Kawaguti The hardest sound in Russian is "L"
Kirill Levkin speaking to Kawaguti/Smirnov about St. Petersburg, their injuries, new programmes and world championship in Japan.
What wasn't written about the European Champions Yuko Kawaguti/Alexandr Smirnov at the beginning of the season: they split, they retired because of the injuries, even that Yuko is going back to Japan because Alexandr got married. Despite all the rumours the pair is back and in a great shape, which they proved at the recent St. Petersburg Cup.
KL: Have anything changed in your preparations after the Olympic season?
AS: It was really hard to go back to the same level we were thanks to Tamara Moskvina last season. After the worlds we had some injuries - Yuko underwent a surgery, I had some old injuries bugging. But now we're back in shape.
YK: I think the way we think had changed. We used to be stressed all the time: will it work? won't it? Now we just skate and enjoy every programme.
KL: Does being the European Champions put any pressure on you?
AS: Of course it does. In general its' hard to hold the responsibility when everyone considers you n.1. But we are 3 times national champions, so we are kind of used to that attention. Guess we mind it much less.
YK: We used to think: we must prove all the time we are the best. Now we just enjoy what we do. It doesn't mean we dont' want to win anymore, but except for the global goals there is also life and it shouldn't be a nightmare dedicated to one goal: the gold medal. One might not become a champion, but figure skating is an amazing thing.
KL: Your programmes this year differ one from another. It is visible they were choreographed by different people.
AS: The SP is to Richard Strauss - "Also Sprach Zarathustra". It was choreographed by the Olympic Champion Natalia Bestemianova and her husband Igor Bobrin. It was very interesting not only working with them, but communicating as well. the LP to Debussy was choreographed by Peter Chernyshev and Tamara Moskvina. Petr came to st. Petersburg, at the winter we worked in the Academy ice rink and in Jubeleyny.
We now have great training conditions in St. Petersburg: the big figure skating Academy with two olympic sized ice rinks. We had enough time working with Tchernyshev, but we finished the work on the programme with Tamara Moskvina.
KL: I heard there is a new sort of rice named after Yuko
YK: Yes, it was a lovely present. That sort of the Japanese rice was created by Sergey Rodichev in St. Petersburg. He decided to name it that way so it will be related both to Japan and St. Petersburg.
AS: Yuko's name also appeared in a commercial add in St. Petersburg. There is a list of the famous St. Petersburg based foreigners who did history in Russia. Startign with Monferran and Rastrelli and ending with the now-a-days foreigners. It says "thank you for coming here".
YK : It's really nice that the authorities and the citizens don't forget us. It's a huge stimulation.
KL: There are two new pairs in Moskvina's group. What are your relationship with them?
AS: Good ones. Of course they want some communication, especially Imaikina/Bezmaternyh. They want to learn about the city - they only moved from Perm this year and still are getting used to it. I was in their shoes when just moved from Tver. Now I know the city well enough and can show them. If thy ask us any questions we are trying to answer and show.
KL: Alexandr, Was it long ago that you visited Tver?
AS: I used to go more often, especially since the Russian Cup finals were usually there. But till this summer I haven't been there for two years. We were getting ready for the Olympics and there was no time. But my fiance Katia and I visited the relatives there before the wedding. The city has changed and the biggest change were the roads- we drove there - they were fixed, became cleaner. Despite finding my way around easily in St. Petersburg I still consider myself from Tver - it's my motherland. When I was renewing my passport I asked to write Tver as my town.
KL: You withdrew from the GP in Canada. Which competitions do you plan to participate this season?
AS: We had too many injuries and Tamara Moskvina decided that we won't gain the needed form for the second Grand Prix, so we decided to withdrow. But it's behind us. The skating in St. Petersburg cup proved we are ready. The next competition is the Cup of Russia. I don't know whether we can make it to the GPF skating in only one GP event, but if we do - we'll skate in Pekin. Then -Russian Nationals, Europeans and Worlds.
YK: I'm very excited about the worlds which will take place in Japan. My parents and relatives are not rich people and can't come to the main events to cheer for me, but they all promised to come to the competition in Tokyo.
KL: You haven't mentioned the ISU World Team Trophy which will take place in Japan after the worlds.
AS: It's a new competition, was held by the ISU for the first time last year. We participated it and did fine, even though our team was only 5th. This year it won't be held and as far as I know there is nothing scheduled for 2011. Only one pair gets to skate there - the best national pair.
KL: The ISU is going to attempt and add that championship to the Olympics Games and there is a chance 5 Figure skating medals will be on offer there.
YK: Thanks to that championship many countries started developing the pairs skating - the country can't compete there without the pair. If there will be a 5th olympic medal - great, it will give more reason for pair skating.
KL: Are there any pairs in Japan that can compete in such competitions?
YK: There is a new pair - Takahashi/Tran. Mervin is a Canadian, but it's his 4th season with Narumi. A year ago they were medalled becoming the 2nd in Junior Rowlds. The last medal for Japan in pairs was mine at 2001 with Alexandr Markuntsov. This year the guys were Bronze medalists in NHK. I don't think they can put any pressure on the best pairs yet, but they have a chance in the teams competition thanks to the strong field of the singles skaters in Japan.
KL: On one hand the development of the pairs skating is a good thing, on the other- you have the new pairs to beat.
AS: I'll reveal a secret. Though may be it's not a secret anymore - all the skaters compete with themselves on the ice. We dont' see the rivals who suddenly jump on us or hit us on the boxing rink. It's just us on the ice and we only compete with ourselves.
YK: It's a bad thing that so many countries don't have pair skating at all while having the singles and ice dance. I think it's a right thing the ISU does - pushing the pairs skating
KL: Yuko, your russian is great. I reckon it wasn't easy to learn it?
YK: It was hard, especially the sound "L" which doesn't exist in Japanese. But if you set a goal and pursue it every day - you;ll get there. It's true for everything - ice skating, learning languages. Now I speak Russian, because there was a time when I was taking lessons every day learning the language, it's rules. Now I can sing the Russian anathem