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Last season was a tough one for Russia’s Mikhail Kolyada with recurring health issues that plagued him for most of the 2018-2019 campaign. Instead of competing at the World Team Trophy in April, the 24-year-old ended the season in a hospital due to recurring sinusitis problems.
His ongoing health issues took away valuable training time and affected his stamina in particular, which were reflected in his performances at nationals in December 2018.
“The hardest moment was the Russian Championships, overall. However, it was the most important and right decision to compete,” said Kolyada who travelled to Saransk basically straight from hospital where he had been treated. Despite his condition, he finished second with two decent performances. “It just means I had to go through this kind of a season. We are all learning,” he said in reflection.
Kolyada feels that his free skate at the World Championships in Saitama, Japan, was the best moment of his season. He finally put out a clean long program and moved up from 10th place after the short (where he had tripled the quad toe) to finish sixth – the highest ranked European man at the competition.
However, he is not making excuses for his subpar performances and results. “Maybe the sinusitis had some impact, there were a lot of things,” the 24-year-old said. “But I am not blaming anyone except myself. Always, it is only my fault…what happened with my health, for example.”
Kolyada still managed to retain a top priority and is currently ranked third in the world. He is now healthy and ready to achieve new heights this season.
CHANGE OF TEMPO
IFS caught up with the charismatic Russian in mid-June in his hometown of St. Petersburg. He and training mate Stanislava Konstantinova had just returned from an off-ice training camp in Kislovodsk in the Caucasus Mountains with their athletics coach Mikhail Semenenok, and were preparing to begin their on-ice training. Kolyada said they had “done some great work in Kislovodsk.”
He announced his two new programs for this season earlier than usual to avoid the situation that took place last year when he, Maxim Kovtun and Alina Zagitova all skated to “Carmen.”
This year he selected “Wind of Change” by the German rock band Scorpions for the short program and a Charlie Chaplin medley for the long.
The Chaplin routine was actually an exhibition number Kolyada and his long-time choreographer, Olga Zotova, created last year. However, he only skated it at one show last March in St. Petersburg (Alexei Mishin and Tamara Moskvina’s 50th anniversary of coaching). “I really, really enjoyed my exhibition program and I felt that it was exactly what I need and something that I can do very well,” the 2018 World bronze medalist said. “This is my character, I feel it; I like the music, I like everything. There is music from different movies, which at first is lyrical and then toward the end it is more upbeat.”
Chebotareva agreed with the choice of music right away. The team is still discussing the costume, but Kolyada does not think there will be many changes to the original version other than him not wearing the hat.
While the Charlie Chaplin program was a quick decision, Kolyada needed much longer to decide on the short program. “When I was in hospital (in April) I picked music. I listened to this “Wind of Change” and thought, ‘Why not?’ I wrote it down, but I still continued to search for music because I wanted something fun. Then I realized that both the short and free program would be to upbeat music and it is better for them to be different.
“I was thinking a lot about it, watching movies, cartoons, listening to music, etc. I thought I was going crazy. I was at the edge of desperation and then I suddenly remembered I had picked the music a long time ago. It is a good option; powerful music with good development. I really like it. I looked it up and I didn’t find that anyone had skated to it. Great!”
“Wind of Change,” written in 1989 and released in 1990, was the hymn during the time the Berlin wall came down and the iron curtain opened. It is still very popular in Russia and Europe.
Zotova, who has already proven she is a talented choreographer, and Kolyada collaborated on the creation of both programs. “I might suggest an interesting step, some small details,” he explained. “Sometimes the choreographer and I come to the same conclusion: Yes, this will look good. I might look at others, too. I am now watching more figure skating and I am paying more attention not to the jumps, but to the programs — how I would do it for myself if I were a choreographer.
“When I was in hospital I had nothing to do, so I watched all the short and free programs of the men from the 2006 and 2010 Olympic Games. There were some programs that I watched that I thought were great and I am watching them again and again.” The programs of Lambiel and Daisuke Takashi were among those he particularly enjoyed watching.
Though he would have loved to work with Stéphane Lambiel again (he did last year’s short program to “I Belong to You” by Muse), the timing did not work out to go to Switzerland this year. Also, a planned trip to California to train again with Rafael Arutyunyan was canceled, as it was not clear at first if Kolyada needed further treatment for his sinuses.
CONSISTENCY IS THE KEY
Kolyada is now planning his strategy for next season. He wants to bring back the quad Lutz, which is one of the best on the circuit. “We need to approach things in a more reasonable and tactical way and not try to do all the jumps from the very beginning,” he said. “I am planning the quad Lutz and toe loop. The Salchow still has a question mark, but it is possible as well. If they work, all my jumps are nice.
“I am planning two quads in the short program. We will see and think about it in practice. We will do in the program what works best.”
Last season Kolyada kept changing his program content, experimenting with various layouts and trying to find what worked best for him. He now feels that this was maybe not the best strategy. “For some, it is no problem at all to do this, but I need time to think about the layout, to skate it in practice and only then I can show it in competition. All these processes take a long time for me. Learning jumps also takes time for me.”
Kolyada has worked with the same coach from the beginning of his career. When asked about the advantages and disadvantages of that situation he hesitated before responding that it was “a difficult question. The advantage is continuity. My coach knows me very well and I know her, so there is never a problem to come to terms, no matter about what. The disadvantage is that there is no possibility to compare. When you skate under one coach, you get used to the methods and think that this is the only way possible.
“When you skate with several coaches you understand that one says one thing, another says something different and you take something for yourself. This is an analysis that doesn’t happen when you are with only one coach.”
Kolyada and his training group went to their annual training camp in Latvia the last week of June and will return to St. Petersburg later this month.
He has been invited to perform in a show in Japan at the end of July, which he is excited about. “I love that country and the fans — everything. I feel at home there — very calm,” he said. “In Japan there are many people, but it is not like in New York. The rhythm of life and the atmosphere are different.”
Kolyada said he would likely skate both his new programs in the show, so he can test himself in front of an audience before the start of the season. “That is very useful. Then I’ll approach the season a bit better prepared.”
LOVE, LIFE & MUSIC
On a personal note, Kolyada is relaxed and happy, which probably has something to do with an important step he recently took in his life. In May, out of the blue he announced his engagement. Most of his fans probably didn’t even know he had a girlfriend. However, he wants to keep his private life private and does not want to publish any details about his fiancée. But, he is ready to share details about a new hobby he took up a little more than half a year ago.
“Before, I had to study outside of the ice rink. This was a possibility to switch my mind to other things,” said Kolyada, who graduated with a master’s degree from the Lesgaft University in St. Petersburg in June 2018. Renowned coach Alexei Mishin is the professor responsible for figure skating at this sports university.
Once Kolyada had finished his studies, he looked for something new to distract himself. Last fall he saw a guitar in the house of one of his friends and decided to give it a try. “I realized that I needed to find a hobby that is interesting for me and that won’t take much energy. There were several options, but for some reason I remembered that I wanted to learn to play the guitar when I was 8 years old. It did not work out then. Who knows, if I had learned to play maybe I would have gone to music school and I would not be a figure skater now,” he said with a laugh.
“My friend showed me how to play this song that probably everyone learns first — ‘Grasshopper Sitting on Grass.’ I learned it in an evening — my fingers hurt, but I enjoyed it so much.” Kolyada bought his own guitar shortly afterward.
When he went to Worlds in Japan he did not take his guitar with him because he did not want to carry it. But, as soon as he got to Tokyo he regretted that decision and went to a music store and bought a small one that he can take with him when he travels. “It is never boring now. It is a distraction and overall just great. When I have nothing to do, I play my guitar. It is an ideal way to pass the time. Some people are constantly on the Internet, but I have had enough of that. For some, the Internet is like an addiction, a kind of illness. I have a new addiction now — music.”
Kolyada is teaching himself how to play and watches instructional videos on YouTube. He also recently bought a guitar for his younger brother, who will turn 12 in August, so they can perform as a trio with their father. “My father plays and sings very well,” Kolyada said. “We usually get together in the summerhouse, have a barbecue, and play together. It is great.”
He plans to open his season at two Challenger Series events before his Grand Prix competitions — Skate Canada and NHK Trophy. Healthy, happy and with two strong programs, Kolyada is hoping for a successful 2019-2020 season.