Lisa Tuktamysheva: “I want to prove to myself that I can do this"
Lisa in the forest near the Kislovodsk training center
Lisa Tuktamysheva, 24, is one of the most popular Russian skaters. She has been competing at the highest level for ten years and is well known for her triple Axel and entertaining programs. Many fans rooted for her to make the Olympic team, but she missed out – again, after 2014 and 2018. Nevertheless, she keeps going, to the delight of many fans. We met Lisa at the training camp in Kislovodsk that she joined right after her vacation.
*Why do we report on Russian skaters 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.*
By performing a new short program at the Channel One Cup and doing a quadruple toeloop at the training camp in Armenia, you made it clear that you have no doubts about your intention to continue your skating career, right?
Lisa: Yes. As for the jumps, when I feel I can do them, I train them. Especially at the end of the season when the body is more relaxed, there is no stress, no extra emotion, you get rid of all that pressure. After a short break, I have more enthusiasm, I have time to work on quads. And at the training camp in Yerevan, everything came together, and I did a quadruple toeloop.
But you were right about my decision, I wasn't going to finish my career. The short "Freedom" was made for the Channel One Cup to try something new. I'm not sure if we'll keep this program for next season, because the new season won't start for a long time. I don't know if the coaches will support it, but I would like to do another short program, and then choose the best of the two. It's always good to have a choice.
This isn't the first time you've done multiple programs for the season with Mishin. Can you explain the reason for that?
Lisa: As I said before, Alexei Nikolaevitch often has ideas to make several programs, when there is some free time, to get away from monotonous work. Any program, even if it is unsuccessful, gives you experience and a chance to try something new. That's why, even now, we didn't miss the opportunity when the choreographer Adam Solya came to us after the Olympics. We have known each other for a long time. Adam did programs for me and Zhenia Semenenko. We mounted them quickly and somehow it went easily. Adam and I understand each other very well, so the program stood out and was quite unusual, just the way I like it.
Lisa at the Kislovodsk training camp
Any thoughts about the free program?
Lisa: I don't want to experiment too much. I'd rather do my own thing and have a quieter season. But that's just for now. Maybe my mindset will change. Right now it's hard to make any predictions. And I don't know until the end, how different the new season will be. I'm preparing like I normally do, but I'm not pushing like I did before the Olympics.
Did you feel bad that you didn't go to the Olympics?
Lisa: No, not really. After the Russian Championships I realized that I don't have any chance. The girls were selected for the Games as they should be, because they were obviously stronger. Ania Shcherbakova was world champion, Sasha Trusova had five quads and Kamila Valieva ran full steam for the whole season. I had no feelings of resentment, and who could I resent? If I was among the three strongest, and everything fell apart at the qualifying competition, then I could have been upset. But in this case everything was right, everything was fair. I was seventh at the Russian Championship. The Olympics proved everything, Ania became Olympic Champion, although the situation there was completely different than everyone had imagined.
But all in all, you had a good Olympic season.
Lisa: Half the season for sure.
How do you find the motivation to continue your career?
Lisa: I don't really have any doubts about that. I want to learn more quads. I want to jump them, get over my fear. I want to try a Lutz, a Salchow, a consistent toeloop. If I was able to do the toe in a bad, a little bit relaxed condition at the training camp in Armenia, I will be able to do other quadruple jumps.
As Alexei Nikolaevitch says, if you do a triple Axel, you can actually get a quad Salchow and toe. I did a Salchow and fell with a quarter underrotation, but in principle, everything is possible. As an athlete (this is my character since childhood) I want to get the most out of my body, everything I am capable of. According to my physiology and technique it is possible to learn other quads. And I want to learn them not to prove something to others. I want to prove to myself that I can do this, that I did these quads at my age. For me, it will be my little victory.
As for competitions... To be honest, I don't miss competitions at all now. I like the quiet working process. After the Olympic season, I let myself go, let myself mentally exhale. And this off-season was different from the previous years. Usually when you go on vacation, all the time you are thinking about the music, new programs, that everything should be done just super and to the maximum. This time I let myself completely relax, accepted for myself: as it will be, so it will be. I'm going to go with the flow. I do not want to change my life drastically now, so I will continue to do what I am good at. In today's situation, I think that's the right choice.
Lisa at the Kislovodsk training camp
Did you really manage to disconnect from figure skating on vacation?
Lisa: Yes. Zhenia Tarasova and I were on vacation. We didn't think about figure skating at all. It was good. At the end, when we had two days before we had to leave, I thought that I had my training camp coming up and I didn't have any muscles left at all, how was I going to recover? But when I got to Kislovodsk I went out on the ice and felt like I was at home.
But you weren't just lying around on vacation, were you? In you photos we saw you swimming, scuba diving, or trying something else.
Lisa: Actually, we were lying around. Yes, we went scuba diving and snorkeling. But there was not much to do there, except swimming. We didn’t have an active vacation that we had to go somewhere, to see something. We didn't walk around much. Mostly we were in the water or on sun beds by the pool. I didn’t have such a vacation for a long time. I really enjoyed it. At least the first week for sure. Then it became a little boring, we thought we should organize some kind of action. But the sun came out and everything went back to normal.
Many fans were happy about your decision to continue skating. And world junior champion Isabelle Levito, in an interview after her victory in Tallinn, when asked about her idols, named you among her three favorites and said that Lisa Tuktamysheva is an empress when she skates, I bow.
Lisa: Wow! (laughs). Emotional girl. But to be honest, I haven't seen this kind of news with fans' comments. I guess everyone is just used to me going on by now.
After the season ended, fans could see you performing in shows. You've had a lot of shows this year.
Lisa: Yeah, a lot. It's good to switch off at shows, too. You just enjoy the process. And then all those trips, especially if there's good company, are always fun, enjoyable, helps distract you. It's a pity we can't go to a show in Japan now. It makes me sad to look at other guys' "stories" (in Instagram). And since we talked about why I keep going in figure skating, one of the reasons is that performing in different countries gives you the opportunity not only to compete, to skate in shows, but also to travel, to learn about people, traditions, culture, and something new. For me it is insanely important, because in each such trip I get new emotions. I can't stay in one place for long, I need a change of scenery from time to time.
And I am feeling sad that next season we won't have international competitions, we won't have an opportunity to travel abroad for competitions. Of course I am glad that there will be Russian Grand Prix. It's good that our federation organizes them; it motivates the athletes, and that's great. But I think I'm going to miss international competitions, communicating with other athletes, traveling to new places and places where we've already been.
But not like in pandemic times, when you couldn't go outside and had to sit in your room.
Lisa: But we still socialized. It was at least some variety during the pandemic. Alexei Nikolayevitch likes to travel a lot. He probably got us used to it, too. Before going on vacation we went to the training camp in Armenia for the first time.
How was it?
Lisa: I didn't want to leave! I felt so bad that I could not stay until the end of the camp... Very nice people. Nice ice rink. It's beautiful. Everything is so cool, cordial, delicious food. And everything is so familiar... Too bad I didn't get a chance to walk around the city. Anyway, I have to go back and see everything.
Lisa and her team mates at the Kislovodsk training camp
You're basically the only girl left in your group. How does it feel to be in the company of men?
Lisa: Great. I started to miss my group when I was in the Maldives. And honestly, I was really happy to come to the training camp to see everyone. I missed them. I went to a lot of shows in the spring, and we didn't have time to spend together. I love our group. They are kind. There's always something to talk about with all the guys. And if even in the Maldives I missed my people - the coaches, the guys, that says a lot.
And the fact that there are more boys in the group now, I do not see a big difference for myself. The girls, the boys... They are all my friends.
Well, the guys are doing quads, it's healthy competition.
Lisa: Yes, I felt like an outsider today on the ice. But the women always have an advantage. When everyone was stretching in the stadium, and I couldn't after my vacation, I immediately said: well, I'm a girl, we are in different categories. But on the other hand, if there are athletes in the group that you can strive after, it's good. When I get in shape, I'll try to do the same things.
There are some articles now saying that the results of Russian athletes are the result of a tougher training system and stricter coaching. What do you think?
Lisa: I would say it's not harshness, it's being demanding. In Russia, coaches are more demanding towards athletes, it's a fact because there is a huge competition, and if an athlete has no desire to achieve something, no desire to work, then someone else will take your place. You just have to figure out what you want. You must not be afraid to disappoint someone or fail to do something or get scolded. You have to come to practice with the understanding that you need it yourself. I guess it all goes away with age, and a lot depends on the relationship with the coach. I was lucky, because I got my golden key with Alexei Nikolaevitch. And I have the opportunity to just live figure skating.
Has figure skating become a profession for you or are you considering other options in the future?
Lisa: I've tried to imagine other options, but it's too serious and time-consuming, and I wouldn't feel completely happy. I've tried doing things outside of figure skating. I created a clothing brand that went well. But I got bored with it. I realized that it wasn't for me. But I tried it, and then I checked it off. Journalism? Actually, it's a good topic. But you cannot just pick it up and go straight to work. To become a good journalist, you have to learn. I think, and I should be able to. I tried commentary. If you know the subject you are talking about well, it is not so difficult.
As for coaching, I'm not thinking about it yet. I want to do shows after my career is over, and I want to see the world. And the coaching profession is completely absorbing, you become attached to your students. I'm not ready for that yet. And in general, my career as an athlete continues.
The Russian version of this interview has been published on the website of the Figure Skating Federation of Russia.
Русскую версию этого интервью можете прочитать на сайте ФФКР.
Lisa in the forest near the Kislovodsk training center
All photos by figureskating-online.com/Tatjana Flade and are not to be copied, reprinted etc. without permission.