bank, and it was her love of the sport that first interested her only son in skating.
“My mom has always watched skating, so it was always a part of my life in some way,” he remembered. “I used to try skating moves in my living room, and decided that I wanted to try it when I was almost seven years old.”
Now motivated more than ever, Rogozine has decided to devote more time to skating, which leaves little flexibility to attend traditional school. Up until this season the high school student attended school on a regular basis, but recently enrolled in Ontario’s Independent Learning Centre, a distance education provider.
“This year I am trying online school for the first semester, and I will see how it goes,” Rogozine shared. “I have ten months to complete the courses which is very useful in terms of my training schedule. I have two years left to go, but I am considering college after that though I am not sure what I would study.”
Outside of school and skating, Rogozine loves to do things outdoors as well as some couch potato-type activities.
“In the summer I do a lot of mountain biking, but I also like to go to movies,” he admitted. “In the winter I play video games and watch TV, but until recently I loved to ski. I’m good at it and it is fun, but my coaches have now given me orders not to ski. They think that the risks are too high, and they don’t want me to get injured.”
Rogozine is coached by Inga Zusev, with whom he has been skating with for his entire career, and by Andrei Berezintsev for three years. Both coaches take an equal role in the young skater’s training regimen.
“Inga is my first ever skating coach, and our relationship really works. She works with me on stroking, jumps, and general technical issues,” Rogozine said of the former Russian national-level competitor. “Andrei choreographed my long program this season, but also works with my on jumps and spins.”
The short program is a hold over from last season- a gem choreographed by World Champion Shae-Lynn Bourne to Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A Minor. Rogozine’s freeskate is set to Hans Zimmer’s soundtrack to the film The Rock.
“I decided to keep the short program because it really worked for me, and now it is a very comfortable program for me to skate,” Rogozine explained. “I have worked with (Bourne) here and there tweaking things so that it is fresh and solid. The freeskate is really powerful, and I really like to skate it.”
Rogozine attributes his dramatic improvement this season to three things- his coaches, his body of experience, and his mastery of the triple Axel.
“My coaches have developed a strict schedule for me this season, and I have stuck with it,” he explained. “We also set good goals to strive towards this season which has helped me to remain motivated. Having three years experience on the Junior Grand Prix has really helped me to feel at ease at these events. I have seen what it takes to be successful at this level, and I trained so that I could reach that point. I started landing my triple Axel, and that has been one of my main guns. It is very consistent for me now.”
Two months ago, Rogozine competed in the Figure Skating Boutique Octoberfest in Barrie, Ontario, and finished in second place in the short program behind former European Champion Tomas Verner. His freeskate was marred with errors, and he was relegated to a fourth place finish overall.
“Everybody has their ups and downs, and I had mine,” admitted the 17-year-old. “Anybody, even if you have beaten them before, can move ahead of you with a good performance. I wasn’t training at full power because we were getting ready to gear back up in order to peak at the Final in December. I was also working on a quad that was supposed to be in the program, but we took it out fairly late in the game. I just wasn’t completely comfortable heading into the freeskate.”
Heading into this season Rogozine was hoping to continue his rise up the junior ranks, and traveled to Courchevel, France, confident that he was prepared to take his skating to the next level.
“I knew that I had been training well over the summer, and my coaches and I made the decision to compete early in the schedule,” Rogozine admitted. “It was a strategic move that we made so that I had a better shot at winning since it would help my status in skating. When I arrived, the Americans were also very prepared, and so I was a little nervous before the competition.”
A new personal best in the short program landed Rogozine in unfamiliar territory- the top of the leader board in an international event.
“I have never led a Junior Grand Prix event after the short program,” he said proudly. “It felt good. At that point, I had no negativity, and was excited to skate the long program.”
Rogozine’s freeskate was good enough for a second place finish in that phase of the competition, but his lead from the short program propelled him to his first international gold medal of his career.
“I kept telling myself that if I can win the short, then I can win the long,” Rogozine remembered. “Though that didn’t quite work out, it was very exciting to come away with the title. The freeskate was a bit bumpy, but it was a good start to the season.”
The Russian-born Rogozine headed to Japan just a month later to compete in his second Junior Grand Prix of the season a more confident skater. After the short program, the gold medalist found himself just behind American Max Aaron in the standings, but saw that as an opportunity to prove himself in the freeskate.
“For me, (Aaron) winning the short program was a good thing,” he confessed. “That little kick in the back was exactly what I needed. As long as I stuck with my plan for the long program, I knew that I could move up. It was really great to come away with two wins.”
As a result of winning in both France and Japan, Rogozine was the first qualifier for the December Final. In Beijing, he placed seventh in the short after a subpar performance, but then rallied back with a second place finish in the long.
“I was very happy,” said the Canadian. “I came into the long program with nothing too lose. I wanted to skate well and just see how far I would be able to pull up after less than a great short.”
He finished third overall.
Looking beyond the Final, Rogozine hopes to improve on his eleventh place finish at last year’s Canadian Championships, and believes that he is on the right track to break through in Victoria, British Columbia.
“I want to finish in the top five at Canadians,” Rogozine said boldly. “I have been skating really well so far this season, and it is not out of the realm of possibility. My training has been really solid all season long so far, and that has helped me to become a better competitor. I’m kind of eying the World Championships as well, but I have to take things one at a time.”
In the meantime, Rogozine is focusing on a wholly attainable goal- a repeat trip to the Junior World Championships in South Korea.
“Having done so well on the Junior Grand Prix this season, and taking sixth place last season at Junior Worlds, I have no doubt that I could do well this year,” he said rather confidently. “I’m pretty confident that as long as I work hard, there is no reason why I can’t do well at Junior Worlds. My goal is to finish in the top three there.”
In the long term, Rogozine hopes for what most skaters dream of- representing Canada on the at the World Championships, and ultimately, the Olympic Games.
“I don’t know what will happen next season, but eventually I want to compete on a higher level. Ever since I saw Alexei Yagudin skate at the Olympics, I knew that is what I wanted to do.”