The Russian ladies have been dominant on the figure skating scene for the past few years, taking Olympic gold in 2014 and 2018 as well as the World title in 2015-2017 and 2019. The Russians also took six consecutive European ladies’ titles since 2014. However, Sofia Samodurova was the surprise champion in 2019 when she grabbed the gold ahead of teammate and Olympic Champion Alina Zagitova. The following month, she finished eighth in her debut at the ISU World Figure Skating.
Samodurova, who trains in St. Petersburg under famous coach Alexei Mishin, his wife Tatiana Mishina and Tatiana Prokofieva, more or less came out of nowhere in what was her debut season at the senior level. The then 16-year-old earned a silver and a bronze on the Grand Prix circuit and made it to the Final where she placed fifth. In fact, she laid down solid and consistent performances throughout the season.
“The most unexpected was the European Championship where I was skating so well and took first place,” Samodurova recalled. “This was the nicest reward of the season. I did everything I was capable of. It was a good season, but I think there are even better ones to come.”
Following the World Team Trophy and a training camp in Estonia, the European Champion went on vacation and then started her preparations for the upcoming season in various training camps in Russia, France, Florida, and in Italy.
“First of all, we built up again after the vacation,” said the athlete who celebrated her 17th birthday on July 30th. “We got into shape, mounted the programs and worked a lot.”
The skater wasn’t fazed by all the trips to the various training camps and said that “the advantage lies in the change of setting.”
“We’re going to different places, so it doesn’t get boring during the summer,” she noted.
There is one more camp scheduled for the middle of August again in Tartu, Estonia, before the group, which also includes 2015 World Champion Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, will prepare for the test skates in September 7 and 8 in Moscow.
Samodurova and her team picked “Bamboleo” by the Gypsy Kings for the Short Program and “Tango de Roxanne” from Moulin Rouge for the Free Skate. Prokofieva, the permanent choreographer of Mishin’s group, did the Short Program.
“We wanted to do it for a long time,” the Rostelecom Cup silver medalist shared. “Actually Tatiana Nikolaevna (Prokofieva) suggested it two seasons ago, however, back then I didn’t dare try it.”
Ilia Averbukh choreographed the Free Skating which the Samodurova has wanted to perform to for a long time. Teammate Stanislava Konstantinova is also skating to selections from Moulin Rouge, but Samodurova doesn’t know which pieces she is using. Konstantinova’s selection does include a short piece of Tango de Roxanne as well.
Samodurova, who plays the piano and enjoys singing, is actively involved in searching her music.
“There are a lot of options,” she said. “I found a lot of different music. I also take suggestions from others. The fans are writing to me on Instagram and I’m getting a lot of messages.”
The European Champion wants to add technical difficulty to her programs, notably the triple Axel. Although it is not ready yet, it is on her mind.
“I just know that it is necessary,” Samodurova speculated. “I need to overcome my fear the first time and then I’ll do it. We’ll first start with the Axel and then we’ll see.”
Meanwhile, the skater has also been focusing and experimenting on her spins.
“We found a very interesting position, and nobody has been doing it like that so far, we’ll see if it works,” Samodurova revealed. “Tatiana NikoIaevna (Prokofieva) has thought of it. At the beginning of the (past) season in practice, we were working on spins and I was spinning in an unusual way and so we found it.
“I have to skate more freely,” she summed up. “I need to skate with more expression, for the spectators and judges. I have to improve my skating as much as possible. For that, I need to approach the character of my programs seriously and work more on skating skills.”
The key to Samodurova’s success is her consistency. She appears very focused in competition and doesn’t seem to succumb to nerves. If something doesn’t go as planned, she can adjust instantly. For example, in the Short Program at the World Team Trophy, she decided to switch her combination to the loop when the flip wasn’t perfect in her opinion. She landed the triple loop-triple toeloop even though she had only practiced that combination a few times at the beginning of the season.
“I’m just going out and I don’t worry about the elements too much,” she answered when asked where this consistency comes from.
Samodurova gets along well with training mate Tuktamysheva. The skaters like to chat and support each other and often room together.
“There is no bad rivalry between us,” said Samodurova. “She gives me advice and helps me when I have simple questions.”
We’re all trying to socialize in Mishin’s group and we’re supporting each other,” Tuktamysheva confirmed. “Sonia (Sofia) has grown up so fast! She really has improved and started to skate more lady-like. She has changed in these past two years.”
Samodurova herself also feels that she has grown as a skater and performer, especially in the past season—her first year at the senior level. “Obviously I grew more confident in my skating and in some elements. I got a huge experience and I feel more confident in general.”
However, her attitude in training has not changed, and the skater still has the same “fighting spirit” and her goals remain the same—to skate clean and with confidence and to show what she’s worked on in the off-season. At the same time, following the success in the past season, the expectations are higher now than they were before, and as a result, the 17-year-old doesn’t want to the pressure to get to her.
“I just have to work hard and not to pay attention to that (expectations),” Samodurova pointed out. “Just listen to your team. I think there is no other option.”
With her success, her popularity in Russia has grown. The skater now has 48,300 followers on Instagram that she entertains with photos and video clips. While social media is fun, it also has its dark side when “haters and trolls” post mean comments.
“Honestly, since I was debuting this season, there wasn’t so much negativity,” the skater said. “However, it does happen that someone writes something mean in a personal message and in the commentaries. I can say that I am very sturdy, you cannot throw me off with these things. Some people might try, but it doesn’t work. I don’t pay attention to that.”
“For me, it is only positive when more people follow me and my skating,” she concluded. “The minus is that it can be distracting, but it doesn’t bother me. It was only that season that there was so much noise around me. Before that, I never got that much attention.”
Samodurova has been selected for the Grand Prix events Cup of China in Chongqing and NHK Trophy in Sapporo, Japan. Following the test skates, she will start her season with a Challenger Series event.