Though her second season in the senior ranks was not an easy one for Elena Radionova, she fought through the experience and now feels she has achieved a level of maturity. Injuries and physical changes took their toll mentally on the 17-year-old. Radionova grew so much last season that she needed to get a new long program costume after Russian nationals because the old one no longer fit.
Last year Radionova’s performances did not look as effortless on the ice as in previous seasons, but she nevertheless held it together, winning medals in all her competitions except Worlds, where she finished fifth. “Indeed, the season was not easy. But I’m glad that I was able to go through some difficulties,” Radionova said. “Not everything worked out, but that makes my character stronger. I bear in mind the mistakes I made and I will try to perfect my skating next season.”
Radionova said that she feels that in some ways she was not well enough prepared. Looking back at the tough competition at Worlds she now understands that she could have skated with more ease and more power in order to earn more points.
Known for her consistency and for landing triple-triples effortlessly, Radionova has had to overcome personal disappointment because things are not so easy anymore. “At first I was upset. My character is like that — I want it all, or nothing. Every athlete wants to show his or her best. But then I started to look at things a bit differently. I started to evaluate the situation and what happened and now I hope that everything will be fine. You just have to work hard and move on.”
That mindset helped her push through last season. “I realized it would be hard. So what? For whom it is easy? You have to fight. I would be easier to sit down and give up, but that is not in my character. I have always been used to fighting and to persevere. I made the top three in all competitions, except for Worlds. I knew that I could be in the top three there and that I could fight for a high placement.
“In some places I didn’t work enough, in some places the circumstances were not in my favor.”
Radionova, a thoughtful and well-spoken young lady, is writing her final exams in mid-June. She is determined to excel in that area as well. “I have developed my individual self. When you get older, you have you own opinion, but I always had one. Now I just can articulate it more clearly,” the Moscow native said.
She is also now communicating with Inna Goncharenko, her coach since childhood, on another level. Radionova said she was surprised to hear recent rumors that she was preparing to leave her coach. “It was a strange situation. I even got phone calls and people asked me, ‘Is it true that you’re leaving?’ Funny enough, even my coach believed them. I had to calm her down.
“When there is some failure, people just look for someone to blame. I understand that I have to blame myself partially. I don’t think it is necessary for me to change something now. I just have to take all the mistakes into account and to move forward from there. Obviously there are situations when the coach and student have reached their peak and understand that they have to change something in order to move forward. This is not the case for me. I understand that I can go further with this coach.”
However, other skaters did make coaching changes. Sergei Voronov and then Maxim Kovtun showed up in Goncharenko’s practice group at the CSKA in Moscow. “We have a good atmosphere. It is better for me when there are people on the ice at the same level, not just children,” Radionova explained. In addition to Goncharenko, she continues to work with Alexander Uspenski on skating skills and Artur Gachinski is also helping her.
Radionova retains her ambitions and is hoping to return to form next season. “Obviously, I’d like to learn something new. It would be good if it works out,” she said. “I will work towards that. But I need to get used to my body — I can’t yet say that I’m used to it a 100 percent.”
She has some ideas for her new programs, and though she was not ready to reveal them at this time, she said she wants to do something different.
When asked to compare her first two senior seasons Radionova said it was not possible. “I was a very little girl the first time and didn’t realize where I was skating. Somehow it is easier that way,” she said in reflection. “Now, of course, I’m conscious about it and I do everything consciously. But I’m still the same Lena I’ve always been.”