Elizaveta Tuktamysheva’s interview with Match TV

Elizaveta Tuktamysheva at the 2021 Rostelecom Cup on November 27, 2021 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)

This Friday, 2015 World champion and 2021 World silver medalist Elizaveta Tuktamysheva will turn 25, and next week, the Russian figure skating legend will participate in her fourteenth national championship.

A gold medalist at the 2013 Russian Championships, Tuktamysheva will be keen to deliver her best at the competition this time as it could likely determine whether she will have the opportunity to participate at the 2022 Winter Olympics in just over a month. So far, she has won silver medals at all three competitions that she participated in this season – the Finlandia Trophy, Skate Canada, and the Rostelecom Cup – only losing to Olympic favorite and compatriot Kamila Valieva each time.

Russia’s Match TV sat with Tuktamysheva for an interview before the big event.

Interview by Match TV’s Anastasia Panina translated to English:

The next Russian championship will be your fourteenth. Of all those who participated then, only you remain an active athlete. Do you remember that very first championship in St. Petersburg?
Yes, I remember it well. It was a significant event – the first time at such a major event. I remember how nervous I was. I remember the whole atmosphere. The hotel where we stayed was drawn by lot. I probably don’t remember other Russian championships as well as that one. I really liked it so much because I was the youngest and it was always interesting for me to talk with the older girls and communicate with other people. I felt “smallness” somehow (laughs). Very cool. And I haven’t even forgotten the competition itself. This is an important and memorable event in my life.

You were only twelve then. Is the national championship perceived at this age as stress or as a celebration?
No, it’s stress after all. Even as a child. You are still nervous and afraid. But in general, with age, when self-understanding comes, the competition is easier and you have more drive. The main thing is to catch this wave, to divert attention from your fears and to look at the situation from the other side – that it is interesting to compete.

You said that you always liked to communicate with elders. I also remembered a story from your childhood, how you came to the skating rink for older friends in the camp. Has socializing with your elders influenced you in terms of development, maturity, confidence?
Only experience adds confidence, no communication will help here, unfortunately. But it helped a lot in development because you can’t talk about many topics with your peers. I was never interested in playing with dolls but I liked to run somewhere, communicate. And when I realized that there is a choice, naturally, communication with those who are 6 years older than me was more interesting for me. This affected my faster growing up – both communication with elders, and my trips without parents at a fairly early age.

Speaking of travel. Before you finally moved to St. Petersburg, you went to Alexei Mishin’s training camps with Svetlana Veretennikova for several years. Every 2 weeks by train. 27 hours there, 27 hours back. What did you do?
It was easier to go back because I came back from the training camp in St. Petersburg very tired. The load was stronger both emotionally and physically. Half of the way I just slept. And so… I read some sagas like Twilight, which then fascinated me very much (smiles), plus at some point I got a computer and I learned how to download movies. But a little, it didn’t save me much. I also had a Nokia phone then, the very first one, and there was a ball game on it. I used to play this all the time (laughs). The beauty of those phones was that they kept charge for three days or even a week. In general, I listened to music, read and enjoyed the fact that I did not need to run anywhere and do something. I liked it.

In one of your first interviews, dated back in 2008, I read that you named Sasha Cohen and Mao Asada as your idols…
These were some of those names that I knew (laughs). I didn’t want to embarrass myself and just decided to choose someone I knew myself and who was known. No offense will be said, I have no idols and never had, in fact. It was a youthful delusion. It’s also funny because Alexei Nikolaevich was present at that interview and when I said about Mao Asada and Sasha Cohen, he shook his head like that (laughs).

You once told me that when Alexei Nikolaevich sent you Billie Eilish’s music for the program, you were shocked by how fashionable your coach was. Do you remember any other moments when he surprised you?
I was always surprised how much he cares about his athletes. If I come in a bad mood and do not feel well, he immediately understands it. Very shrewd. Sometimes our thoughts converge in training, we equally plan some atypical scenarios – for example, when we decide to do something else, not according to the usual schedule. Alexei Nikolaevich comes up to me and says: let’s try something today. And I answer: I just wanted to offer you the same thing.

Conservatism, it seems to me, is quite difficult to remove from a person, especially an adult. And therefore, it is most surprising that all bold and modern ideas are perceived by him readily and with unexpectedly vivid emotions. It’s great that I have such a coach.

What did you spend the first and second prize money on, do you remember?
The most significant prize money began when I started to go to the senior Grand Prix. And I got the sum for the first two places – almost a million. With this money, I bought myself the newest MacBook Air. The most memorable gift for myself! By the way, it worked for me for about ten years.

The investment was successful. How much did it cost then?
It was worth 127 thousand, in my opinion. And the rest of the money just put in a piggy bank with my mom.

At what age did you become independent in terms of everyday life? Clean up, cook, wash things – all of that.
Quite recently, actually. Only when I began to live on my own. When you live alone, you need to do all this yourself, and this motivates.

When we lived with the coach (Svetlana Veretennikova), there were few things, a certain regime was observed. Everything was in order. I didn’t even think about how it all works, the coach helped.

When my family and I moved to St. Petersburg, I started cleaning my room but all the washing, ironing, cooking – it was all on my mother.

You have been driving with pleasure and for quite some time. What kind of driver are you?
I drive quite correctly, I don’t violate, but I really like to get to the place as quickly as possible, sometimes because of this I pass on a yellow light, – having assessed the situation, of course.

There is no such thing that I constantly play “checkers,” but if there is an opportunity to move to a lane that goes faster, I will move 100%. It happened that I conducted an experiment on myself. I think everyone thinks: “Liza, here you are in this land and stay. How long will you last?” It takes 5 minutes, something bursts inside me, and I still move into a lane that goes faster (laughs).

What kind of music do you play in the car?
Radio Hermitage, my favorite.

Suddenly. Is there any special song that energizes, invigorates and makes you feel the coolest?
At first I listened to rock, I like it in the car more than rap – as if it is more suitable for travel. And also some songs… Gangsta’s Paradise is a very good option. At sunset Californication is the theme. In general, usually I just turn on my favorite tracks, and there are remixes and very driving songs. But the need for such a mood from music is rare because I drive the car mostly twice – in the morning before training, when you just need to start living this day, and in the evening after training – then I want to be calm.

But if I go to workout in the afternoon, I turn on my playlist.

For how long were you upset about the cancellation of the Grand Prix Final which was so difficult to qualify for?
Let’s just say that this is not the event which one should be very disappointed about the cancellation. There are more important events, and because of their cancellation, I would be much more upset. Immediately, I calmly took this news. It was not unexpected because all these conversations began 4-5 days before, and I gradually began to prepare myself for the fact that this would happen. Plus, I was pretty tired and found positives in the cancellation for myself. I thought that everything should be so.

Almost simultaneously with the cancellation of the final, news came that the ISU congress in the summer will consider the issue of raising the minimum age for athletes. What do you think about it?
I think that as an active athlete, it would be incorrect for me to comment on such topics. The International Skating Union will make a decision which it considers correct.

When I, not an athlete, think about the Russian championship in women’s single skating, I get scared. And you?
I try not to think but such thoughts still enter my head. It’s exciting, to be sure. That is, I understand that it will be tough. As always at the Russian championship, however – for me this is the most psychologically difficult event. Grand Prix, Challengers, open performances – they’re all much easier. Even the World Championship is easier than the Russian Championship (laughs).

What can I do? I am already trying to find such phrases and thoughts that will help me cope with my nerves.

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