Prior to last season he was a virtual unknown to many outside his Russian homeland. But this year has marked a big change for Evgeni Semenenko on both the national and international stages.

Semenenko′s career first took shape in the 2014-2015 season. He finished in 16th–place at his first appearance at the Russian Junior Championships, seventh the following year and 10th in 2017. At his only Junior Grand Prix event in Austria later that year, the St. Petersburg native landed in sixth place. That would be his last competition for 18 months. Plagued by injuries, Semenenko missed the entire 2018-2019 season and disappeared off the skating radar.

But behind the scenes, he and his coaches, Alexei Mishin and Tatiana Mishina, were working to restart his fledgling career. In early 2020, he finished fifth at the Russian Junior Championships and won the Cup of Russia final at the junior level. Later that year, he placed sixth at Rostelecom Cup (a domestic event due to the global health crisis). Two months after landing in 11th place at the senior championships, Semenenko won the Russian junior title and the Russian Cup Final.

Based on his results, the Russian Figure Skating Federation named Semenenko to the 2021 World team, a decision many questioned. Sending a skater with no international experience to a Championships that would determine the number of men who would compete at the 2022 Olympic Winter Games seemed a risky move. But Semenenko rose to the challenge in Stockholm, finishing eighth. His result combined with that of his training mate Mikhail Kolyada secured two places and a possible third for his nation in Beijing. (Mark Kondratiuk subsequently secured the third berth at Nebelhorn Trophy).

In late October, Semenenko continued his upward trajectory. At his senior Grand Prix debut, 2021 Skate Canada International, he once again caught many by surprise when he captured the bronze medal over many seasoned veterans. It was subsequently revealed by Mishina that Semenenko competed with an injured rib sustained in a fall on a quad flip at a training session.

Speaking in English at the post-event press conference, Semenenko, who did not mention the injury, reflected on the past and the present. “I could not skate on the Junior Grand Prix because I had injuries, injuries, injuries, but from the age of 16, I began to recover and to compete more and more,” the 18-year-old explained.

“Last season was good for me. I learned the quad toe and quad Salchow and I put them into my programs step by step. At nationals I skated not well, but at the Cup of Russia final I skated very good and I took the first place. For Worlds, I was nervous because it was a very important competition and I skated not only for myself but for all of Russia. I had never skated at an international competition before. I am very happy that I skated well. I got experience from the World Championships and the World Team Trophy and that gave me more motivation for this season.

“I think I skated well for my Grand Prix debut. I only skated at one Grand Prix in Russia but it was during COVID and there were only Russian skaters. It is a great honor to skate with great people like Nathan and Jason. It gave me a lot of experience and I am very happy that I came here and skated at Skate Canada.”

Semenenko’s next event is Rostelecom Cup in mid-November. Should he finish top two in Sochi, he will have a good shot at making the Grand Prix Final in his first full season on the senior circuit.