Anna Pogorilaya: The Unexpected Success
Anna's profile in the Moscow Figure Skater magazine from December 30, 2013: http://mosfigurist.ru/?p=1180
About a year ago at the Junior Grand Prix Final, which was held for the first time at the Iceberg ice rink in Sochi, journalists were asking each other, nodding towards the unknown skater and her coach: "Who is it?" That was Anna Pogorilaya with her coach Anna Tsareva, who surprised many by having skated very well in the junior Grand Prix series, and winning the bronze in the final. Anna took the bronze at the 2013 World Junior Championships in as well, finishing the last of the top three that consisted entirely of Moscow skaters. A year later, skating in the senior Grand Prix, Pogorilaya wins gold in Beijing, beating such famous athletes as Kostner and Sotnikova, and gets the bronze in Paris, losing only to Sotnikova and Wagner. As a result, the senior Grand Prix Final turned predominantly Russian: four skaters from Moscow - Lipnitskaya, Sotnikova, Radionova and Pogorilaya - left room in the final only for Mao Asada from Japan and Ashley Wagner from the U.S. And although Anna finished sixth, we can state the fact that Anna Pogorilaya, quite unexpectedly, now belongs among the strongest skaters of the planet.
This year, Anna Tsareva celebrates the 10th anniversary of her coaching work. "I've been coaching since our school had opened." Anna Tsareva finished skating competitively at the age of 13 because her coach Sergei Gromov went to work in Austria, and she thought it would be pointless to continue. Fortunately, coach Irina Hmys found her a place in Elena Tchaikovskaya's ballet on ice, where she had skated for about five years, until it was time to go to university. However, Anna still cannot explain why she chose the Institute of Physical Education, even though her whole family was against it and wanted her to become an economist, not a coach. However, Anna Tsareva had got into the group of Alla Belyaeva, who is known as a very strict yet competent teacher. "Alla Yuryevna forced us to attend competitions, for example, Russian championships, which were held in Sokolniki, although at the time I didn't care for figure skating, because when an athlete leaves the sport, they usually do not want to watch figure skating for a while. But she was asking us for details, what we saw, what we noticed, what we memorized, so not to go was not an option. Then once my friend Yulia Andreeva and I were walking past Sokolniki, and I suddenly realized that I was going to be a coach and no one else. I have to say that the group was unique in a sense that there wasn't any competing athletes, and everyone was attending classes, doing homework. "Alla Yuryevna was very proud that five out of seven students graduated with honors". Having found the motivation and the understanding, Anna completed her university degree, then PhD, and started working at Khrustalny ice rink.
Anna Pogorilaya started skating when she was 4, like many other children. However, we cannot say that her mother took the girl to the rink, because it would be wrong. The girl made the choice herself, because her mother could not decide who she wanted her daughter to become more: a dancer, a rhythmic gymnast, or a figure skater. Anya chose the ice and began skating at the Sozvezdie ice rink in the group of Anna Kharchenko. Having skated for two years in Yasenevo, she switched to the recently opened Khrustalny ice rink that was intended solely for figure skaters and therefore was more promising. After the tryout, Anya found herself in the group of the young coach Anna Tsareva and became her first coaching experience. "Anya came to my group 10 years ago, in 2004. I remember that she could do only Salchow and waltz jump, I think, she couldn't even do a single loop, "- says Anna Tsareva.
One can say that Pogorilaya is the product of Belyaevo skating school, because Anna haven't changed neither a coach nor a skating rink in ten years. Anna has two skating sessions a day, in the morning and in the evening, each lasting for one hour fifteen minutes, sharing the ice with about 17 skaters coached by three coaches. But skating at the ice rink is still a pleasure: not only you have someone to look up to, but also you have little children pushing you by doing triple lutz - triple toe loop combinations at the age of 11.
At competitions Anna Tsareva keeps very quiet and concentrated because, as Anya says, she always holds back her emotions ("because in fact Anna Vladimirovna is very temperamental and demanding") so as not to "scare" her pupil. "Even if something doesn't work, she still tells me that all is well and everything will be fine. I like to work with her very much, and I understand that no one else can prepare me to do my job, to explain how to do the elements, how to make me get results" - says Anna. She had to sit out the season of 2009/10 almost entirely due to an injury, and is still distracted from time to time by the knee pain caused by Osgood-Schlatter disease, but she nevertheless tried every season to improve her results. "She's always been a good promising skater, but she never could fulfill the promises, although I, as a coach, saw what she was capable of, and I just waited, helping her out" - says Anna Tsareva. - "But to be honest, we did not expect such a result."
Anna Pogorilaya was an ordinary Moscow skater: yes, she used to win or place in the top three at Moscow regional championships, yes, she made Russian Junior Championships, but not much else. And suddenly Pogorilaya is a Junior Worlds bronze medalist, senior Grand Prix finalist!
So everything that happened later was unexpected and wasn't planned. In the beginning of season 2012/13, Anna Pogoriluya was not invited to the test skates in August. It was promised that [the federation] would watch her more closely at the Moscow Open Championships in September. Anna placed second at that event, which was good, considering the level of competition: all the skaters in the top ten had 3-3 combinations and had skated very clean. And then it happened so that there was no one to send to the [Junior] Grand Prix, and Tsareva was offered to go with Anna to Zagreb, and was promised another Grand Prix if Anna placed in the top three. In Zagreb, Pogorilaya lost to the Americans Wong and Miller, bringing home the bronze, and almost without a break to reflect on her progress, she get a ticket to the Grand Prix in Chemnitz, which was next week. Later, when journalists were asking Anna who she was and where she came from, Anya said that she had once looked around and realized how far behind her rivals she had fallen, and decided to catch up with them and methodically set about the task. And she worked especially hard after the short program at the Grand Prix in Chemnitz, where she lost to Maria Stavitskaya: "I was very angry with myself, even though I skated a clean short. And I immediately got the energy for work, because if something is disturbing me, I immediately start working on it." Anna won with a 16 points margin from second place, leaving rivals no chance. "When we realized that we were in the final, we had to immediately start training the triple Lutz - triple toe loop combination because 3t-3t combination would no longer be enough to win" - says Anya. - "Everything went very well in practice, I had to know if it worked in the competition."
Having put the triple Lutz - triple toe loop combination into action at the Junior Grand Prix Final, Anya skates both programs without major mistakes and and places third behind Elena Radionova and Hannah Miller. In the spring of 2013, at the Junior World Championships, Anna repeats the success, but this time, she is accompanied by Russian girls. The stellar season makes observers think that Anna Pogorilaya has arrived among the skating elite and will probably stay around for a long time.
"I had a task - to keep everything that I learned in the past season, so as not to start from scratch" - says Anya. - "Why I don't do a combination with loop? It's difficult. It costs just a tiny bit more than 3Lz-3T combination, but is much more risky. Same is with triple flip - triple toe loop: I can put an effort to acquire this combination, but why should I do it if I have 3Lz-3T and it costs more? Especially considering that I get edge calls on flip... I don't know why I keep changing the edge like it's a Lutz? Everyone has their problem."
Anya admits that she never pictured any great future for herself. Maybe it's because endless daily practices became a routine long ago, or because no one has ever told her she was a future figure skating star, but nevertheless, she's got some aspirations after she debuted on the international level and started placing in the top three. It's common for the athletes who made a breakthrough on the Junior Grand Prix circuit to change their attitude towards training: they realize that they can make a name for themselves and win a major event sooner or later, but only if they keep working hard.
Anna began the new 2013/14 season competing in the Grand Prix series, where she, again to the surprise of many, had an amazing success, considering the level of competition. Anya beat Sotnikova and Kostner at the Cup of China, having won the event, and two weeks later she lost to Wagner and Sotnikova, placing third and thus securing a spot in the senior Grand Prix Final - something Carolina Kostner could not achieve . But it turns out that their small team did not feel any trepidation. "We knew that no one was expecting anything from us, so we did not feel any pressure, we were comfortable. And our attitude was: if it works, then fine, if it doesn't - no one is going to be upset", - says Anna Tsareva . But apparently, Anna's powers were not unlimited, or maybe it was due to the fact that indeed no one was expecting such results and therefore was not prepared. When Anna fell on a jump at the end of her free program at the Grand Prix Final in Fukuoka, she stayed just sitting on the ice for some time, as if lost in time and space. "Many people asked us after: "Why couldn't she get up more quickly? "- Tsareva recalls. - " And I saw that she really couldn't, because she simply had no energy left. But an athlete cannot arrive at such serious international competitions and just let go of everything, I saw her fighting literally for every element, for every movement." However, it is a great achievement to be among the top six best skaters in the world in the Olympic year, and the Grand Prix final is not some small hometown event. It's a pity that our Olympic quota in ladies skating is limited by only two spots, but it's a problem of our quota, not of our figure skating.
When asked how she feels being the sixth in the world, Anna says: "I do not feel anything, because if you had a strong and successful skate, it does not place you in the top of the world rankings ."
This breakthrough was so sudden that many were confused because she was never spoken of, or written about, or predicted to win, or considered promising. At the Russian Nationals in Sochi, Anna was so unlike herself in the short program. "I didn't know myself whether I was going to do an element or not", - says Anna. - "To be honest, I do not understand how I managed to avoid falls or major mistakes. Only the double Axel and one spin were okay." She was more concentrated in the free, apparently having decided that she could do better than 10th place. It's in the past, but the season is not over yet.
The tough girl
Anna Pogorilaya shows good skating this season, still not a woman's skating, but no longer a child's. She impresses the audience and judges with her looks, movements and spirit. " "Anya has a great fighting spirit" - says her coach. "She likes the struggle, and if there is nothing to struggle with, she creates something, because she doesn't like taking it easy. And if everything is calm and quiet, it's bad, because for her it only feels good if she's on edge, she doesn't like quiet, she needs a storm."
During our conversation with Tsareva, she gets a text from Anna saying that she wants to change her free program. "You see? She decided that the program doesn't suit her any longer. And if she decided to change, she will do it." You don't have to look far for an example. At the Russian Nationals, Anya asked her coach to change a layout in the free, because the layback "was not in the right place." Tsareva told her that it'd be better not to change anything at the moment, better think about it later. "I'm standing by the boards during the free skate, and I see that she skips the layback and goes on. The program is about to end already, and she still hasn't done it. I was about to yell her to do layback, when she finally does it - with the last beats of the music. Turns out she decided to do as was comfortable for her." Anna's horoscope sign is Aries. Maybe it affects her character? Who knows...
An hour later, I ask Anna what's wrong with the free, and she starts to explain with ardor: "At first, at each competition I did not like something about the layout of the elements in the program, and I was coming up over and over again to Sergei Verbilo asking him to change something. And today I realized that I don't like the free program in general, because there is no beauty. In my opinion, if the music is fast, the program should be groovy, if it's slow, then it should be beautiful. And I no longer like the music, even though initially I suggested it, because I was crazy about it. " She works on stroking, steps and transitions with Sergey Verbilo (former ice dancer from Ukraine), who is also a choreographer of Anya's programs. By the way, she likes the short program so much that she'd like to keep it for next season.
According to Anna Tsareva, the whole point of coaching business is not so much about teaching an athlete some tricks, but about teaching him how to work, and when the athlete starts winning something, then he has more incentive to work hard, it becomes easier. In general, Anya Pogorilaya is one of those athletes who do not execute the command like a soldier, but ask the coach to explain the reason behind every action. "It's better to negotiate with her than to fight" - Tsareva laughs. - "And it is impossible to force your opinion on her, you can only persuade her. But I think that it is good, because she gets everything through her head, and it's not something you can say about every athlete. Although, if she just did everything the coach says, it would be faster and easier. But generally those athletes who achieve something, they are all difficult" - sighing, she adds.
The most important is to believe
"My mother and father are from the Ukraine, Kharkov, and my older brother and I were born in Russia", - Anna says. - "My dad told me about the origin of our family name: one of our ancestors survived the fire." Anya says that her number one fans are her mom and dad, who worry every time their daughter competes, while her brother, who is three years older than her, is a more casual figure skating fan. "His nerves are stronger than our parents', so he can easily watch any event live," - smiles Anya . - "He wanted me to bring him an "I Love Paris " T-shirt from TEB, so for him, it did not matter how I skated, only that I come home with a T-shirt ". As Anya says, theirs is a typical family of four plus a ginger Persian cat named Ryska, whom she likes to pet and listen to her purring.
Anna is already in 10th grade, since she went to school at age 6. She has next to no free time for leisure and recreation, because she is either skating or doing homework. Anya manages to get home in between the practices, living only in 30 minutes drive from the rink, but more often she hurries to school. "Teachers know that I skate and are very understanding", - she says. - It has become very convenient to study after the electronic journal was introduced, now I can see all the homework assignments. Last year I passed the GIA (State Final Attestation) Grade 9 and got all 4 (B) for all the tests, which made me very happy, and next year I will have to take the EGE (Unified State Exam), and some changes were made in Literature test, so now I read a lot of books." After school, Anna plans to enroll in the Institute of Physical Education ("It's if I'm still skating," - she adds), and after that get a second degree, she doesn't know which yet.
Ukrainian roots manifest when it comes to cooking: every family member not only knows how to cook, but does it really well. For example, Anna's dad taught her to bake éclairs. Anna says that she revised her attitude towards certain types of products when she started cooking. "I could not stand zucchini before I learned to cook them. However, I also cook fish, but don't eat it,"- she says.
Friendship is a difficult matter in figure skating, but Anna is a sociable girl and makes friends easily. "I'm friends with the girls from our rink, with Liza Tuktamysheva, with Lena Ilinykh." When asked about who of the currently competing skaters she'd wanted to be like, Anya says: " Personality-wise, Carolina Kostner, because she is just wonderful, she is nice to talk with. She speaks Russian, maybe not so great, but enough to communicate." But skating-wise, Anna says, she never thought about it, because, in her opinion, it all depends on the programs that are changing every season and change her perception of skaters. "I know that Anna Vladimirovna's favorite figure skater is Kim Yuna, she constantly refers to her as an example that despite her titles and age, Yuna finds the strength to do 3-3 combinations and improve the level of all the elements. I like her too, but I still think she is kind of cold-blooded", - Anna concludes her summary.
As you know, it's better not to make predictions in figure skating. But, Anna Pogorilaya says, the events of the last two seasons confirm what her coach tells her every day at the rink: "If you work really hard, there will definitely be the result." And Anna Tsareva adds, summing up all that was said before: "The most important for coach is to believe in athlete, then everything will work out, and the result will be, for sure."
so its true, Anna is Ukrainian origin
maybe she can skate for Ukraine in the future who needs better than Popova
I'm giving her more chance than other russian junior ladies because she looks more grown and still have jumps. She have 3lutz+3toe, seven triple free skate - two 3lutz and two 3loop-and mostly centered/fast spins (positions are bad but this COP ) Her weakness is flip and double axel.
That's a good point. She is already post-puberty and still has pretty consistent big jumps. I hope she can continue to improve her presentation. It's way better than it was last season but it's still her Achilles heel, compared to the jumps anyway. Her programs are quite busy and she is making effort presenting them. It's just that the basics need work.