Evgeni Semenenko performs in the Gala at Russian Nationals
Evgeni Semenenko: “We always should put on some show”
Evgeni Semenenko, 19, won the title at Russian Nationals in Krasnoyarsk. At the beginning of the season the skater from St. Petersburg struggled with injury but then he came out and skated very well at Nationals and also at the Russian Grand Prix events.
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*Why do we report on Russian skaters/coaches and publish interviews with them in spite of the terrible war (which is even not allowed to be called war in Russia) in Ukraine? We believe that these horrible events are not the fault of the Russian people and we feel that the civil society in Russia should be strengthened and not excluded.*
How did you wake up in the morning as the new Russian Champion?
ES: I woke up quite fresh and I went to exhibition practice in the morning. It was a very happy morning for me after such an event.
The day of the Free Skating was for sure nerve-wrecking …
ES: Very much so!
How did you feel in the competition?
ES: I really wanted to skate well, because at the last Russian Championship I had an unsatisfactory result for myself (he finished fourth). This time, everything turned out well. I did my best in the short and free program, I did all elements at a good level. I am glad my practice gave results.
You can say that the ice in Krasnoyarsk is lucky for you as you already won Junior Nationals here in 2021.
ES: Yes, this is my fourth trip to Krasnoyarsk and I really like this city. The ice here is always very good for me, because I won the Russian Junior Championship, which also took a long time. Then there was the pre-Olympic training camp in Krasnoyarsk, which also gave me an incentive to perform well at the Olympics. So now I came to love this city even more.
Evgeni Semenenko shows off his medal at Russian Nationals
Last year at Nationals you were in the lead after the Short Program, and then in the Free Skating things didn’t go too well and you finished off the podium. What was different this year?
ES: Of course, my experience, the previous Russian Championship, had an impact. I realized which mistakes I made at that moment and I understood the reasons behind them. And this time I managed to avoid those mistakes.
What were the mistakes?
ES: I do not want to disclose the cards, but I will say that I learned to skate at the end of the warm-up group. I did a lot of competitions and I got used to it.
Did you think at the beginning of the season that you were going to be Russian Champion?
ES: The season started with the test skates, and I wasn't even sure I was going to be there, because I had two serious injuries this year. The leg injury was as serious as possible and the whole season could not have happened for me. I missed a lot of training both before and after the test skates. But now it turned out that this season went well for me. I am glad that I was able to put out two clean performances at the most important competition of the season.
The knee injury happened during the training camp on a triple Axel, right?
ES: It was kind of between a triple and a double Axel. There was a risk that the knee injury required surgery and that I would miss the whole season. Without a guarantee for a positive outcome, we decided to go for conservative treatment: for almost a month with total immobilization of the leg, medication, physiotherapy and laser therapy. I recovered, I started to train and the doctors and coaches strictly controlled my workload. This allowed me to continue to compete. I am happy that I was able to overcome it and that my leg held on.
Evgeni Semenenko performs his short program at Russian Nationals
Your programs are very different. For the Short Program, you skate to the more classical "Adagio" with a very interesting costume.
ES: Alexei Nikolaevitch suggested to build the program this music and Adam Solya mounted it. He is a very good choreographer who approached the building program of the program in an excellent way. The music is very well cut. This arrangement of the music helps to strengthen the accents of my movement. The costume we always chose all together as a team – me, the coaches and the designer Maria Evstigneeva. I think it was a good idea to put the emphasis on the gloves in this costume and many people noted it. The program is inspired by "The Burghers of Calais", the sculpture of Auguste Rodin that commemorates the Hundred Years' War. My character is a man who goes to sacrifice himself to save his city. But my story has a positive end, I stay alive and my people as well.
The free skating to K-Pop is a very interesting choice as well.
ES: I am happy that I was able to win Russian Nationals skating to music of my favorite K-Pop group (TomorrowXTogether). It is a great joy for me that the music of the group that I am listening to every day helped me to win this most important title of my career so far. Many felt that this was a risky music choice, but me and my coaches said that this is something new, modern and we hoped that it will capture the audience. I think we were not mistaken and I enjoy it, the coaches and spectators, the judges - they all like it. I think it was the right choice.
So did you suggest this music yourself?
ES: I suggested different options to my coaches, but they were all declined. Then Alexei Nikolaevitch said 'let's try what you have for your exhibition program'. Obviously, I was all for it and I found the track that I could skate to, so that it works well with the program. We picked the track and mounted the program.
Did the musicians notice that you skate to their songs?
ES: Yes, during the Olympic Games in Beijing I found out that one of the members of the group, Yeonjun, saw my exhibition program from Skate Canada. It was especially nice for me that a person that inspires me and that I listen to, knows me.
Evgeni Semenenko performs his Free Skating at Russian Nationals
As you like Korean music and culture, maybe you are studying Korean?
ES: No, I don't study Korean, for now English and Latin is enough for me, but maybe I will in the future if there is time and desire.
You even color your hair for your program. Whose idea was it? Does it take long?
ES: It was an idea of the coaches and also my idea. We decided together. It takes a minimal amount of time, just five to ten minutes.
Did the judges say that this is too much show?
ES: I think that we always should put on some show.
How do you approach this unusual season without international events at this time?
ES: My job is to skate, to make the fans, myself and the coaches happy. I cannot influence anything. The most important thing is that there are competitions and that our federation organized new competitions like the jump contest, there will be also a show program competition.
How did you like the jump competition?
ES: I liked the format of the jump competition. I only would add jump combinations in the individual event. I think that would be more exciting for the athletes and the fans, because this increases the variety of elements. It would add more variety to show difficult combinations. In the team event there were five rounds. We would have risked more and would have shown more difficult elements if we had that in the individual event as well.
Is there less pressure this season, without that fight for Olympic spots?
ES: Nevertheless, I try at each competition to skate my best and get a good placement. The task remains the same.
Did you watch the ISU Grand Prix and if so, which performances did you like?
ES: I liked Shoma Uno’s performances. Shoma remains at the top of the figure skating world, he did well at two Olympic Games and is still competing.
You are studying medicine and right after Nationals exams were coming up. Which ones?
ES: After New Year I have exams, the most difficult ones. I have two very important subjects to pass, histology and anatomy. Before I leave for a competition, I am studying a lot because I am gone for a few days and I really need to pass the tests so I don't accumulate them. This is always the case, before I left for Moscow (Russian Grand Prix) and before the sixth (Russian) Grand Prix I also had to pass one. Now before Russian Nationals I had the last test in anatomy. I had to pass it, because after I get back, I don't have time to prepare again for this test and do it before the New Year's vacation. I could have done it afterwards, but I wanted to focus on the preparation for the exams when coming back from Nationals. I am happy that it worked out and so I came to Nationals with even more positive emotions and in a good mood as I was done with everything (at university) and I was able to leave for the competition with a good feeling.
Evgeni Semenenko with coaches Tatiana Mishina and Alexei Mishin at Russian Nationals
Your studies are demanding but at the same time I have the impression studying is helping you.
ES: Absolutely. When I am studying, I am always in a good mood. From my results you can see that there is progress. Mental and physical exercise are alternating and this is what I like.
It is rare these days that a top-level athlete is studying seriously like you do.
ES: There are examples. Nathan (Chen) … Jan Hoffmann (at the time studied medicine as well), our skaters Petr Gumennik, Dima Kozlovskii, Sasha Boikova – they are also studying at serious universities. And there is another striking example - Alexei Nikolaevitch Mishin. He studied physics and mathematics. I have the example in front of my eyes on the ice – the professor, my coach, not only studied at the sports university.