14-year-old Russian figure skater Adeliia Petrosian shined in her first Russian Championships on the senior level two weeks ago – completing two quad loops and placing fourth overall, only behind Kamila Valieva, Alexandra Trusova, and Anna Shcherbakova.
Another up-and-coming star of Eteri Tutberidze’s Khrustalny team, Petrosian spoke to Russia’s Match TV about her experience at the national championship, about being in Tutberidze’s group, and about herself in general.
Interview with Adeliia Petrosian, by Vlad Zhukov, translated from Russian to English:
You were so small in this championship in the background of all that was happening. Small but strong at the same time. How does it feel to go out on the ice of Yubileiny when something like this happens on it?
In fact, the atmosphere was familiar. I see most of the girls from the strongest warm-ups every day in training, so in this regard, nothing particularly surprising happened to me. On the contrary, the audience in the arena gave me strength. I really enjoy performing in front of full stands.
And about being small… Yes, I’m already used to it. I like being small.
Well, while I’m in figure skating, I definitely like it. It’s convenient (laughs).
Is it easier to jump, or what?
Honestly, I’m not sure. In general, now tall, average, and small can jump equally well. But they say… In general, now I am about 140 centimeters tall (4 ft 7 in), as long as it is – so it is. I am comfortable.
Were you worried before the championship?
There was, of course, a little excitement. Before the short program – more, before the free skate – less. But everything seemed to be like at regular starts before.
Can you explain where the excitement comes from? You yourself say that you see the strongest girls at your rink every day. Plus, in this championship you were not selected for the main starts – also a negative factor.
Well, the excitement should always be present, of course. I don’t want to embarrass myself and differ from those who skated cleanly. I wanted to declare myself and make, so to speak, a very good start.
Therefore, when you see that the girls are skating clean, there is additional pressure? After all, you need to go out and do at least as good.
I try not to watch how the other girls skate. And not to know how much they were given. But I still understand that the rivals are preparing and they need to correspond. I can only hear the results if by chance the door (to the ice) opens. Or one of the girls will come up and tell you. But for me it’s better not to hear anything at all – it’s calmer that way.
When you sat between the grown girls in the green room, what did you feel?
There we were just chatting with each other. We talked about other things in general – not about sports. How the training went, how we prepared… Yes, literally everything.
“Not about sports” and “how the training went” in one sentence.
Well, we are still discussing how the process went. How hard, cool, fun, sad it was. We just talked. The atmosphere was already more relaxed. Sasha Trusova, for example, spoke to Sofia Samodelkina. I spoke about myself, Sofia – about herself. Something like that.
Imagine if they told you: regardless of age, you go to the Olympics. How would you feel?
So… I would be morally tuned in for the European Championships and the Olympics. I probably wouldn’t have felt anything. Everything is the same.
It’s just that we have such a feature in the group: we still always prepare to cleanly skate our programs. We no longer have a difference for which start we are preparing. The process is always the same.
But isn’t this phrase about “clean skates” at least a bit sly? How can you not think about medals before a competition?
You know, it’s just that we all, one might say, fixate on our state and not on medals. The starts are all more or less the same, and the state can be very different. The most difficult thing is how to morally “assemble” and adjust yourself. Because you can come in great shape but you will still be staggered in different directions.
But I learned to “collect” myself. Well, for now.
Oh, no, this is my own, personal (laughs).
At least in general terms. Let’s at least give people a hint on how to learn how to tune in before an important event.
There are some things that I started to do before going on the ice. Listen to music, watch something, cheer myself up…
Oh, well, no, it’s too loud. It’s just that these are some things that soothe, lift your spirits, and help you collect your thoughts. They are actually quite ordinary but they still helps.
There is an opinion that it is necessary to make the same rules for the Russian championship and international starts and not allow participation at the Russian Championships until 15 years of age. Can you describe how you personally benefit from these competitions? Why are they important for juniors too?
It seems to me that for me this is just an opportunity to prove myself. I had no questions about any other girls there. You think about preparation, training, and trying to skate clean.
Was there really nothing unusual for you at this championship?
If out of the ordinary – I lost the habit of performing in front of full stands. There were not enough spectators at the Junior Grand Prix, really. And from something like that… Oh, well, three coaches were with me this time.
After the stage of the Cup of Russia in Perm, where you were without coaches at all, this is very important.
Well, yes. It was just that then the coaches had other important starts, so I myself agreed to let me go to Perm alone. There were two options – either to go without coaches, or to withdraw altogether. I chose the first one.
Is it easier to go on the ice with three coaches?
I would say more interesting (laughs).
First, Eteri Georgievna. She sets up very well, I really like it. Sergei Viktorovich – he is often alone with me at the starts. So I’m already used to it. Daniil Markovich tries to tell and explain more according to the programs – what was left unfinished in the track and all that. And Eteri Georgievna follows, as it were, the whole process, before the start sets up, calms and helps to skate with dignity.
And how does she set up? Can you give an example of when Eteri Georgievna did or said something that helped you especially?
It’s not that it directly helps in itself… In general, I can say the last phrase that Eteri Georgievna uttered this time: “That’s it, you have 30 seconds – go think, tune in, and do it.” At this moment, she seems to cling to you with her eyes.
I can’t understand how it works.
She’s just a great person. She kind of conveys you a lot of emotions and feelings. You begin to feel them and, as if by yourself, you become higher. Then you exhale, you get ready, and these emotions begin to carry you by themselves. Well, if you prepared yourself correctly too, of course.
She also breathes with you before releasing into the starting position.
You mean those moments when Eteri Georgievna breathes in and out with the skater?
Yes. She, as it were, lives with you all the experiences and worries. Says: “Let’s breathe together.” Takes hands – and on the count of “three” we exhale. You know, as if at first you breathe in all your worries and then abruptly blow out of yourself. And with a cool head you go skate.
You say that a lot of emotions emanate from Eteri Georgievna…
Undoubtedly. Do you think Eteri Georgievna is an emotional person? We just see it from the outside a little different.
I think yes. She can hide her emotionality, like many people, but she still has it.
How is it shown?
For example, in her sense of humor.
An example is very necessary.
I think all this should remain in our group. But Eteri Georgievna has really very funny jokes and not at all offensive. Even the parents laugh.
Whom did you root for most of your teammates?
I was worried about all the girls so that everything would work out for them. And then let the judges decide. Because only when each one shows their maximum, our real level will be visible.
But first I skated my own, and only then I was rooting for others. In these matters, you need to put everything on the shelves.
Did you notice that Eteri Georgievna somehow changed before the Russian Championships? Become more nervous and angry, or vice versa? All the same, the tournament is rather nervous – the selection for the Olympics.
I think no. She has already had so many of these Russian Championships… It seems to me that this is already familiar to Eteri Georgievna. That could change, I guess. And then no. Just a little more experience.
Did you see how Alena Kostornaia broke her arm? Isn’t it scary after this, and even after the injury of Dasha Usacheva to do jumps in the performance?
For some reason I do not have this at all. For example, I saw Alena fall. But in the same way I can fall – just the hand will be in a slightly different position, not like hers. Therefore, I go jumping without thinking that I can break everything for myself.
You, in principle, do not feel fear of jumping?
Before those that I already know how to do – no. But if they tell me to go do the quadruple Lutz, then it will be a little scary. On the other hand, you can learn it too. You just need to adjust and rotate yourself harder.
On the question of jumping. How does it feel to be cooler than men?
I do not feel better than men! (Laughs).
None of them have done two quadruple loops in one program yet. You are the first.
But they have so many quadruple Lutzs, flips. Loops as well, toe loops in the second half of the program. Triple axel, which is the worst for me in general. I don’t feel cooler than men even after two quadruple loops.
Why doesn’t the axel work?
It’s the most difficult. I have not succeeded at all for the time being. But when there is more time, we will definitely return to it. It seems to me that it is very necessary, many girls are jumping it. And for myself, I really want to learn it already.
You said that when you got into the group of Eteri Georgievna, you were afraid of her.
It’s just that before her I was, let’s say, a little bit in another world. Eteri Georgievna was a completely unattainable person for me. I didn’t understand what it was like to come, train with her, so that she would correct something for you… Therefore, I was not that afraid. It is rather admiration, awe.
So it’s like taking a picture with an idol?
Oh, it’s not the same at all (laughs). Here you have to offer yourself, as it were.
When did you offer yourself?
14th of March, 2019. It was Thursday then.
And in our group, almost everyone remembers the date when they came to Khrustalny.
And how was it?
Then Sergei Aleksandrovich Rozanov was still working. Mom called him and asked if it was possible to come to the tryout. We were allowed. We came – at that moment our group was engaged in choreography. I warmed up on my own and went out on the ice. And suddenly – she comes, Eteri Georgievna.
At first I did not understand what to do next when the training was over. Because usually they tell you something, give instructions. And then it turned out that if they didn’t tell you anything, then you just go and train further. Others told me about it. Then I asked Sergei Viktorovich so that it would not work, they say, what are you doing here at all.
Does Eteri Georgievna give any special assignments while watching?
At first she watches how you jump yourself. And what do you, in principle, know how to do not on instructions but on your own. It seems to me that at the first training session I didn’t have any special tasks, and if I did, it was closer to the end. At the second training session, we were already told to jump triple jumps. Then the whole group worked on assignments.
Did they take you straight away?
I wouldn’t say. The fact is that for a long time I did not know at all if I would be in the group. Then we had the first training camp, and they told me that I was going to them. In principle, then I realized that I was most likely taken. Then I found out that they would make programs for me, which means that soon I will have competitions.
So you somehow smoothly joined the team?
It was difficult at first, of course. We need to rebuild to this system, to understand how it works. And at that time I was nothing at all (laughs). I had to adjust to the frantic rhythm, for me it was unusual.
But you came to the group with all the triples?
And you say you were nothing.
I had a problem – to show it all at starts. I was unstable. And in a group where all quads are taught, triple-triple-triple combinations are made, triples are not surprising. And then, it often happened to me that instead of a triple I did a double. Somewhere I just fell flat. To skate the entire program is a separate story altogether. But through joint efforts, we have made progress.
I have the most vivid memory connected with you – how you said at the junior championship last year in Krasnoyarsk that you were preparing for an interview in advance. A very professional approach for such a young age.
Oh, well, it was only in my first interviews, to be honest. I didn’t know what to expect, I was very worried. Now this is much easier.
Are you also preparing for unusual questions? The most unusual question that you have thought of in your head?
I was preparing, yes. As for the most unusual… Perhaps this is the question: “What should a coach be like?”
Let’s go over some short questions in the end. Who is your favorite skater?
When I was little, it was Zhenya Medvedeva who skated. Her programs looked straight to the holes. She amazed me with her stability, I wanted to skate just as reliably and beautifully. So my favorite figure skater is Zhenya.
By the way, you are often compared to her – they say you are similar both in appearance and to some extent in the style of skating. What do you think about this? And did you discuss this with Zhenya?
(Laughs). We didn’t discuss it with Zhenya, of course. It’s just that they have been saying this to me for many years and at some point I myself believed that we were alike. But the style of skating, as it seems to me, still differs.
Do you have any favorite programs?
Among my programs – definitely Apres Moi – Regina Spektor. I skated it two years ago. There, both words and music are very close to me. I felt what I was skating and I really liked it.
And if you take the whole figure skating world?
Yuzuru Hanyu – Otonal. I’m just crazy about him. And also – I Hear – I Can’t Hear by Zhenya Medvedeva, Girl on the Ball by Kamila Valieva and Masquerade by Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov.
Your last year’s exhibition Artsakh, one might say, was one of the main events of the last season. Do you think this program is special for you? And how important is it for you in principle to invest in your programs some kind of message of this kind?
Artsakh is probably the second of my favorite programs. There is incredibly beautiful music there and I am very grateful to Eteri Georgievna for offering it to me. As for the message… I think it is not so important to me. Much more significant is to convey the music in a way that touches the audience. This is what I would very much like.
What are your hobbies outside of sports?
I like to spend time at home with my family. Collecting jigsaw puzzles or watching a TV show together – that’s my thing.
What do you dream about? In and out of sports.
In sports, I would very much like to be remembered by people. And one day to skate a very strong and beautiful program. And outside of sports… You know, it seems to me that I don’t really dream of anything.
Well, I can’t help but ask about the quote in the status on your Instagram. I don’t often meet 14-year-old girls who know Pasternak.
Oh, there is such a story! (Laughs). At one start, when I was 12 years old, my coach started reading this poem to me. It seems like he was trying to set me up for the performance in this way. And it so happened that another girl was already finishing her program, I had to go out on the ice, and he reads everything and reads it by heart. He read it very nicely, by the way!
It shocked me so much, and against this background I skated well. Then the coach asked me to memorize this verse, which I did. And when I was creating a page on Instagram, my mother said that you can write something about yourself. And I immediately came up with this phrase: “The purpose of creativity is self-giving.”
Is that your motto?
I think not. Perhaps this is just something that would be good to come to.