Breakthrough for Victoria Sinitsina/Nikita Katsalapov (RUS)

Photo : www.isu.org
www.isu.org|12-Jun-2019 20:01

Five years ago, Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov, teamed up and many people thought he was crazy to split with his partner Elena Ilinykh because they just had won an Olympic bronze medal in Sochi in the individual event as well as gold in the team and their future seemed bright.

Yet he decided to start from scratch with a less experienced partner. One and a half years ago, Victoria and Nikita hit rock bottom as their Olympic season ended at Russian Nationals when they withdrew during the Free Dance as he got injured. However, the Russian dancers rose from the ashes this season to capture the silver medal at the ISU World Figure Skating Championships and at the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final as well as the National title and medals at the ISU Grand Prix series and other international events.

“I just realized that in Saitama a circle came to a close for us,” Nikita, who turns 28 on July 7, said, referring to the fact that in 2014 during the World Championships in Saitama news leaked that he and Ilinykh would part ways. “It is great to acknowledge that now our story with Victoria is kind of starting again. The World Championships were a new starting point for us. Vika and I are very proud that not matter what, we overcame all difficulties and obstacles. We had to go through a lot in these five years,” he continued.

“It seems to me that these five years flew by very fast, because they were so intense, there were so many ups and downs,” Victoria, 24, shared. “I can say that Nikita and I have grown a lot in these five years, we’ve grown mentally, we got wiser and more experienced. It was a difficult but nice path,” she added.

Her partner doesn’t completely agree that these five years passed quickly, though. “In some way it was like that. On the other hand these five years were long, diverse and so many things happened to us – so much didn’t happened to me in my whole life,” he explained. “Therefore, we are happy that we found our door, opened it, saw the corridor and I hope or to be exact, I know that we are going into the right direction and we know where we’re going. We’re happy with how we did this season. Overall we did well, except for this big mistake at the European Championships.” In Minsk, Katsalapov fell on a twizzle in the Rhythm Dance and the Russian Champions finished off the podium in fourth place.

Sinitsina/Katsalapov capped off the successful season with personal best performances at the ISU World Team Trophy and earned the bronze medal with their team. “We felt great, we enjoyed it and we got great scores. We’re very pleased with the whole season and how we ended it,” Nikita shared. “We know what we still can improve and work on. Sasha [Zhulin] already told me what we have to do and so we’re very positive looking ahead,” he added.

At the end of the season coach Alexander Zhulin planned for the next season and suggested three different pieces of music for the Free Dance. Which music they chose the skaters still keep under wraps. They even played around with choreography ideas before the ISU World Figure Skating Championships to stay fresh, but the real work on the new programs started after the ISU World Team Trophy. “This is my favorite time, my favorite moments, when we start to create and to think of something. I love taking part in that,” Nikita shared. “And I’m lucky with my partner, because Vika and I learned to understand each other without words. Before, I took her hand and she always asked – ‘what are we doing, where are we going?’ And now I take her hand and I’m surprised myself – how does she know what we’re going to do? And she is doing exactly what I was thinking.”

On the ice, the creation of a new program is an intense and fruitful teamwork. The skaters, coach Zhulin, choreographer Sergei Petukhov and lift coach Dmitri Ionov are on the ice together, trying out different moves and ideas. “All of us together participate in this process – ‘do it like that, do it this way’ and then I say – ‘step aside’ and I take Vika’s hand, we go to the middle of the ice surface and do something, then I ask to switch on the music and we show the whole transition. And Sasha [Zhulin] says ‘great! And now add this …’ That’s it, the transition is done!“, Katsalapov said.

The skaters trust their coach fully in every aspect of their work. “We are open to anything. And if Sasha says, that we will not experiment, or he says there is maybe a somewhat different character and he feels this is necessary, then we trust him, because everything that he says and everything that we do together is working,” Nikita pointed out. “We feel like he is the third partner in our couple.” Victoria agreed: “It happens in practice that Sasha wants to tell me something and I already went ahead, because I learned to read his glance and his gestures. He feels us so well, he understood how to work with us and we’ve studied each other so much that we don’t need many words.”

Since the beginning of the year 2019, Zhulin’s Ice Dance group has moved to a new training center in Moscow since their old rink closed for renovation. “It is a whole new complex where there is not only figure skating,” Nikita said. Besides figure skaters, also ice hockey players and boxers are training in the facility that once it will be completely ready will house three sheets of ice. “We have a lot of ice as we had in Olimpiiskii [their old rink]. Alexander Viatcheslavovitch [Zhulin] also takes groups of children, but we’re separate from them. It’s a great new center and we all like it.”

Ice Dance has become extremely competitive. The top teams mostly get the highest levels for their elements and execute them very well. Small details can make a difference and one mistake can cost several placements as Sinitsina/ Katsalapov learned at the ISU European Figure Skating Championships. “You cannot think about that, because if you do, you can get all сaught up in it. You have to distract yourself, because the thought alone not to make any mistake can throw you off,” Nikita explained. “Yes, maybe someone is thinking about points, counts the scores, someone likes to watch the performances of the competitors and this is motivating them. But that’s not for us. Before the Free Dance [at Worlds] Vika and I shut out everything. We looked at the floor, at each other, at the coaches and again at the floor, distancing ourselves from everything. We went out on to the ice and there were just us, the music and the spectators.”