Lubov Ilushechkina's interview


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Marina Chernysheva-Melnik's interview with Lubov Ilushechkina for
MCM: Have you tried looking for a partner in Russia before moving abroad?
LI: Of course, I was checking several options. But at the spring 2012 when I stopped skating with Maisuradze all the top skaters were paired up and every coach had their leading team. Moving into a new group and working alone and just may be waiting for a partner was hardly interesting. So I quit the RFSF and left abroad.

MCM: How did your sport career in France go?
LI: I was living and practicing in Paris paying myself for everything and was aiming to represent France. I even did all the paperwork for the the citizenship, passed the language exam which I learned myself within a couple of month. On the ice Yannic Kocon and I were doing well: we were doing the elements and even participated a local competition. There were talks between the two federations about my switch to France. But, unfortunately, it didn't work out: I was facing the season sitting out, there were troubles with the visa and my staying in France. The finances were bad as well: without an official status in France I was not allowed to work. I had to stop my partnership with Yannic. In October 2012 I went back to Moscow, continued my studies and started working with the kids for money. Still, I had a hope to continue my career, hence I kept in a good shape.

MCM: Do you follow Yannic's career?
LI: He joined a show, we even skated together a couple of times. As far as I know through some common friends he works with the military.

MCM: So after going back how how did you end up in Canada?
LI: It's all thanks to facebook. A couple of days after the Sochi Olympic I got a message from Dylan Moscovitch: his friend was looking for a skating partner and he was wondering whether I would be willing to try. I answered I was dreaming to be back to the competition and then Dylan admitted he was the `friend'. Right after the Olympics his partnership with Moor-Towers was over and he was looking for a new partner.

MCM: Have you met before?
LI: We competed several times and even shared a podium. First in the GP 2010 in Kingston. Nodari and I won while Dylan and Kirsten took silver. The same season we competed in the GPF. We hardly communicated, each were thinking of their skates and their goals. Who could had thought four years later we'll become a team.

MCM: How did you pair up? Did the paperwork take a lot of time?
LI: When we started communicating I had a USA visa which I had for the tryouts. Which didn't happen. When I came back to Moscow I didn't lose hope and I was searching the available partners all the time, including abroad. So at the winter I was supposed to try out with a skater from the USA. Since I was at my last semester in the uni I thought I'll finish the exams at the summer and leave. But then Dylan came into my life and things had chanced. We decided to start as soon as possible and not waste time. The paperwork for the new visa would take another month, hence we decided to try out in the USA. I did my exams earlier and by March I was in Detroit. With one small suitcase assuming I came for just a week. We immediately saw the potential of working together - after 3 days of work we cancelled my return ticket and applied for a Canadian visa. We spent about 1.5 months training in Detroit. At the same time I was completing my studies and in July I went home to defy my thesis. Once I received my visa Dylan and I got into the car and drove to Toronto- his hometown. That happy day became the first day of my life in Canada.

MCM: You became a Canadian citizen 2 years ago. How were you competing with Moscovitch prior to that?
LI: According to the ISU rules only one skater in the pair must be the citizen of the country the pair represents internationally. The only exception are the Olympics. Hence by the Olympics I was planning becoming the citizen which I did in September 2017.

MCM: Tell me about the famous `Cricket club' where you trained.
LI: Dylan offered that as a training base - it was his second home. His favourite coaches and colleagues, supportive environment... He talked about them a lot and wanted to go back to `Cricket'. Hence that was the obvious choice for our new pair. For me that rink became one of the best places on earth and the team - a second family. Every day we were witnessing more or less the Worlds: Hanyu and Fernandez were competing in jumps, there was Gaby Dalemann and other skaters. Sonja Lafuente would come quite often and Jeff Buttle was doing the exhibition choreography. Dylan and I were the only pairs team. Lee Barkell was our main coach while Tracey Wilson worked on the steps and transitions and gave gliding lessons. Bryce Davison was working with us once a week. He had just retired and had a very fresh point of view.

MCM: What can you say about Dylan Moscovitch the person?
IL: Dylan was not just an on ice partner but my guide in the new world. I found myself in a foreign country without a family or friends. Dylan explained me things with a great patience, helped solving my problems and helped with the paperwork for the visa and the citizenship. The Moskovitches are a wonderful family, they invited me over to all their family gatherings and events. The partner helped me dealing with my inner fears before the skates and helped me to set up right before the skate.

MCM: Who was financing your partnership?
IL: First we were paying ourselves. Once we started winning some medals we were using the price money. A couple of times we received grants and got some financial help. We even used the crowdfunding. Unfortunately I was unable to be on salary from the Canadian skating federation for the first 3 years because I was not a citizen. That's the law. Once I became a permanent resident and then a citizen I started receiving support.

MCM: You were aiming for the Korea Olympics. Why was that season unsuccessful?
IL: Firs all went smoothly: we tried the new programmes in several competition and were preparing to the Nationals which were the deciding competition for the games. In December 2017 after the morning practice Dylan took a rest in the choreo hall. He went to lay down near the equipment room. He fell asleep, soon after the `Cricket' worker needed to enter. Apparently the door was not hanging well and it simply fell in. On half asleep Dylan. A heavy door, probably 200f. He had a concussion, his whole face was a bloody mess, he had to have 9 stitches on his right hand and spent 2 weeks of ice - just less than a month before the nationals. Just a couple of days before the competition Dylan was allowed to try skating for a very short while, so we started practicing for half an hour a day. Concussion is a serious injury and you must be careful with it. Hence, unfortunately, we were not able to train as much as we wanted. Of course it was impossible to be competitive and we didn't make it to the Olympics. It was painful and sad, it was hard to realize all our Olympic dreams were gone. It was a tragic story.

MCM: After that season Moscovitch retired.
LI: From the very beginning of our partnership we decided we are aiming for one Olympic cycle. So it was not a surprise and I was not offended. I am so grateful to Dylan for changing my life! We remained in great relationship, I love his family. We don't meet as often as we used to - we have different goals now. Dylan wanted to try acting for a while, so now he is participating the castings and screening, he travels a lot with his fiance who is a tennis player.

MCM: Your most memorable medal with Dylan?
LI: The 4CC 2017 bronze. The competition was in Korea - the future Olympic venue. We skated very decently and have very fond memories of that event.

MCM: Spring last year Circle du Soleil burst into your life. How did you end up there?
LI: The circus managers spoke to me before - during the Olympic season. I answered am busy with the sport and not ready to join the show. They waited for me to be free and immediately offered a contract without any try outs.

MCM: Have you participated the ice numbers or did some circus stunts?
LI: In Circle du Soleil the rules are very strict: everyone does what they are trained for. The circus artist will do the stunts, the singer sing and the dancer dance. The ice skater can only skate o the ice. Hence I was doing exactly what I learned my whole life - skated. Though during my free time I tried stuff on the ropes. I would love to show it to the audience but am not allowed to.

MCM: Circle du Soleil will be performing in Russia in December. Do you mind missing out the tour back home?
LI: I did it for the sport and hope it will be not in vain.

MCM: Let's talk about your comeback. How did the partnership with Bilodeau come through? He was your competitor and retired last season as well?
LI: Frankly, I didn't expect things to happen. Once I joined the circus I couldn't really come to terms my sport career was over. I wanted to keep competing and was looking for a partner, was trying to arrange the try outs which didn't happen. I was practicing myself to remain in the shape, was visiting `Cricket' quite often. But by the beginning of the last season I still didn't have a partner, hence the circus was not a bad alternative. As for Charlie, he seemed unreachable. The team Seguin/Bilodeau were progressing, many saw them the new national champions. When in August I learned about their split I had thousands of questions. Usually the pairs split at the end of the season. They, on the other hand had their programmes choreographer, costumes done, the competitions scheduled... I really wanted to try out with Charlie but I never wrote him because I didn't know what his plans were. Besides, I was in the circus tour and couldn't start practicing anyway.
A month later I received a message from Charlie and we started talking. In September 2018 I had my first 2 weeks off the show and we decided to try out then. Charlie came to Toronto and we had two practices together. Of course we didn't even talk about deciding anything yet, but it was something to think about. My next break was in November and we scheduled a whole week of practices. After that we sat down and had a frank talk about what we see, what we want... That's how we became partners. When I went back to the tour I told the management about my plans and asked to be replaced. I completed my contract with Circle du Soleil till the middle of February and we started preparing to the season.

MCM: What was Charlie doing while you were touring?
LI: He took a time out of everything and just rested from the sport. He did renovations in his place. Just during my short breaks we were practicing without telling anyone about it.

MCM: You chanced the city and the coach again for your new partner. Yet another new life?
LI: Yes, I now live in Montreal. There is a great Canadian pairs school here- our main coach is Richard Gauthier. The choreographers this season are Dubreuil/Cizeron. Radford joined the team recently. There are also the jumping and acting specialists who work with us.

MCM: Tell me about your debut this season
LI: A month ago we participated a local competition in Quebec, we only did the SP. It was fine for the first skate of a new team. A couple of days ago we came back from `Finalndia Trophy' where we took the bronze. We were very satisfied with our skate and overcoming all the nerves! Then we have 2 GPs scheduled: Canada and China. Our very first skate with Charlie was in April: the local clubs took an interest in our partnership and offered to participate the exhibitions.

MCM: The lift at the end of your programme is something you took from the circus?
LI: Just the lift, the rest had to be according to the rules and the levels.

MCM: What are your plans and goals in the sports? Do you want to participate the Olympics?
LI: The goals are very global, but am a bit superstitious, so I don't want to voice them. Working in the circus I understood it's an interesting job and a secured salary. But I felt I still have something to prove in the sports. I love being myself and not play a role. I just love what I do and do what I love. I live every day my life to the full.

MCM: You moved to Canada more than 5 years ago. Have you adopted fast there?
LI: I fell in love with Canada in 2010 when we came here to a GP. I loved the environment here. Once I moved to Toronto I wanted to become part of the culture. In `Cricket' I made a lot of friends, I was one of the guys. I was hosted by a family who lived right near the rink and they helped me to adopt as well. Canada changed me mentally and my life approach. Everything is comfortable here. I started taking a lot of things easier. I love the Canadian tradition writing the `Thank you' cards to every guest who came to your party.

MCM: A year and half ago Medvedeva joined the `Cricket'. You wrote in your blog you are happy to see her there. Did you become friends?
LI: We didn't even know each other home: I left the Russian team before her time had come. Only here I met Evgenia the person. She is a lovely girl and so is her mom. We didn't get to spend a lot of time together - I left right after she joined. But I loved communicating with her. Am sure we'll meet in a competitions. By the way there were Russian speaking guys in the `Cricket' before - Tursynbaeva, Gogolev and others.

MCM: Which language do you speak on and think on?
LI: I use the language which the information is presented on. I.e. when I talk to my family or recall things - certainly Russian. Though I started forgetting some words. I communicate with the skaters and the coaches in English. Since I moved to Montreal I practice my French.

MCM: Do you visit Russia often?
LI: I haven't been home for 4 years. In 2014 I graduated the studies, then visited the next summer and that's it. I have my parents and brother back home, the last time I saw them was in Helsinki worlds - they came to see me. Of course we are constantly in contact through the messengers but we don't get to meet in person yet.

MCM: Are you in touch with anyone from your previous sports career?
LI: With my first coach Lubov Fedorchenko. I was a single skater in her group. I love her and would like to use the opportunity to say hello.

MCM: What do you do at your free time?
LI: My first years in Canada I spent all my free time learning the migration process. I had to do so much paperwork and pass the exams. Then it became easier. I now spend a lot of time with my boyfriend, teach him Russian. This summer we did the renovations in a flat near the rink, so now I can do that as well. Sometimes I do crafts and learn French.

MCM: What do you plan to do once you retire?
LI: I often think of it and don't know what to say. I want to do a lot of things but am not yet sure. I certainly want to stay in Canada. I have a Russian and the Canadian coaching certificate, so there will be work for me. But life is so unpredictable and so full of surprises I'd rather not guess much.


Thank you for the translation. Iā€™m so happy to see her joyful again. Wishing her all the every best & hopefully the new Canadian champion.

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