Adelina Sotnikova is one of the Russian wunderkinder that the media and figure skating fans have been talking about ever since she won the ladies title at the 2009 Russian Figure Skating Championships at the tender age of 12.
This year the now 14-year-old was finally age-eligible for the Junior Grand Prix (JGP) and started a golden streak this season with victories in her two events at Graz, Austria and Sheffield, Great Britain. Sotnikova then followed up with a gold medal in the JGP Final where she prevailed over her teammate and one of her toughest competitors – Lisa Tuktamysheva. She then went on to recapture the National (senior level) title in December.
“I took off like a meteor,” the athlete said about her first steps on the ice as a four-year-old, but you can say the same about her international career.
Sotnikova started skating after she went with her mother to an ice rink out of curiosity. When she saw the other kids on the ice, she wanted to try the same and her mother signed her up for lessons. The Muscovite stayed for three years in her first club before switching to the famous CSKA skating school, and now has been coached by Elena Vodorezova for several years.
“In general, talented children always stand out,” Vodorezova said about her student. “Adelina is very goal-oriented and hard working. Athletes win you over with these qualities. You don’t have to explain things a lot. The athlete is on the same wave-length and that is a big plus.”
“She is a fighter,” the coach continued. “When she was little, she was restless, so emotional. We slowly taught her how to compete and she soaks everything up we tell her. That is a very valuable quality in an athlete.”
Now it seems like Sotnikova has become a tough competitor. She did well when it counted and she attacks her jumps with confidence, including the difficult triple Lutz-triple loop that only very few men attempt. Skaters she looks up to first are all men: Brian Joubert and Stéphane Lambiel, but she also likes Mao Asada and Miki Ando.
“Joubert skates so well, he has so beautiful jumps. It’s just beautiful,” the young Russian Champion noted. “And also Lambiel’s skating. He is very artistic and he spins so well.”
In her club, Sotnikova has been training in the same group with boys that are a few years older than her, but it doesn’t bother her.
“I don’t really care if I skate with boys or girls, I’m just skating myself,” said Sotnikova. “I train and I don’t really pay attention to the others. The very first time, though, when I trained with the boys, it was scary, of course. I thought they’d crush me, they were so fast. I was little, but then I got used to it and now I’m also fast,” she explained, laughing.
Sotnikova loves her sport.
“It is just a beautiful sport. It is nice when the skate glides over the ice and feels like you are flying,” she said, and pointed out that all the elements are her favorites. “I like all jumps, and I like to jump, to spin and to glide.” You can see that easily as all her elements are of high quality.
“I think in this (judging) system she looks very harmonious,” coach Vodorezova agreed. “Women’s figure skating goes into a feminine direction, and although she is little, you can already see the femininity. And she can jump, spin and skate – these are also rare qualities. There are a lot of skaters who only can jump or only skate well. It is difficult to connect all this.”
Sotnikova impressed in her debut at the Junior Grand this season and she enjoyed competing in these events.
“It is totally different from the Russian competitions,” the teenager pointed out. “I felt for example much calmer than at the Russian events last year. Maybe because it was the first time and nobody knows anything. Obviously, there was some nervousness at the first event in Austria. There were a lot of girls that already performed many times at the Grand Prix, and I was there for the first time.”
However, she had no problem winning. Her score of 178.67 points currently ranks second in the seasons best list just below Alissa Czisny’s 180.75 points from the Grand Prix Final.
Winning doesn’t seem to put a lot of pressure on Sotnikova. Even when she won the senior title at age 12, she didn’t feel that it changed anything for her.
“At the Nationals that time I just skated for myself. We didn’t plan on winning. I just was supposed to skate as well as I could and show that I can jump, and spin and skate, but apparently the judges put me into first place,” she said, smiling.
In 2010, she placed fourth at nationals as she felt sick and didn’t skate her best, but this year she was back on top. “This time it was harder to win, but both (gold) medals (from Nationals) are very good for me,” Sotnikova commented.
In spite of all her success, the young skater stays grounded. People talk about her already as a possible medal contender for the Olympic Games 2014 in Sochi, in Russia, but for her, participating in the Olympic Games alone is still a dream.
“It is still another three years before that, and everything can change,” Sotnikova said. “Obviously, I want to get to the Olympic Games. I want to be there, but I need to grow, I still have to work a lot in order to get there, but I really want it.”
Sotnikova’s goal is “to reach the heights,” but she knows that only hard work will get her there and she wants to work and to improve.
“We have to learn new elements,” she stated, referring to her and the other prodigy, Lisa Tuktamysheva. “I want to work on all my elements and maybe I can learn the triple Axel and other triple-triple combinations. I want to improve my footwork and my spins to get a level four for everything or a level six if we have that by 2014.”
The skater has a lot of spark. She is smiling and joking off the ice in interviews, but on the ice she remains very focused on her work. She describes her character as “stubborn”.
“I have a strong character,” said the young skater. “When my mother tells me to do something, I’ll do my own thing. A strong character can be good, but sometimes it is not good. I hope it’s good in my case.”
Sotnikova’s parents support her as much as possible. As the family lives far away from the club, the athlete gets up around 6:20 every morning and her parents take her to city centre where she first goes to class for two to three lessons, and then goes to practice. Depending on traffic, it takes 45 minutes to 1 1/2 hours to get from her home to the ice rink. After the first practice, the skater has choreography or off-ice practice, rests a little, eats lunch at the rink, and attends the evening practice. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, when there are no choreography lessons, the 14-year-old takes extra classes at school. Usually her dad picks her up and takes her home. Her parents and her 12-year-old sister are not involved in any sport.
While the media gets very excited about Sotnikova’s prospects, coach Elena Vodorezova remains calm, but is full of praise. Asked about any weaknesses her student might have, she answered after a little pause: “I don’t see any right now, I’m surprised myself. She even likes to skate last which never happens with others, and she likes it. You cannot upset her. Maybe her parents educate her that way.”
“Of course she wants to compete at the Olympic Games in Sochi,” added Vodorezova. “There are thoughts about that, but this is life and you never can plan on anything. There are things that don’t depend on us.”
Sotnikova knows that, too, however, right now everything is on track and her next goal are the World Junior Figure Skating Championships in Korea.