Evgeni Semenenko: "The more difficult the path, the more valuable the reward"
We met Russian Champion Evgeni Semenenko during the training camp in Zurich. We publish this interview now before the Russian test skates, as he talks not only about the preparation for the season and his studies, but also about the new programs.
You started your preparation with the training camp in Kislovodsk? How did this training camp go?
ES: Well, in general, at the training camps the foundation is laid, we train in an effective way in order to prepare the body physically well, to increase the endurance. We started the training camps in Kislovodsk, I spent it productively, physical work on the floor, on the ice, a lot of time was spent working on programs. We built the programs at the end of last season. Not for the first time Nikita Mikhailov did the short program. We formed already a team with him and we continue our cooperation. The free skating program was choreographed by Benoit Richaud. I'm glad that I had the opportunity to work with such a famous choreographer, I found a lot of new things for me.... Our next training camp was in Turkey. And after Kislovodsk I had an internship.
At the (medical) university?
ES: Yes, I did it in the intensive care unit.
О! Well, tell me how it was, that must have been interesting?
ES: Sure. I learned how to care for critically ill patients with strokes and heart attacks. I was there giving injections, measuring blood glucose levels with a glucometer, putting in IVs, intravenous catheters. Well, peripheral catheters of course, the main one is done only by a doctor. My internship lasted about 10 days, but I had to work certain hours, and since I had to leave for the next training camp, I worked almost the whole day. But I really enjoyed it.
Then we had the training camp in Turkey. We spent a week and a half there, changed the climate - the weather there is hotter, we also practiced a lot. And now we are in Switzerland, it is very interesting there.
What did you have time to see?
ES: Only Zurich, we walked around the city. The infrastructure here is good, everything is neat, everything is beautiful. I didn't have a real vacation. When the competitions were over, I practiced much less than usual, and concentrated on my studies, because I had exams. Once I finished, passed my exams on Friday, on Saturday I went to practice, and it went well, I did the triple Axel and quads, everything was good. On Sunday I had one day off, and on Monday I went to Kislovodsk, where I combined training and rest.
Did Benoit Richaud come to see you?
ES: Benoit came to us to St. Petersburg to do the program.
What did you particularly like about working with him and what might be different from other choreographers?
ES: Every choreographer has his own style, and it is usually reflected in the skaters' programs. I noted for myself that Benoit, as a former dancer, is very good at keeping the pauses between movements, everything is neat, smooth. And he has very specific step sequences. There is always work with the body, there is a lot of it, and I think he puts the main emphasis on it. I would also like to mention Nikita Mikhailov, now he is also here in Switzerland. We work with him a lot, the movements are great, the character is well chosen. I want the audience to like both programs.
Will there be an interesting costume?
ES: We try to make all costumes interesting.
Your short program is to the French song "The Clown." Who suggested the music? Nikita?
ES: No, the music was suggested by Elizaveta Navislavskaya. She works in our group now, she teaches acting. There were several options, I'll tell you more, I already had a program done to a different music, we rejected it, and went with the new proposal. By the way, in my Notre Dame de Paris program partially Bruno Pelletier also sang. I adore Notre Dame, it is one of my favorite programs, I watched the French musical live then, the show was in our city. And now I have this. The character may not be so new, but I think it will look fresh.
Do you portray a sad clown?
ES: The character of a clown with a bit of pantomime. In public, clowns are always cheerful, always making people laugh, but no one knows what they have in their hearts, what they have in their lives. So I show that I am an artist, I entertain, but at the same time I show what is in my heart.
And what character do you have in your free program?
ES: In the free skating we decided to take music from the golden fund of figure skating - Romeo and Juliet.
Which one? There are a lot of them.
ES: Yes, I know that there are a lot of different versions of music. We took the soundtrack from the movie Romeo and Juliet, where DiCaprio plays the lead role. I can actually say that it's one of my favorite movies now.
Did you watch the movie on purpose? Or have you seen it before and now you watched it again?
ES: The story, understandably, I knew. But this movie directly, I saw it for the first time when I found out that we were going to have a Romeo and Juliet program. I suggested the music.
We chose it so that there would be a story. If the first part is just an introduction, the theme of Romeo, then there is a stronger part with words - the story of the lives of the two clans of Montague and Capulet. Then the love part is romantic, and the last part is Escape from Mantua, when Romeo finds out that Juliet has died, and he rushes to the city to see it with his own eyes. I generally love it when there is a plot, when the program is like a theatrical performance.
A little show, yes. And that's probably why you enjoyed participating in the show program competition? It was also an unusual such experience, and you had an interesting program with the puppet, didn't you?
ES: Yes, we thought for a very long time what to do, and decided to approach the program creatively, to come up with a prop. So I think I got something new.
In general, how do you see your development as a figure skater? Since last year you became the champion of Russia, it's such a big step in your career.
ES: Everything is slowly going my way. I just listen to the advice of the coaching staff. I'm slowly improving.
And in your studies, now you have finished the second year?
ES: Yes, I finished the second year. In fact, in the third year a big workload is waiting for me, because in the medical university the first three years are the most difficult. I have overcome two, they say that the third course is on a par with the first, more difficult than the second, more subjects and volume of studies. But passed the second year, I hope I can cope. It's not easy, but I don't regret it.
What comes after the third year?
EC: After the third year, again - they say that it is easier to study - the base is already laid and many subjects are taught in classes, that is, in a certain period of time you study only one subject.
You said that it's hard, but you don't regret it. Why don't you regret it?
ES: Because I like it, because I met interesting people, because I have new interests, I have new friends who support me and then I will have a good job in the future.
Of course, your mom, who is a doctor herself, is very happy that you chose this path.
ES: I'm glad, too. I use to say, the harder the path, the more valuable the reward afterwards.
It's great really that you find yourself in this and show others that it's possible, that it's possible to study seriously and at the same time have good results as an athlete.
ES: Everything can be combined if you want to, but you have to work hard. For example, Alexei Nikolaevich (Mishin) often tells me that he respects those who have a purpose in life beyond figure skating. He himself graduated from a prestigious university and became a National Champion.
Now after this training camp what will happen next?
ES: After this training camp there will already be training in Yubileini (ice rink), we will be preparing for the test skates. I will try to study something in advance to make it easier in the semester.
Can you study on your own?
ES: Yes, there are recordings of lectures. Due to the pandemic, lectures have been given remotely for the last few years, understandably we record them. This is a huge plus in preparing for classes and especially for exams, you can listen to the explanations at any time.
These are lectures from the previous course, right?
ES: There are friends or friends of friends from older courses who share the material.
ES: Well that's what everybody does.
Actually, that's a good thing. One of the pluses of pandemic is that they've moved partly to distance learning. Then there will be some competitions - unfortunately, only the Russian Grand Prix so far. How do you cope with the fact that so far you have not been admitted to international competitions?
ES: I participate in the competitions that are there. I want to say that fans from other countries also follow the performances, write, support and congratulate me. And live we try to please our Russian spectators. Plus, our Federation supports us in every possible way, organizing events.
In this way you keep your motivation?
ES: Yes. As long as I can skate, I will.
Did you follow the international competitions at all?
ES: The main ones, yes.
With what emotions did you watch? Who did you like?
ES: Shoma (Uno), of course. He’s been for so many years in figure skating and still holds the bar high, shows a high level all the time. I know that he was seriously injured, but he still came out and skated even with his injury. If I'm not mistaken, he has already won two world championship titles back to back.
Interview by Tatjana Flade
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