© Solène Mathieu
© Solène Mathieu


27 november 2022

Interview - Aljona Savchenko

Five-time World champion with Robin Szolkowy, Olympic and World champion with Bruno Massot, Aljona Savchenko is a pair skating legend. At 38, she is now on the other side of the board and trains young pairs. We were happy to meet her for a few questions.
Solène: You were coaching two pairs at Grand Prix Espoo, Greta & John Crafoord and Nika Osipova & Dmitry Epstein. How do you feel about being a coach?
Aljona: It is a lot of pressure. It's very different from skating because I cannot control what happens on the ice. It's a difficult challenge to teach someone and make them grow.
Solène: Are you still doing shows?
Aljona: No, we had to stop because of COVID-19. Bruno and I then moved to different countries so it is a bit difficult now.
Solène: You live in the Netherlands now. How is it?
Aljona: Well, I spend a lot of time at the ice rink ! My new city is bigger than Oberstdorf. Sometimes I miss the mountains but it is how it is. I need to move forward and build something for the next generation.
Solène: You were also commentating for Eurosport. Is that still going on?
Aljona: I worked for Eurosport in Germany on some competitions and shows. It is good to do something different but it is not a regular thing, I would be happy to do it more though, it's fun!
Solène: Can you tell me about the off-ice training programme you are working on?
Aljona: It is important to work off-ice on choreography and mental preparation for instance. I try to teach skaters the basics of what is needed to perform on the ice. Sometimes I see skaters at a good level who do not know the basics. There is so much to work on in our sport, you need to be flexible like a gymnast, strong for the lifts and fast on the ice. It is a difficult combination of everything. A lot of skaters and coaches do not understand that.
Solène: Most skaters mainly like to jump !
Aljona: Of course ! They love jumping. I love it too (laughs). But figure skating is not only about jumping, skaters need to learn to bend their knees, for instance. Without the basics you can jump to a certain level but you will not be able to go further or deal with puberty for instance.
Solène: Bruno Massot has also become a coach. Have you seen him with his French pairs?
Aljona: I saw Bruno when he started coaching in Switzerland. He then moved to France. He is doing a great job and he has talented skaters. I watched them at their latest competition in Warsaw. It is good that we can help young skaters. We need more of them.
Solène: Robin Szolkowy is also coaching and Meagan Duhamel is working with figure skaters. Your generation is doing a lot for the younger generation.
Aljona: When we are coaching at competitions we run into a lot of retired skaters we were competing with. We are now all coaching or doing something related to our sport. It's so funny!
There is a new generation on the ice. At the moment the pairs field is not very strong but I think it will go high again. It is our job to help the new generation.
Solène: How can the figure skating world help the pairs field to grow again?
Aljona: First we need more kids and then more single skaters should try pairs. More advertising would help too. Also I was talking today with someone about how dangerous our sport is. 
Having practice sessions at 7 am, as we had in Espoo, is not good and we need that to change so that people can see the beauty of our sport. Nobody is fit and ready at 7 am. We cannot show our best.
Solène: Meagan Duhamel was telling me that the long programme is too short now. Do you agree?
Aljona: Yes. It is 4 minutes now. I wanted a longer free program but it was shortened for TV purposes. We do not have time to show the beauty of our sport. Skaters are indeed rushing from one element to another.
Solène: Who are your favorite skaters at the moment?
Aljona: Ilia Malinin is my favorite! I also like Daniel Grassl and I was happy to see that Kevin Aymoz did well in Espoo. There are a lot of talented skaters. Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara are my favorites in the pairs field. The Italians are doing well too.
Solène: You were at Skate America in the audience when Ilia landed the quadruple Axel weren't you?
Aljona: It was amazing to see it live. I was impressed during the practices. When we were practicing the throw triple Axel, it was quite big and I actually thought about doing something that crazy, but I maybe did not have that toughness in me. I don't know... The new generation is good! I'm happy that Ilia can do it, he is so talented, he's a natural. I know his parents. I used to skate with his Mom Tatiana Malinina when I was skating for Ukraine. I know Ilia has some good genes!
Solène: You have a daughter, who probably has good genes too, would you like her to skate?
Aljona: I hope I can give her my passion. If she wants to skate, of course I will help her. However, it's her life and she needs to find confidence in whatever she wants to do. At the moment she says she wants to be like me. The other day we were going to the ice rink and she was saying "Mom I want to be like you and skate like you”. I answered, "What do you need?” She said "I need practice". I answered "What kind of practice?" She said "Warm up first, then work". She is 3 ... It was so funny. She also likes gymnastics so we'll see what she wants to do. Kids are better than their parents. They learn so quickly. She has a strong personality, stronger than mine.

Solène MATHIEU for Skate Info Glace - Reviewed by Louise CLYNE