The Journey from Juniors on to the Big Stage: Maria Kazakova/Georgy Reviya (GEO)

Photo :|16-Oct-2020 17:52

Maria Kazakova/Georgy Reviya (GEO) started their international junior career as a team not like most skaters at the ISU Junior Grand Prix of Figure Skating, but at the ISU World Junior Figure Skating Championships 2018 in Sofia (BUL). They were still a very new team, but drew attention right away.

Revyia had competed at the ISU World Junior Figure Skating Championships the year before with his previous partner Eva Khachaturian, so he knew what to expect. “I remember my condition at all competitions well. In Sofia I was not nervous, not tense at all. I am not afraid of competitions. What is there to fear? You go out, there are people sitting in front of you. The task of an athlete is to show what you can do and what you have learned,” he shared.

It was a little different for his partner. “At our first World (Junior) Championships I tightened up inside a little. I was nervous, worried, because at that moment I lacked experience at the international level. The emotions were new for me and there were a lot of them,” Kazakova recalled.

“I had one emotion after the Short Dance – I was very angry,” Georgy said. “We were 11th, but our task was to make the top ten. I didn’t find peace, I waited impatiently for the Free Dance thinking ‘now I’ll go out and do it’.” Which is what happened, Kazakova/Reviya moved up to 9th place in the Free Dance.

“We competed with some specific teams at Junior Worlds. We didn’t look higher up, obviously we would have liked to beat someone, but we realized that we are a new team, we just got together and our programs were not yet at the level to win over the top teams,” Georgy pointed out. “We took the placement that we were supposed to take. Now, with each following championships, you want to achieve more and you are setting different goals for yourself,” he added.

This is exactly what the Georgians did. In the following 2018/19 season, the young couple debuted on the ISU Junior Grand Prix of Figure Skating Series and was successful from the very start. They claimed the silver medal in their very first ISU Junior Grand Prix in Ostrava (CZE), but it did not come easy. “We had a very difficult preparation for the season, a lot of little injuries because of which I lost a lot of time,” Georgy shared. “I had problems with the shoulder, with the back, with everything. At the time, Masha was skating with a problem,” he added. “There was a time when we skated the program next to each other, because Gosha couldn’t get into position, skate in hold because of injury. This is how we prepared,” Maria explained. “Eventually, we made it, we went to the Junior Grand Prix and were ready for a heavy physical workload. However, it was tough for us mentally, especially for me. Gosha had the experience from the Junior Grand Prix, but for me it was hard.”

Competing at this international level meant a lot for Kazakova. “It is a big responsibility before the (Georgian) Federation, the partner, the coaches. When you suddenly realize this burden, you get nervous. But all this goes away when the music starts to play on the ice. Now we are growing up, getting older, more experienced in life and on the ice and thanks to that this responsibility moves into the background and you start to skate more for yourself.”

Following their second place in Ostrava, Kazakova/Reviya suddenly had become contenders to qualify for the ISU Junior Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final, which they had not expected. “It seemed like it was unreachable for us,” Georgy said. “We know all our competitors and we looked at the entry lists. Knowing our rating, we thought that it would be impossible to make the Final.”

This situation changed completely after Ostrava. “After that we counted and we understood that we have a chance to get into the Final in our very first year on the Junior Grand Prix,” Maria noted. “We returned to Balashikha (their training base) and worked even harder, because we knew we had a chance to go to Canada for the Final and this pushed us forward.”

The couple then was extra motivated and ready for their second ISU Junior Grand Prix of Figure Skating event in Yerevan (ARM). It was the last event of the series that year. “This would be the decision who goes to the Final – who gets (first and) second place, will go,” Reviya recalled. “We were competing at the time with the Russian teams. Arina Ushakova/Maxim Nekrasov came first. We knew that they were at a higher level than we were and that we will compete against Elizaveta Shanaeva/Devid Naryzhnyy for that last spot in the Final. This was the situation before the Short Dance in Armenia. I am usually watching or listening to the scores of the competitors and when the score is high, I realize that I have to try harder or that the judging is nice. I looked at Devid's result and saw that it was seven points lower than their personal best. I didn’t know what was going on, it made me tense and relaxed at the same time – I realized that we can do it. But we just skated very well there.” His partner agreed: “We progressed in these two weeks, we took a step forward between Ostrava and Yerevan. It was great that we qualified for the Final.”

Kazakova/Reviya made a little bit of history by becoming the first Georgian Ice Dancers to qualify for the ISU Junior Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final. However, the skaters feel that they were not able to skate their best. Right after arriving in Canada, Georgy fell sick. “I hadn’t been that ill for a long time. I went to the accreditation and said that I’m going to my room to rest a bit. I measured my temperature and it was 38.3 (Celsius). I was in bed all day and slept, I only went to practice and then I returned to bed. Masha made me tea with raspberry, ginger, gave me honey. I told her to stay away from me not to get sick. This competition was a test, but I think you need these kind of competitions in your career.“

On top of everything, he cut his hand badly during the performance. Nevertheless, the team ended the season on a high note by coming sixth at the ISU World Junior Figure Skating Championships 2019.

The Georgians entered the 2019/20 season as a top junior team and the expectations were different. They met these higher expectations easily. Kazakova/Reviya qualified again for the ISU Junior Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final and won the title in Turin (ITA) in what was a very close and exciting competition. “I think what I can say is it is a new experience for us and I can’t believe, I really can’t believe we won today. It’s so crazy for us. The people helped us so much today, we are feeling it and we take it and gave it back,” Georgy said at the press conference in Turin.

The dancers competed at the ISU European Figure Skating Championships 2020 in Graz (AUT) and finished a respectable 14th in their debut. After that, they returned one more time to the junior level to conclude their junior career at the ISU World Junior Figure Skating Championships 2020 in Tallinn (EST).

“It panned out in a very interesting way at Junior Worlds this year. Shanaeva/Naryzhnyy led following the Short Dance,” Reviya recalled. The Georgians were in second place while Avonley Nguyen/Vadym Kolesnik (USA) ranked third. In the end, the Americans and the Russians swapped places and Kazakova/Reviya earned the silver medal, the first medal for Georgia at the ISU World Junior Figure Skating Championships. It was the first ISU Championships medal in Ice Dance for the country and the first medal since single skater Elene Gedevanishvili had taken bronze at the ISU European Figure Skating Championships in 2012.

Obviously, the dancers wanted to win, but being on the podium was very significant for them. “We did everything that depends on us. The most important thing is that people enjoyed how we skated. We'll move on, the most important things are still to come,” Reviya commented. “All our achievements are cool. We put a lot of energy into that, our souls, our hearts. Our coaches, our parents, our federation are all helping us. Our federation did a lot for us, I don't think that any other federation is doing that for their athletes. A huge thank you to them. I am very glad that Masha and I did not let down the people that believed in us and that helped us. We are very proud to have achieved this result for Georgia, with combined forces, this is a huge achievement for us, for our country, our federation and everyone who was part of it,” he concluded.

The ISU Junior Grand Prix of Figure Skating Series 2020/21 was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. Nevertheless, in the spirit of the #UpAgain campaign, Junior Skaters took centre stage. The ISU World Junior Figure Skating Championships 2017, 2018 and 2019 were streamed on the Skating ISU YouTube Channel. Ted Barton also conducted exclusive interviews with some of the athletes who competed during the Championships and reviewed the programs of the top three contestants of each event.