Stephen Gogolev, the brightest star on Skate Canada’s junior planet, will make his debut at the Junior Grand Prix event in Slovakia just a couple of weeks from now.
The future of Canadian men’s skating hit the big time for the first time last January when the 13-year-old made his senior debut at the 2018 Canadian Championships in Vancouver. Despite his youth and height he did not look out of place in the field of 18 men.
Gogolev, who won the novice title in 2016 and the junior crown in 2017, said it “was really motivating” competing in the senior ranks for the first time and that his expectations heading into the event were to “just do my best, and try to do what I can do.”
The Toronto-based teenager had a solid outing at nationals, placing 11th in the short (72.61), ninth in the free (148.20), finishing in 10th place with a combined score of 220.81. “It was pretty good overall,” Gogolev said. “I’m pretty happy with how I skated, but also a bit disappointed with the little mistakes that I made.”
What he was particularly pleased with, however, was how he handled himself “with all the people there,” adding that one of the lessons he learned at nationals was “not getting too nervous in front of a big crowd.”
Brian Orser, who coaches Gogolev at the Toronto Cricket Club was happy with his student’s first showing on Canada’s biggest stage. “I’m really proud of him. It was his first time at a big boy event. His score was actually low for him. He had one jumping pass with a zero, the (triple) Axel that he popped. And he got a zero on his triple Lutz in the short program.”
But it was what he landed that showed his potential. In the short program, Gogolev ripped off a quad Salchow-triple toe combination with ease and, in the free, laid down another quad Salchow.
Both quad jumps elicited loud roars from the sold-out crowd — that in itself was a new experience for Gogolev, who had never before competed in front of such a large audience. “As soon as I landed the jump, the crowd just roared and I felt more confident. It was my first time as a senior and having that many people watch me felt pretty good,” he said.
“He can do them all,” Orser said of his student’s proficiency with four-revolution jumps. “He’s done them all in practice — the flip, the loop, and he did the toe in a competition. But we’re just pacing ourselves.”
Gogolev also attempted a quad Lutz in the long program at nationals, but after a shaky take off he turned it into a double. However, it was his final jumping pass in the free that really set jaws wagging. With less than a minute left, Gogolev threw in a clean triple Axel that seemingly came out of nowhere.
Orser said his student learned a lot from his first senior nationals experience. “There are things that you just can’t teach. It’s a matter for us (coaches) to observe and watch how he handled that whole situation. It would have been awesome for him to be in that last group, which was very possible. But at the same time, I’ve got to be realistic and say we need to take baby steps here. We have lots of time.
“He’s been growing, and he’ll grow some more so we’ll take a few little hits here and there along the way. We need to work on presentation, but he’s 13 … you could not get me to emote anything when I was 13. But his scores are World junior scores … as in, to win Junior Worlds.”
This is the first season Gogolev is age-eligible to compete on the Junior Grand Prix circuit, but Orser said, “he has been good enough for the last two years. It was just the age thing.”
When asked which skaters he admires, Gogolev said, “All skaters have their own good things. I like Patrick Chan’s skating skills, and how much speed he has between the jumps, his footwork and his choreographic sequences.”
Gogolev trains alongside world-class role models, including Yuzuru Hanyu and (formerly) Javier Fernández. “He’s on the same sessions (as the seniors) and he gets a little competitive with them,” Orser said. “Javier was very supportive because he’s a bit more personable and he gave him a shot every once in a while.
“The good thing about Stephen is he has a great foundation. He has great skating skills, he is a hard worker and he likes to compete. He’s really something. And I think he’s got the bug now.”
In late July, Gogolev won the Minto Summer Skate in the junior division over three other talented Canadian teenagers who will also be competing on the Junior Grand Prix circuit this season — Conrad Orzel, Joseph Phan and Corey Circelli — all of whom are also coached by the Orser/Tracy Wilson team.