Elena Radionova: „Maybe I'll be a singer or an actress when I grow up“

Elena Radionova (13) has dominated the Junior Grand Prix.

Q: You said your dad took you to figure skating. Usually it's the mother...

Elena: My mother was even against it. She said, it is too cold. But I had very weak legs, especially the right leg, and my dad said he'll let me skate to strengthen my legs. And so one thing followed the next, I started to do well and they decided to leave me (in figure skating).

Q: Do you have other athletes in your family?

Elena:No, my dad tried out ice hockey, football, swimming, everything a little bit when he was little. My mother completed the music school and played the piano.

Q: Do you have brothers or sisters?

Elena: No, I am the only child in our family.

Q: You were very young when you started skating. What are your first memories?

Elena: I don't remember at all how I started. Some prominent events remained in my memory, when I was little and skated poorly and also when I skated very well. These bright moments I remember. I also remember exactly that in my first competitions I took first place right away. I was maybe five years old.

Q: When did you realize that figure skating is the right sport for you?

Elena: Obviously, you need to have a great desire, but it develops by itself. I just go and work. Sometimes it is not working and you want to stop, but then I tell myself, no way, you have been skating for ten years already, you dedicated half your life already to figure skating and then you think, girl, work hard, you can do everything. My coach also helps and supports me.

Q: But it seems everything is going very well for you.

Elena: Yes, but it can happen, very rarely, mostly during the summer when everybody is getting into shape and I might not be at my best.

Q: When did you realize that you want to be a champion?

Elena: I don't even know. Yes, I like skating, but there was not a moment that I said, I want (be a champion). Just one thing happens after the next. And of course it is nice to be a champion, to win and to have a medal, not everybody gets that.

Q: Now you won your two JGP events and the Final and you know the tast of victory.

Elena: To be honest, I haven't really understood yet that I won. It felt like a normal competition, but then I thought, wow, that's the Grand Prix Final, but actually all these are just competitions. Right now I didn't have the feeling like „wow, that's great“. I feel calmly about it.

Q: This is the first season for you to compete in major international events. You competed in the Junior Grand Prix events in France and in Austria and now here. How did you like it?

Elena: It was a different level of skaters. Not everybody can come here and it is more interesting to compete. The audience is different, you meet different people, other skaters. It is really interesting. Inside Russia it feels like you know everybody, but here it is something new.

Q: Did you talk to the senior level skaters?

Elena: Yes, but so far only with our (Russian) skaters. I got to know the pair skaters, the dancers and single skaters. As for the foreigners, I don't really speak English. So how can I talk to them?

Q: To whom of the senior level ladies you really would like to talk to and why?

Elena: I would like to talk to Mao Asada. I would like to ask her how Japan is like. I really want to go to Japan one day, try Sushi. Japan and France are my favourite countries, I don't know even why.

I love French croissants. I was for the first time in France at the Junior Grand Prix event, but even more so I would like to go to Paris. And for some reason I feel drawn to Japan. It is interesting to see how the people are like. They are so orderly, contained, really good people.

Q: What do you like most in figure skating?

Elena: I don't even know what. I like everything basically and I could say a lot. I never wanted to be a ballerina or a gymnast. I always think that they are suffering a lot. Figure skating is dancey and interesting and it is something special on skates. The jumps are interesting. Ballett is also nice but not as nice. In figure skating it is easier to achieve something, because in ballett, there are a 100 people and you will stand in row 35 behind the scenes. To become a prima ballerina is really tough. In figure skating you have at least chances to skate, to perform in competitions. The ones that don't jump well can go into ice dance or pair skating, but where can you go in ballett? I like watching ballett, it is beautiful, and also rhythmic gymnastics, but I feel so sorry for them, they suffered so much when they were stretched.

Q: You are still going to school.

Elena: Yes, I'm in the 7 th class. I am studying externally, meaning I am attending classes and but not from eight to 12 or 15 like everyone else, but as much as I have time. I study Russian, algebra, geometry, literature, history, geography, physics, English, but I don't attend subjects like sport, work, informatics, I only go to the main classes. There, I study like the others and write two tests as well, but I am just coming to a time that is convenient for me. I also study at home with several tutors that come to my house, for Russian and English.

Q: What are your marks like?

Elena: I get 5s and 4s (5 being the highest mark in the Russian school system) and I don't have 3s.

Q: What is your favorite subject and why?

Elena: I like algebra and geometry. They come easy to me. I also like Russian, it is easy for me. I understand the grammar rules. I can't say that there are favorite subjects or subject that I hate, I am calm towards everything. When I have to do it, I just have to do it.

Q: Your already famous hobby is writing song verses. What do you do with them?

Elena: I have a notebook where I write them, I write a line, I might cross everything out and start all over. I like to work on that when I have time.

Q: What are your texts about?

Elena: About nothing, they are so silly, just about something I might see, I see it and I start to sing. It's interesting when I look at them again after a month I am surprised and I think, wow, I wrot this. Maybe I'll be a singer when I grow up, maybe something will come out of it. I really like music.

Q: Do you play an instrument?

Elena: No. Maybe I would like to try drums, something with rhythm, but don't have time. I only have time off on Saturday and Sunday and I want to relax and I also have to do homework (for school).

Q: So what do you like to do to relax?

Elena: I have a dog that I love. I do everything for him, what he likes, I dress him. He has a lot of costumes. It's a yorkshire terrier. I get him all kind of clothes, for summer and winter, T-shirts and so on.

Q: He is like your living doll.

Elena: Yes, he lets me do everything I want with him. His name is Martel, but we call him Motchik. My mother walks him in the morning when I am training, but I walk him in the evening, I bath him. We share the work with my mother. In the morning she wants me to sleep a little longer.

Q: What is your usual daily schedule?

Elena: I have ice time from 9.30, I go and train 1 hour 15, sometimes I am going out on the ice again, when Tatiana Anatolievna (Tarasova) is there or when we didn't get something done I might go out on the ice again for half an hour, but not always. I have a break and I rest for one hour, then I am on the ice again from 14.15 or 15.15 for another hour and 15 minutes. Then we have our regular (off ice) training. Monday we have nothing, Tuesday we have stretching, Wednesday choreography, then again stretching, choreography.

Q: Where does the school fit in there?

Elena: When I have nothing else, I straight after the first on ice training to school, until the second training.

Q: Do you live far away from the rink?

Elena: No. It's two stops on the metro, but I go by car.

Q: You are skating on the same ice as Adelina Sotnikova. How is your relationship like?

Elena: I have a good, friendly relationship with Adelina. We don't spend our time together on the days off, but we are socializing without any negativity. I like to train with her. You go out and think, wow, cool, to skate with Adlina. Not just cool, but you want to skate right away, you feel you belong to this group, when she is there, I do even more and I even jump better. When I am with others in a group that are a little weaker than I am you are relaxing anyway.

Q: What goals do you set yourself for the rest of the season?

Elena: I'd really would like to win the Junior World Championships. Maybe it is possible to make the top three, but I really want to win. And to be on the podium at Russian Nationals (senior level). These are my most important competitions. And competing in seniors next year, to try at least. I like to skate with them. You watch them, they are skating better and faster than you are, you are drawn to them, you want to be like them or even better. My skating is still kids' skating, everybody according to his age, I can't yet skate like them. I need to work more on my skating skills. I am still small, I need to grow a little and it will look different. They other girls grew up and they look different on the ice, so graceful.

Q: What is your character like?

Elena: I never feel any malice towards others, I never felt envy towards others. Thank God, I don't have that terrible character trait. I am always composed and it is not easy to surprise me with something. I think you can achieve everything when you work hard for it and want it. I am a good natured person. In some situations I might not want to give in and show a fighting spirit. I don't think I have a negative trait in my character. I can argue with someone, get loud, but then in five minutes we'll make peace and everything is ok.

Q: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Elena: All girls are growing in a different way. I don't want to guess the future. Everybody has a different organism. Someone gets over it easily, someone has a hard time or might leave the sport.

Q: Do you have any dream what you'd like to do after you finished your career?

Elena: I don't really know. Maybe I'll be a singer or an actress or a coach or choreographer. Maybe I will skate in a show if everything goes well. It is very hard to say now. I don't have a specific dream what I'd like to do.

Q: It is obvious that you feel the music very well.

Elena: Even when I was younger I felt the music a lot. If it is very lyrical music I might start to cry, because I feel it so strongly. There is a cartoon, „The little mammooth“, when I was little and watched it I cried all the the time and even now I can't watch it (a classical Soviet childrens' cartoon about a mammooth that is looking for a mother). I feel sorry for all the animals, the birds that killed, I feel sorry for the homeless dogs, the puppies. I think sometimes I'd like to build a home for them.

Q: What three things would you take to an isolated island?

Elena: If I could I'd take a magic wand so I am a magician and can have everything I need! I'd take water, food that doesn't end and a sleeping bag.

Q: What is your favourite food?

Elena: Noodles with meat sauce, Beef Stroganoff with buckwheat, and my mother makes a really good mille-feuille. I can't eat the ones that are sold in shops anymore after eating my mom's.

Q: Thank you very much and all the best for the rest of the season!

Interview by Tatiana Flade

Coach Inna Goncharenko: „Lena's strength are artistry and emotionality“

Q: For how long have you been coaching Elena?

Inna: I have been working with her since she was four, now she is 13. I coached her from the very beginning.

Q: When did you notice her talent?

Inna: First of all she stood out immediately. She picked up everything very fast and remembered it. She was little and the most diligent in the group. She worked hard, used her hand, her feet, did everything as told, a little, light, thin girl, like a dandelion. She is still like this, like a little deer.

Her talent was obvious right away. You take children in your group, and she stood out. She understood quickly, she remembered it, it was clear that she has talent. But to guess right away how far it can go... I don't like to look so far into the future. We take it day by day and work. When she was eight, nine years old, it was obvious that she can do what is necessary.

Q: How does the high competitivness among the Russian girls pushes Lena?

Inna: It really pushes a lot. If the competition wasn't as tough, we would have skated an easier version of the program. But so we changed it and made it more difficult. But this is good for figure skating. The sport is developing, not only in Russia but everywhere. I think one or two years ago we didn't have such a high number of girls that could do the difficult jumps. A few years ago, it was clear, who does a trile Lutz, will be the champion. But now everybody is jumping everything.

Q: Where do you see Elena's strengths?

Inna: In order to be a leader in singles skating, you have to stand out in something. I see her strength in her artistry and emotionality. This sets her apart. Then, on the background of her delicacy and lightness, she looks like a little girl, a bird and suddenly she does the difficult jumps.

Q: Where do you see her weakness?

Inna: We will work on the spins. They are good, the levels are good, but we want them to be even better and want to make this side stronger. Maybe we'll work on adding more power and speed to her skating. As she grows we need to pay attention to this. Then, to try to develop her in different directions and to take various themes for the programs.

Q: How do you describe her character?

Inna: She is a good-natured person, she is very smart, she's got a clever mind, but she is sensitive, she might give in to her emotions, you have to talk to her then she pulls herself together. She is a normal youth, a girl.

Q: Who chooses her music?

Inna: I choose the music, but it is not like that I insist on something. We always decide together. I can make a suggestion, but we decide together. This year, Ilia Averbukh helped. We have been working for many years with Elena Maslennikova and she helped us as well and gave advice. Well, and this time Ilia suggested the music for the free program. I didn't agree right away and we looked a other choices, but finally we went for the contrast between the short and long program, in order to show Lena from different sides. She can the one and the other.

Q: And this is not childrens' music.

Inna: It is not childrens' music, right, but we have our own story in the free program, about a bird and the rain. At the beginning the bird is afraid of a thunderstorm, but then the rain is over and the birds finds life is great and dreams to fly to a wonderful country where justice and wealth reign, there is a piece of the soundtrack „Country of the Deaf“ that basically has the same theme. She has made it her own and the outcome is what you saw.

Q: The short program „The Fifth Element“, is completely different, it is a very modern music.

Inna: Yes, there she tries to embody an alien being. We combined the music a bit, because we couldn't use only the soundtrack as it is in Opera style and relies on vocals. If it is just the soundtrack it is a little too dark and we didn't want that but something more optimistic. We took it from the movie, I think it is interesting for her age and also for the spectators, the footwork at the end for example. She understands this music and feels how she has to skate to it, therefore we took it. Obviously, we tried it on the floor first and when we saw that she can do it, we used it.

Q: What do you think can Lena achieve in the sport?

Inna: I think she can achieve the highest goals in the sport at the World and Olympic level. We won't make it to the next Olympic Games (as she is too young), and I won't look to far into the future. But for this she needs to work, to work and to work.

Q: In your group is also Alexander Samarin, who was first substitute for the Junior Final.

Inna: I have ten children in my group and they are all good. Time will tell what works out for them. The youngst one is born in 2002 and the oldest one is born in 1998. They are all close in age.