Interview with Kristina Astakhova

TAHbKA

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Marina Chernysheva-Melnik's interview with Kristina Astakhova for matchtv.ru

MCM: Kristina, what is the favourite moment of your career?
KA: The Olympics of course. Arthur Dmitriev always said `The Olympics are different, you can't compare those to any other competition'. He should know! We, the skaters, are always nervous before the competition. But when I came to Korea the feeling was different.
We didn't win a medal, but the fact of participating the Olympics means a lot to me. Especially as it came as a surprise - Stolbova/Klimov were not invited after the doping scandal. I learned I was going to the Olympics while home under the weather. On one hand it was `wow, cool!!!' on the other - it's scary - the level of responsibility. It was a shock, a huge energy boost that I will remember for the rest of my life.

MCM: Why have you retired right after the Olympic season?
KA: First I didn't see what is next. Sport is very time and health demanding, the constant concentration, the stress.. you have to give so much of yourself and get no promises in return. I thought to myself: so ok, I'll get ready for a new season - but what for? So for 2022 I could make it to the Olympics. I.e. I have to think of a 4 years cycle. How old is Alexey Rogonov? Would he be healthy enough to compete on the highest level by then? So let's assume we would skate for a couple more season, but the younger competitors would come by then and become the leaders.
Second - I would not continue skating with Alexey. We were not communicating well, sometimes we were not on the speaking terms and, of course, there was no fun skating together. Perhaps with some other partner I would had continued. But the spring 2018 there was no free well trained male partner. So I retired without hesitating much.

MCM: You can't predict the future of course, but what about the Europeans and the other main competitions? After all the competition in the pairs is not that high - after the Korean Olympics several leading teams retired and your and Alexey's chances to medal raised.
KA: It's not a given we would have won. Look at the Chinese! And even being on the podium - I would want to be there because I'm the best, not because someone retired. I.e. I would be in a queue and wait for my turn? It's not something that inspired me.

MCM: At what point you decided you were done and notified the team?
KA: I started thinking about it right after the Olympics. After the Worlds we had a vacation - we were so tired, we didn't want to make any plans for the future. Right before leaving I notified the partner and the coaches that I will probably retire. I thought perhaps I'll change my mind during the vacation, the passion will come back. Nope. When I got back to Moscow I made my mind and told the colleagues am not continuing to the next season.

MCM: Alexey Rogonov announced at the Summer 2018 the team no longer existed. Why haven't you said goodbye to your fans? After all it was your idea to retire.
KA: In our Alexey was the one to talk in public, give the interviews and comments. I thought - well, if he announced my retirement it's enough. I'm quite passive in the social networks, I don't have many followers. Besides, I knew people were hurt by my retirement and I didn't want to go into the details. I thought it would just go away.

MCM: Yet not so long ago you and Aleksey went back to the subject in your social networks.
KA: During the 2 years after our parting Alexey sometimes spoke about it in various interviews and some things he said were not nice to read. So much time have passed - why not let it go? We wouldn't be skating together anyway.
Frankly, I don't want to recall all the reasons now. The mix of them caused the decision. I think it all worked out well for our ex-team. Alexey skates in a great show with Alina Ustimkina, they earn a good money and do what they want. I'm well settled as well. I sometimes visit Arthur Dmitriev, we are in a good terms. It's time to let it go!

MCM: How did you parents and your surrounding take you decision to retire?
KA: My mom just wants me to be happy. If I made the choice - she accepted it. Most importantly mom knew: I retire to begin a new chapter in my life, to grow.
Of course some were in ave taking my age. But it've only been two years and I don't want to go back competing. I like my current life! I do some complicated elements and lifts in the shows, but I don't have to chase the technique and try to beat someone, I can try out in different roles. I am not sorry about my decision, which means it was right. Just the fact I made it to the Olympics is great. Not many win it.

MCM: How did you become a skater?
KA: My parents are biathlettes, they put me on the ski when I was 3. I didn't like it. A year later I told my mom `I want to do rollerskating in the winter'. I could rollerskate by then. Mom took me to the ice rink to Ekaterina Volkova's group - she became my first singles coach.

MCM: Why did you switch to pairs?
KA: When I was 9 Sergey Dobroskokov joined the `Khrystalny' where I was training. He had several guys and my coach offered me to try out in pairs. I went to a couple of practices, liked it and stayed.

MCM: Were you not afraid flying above the ice on the partner's arm, landing the throw jumps?
KA: When you are little you are hardly afraid of anything. The opposite: everything is so interesting and exciting. I was trying lifts when I was 9y.o, bu the age of 10-11 I was learning the throw 3S. If you offer me now to learn and ultra C element I would need a really grand goal. But back then there was no fear of injury and it was more interesting than scary.

MCM: You skated in Dobroskokov's group for several years and when teamed up with Rogonov went to a new coach. Why?
KA: It just happened that both Alexey and I had different coaches - he was in Pavlova's group. We decided we don't want to choose between them not to hurt one of them. So we went to Dmitriev - a neutral person. It was for the best: each of us started working in a new team from the scratch and we were adjusting to each other.

MCM: You were working with a choreographer Zhelezniakov - he now works with all the famous single skaters in Tutberidze's group
KA: Zhelezniakov taught the modern dance, worked on the upper body and the arms. He not only worked with Tutberidze's team in `Khrustalny' but with Dobroskokov as well. He was teaching me and my previous partners. When I switched to Dmitriev Zhelezniakov remained my off ice choreographer and Sergey Komolov became the on ice choreographer.

MCM: You have quite a big age gap - 9 years. Is it a good thing or a bad?
KA: It's more important how you treat the work, what is in your heart. The goal you are trying to reach should be the same. Look at the contemporary skating - those who win are not even 16. The young ones in the pairs are coming up as well. When Alexey and I were skating it was Volosozhar/Trnakov, Stolbova/Klimov and then Tarasova/Morozov in the lead. They all were adults. Now it's every season another young team bursts in.

MCM: In Dmitriev's group you didn't have any rivals. At the same time Mozer coached all the leading teams in Russia. Do you need a sparring or the conditions in your team were better?
KA: I can't tell anything about Mozer's group work, but as far as I know all the teams were training separately. I think the sparring is good when you are a beginner in the sport. You see the other teams skating and you want to improve, you grow. Once you reach a certain level you want an individual approach and the full attention of the coach and the choreographer. After all the main sparring is the competition.

MCM: Your most remembered programme is the `Doll'. Tell me the story.
KA: It's the idea of the choreographer Sergey Komolov, he offered the song `Shatter me'. In the clip the doll is singing the song and playing the violin while in a glass ball. Sergey offered a story: I'm a doll, Alexey is the master who created it and fell in love with it. The master is trying to revive his creation, gives the doll his heart and by the end of the programme I come to life.
I remember it took me a while to figure the role, Sergey even said once `Kristina, I don't see a doll in you'. We worked a lot with Margarita Bugaeva - the acting teacher, who taught me the `doll gaze'. She also works with the `Khrustalny' kids
There is an about 10 seconds part of the programme, where we more or less stand still and don't do any elements but do some choregraphy. That's the moment the audience would always clap, it's was so touching. I recall after the season we skated `The Doll' I came to the rink and the kids who were training there said `Oh, it's the doll!'. They didn't know my name but they knew the role. It was really nice.

MCM: You had a wonderful `Evgeni Onegin' programme, which you never showed in a competition. Why?
KA: We went to St. Petersburg to watch the musicale, we worked with Vera Sveshnikova - who was playing the role of Tatiana. It was a very interesting time and we put a lot of soul in that programme. But after the test skates in Sochi the federation specialists advised our coaches to change it. They doubted the foreign judges and public would understand it. After all its' a Russian story with the Russian lyrics. In the end our choreographer offered a different thing to music from the movie `Paganini: the devil's violinist'. We did it really fast and the programme was quite decent.

MCM: Today your main partner in the ice shows is Andrey Deputat?
KA: Yes, we often skate together. It's a funny story: you probably know last summer when Andrey and Ekaterina Bobrova opened a skating school. I was looking for a job, so I called Ekaterina and offered to join. She said she'll talk to Andrei. A bit later he called me himself and said: `you can coach later, perhaps for now let's do shows?'. Andrey had been skating in Averbukh;s shows for a while and he wanted to find a constant partner. We skated for the first time together in the `R&J' show, we were depicting the old Montecchi couple. I loved it and since then am a part of Averbukh's ice family.

MCM: You are so young and depict the parents of the main character - the Romeo is played by the 40y.o. Marinin?
KA: Well, the soloists should be the Olympic champions. At any rate, am glad I started my career in the show and will continue it. Now it's the time of the New Years shows and we'll see what is next.

MCM: What else do you do except for the shows?
KA: I choreograph in Dobroskokov's group, do programmes for his little pairs and singles. Of course the pairs are easier for me- it's what ma used to. Sometimes I do master classes. I am not in a hurry to coach, there is always time for that. I want to try different things.

MCM: Do you follow the competitions?
KA: I was never while competing myself but I do now. First Sergey Dobroskokov has Pavluchenko/Khodykin and I want to see how do they develop. Second the pairs skating develops, there are new entrances, transitions, some moves.

MCM: Your ex coach Arthur Dmitriev said that there is no obvious leader in the Russian pairs. Do you agree?
KA: I think so. It's too unpredictable. Look at Boikova/Kozlovskii: they show the highest technique for 2 seasons in the row. And at the same time Tarasova/Morozo - the mature team, they move like one. I think it's the togetherness the new teams are still lacking. It's something that comes with the time. Alexey and I had always tried to do something new, unusual in our programmes.
We'll see who will win in the main competitions. I think a lot of pairs can aim for the top with their technical content.

MCM: You mentioned the finances as one of the reasons to retire. Why the pairs skating is not that popular among the sponsors? It seems the known brands would rather sign contracts with the 2nd rated single skaters.
KA: I think a lot depends on the people who promote you. Some athletes have agents who work for their popularity. The only way for a skater to earn some money is the salary, the price money, the private lessons and the shows during the off season. In pairs and dance you can also represent two regions at once: each partner in a different region, that way the regional payments are higher. But if you are not one of the world leaders you won't earn a decent living from the skating. Hence many retire.
 

3T3T

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I thought that was a great interview, she came across very well. She’s a very lucky girl first skating with Rogonov and now with Deputat, it’s a tough life.

I was sad to see her and Rogonov split up as I really enjoyed their programmes, just a bit different from everyone else. I felt they could medal at a European level moving forward but at worlds would be a different matter but the competitors in Russia is now quite tough so I’m not sure where they would be ranked.

Interesting that she said they didn’t get on at the end, I always wonder how couples with a big age gap get on. Still they had a good career and she did get to the Olympics, something very few do.

I’ve gone back and watched a few of their programmes. The doll programme really were fantastic, I remember watching this skate in the 2016 Europeans, I could understand the low score but one lift was invalidate.


One thing I did note was there was always a good reaction from the crowd once they finished skating.
 

hanca

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It seemed to me that Rogonov had quite a big ego and did not think about the fact that a pair means two. Even Aliona couldn’t win the Olympics without a partner. I found him quite arrogant when he spoke on the instagram about what he made out of her....
 

Tinami Amori

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It seemed to me that Rogonov had quite a big ego and did not think about the fact that a pair means two. Even Aliona couldn’t win the Olympics without a partner. I found him quite arrogant when he spoke on the instagram about what he made out of her....
Can you be more specific as to why you think so?

It is a known fact that it is Kristina who decided to not skate competitively at all. Not to end the partnership, not to seek new partner, but to quit skating all together. She said so herself, and they discussed it with Dmitriev, and he confirmed it. Kristina told everyone "i need to be away from the sport all together, at least for a while. if i change my mind later, i'll see if i can come back. I know Alexei still wants to skate, but i can't say this for myself.


«Мы решили взять паузу по моей инициативе – предыдущий сезон был очень сложным, навалилась огромная усталость. Я знаю, что Алексей еще хочет кататься, но с полной уверенностью сказать такого о себе я не могу. Вот для того, чтобы разобраться, мне и нужно время. Если пойму, что безо льда я не могу жить, я вернусь.

Мы обсудили ситуацию с нашим тренером – Артуром Дмитриевым, он объяснил мне все плюсы и минусы, все возможные перспективы моего решения. Я думаю, что, если все-таки захочу вернуться, он примет меня. Но я до конца должна быть уверена в том, что я готова идти на новый олимпийский цикл, а пока этой уверенности у меня нет»,
 

hanca

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Well, if someone says something like “after all the work we put into her and the personality we raised, she decided to retire”, it does sound a bit arrogant to me. I am not going to waste my time going through the old threads to link his interview where he said it and the instagram post where she reacted to it, but it does sound like he has a strong sense of entitlement. Yes, I am sure he put in a lot of hard work in his partnership with Astakhova, but so did she. She was also a pair skater, so she wasn’t starting from completely beginning. It also wasn’t like if he was as great as Savchenko and she was the Massot. He might have been slightly more successful in the past without her, but not that much more successful. With Martiusheva they did win some B competitions, but his best GP result was fifth place and no europeans or worlds. So not significant results without Astakhova. Whatever he is now he achieved with her. Suggesting that he and their coach put so much work into her sounds very patronising.
 

Bigbird

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Well, if someone says something like “after all the work we put into her and the personality we raised, she decided to retire”, it does sound a bit arrogant to me. I am not going to waste my time going through the old threads to link his interview where he said it and the instagram post where she reacted to it, but it does sound like he has a strong sense of entitlement. Yes, I am sure he put in a lot of hard work in his partnership with Astakhova, but so did she. She was also a pair skater, so she wasn’t starting from completely beginning. It also wasn’t like if he was as great as Savchenko and she was the Massot. He might have been slightly more successful in the past without her, but not that much more successful. With Martiusheva they did win some B competitions, but his best GP result was fifth place and no europeans or worlds. So not significant results without Astakhova. Whatever he is now he achieved with her. Suggesting that he and their coach put so much work into her sounds very patronising.
It seems par for the course for male Russian figure skaters working in a pair actually, the sense of entitlement that is. Compared to others he's comparatively tame. OTOH, I admire her willingness and forthrightness in putting her well being and peace of mind above skating. She made no apologies, made a clean break and got on with it. Respect! I never gave much attention to Rogonov after they split.
 

hanca

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I never liked Astakhova’s skating. I liked their programs, they were very creative and different, but her as a skater I found her not enough expressive. He was emoting and she was...just there, looking bland.

However, after I read the exchange on instagram, I feel a huge respect for her and I lost all my respect for him. After two years he is still holding grudges! What does Ustimkina thinks about her new partner still grieving his lost opportunities with Astakhova?
 

Coco

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I wish their Onegin program had been allowed to proceed. Surprised to hear the logic behind the Federation's decision to pull it.
 

zebraswan

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I never liked Astakhova’s skating. I liked their programs, they were very creative and different, but her as a skater I found her not enough expressive. He was emoting and she was...just there, looking bland.

However, after I read the exchange on instagram, I feel a huge respect for her and I lost all my respect for him. After two years he is still holding grudges! What does Ustimkina thinks about her new partner still grieving his lost opportunities with Astakhova?

Are you kidding? There are people on here who hold grudges about competitions from 2 or 3 decades ago, and they aren't even skaters. 2 years is nothing for someone who was actually involved in the partnership. I can see both of their points of view. It's not hard to understand his feelings at all. All the momentum that A/R had was lost because she didn't feel like continuing. And that's her right, of course, but he still wanted to compete and now it's pretty much impossible (at least for Russia). There are too many good younger pairs and time is not on his side.

But I understand her too. It's just very difficult for any pair to make it long term...you really have to be lucky to find someone with the same goals, who you can communicate with, who will keep the same level of motivation through all the hard times and continue to progress. And no injuries. Not to mention that pair skaters are pretty much at the bottom of the totem pole when it comes to financial opportunities.
 

hanca

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Are you kidding? There are people on here who hold grudges about competitions from 2 or 3 decades ago, and they aren't even skaters. 2 years is nothing for someone who was actually involved in the partnership. I can see both of their points of view. It's not hard to understand his feelings at all. All the momentum that A/R had was lost because she didn't feel like continuing. And that's her right, of course, but he still wanted to compete and now it's pretty much impossible (at least for Russia). There are too many good younger pairs and time is not on his side.

But I understand her too. It's just very difficult for any pair to make it long term...you really have to be lucky to find someone with the same goals, who you can communicate with, who will keep the same level of motivation through all the hard times and continue to progress. And no injuries. Not to mention that pair skaters are pretty much at the bottom of the totem pole when it comes to financial opportunities.
She competed with him for 4 years. Even if he had spent a lot of time and effort to make her a pair skater out of singles skater (which he didn’t), I would say she repaid it to him adequately. She gave him four years; she didn’t owe him anything. Thanks to her he got to compete at Europeans, twice at worlds and at the Olympics. They had a working relationship, nothing personal. If he wanted her to skate with him longer, perhaps he could ensure that she would be happy in the relationship. Treat her a bit better, maybe on a more personal level. She wrote that sometimes they did not communicate at all. I wouldn’t want to work in such an environment. He was taking her for granted and then suddenly was surprised that she wanted to get out of this - what did he expect?
 

zebraswan

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There are 2 sides to every story. Maybe there was nothing he could do to make her happy. Like Fedor and Ksenia...they just didn't get along. I get it, you want to make him the bad guy, but I don't think things are ever that black and white.
 

hanca

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There are 2 sides to every story. Maybe there was nothing he could do to make her happy. Like Fedor and Ksenia...they just didn't get along. I get it, you want to make him the bad guy, but I don't think things are ever that black and white.
I don’t particularly want to make him be the bad guy, in fact, I liked his skating more than hers. But the way he presented on public media - I made up my mind. If even after two years one is publicly washing dirty laundry and complains about being dumped by a partner, and try to gather people to influence her to change her mind, there is something pathetic about him. In this situation she presents as the one with class, despite being much younger, and he looks like the arrogant and pathetic looser.
 

Tinami Amori

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I don’t particularly want to make him be the bad guy, in fact, I liked his skating more than hers. But the way he presented on public media - I made up my mind.
I am indifferent to both skaters on this former team, but just for the record... Kristina's first post on IG/twitter about this issue is a "second half" of what took place earlier before it hit "social media".

Rogonov was approached by a journalist from a lesser known, non-sports publication, for an interview (a local edition of Sobaka.ru-Krasnoyarsk). The journalist was probing Rogonov to give an explanation why they broke up, (imo) phrasing questions in as if it was Rogonov who needs to explain the break-up. Rogonov gave his explanation (sort of being defensive), but did not say anything that was not true - he wanted to skate, she did not, and he and coach tried to convince her, even offered to give her bigger percentage from prize money, and for Rogonov to absorb more training expenses.

Then some people from the "inner circle of russian pairs skating" who knew them both, told Kristina about the interview, and quoted phrases from it.

Kristina jumped on IG and posted what she posted.... "You still can't let go! after two years! where are your results in competitive figure skating? you have a partner, but you're not competing, just skating shows"... etc..

... so then it went where it went. social media has its' negatives... :D

This is not different than Stolbova and Klimov telling the press that they are "different people, who do not communicate off the ice" and all the explanations each gave why it did not work out.
 

TAHbKA

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I was a bit upset about the doll programme - it's a copy/paste of Kazakova/Dmitriev's Matrix programme....
 

Bigbird

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Kristina jumped on IG and posted what she posted.... "You still can't let go! after two years! where are your results in competitive figure skating? you have a partner, but you're not competing, just skating shows"... etc..
[/QUOTE]

Hun, let it go and let it flow. Everybody just needs to go to that zen place of, I just couldn't care less anymore, real life is so much more richer than competitive figure skating will ever be.
 

hanca

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I am indifferent to both skaters on this former team, but just for the record... Kristina's first post on IG/twitter about this issue is a "second half" of what took place earlier before it hit "social media".

Rogonov was approached by a journalist from a lesser known, non-sports publication, for an interview (a local edition of Sobaka.ru-Krasnoyarsk). The journalist was probing Rogonov to give an explanation why they broke up, (imo) phrasing questions in as if it was Rogonov who needs to explain the break-up. Rogonov gave his explanation (sort of being defensive), but did not say anything that was not true - he wanted to skate, she did not, and he and coach tried to convince her, even offered to give her bigger percentage from prize money, and for Rogonov to absorb more training expenses.

Then some people from the "inner circle of russian pairs skating" who knew them both, told Kristina about the interview, and quoted phrases from it.

Kristina jumped on IG and posted what she posted.... "You still can't let go! after two years! where are your results in competitive figure skating? you have a partner, but you're not competing, just skating shows"... etc..

... so then it went where it went. social media has its' negatives... :D

This is not different than Stolbova and Klimov telling the press that they are "different people, who do not communicate off the ice" and all the explanations each gave why it did not work out.
I am aware that Astakhova’s post on the instagram is ‘the second part’ of the ‘communication’. And quite honestly, I don’t blame her that her patience finally run out. She included the interview he gave and made it clear exactly which bits she objects to. I thought that was pretty reasonable.

Let’s look how to remain classy - for example Iliuschetchkina deals with those issues. On a number of occasions she was asked about why her partnership with Maisuradze ended. I am pretty sure she has plenty to say about a bloke who didn’t stand up for her when their coach drove her to eating disorder. But she always says that she doesn’t want to talk about it, it is in the past and that’s it. She was also asked about the previous partnership of Bilodeau, why he split up with Seguin. She replied that usually there are two sides of the story, he told her his story and she doesn’t feel that she should be passing this on to third parties. Easy. Done. That’s the way how to remain classy. You are telling me that a 31 year old Rogonov with plenty of experience of interacting with journalists was so surprised by their questions that he became defensive and said something he didn’t want to say? Well, he just showed his true colours. You say that he said nothing that is not true. I think you are missing the point. If someone believes that he and their coach made something out of her, that’s a bit arrogant. As I said, it’s not as if he was Savchenko and she was Massot. He was nothing without her the same as she was nothing without him. I understand that it was frustrating that she stopped because it impacted on his career too, but if he had this huge ego every day at their practice, skating with him must have been quite a chore. He need to learn to let it go. Perhaps someone should send him the music from Frozen? Let it go, let it go....
 
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cygnus

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. I understand that it was frustrating that she stopped because it impacted on his career too, but if he had this huge ego every day at their practice, skating with him must have been quite a chore. He need to learn to let it go. Perhaps someone should send him the music from Frozen? Let it go, let it go....

Well "Let it Go" from Frozen isn't about forgetting past wrongs- it's about releasing your inner (female) powers. ;) So maybe not quite the right song for him. Maybe for her though.....
 

hanca

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If Astakhova skates with Deputat, I wonder with whom Bazarova skates in shows.
 

Tinami Amori

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Iliuschetchkina...
Rogonov...
Luba's behavior always been classy, past partners, her situation, moving to another country, Russia vs. Canada.... She is a model of good behavior. wish all stuck to the same patterns.
Rogonov? their partnership ended 2 years ago, journalists should not be asking them "why", they were never top skaters anyway. Rogonov should've avoided answering, Kristina should not have jumped on IG, he should not have responded to IG, Kristina should not be talking about it again in this interview..... because maybe now he'll go on social media and say something..... and it will never end... :D I don't think he is specifically "un-classy" given all else that happens on social media in skating.. but i wish they all shut up, many of them.... :D
 
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Tinami Amori

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Wow, that’s amazing. After being dumped by him and Mozer... That’s an example of how to forgive and not hold grudges!
I got new info, seems B/L are a show team.
Bazarova and Larionov were teamed up in 2018 in Navka's "Ruslan and Ludmila"

and in Scarlet Flower (Navka's show in 2019)
 
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