Two-time Russian national figure skating champion Anna Shcherbakova was one of the guests during Nike’s live stream on VKontakte. The 16-year-old athlete was part of a discussion, titled ЕЁ не остановить (translated from Russian – SHE cannot be stopped), based around the topic of “girls achieving success in professional sports and in life.”
Below are translations to English of what Anna Shcherbakova spoke about:
Question: Despite your young age, you have already achieved tremendous success in figure skating and you managed to perform an element that only men did before you. Is that true?
Shcherbakova: Yes, last year at the Skate America competition I performed two quadruple lutz jumps in the free skate, one of them in a combination, and for me it was a very important achievement, considering that this was my first season in adults competition. Of course, I was preparing for this for a long time and I am very glad that I was able to do it on the first try in the competition.
The host asked Shcherbakova to show what a lutz was, and she demonstrated it.
Question: Do you feel that you’re cool when you do these [quadruple] jumps?
Shcherbakova: Yes, quadruple jumps are a little more difficult and when you perform them you feel such a surge of energy and drive.
Question: The first time you landed these jumps – do you remember the feeling?
Shcherbakova: Yes, the first time was the season after an injury, and it was a very important step for me. Indeed, it is an incredible emotion when you perform it for the first time, sometimes it seems as if you’re flying in outer space.
Question: Did you cry?
Shcherbakova: No, after all, in training there is a great focus on everything, on the results. There are no such emotions in training. However, at competitions when everything succeeds it can be emotional.
Question: Did you chose this element on purpose?
Shcherbakova: Well, yes. I also did a quadruple toe loop in training. This one [quadruple lutz] is the most valuable jump in figure skating, but I chose it purely because it was easier for me.
Question: Not to shut the haters up?
Shcherbakova: It’s good that it worked out that way too.
Question: Did people say that “only men do this?”
Shcherbakova: No. It was the other way around. This spurs me on to try something new and even more. I really liked the skater Jin Boyang, from China, who performed this element. I followed him in competitions, watched and rooted for him, and then it was an incredible feeling when I performed at the same competitions as him, and performed such an element as he does. That is very cool.
Question: And passed your idol.
Shcherbakova: Well, didn’t pass.
Question: In figure skating, are ladies better than men?
Shcherbakova: Well, at the moment, probably, in terms of elements, men are still ahead. But now women’s figure skating is rising. All girls are learning quadruple jumps and doing them in competitions. That is very cool. We compete almost on an equal level, we perform the same elements, this is also very cool.
Question: Is there some element, even if not as valuable, but that men cannot perform?
Shcherbakova: There are some spins and some stretches, like Biellmann spin, that boys don’t do.
Question: Tell me about the injury – it was pretty serious and you were afraid you might not recover?
Shcherbakova: It happened quite early, I did not even have time to enter international competitions before that. And of course it was very upsetting because I was looking forward to my first season. I was sitting at home for a very long time. There was no desire to quit it, even with a cast I went to see the ice rink – how everyone was preparing. It was a very important and difficult year of recovery, when not everything worked out – there were unsuccessful competitions. Probably just the fact that I jumped a quadruple lutz at the end of the season in training and gained some momentum, I realized that next year I want to show a quadruple jump and return, let’s say, everything I wanted to show the previous one.
Question: They should make a film about you.
Shcherbakova: At that moment I was just doing what I liked.
Question: You already have huge, colossal successes, but do you have a global goal?
Shcherbakova: Yes, I believe that my path in sports is just beginning, and I do not have everything that I want to implement. I want to learn new elements, develop. Improve the programs as a whole to make them more interesting, and learn new elements. For example, I’m currently working on a triple axel. This jump is harder for me than quadruple jumps. For me it will be a victory over myself if I can make this jump in training and then insert it into the competitive program. Also, of course, global goals – the Olympics, for example. This is the most important event for any athlete. Of course, I would very much like to qualify for the Olympics, to show the maximum of my capabilities there. And of course, I have never been to the World Championship, since the previous one was canceled due to the coronavirus. Therefore, of course, this remains an unfulfilled goal that I will strive for.
Question: Who supports you the most in such ambitious goals – subscribers, fans, or maybe someone close?
Shcherbakova: Of course, these are close people. I come home and know that there are people there who support me in everything. Of course, it’s hard for me too, something doesn’t work out, I get upset. And it is very important that my family is very supportive of me in what I do. It’s not just moral support but more. The coaches at the rink, of course, also give a lot, teach new things, also always support, help to tune in to the competition. And fans, from social media, I feel a lot of support. At competitions, when you finish the program, you have a lot of emotions, you look at the stands and see posters with your name: people come, cheer for you, throw toys on the ice. Children who run and say, “I want to be like you.” And you feel such a rush, charge, immense motivation to do something further. The fact that in the most difficult moments helps not to stop, to move on
Shcherbakova chose a fan question that she liked the most, answered it, and awarded the fan a gift – a teddy bear and Nike bra.
Fan Question: What do you think about during your performances before elements, or is everything automatic?
Shcherbakova: This question seemed interesting to me. I was repeatedly asked what skaters think about during performances, before performing the most important elements. I would like to start from the beginning. Our performances begin from childhood. What I remember from the first times – during performances absolutely unnecessary thoughts would come to mind, which have nothing to do with the performance. Not even with figure skating. Such that you are going through programs and you will soon jump but you remember that something is happening at home, or who is sitting in the stands, where is mom looking or not looking, and where dad is standing. And these thoughts are possible in childhood. They did not interfere with the program so much but at some point I realized that this needs to be eliminated, to disconnect from these thoughts as much as possible and think only about skating. I also realized that, unlike a machine, I need to control every step, not to relax for a second. Now I can say that at competitions I try to be as focused as possible, but exclude excitement because it really interferes – you start to tighten up. You need to learn how to get a high from the fact that you are at the competition, that a huge number of spectators are looking at you, and, of course, there is maximum focus in front of every, absolutely most important, element. But at the same time you need to be able to immediately turn off a little after execution, let’s say, so to catch the moment to look at the audience, at the judges, and show the program.
Question: If you had the opportunity to perform in pair skating, who would you want to be your partner?
Shcherbakova: I think it would be cool if there was an opportunity to perform in a pair with some cool singles skater. For example, with Nathan Chen, who now, one might say, is moving the history of figure skating forward. On the other hand, I am amazed at the girls who go to pair skating because I am very afraid. Personally, I have no idea how you can perform holds, for example. I am very scared even when I look at the guys from the side. I always look away when some holds starts, when they are lifted up. I am much calmer when on the ice by myself because I am responsible for myself, I know exactly what I am doing, and I do not depend on anyone.