Nikita Katsalapov interview with Elena Vaitsekhovskaya: The most important thing now is not to lose leverage that we've got
Once I heard about something being said figure skaters: "With one skate, they lost their entire career". Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov won, in the same manner, if not a career, but quite a lot nonetheless. They came to Paris as a team on the verge of slipping into the role of outsiders, and suddenly they turned out to be a team to upset the two-time European champions Nathalie Pechalat/Fabian Bourzat and the Olympic champions Tessa Virtue/Scott Moir.
EV: Nikita, you finished ahead of the French team, what does it mean for you?
NK: Of course, we are very happy to be above Nathalie and Fabian. I think the most difficult thing in competition is to rise up to an occasion if it suddenly turns up. We were given a chance to place ahead of the French at their home. We worked very hard to get closer to the athletes of this level. And now we have only one and very important goal - not to lose our leverage. Of course, we want to be on the podium, to skate in the same warm-up group with champions. We want the audience to remember us and our programs, so there is something to work for.
It's great that we got our personal best scores in Paris as well. It gave us a lot of positive emotions. It really gives a boost, makes it easier to work. As for the preparation for the season, I can say that we worked with pleasure. We spent all our time in Novogosk, we felt that the closer the Grand Prix, the better we get. To be honest, we couldn't wait to go on the ice and show what we've done over the summer at our training base, where no one sees us. I think everything is going as it should for us now. Although some elements are still a little shaky.
EV: We've shown very complex and dangerous lifts in both programs. When you were asked about it at the press-conference, you had such a look on your face as if there wasn't a place on your body left undamaged.
NK: Do you want to see? - with these words Nikita lifts the hem of his jacket, revealing quite a big bruise in the full bloom on his side. - I have another one like that on my hip. I put on a special protection during the practices, but in competitions… Lifts never were our forte.
EV: Did you lack physical force?
NK: I don't know. Cannot answer this question. But in the end of the last season, when we sat down to discuss what we had to do and how, the first question we discussed was about lifts. We invited an expert from Cirque du Soleil, and at the very first summer camp in The U.S. we were already working with him for four-five hours each day. It began with him explaining us the basics: what a lift is, what partners have to do. Roughly speaking, it is like climbing a tree. Little by little, it started working out on the floor. At first we didn't even think of doing it on the ice. We tried many different variants, tried to combine them in different ways, to create something ourselves. When we started putting in on the ice, we had many doubts. But step by step we came up with the best variant.
EV: In single skating, it is usually very difficult to combine the jumps with the rest of the program. How smoothly did lifts blend with your dances?
NK: I wouldn't make such a comparison. Ice dancers skate much more cleanly - they don't fall. But the concentration during the lifts has to be 100%, especially for the lifting partner. It is really dangerous. Not to mention that there are some positions when a fall might cause very serious damage.
EV: After the short dance, you said that functionally you were prepared so well that you can let yourself think about each step. Couldn't you before?
NK: I wouldn't like to compare this season to the previous one. We did a lot of specific work, worked every day with a great expert - Leonid Moiseevich Raitsin. He developed specific exercises for us, different ones for me and Lena. It wasn't anything supernatural, but it was really specific. Not just an exercise for leg muscles strength, but for specific muscles involved in performing the particular lift. We worked with weights, had certain regimen of jogging.
EV: If you compare your skating in Japan and in Paris, what was the difference?
NK: It felt a little but easier for me in Japan. Both times, we aimed to skate cleanly.
EV: Your partner complained about the jet-lag…
NK: I don't want to write it off to something like that. We had great practices in Paris, it was very easy in the short dance, and I can't say we felt very jet-lagged in the free. We skated with power until the end. Of course, when you give it all, the right (supporting) leg starts to hurt. But its' nothing.
EV: What made you happy more: to defeat the French or to get higher technical score than Virtue/Moir?
NK: We were much happier that we skated very well at two events in a row.
EV: But you must have been upset with the scores you got in Japan?
NK: Of course. We didn't get the scores like we got in the short dance in Japan, I think, since we were juniors. But still, we felt positive about our skating.
EV: Didn't you regret not participating in B events prior to the Grand Prix in order to get more mileage on your dances?
NK: We spent so much time on the ice and in the class, that it simply didn't occur to me that we could stop our work and go somewhere to compete. We wanted too badly to skate well in Japan and in Paris.
EV: But you didn't make it to the Final, having finished first alternates. Wouldn't you, in all honesty, wish any of the teams that made the cut to withdraw, allowing you to participate?
NK: I don't think about that.
NK: Why would I? We have an opportunity to work more, and we plan to use it. If it happens as you said, then we use another opportunity and go skate in the Final.
EV: But do you at least regret you are not in the Final?
NK: I wouldn't say that.