Russian pair duo Daria Pavliuchenko and Denis Khodykin won the 2018 World Junior Championships, and in their second international senior level season already won a bronze medal at the 2020 European Championships. This season, Pavliuchenko and Khodykin won silver medals at both of their International Skating Union (ISU) Grand Prix series appearances – and were even first after the short program over reigning World champions Anastasia Mishina and Aleksandr Galliamov last month at the Rostelecom Cup.
Despite having an unenviable task of battling Mishina and Galliamov, Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov, and Aleksandra Boikova and Dmitrii Kozlovskii just to make it out of Russia, Pavliuchenko and Khodykin are an emerging pair and are entertaining to watch with a unique acrobatic style in their performances.
Russia’s Sport24 sat down with Pavliuchenko for an interview to get to know one half of the two-time Russian national bronze medalists.
Interview by Sport24 reporter Konstantin Lesik; translated to English:
Describe your typical day.
I get up early, no alarm clock. In childhood, training began early – at 8AM or even 6:45AM. Because of this, the habit of getting up early remained. I usually do this around 5:45AM – 6AM. Then I have breakfast and study. Around 9AM -10AM I go to the skating rink, there until 8PM. At 9:30PM – 10PM I already go to bed.
Last year I studied a lot in my free time, now too – the session has begun. For entertainment – TV shows, cooking, although I don’t eat much myself, here it is rather a desire to feed parents something tasty.
And days off?
In the morning I get up, stretch, go somewhere to drink coffee or make cheesecakes at home. I lay down, watch a show, study a little, go for a walk – I used to like walking around shopping centers, now I don’t feel like it at all. Better to sit quietly at home with your family.
Where are you studying?
At the Russian State University of Physical Education in the sports department in the first year. I have been skating for many years, I have devoted a significant part of my life to this, I would like to have a higher sports education.
I wanted to become a coach from childhood. I always thought that I would enter the Russian State University of Physical Education – maybe then there will be some additional education. But at the moment I’m focused on getting a coach education.
The last TV show that impressed you?
Now I am watching Gossip Girl – sometimes I watch something modern, sometimes TV shows from the 2000s.
Do you watch anything about figure skating?
No. Since childhood, I have been sick of films and TV shows related to figure skating. Probably like any skater. You wouldn’t be interested in watching something about journalists, would you? You look and think, “It doesn’t work like that!”
In any movie about figure skating there will most likely be minor flaws – that’s okay, you can close your eyes to them. But here the point is also that this is enough for me in my life. Therefore, I do not watch specifically.
I perfectly understand that this is a film, a work of art, and there may be errors, unrealistic moments – that is why it is the author’s fantasy. But I don’t want to watch it – I’m not saying that it’s bad, on the contrary, it’s great that figure skating is getting so much attention: they film about it, talk about it. As for a sport, it is very cool, as well as for the everyman. But personally, it’s hard for me to watch.
Let’s talk about the start of your career. You don’t have professional athletes in your family, do you?
No. Almost all are teachers. Mom went in for skiing at an amateur level – it was the school section. She loves to run with me, to lead an active lifestyle – that’s it about her. But there are no professional athletes in my family.
Nevertheless, you are a professional athlete. Why?
I do not know! There was no such plan for me to come to the rink and have to become a skater. I just skated for health, there were no problems with school – my mother and grandmother studied with me from the age of three. When I went to school, I already knew the multiplication table, studied according to Peterson’s textbooks.
Your mom is a primary school teacher, right?
Yes. I didn’t have a problem and objective to go to school in order to get tasks because I did it at home until fourth grade. Therefore, I went to the skating rink, there was just an opportunity to get some kind of variety. I liked skating but there was no goal of becoming a professional skater.
Why figure skating and not another sport?
Because as a child I drove past the rink. If it was any other section: artistic gymnastics, or something else, then I would go there.
At what point did you realize that these are no longer ordinary health activities but a serious sport?
It worked out smoothly. The only thing that I was always told: “If you do something, then you must surrender to it completely.” And there was never a task to have super-results. I even got into pair figure skating by accident.
Why didn’t you succeed in singles?
I remember that girls my age jumped all triples and triple-triple combinations, and I perfectly understood that I only have a double, toe loop and Salchow. At that moment, I just wanted to study. And I finished.
I thought that these results are enough. I was already in fifth grade – it’s time to think about what to do in everyday life.
And you left for 8 months…
It was just October-November. Before leaving, I came to see Eteri Georgievna (Tutberidze). I saw how the girls were skating and realized that I hadn’t been working to the maximum all this time. And left to study.
Eteri Georgievna offered to go into pairs?
Many people offered me to go into pairs. Her including.
Why did you go to the Khrustalny?
I was just very interested in how everything happens there, how they skate there. It was like the year when Evgenia Medvedeva came out in her first senior season. I always liked how great she skated. I wanted the same. And to skate like Zhenya, you need to try with Eteri Georgievna. And so I went.
And in the end you became disillusioned with your career?
There was no disappointment, I just realized that the way I worked before was three times less than what is needed in order to achieve results.
How long did you watch?
How successful was it?
I was taken on a trial period but it so happened that I finished.
After those two-three weeks?
There was no consequence. I had thought about it (ending career) before, it was just an option to try again. It is a very complex topic, and even now I cannot say why it happened so. It just happened in my life that I finished.
What were your impressions of the training?
You need to work very hard – that is the most important thing. At the same time, I cannot say that someone there pushed you hard or swore. You just come and understand that all people work. There is such an atmosphere that you simply cannot help but work, you just understand it yourself: some kind of energy fills you from within. The atmosphere in the air is such that you want to work.
Tell us about eight months without figure skating.
I liked going to school, I had a friend, Julia, with whom we spoke a lot, constantly sat together at all lessons, and helped each other. The guys talked – I liked studying, gaining knowledge.
I had a good homeroom teacher, a Russian language teacher, Larisa Rostislavovna – a very bright person, she always helped, taught me to write essays and I really liked it. Algebra, in general, has been my favorite subject since childhood. I felt good and comfortable.
Good and comfortable. But you returned to figure skating…
(Laughs), there was such a situation… I was given a lot of homework on a particular day, from Monday to Tuesday. I understood that I simply would not have time to do it physically, and I had the following logic: I’ll go to the skating rink, I’ll have nothing from one day, and by Wednesday or Thursday everyone will forget about it – they will give new homework, and no one will ask about the old one. So I got into pair figure skating.
And it was Denis. Do you remember the first meeting with him?
He just met me on the minibus, and we went to the rink together. I thought it would be fun to skate with someone, not alone. Nothing. The only thing that I remember was that I was just plump then.
Denis said that you lost 10kg in a month.
Yes. Firstly, I felt a little uncomfortable, and secondly, the coach then said – you will lose weight, then you will stay. I went up to Sergei Vladimirovich and asked what I need to do, he said: “lose weight.” I myself understood that I needed to do this. Heavy loads and proper nutrition returned – I immediately dropped 10 kilograms.
Was it difficult to lose weight?
When there is a goal, it’s not difficult. There is nothing supernatural about it in order to eat right. There was no suffering. And even now I am full of what I eat. I’m ok.
Denis is 3.5 years older than you. Did you feel the age difference at the beginning of work?
Denis was also a student then: he was 16-17, and I was 13. We come here to work first of all, we had no task to come and become best friends. We came and worked.
Has Denis changed a lot since then?
He has matured but I can’t say that he has changed a lot. Strong changes will be noticed by a person who hasn’t communicated with him for a long time, but I grow and develop, like him, we constantly see each other – it is difficult to say how much he has changed. Probably, he began to approach some things more consciously, it is difficult to single out something concrete.
What do you value in your partner?
Firstly, he is very patient, especially when I am too emotional. Secondly, he is very smart and very talented. It is enough for him when the coach says something once: he will think and immediately do what is needed. I do not have that.
Denis said that you cry a lot in training. Why?
I am a very emotional person. You cannot take me with you on exploration – I will give out everything in my one glance, everything that I think. I don’t even know how to lie – when I start to lie, I start laughing. You can immediately see everything in my eyes, especially if you don’t like something – everything is written on my face. I don’t even need to say anything. If I come in a bad mood, it can be seen from a kilometer away.
It’s good when a person is straightforward, isn’t it?
I’m not that straightforward – just very emotional. Maybe I’m not like that on ice but in real life…
In training, it happens that I start to get upset because I want it to work out. But I try to work on it, it’s just one of those qualities that I need to improve in myself.
What are your main differences?
I’m probably a more punctual person. Denis can adapt to the situation but it is important for me that everything is laid out on the shelves. In a way, I’m more of a perfectionist.
What word would you describe your relationship? Friends? Partners? Colleagues?
People who overcome a lot of things together. Probably close partners, but colleagues – I don’t like that word. In a way, we are friends.
At the beginning of the interview, you said that you want to work as a coach. Why?
Firstly, everyone in my family is a teacher, and secondly, I really love small children. It is difficult to speak in more depth, I have not worked yet, I have never tried it. But I like to explain something to very young people who are just getting up on the ice – I would like to be such a coach.
So you want to work with kids?
Yes, somewhere in the third youth category.
And until what age do you want to stay in sports?
I have not thought about it. Skate while I can skate. I do not have such a thought that a certain age comes and end at once.
Before asking a few questions from the fans at the end of the interview, I would like to know if you feel increased attention to yourself?
There is no heightened attention but I feel support from the audience, it’s very nice.
Do you Google yourself, read the news?
Don’t you ever go to Google and write “Daria Pavlyuchenko?”
No! I rarely even watch the performances. Just for myself a couple of times. I just watched the performance, and then we continue to work. Of course, when they write me comments under the photos or directly, I read everything, I answer. I am very pleased.
10 questions from fans
- Do you plan to insert a triple lutz into programs? Denis jumps well, and I’m trying to learn it. There is a cool phrase: “When the jump is counted on the printout, then it’s done.” I can’t say how long it will take. But the appearance during a performance is possible.
- How did you react to the news that your rivals Aleksandra Boikova and Dimitrii Kozlovskii will also have a program to Swan Lake? We have different visions, different performances. It happens that there are different performances to the same music, different dances even on the floor, different ballet performances.
- What can you say about Betina Popova as a specialist? I like working with her. She is a very creative person, she has a lot of ideas, she generates them quickly. She has her own vision, it’s great.
- Tell us an interesting fact about your coaches? We are very comfortable working with our coaches, with them you always try to do your best but no one swears at the same time. They explain very well. Sergei Sergeevich and Sergei Vladimirovich joke a lot in training. Moreover, sometimes Sergei Sergeevich will jokingly say some task, and you think that he was joking, and then it turns out that he was not. I ask him: “How can you tell?” And he replies that he himself does not know! Seriously though, if he said something, then it should be done, he has a clear calculation, just sometimes some tasks sound like jokes. He can say something extraordinary and in his voice it is like a joke. To understand this, you need to feel it in training.
- Your closest person. Parents.
- Do you need time to take a break from your partner after hours of work together? There is no such feeling of fatigue but we always spend our spare time separately.
- Do you consider the interview to be your professional duty or does the athlete owe nothing to anyone and each interview should be at your discretion? I don’t think it’s my duty but if a person wants to talk to me, I’ll gladly do it.
- How are you similar to Alena Kostornaia? Is she your best friend? We are somewhat similar, somewhat different. It’s very cool to spend time with Alena because she always jokes, it’s fun with her. I am always worried about Alena and root for her. The main thing is that she is happy and that everything works out for her, that everything she wants is realized. And I will support her in any situation. I do not like the expression “best friend,” she is just very close to me.
- You have two awesome dogs. Can you introduce us to them? The eldest’s name is Monika, she is already 7 or 8 years old, a Yorkshire Terrier. I even took her to exhibitions. She is the champion of Russia in babies under one year old. I abandoned this business because Yorkies have very beautiful and long hair but it takes time and energy to care for it. In addition, it is hot in summer, so my mother decided to have her hair cut, so I don’t exhibit any more. There seems to be a separate category but the main one is long hair, special shampoos, combs, food – it takes time, you need to invest. The second is Caramel, she is a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Completely small, even though it looks like an adult dog. He’s still a maroon. Likes to swear, play. Monika looks at her like an adult already.
The dog is the champion of Russia. Wow!
When I exhibited her, she had more cups than me.
Now ahead of Monika in awards?
I don’t know (laughs). I hope.
- What three programs can you show a person outside the world of figure skating to impress them?
I would not limit myself to three. I would start showing all of my favorite shows. I would show Aljona Savchenko with Bruno Massot, as well as Aljona’s program The Pink Panther when she was still skating with Robin Szolkowy. Of the girls… I don’t even know – I would start with Alena, show Carolina Costner, especially Bolero. As a child, I just adored it.