18-year-old Anna Pogorilaya enters the Grand Prix Final in Marseille with two gold medals around her neck, one at Rostelecom Cup and the other one at NHK Trophy, and stands a very good chance of medaling in this third Final of her career. In this interview taken in Moscow a month ago, just before Rostelecom Cup gala, she strikes you as a very serious person, mature and down-to-earth. Want some proof? When we first asked her about an interview, at the very beginning of the event, she said she was not sure about her schedule yet. Maybe right after the exhibition practice?, we pleaded for our cause. I’m not sure I’ll be at the exhibition, she said smiling, an asked us to talk to her again the following days. Well, Anna Pogorilaya surely was a part of the Rostelecom Cup gala: she captured the gold medal in enthusiastic manner and, before she knew it, she had nine interview requests, ours included. Luckily she found time for everyone – and, listening to her answers, something tells us she won’t be one of those cases when a young girl flashes brightly only for a brief moment, and then she becomes dim. No, Anna is already a part of the big league – and she doesn’t plan to leave the figure skating elite too soon.
by Nadia Vasilyeva/Moscow
Nadia Vasilyeva: Hello, Anna, and thank you for taking the time to talk to me. When we talked before the competition about the time of this interview, you said you didn’t know your schedule for Sunday yet, because you’re not sure if you’re going to the exhibition. But you got that gold medal and left your rivals very far behind. What was it, you didn’t feel confident coming to this tournament?
Anna Pogorilaya: I just don’t like to guess my future. Anything can happen, you know.
Not to jinx it?
Yeah, I guess.
How do you feel now about your performance here, in Moscow?
I feel good, of course, really great. Of course I know there were some imperfections, and I know that I need to work on them, but in general I’m satisfied.
Both of your programs this season are very interesting. I know that on your short program you worked with Misha Ge, can you tell a bit more about working with him? Who came up with the idea of the program, why did you decide to ask him in particular to help with a tango program?
We wanted to try something new, add something unusual in our programs. And when I found out that he’s choreographing his own programs by himself, I was very surprised.
Not only his own programs, he’s doing them for half of the world!
Yes! He’s really an amazing person. He’s very artistic, he’s doing choreography by himself, he’s very much a people’s person, and he takes his work very seriously. That’s what ultimately convinced me, and we decided that we definitely wanted to do this program with Misha. Because he’s very responsible about it. And the music was the result of our joint effort. I wanted tango for SP, and he suggested we took this one, and that for the ending we can add something else, something interesting. And that’s how the program came to be. But we had 8 different versions of music, he kept on re-arranging it because of one thing or another, I didn’t understand this process [she smiles]. He cut the music himself, he was inquiring about this last music piece, he spoke to the composer. It was very serious, I didn’t expect that! [laughing]
What a holistic approach! Maybe he also helped with the costume?
Yeah, I did send him sketches, we talked about it. Cause he’s a choreographer, he also has his specific view of me and of his program. We thought maybe to make a pants suit, but he decided that a dress is better.
You seem to have a very good, friendly relationship with Misha, you support each other a lot, we saw it at the World Championships in Boston, and we continue to see it on social networks. Have you known each other for a long time?
We actually met two years ago at Cup of Russia, but at that time I only took a picture with him and that was it. Yes, we do support each other, cause he’s my coach, my choreographer, and just a good person.
Do you have more good friends in figure skating like him?
Yeah, I do. Goda, she performed here as well, she’s a very nice, very funny person [Goda Butkutė, a Lithuanian pair skater – ed.].
And as for your free program, choreographed by Nikolai Morozov, can you tell me more about it?
Nikolai, yes. We took this job very, very seriously as well. My choreographer Viktor Adoniev also added a lot to this program. The middle part of this program, this music was found by Anna Vladimirovna [Tsareva], the first one – by Victor Adoniev, and the last one – by Nikolai Morozov. And Nikolai put it all together. I also really enjoyed working with him, very productive, everything to the point, and very clean-cut. So I would come to him, we would get straight to work, do the choreography and practice, and that’s it, not wasting any time. Everything so professional, just airtight.
Working with such people must have helped a lot…? To become more confident, maybe, did it help to build the success we see now?
Everything helped. There are so many things. And the group where I train – it’s mostly girls about 14 year old – has its influence as well. Cause they’re so dynamic, so full of energy, only just got into sport probably on the junior level.
Anna, you had a very successful last season: bronze medal at the Russian Nationals, bronze medal at the European Championships, bronze medal at the Worlds in Boston. Congratulations again on all of them. When you look back at that season now, what do you think of it? What is the brightest memory?
Sometimes I think of the World Championships and this feeling after the free program, this immense joy. I remember that moment when the music ended and that was it, not a single thought on my mind, just pure joy [smiles]. I guess it’s the only thing I remember. Of course, later on, when I took a bow and kind of calmed down, I started thinking, and also my coach said that This, this and that could have been better, that there were some mistakes here and there… Well, we just keep on working. We can’t stop here.
Of course, especially now, when there is such a contest within the Russian team: so many talented girls. What do you think of this rivalry, does that motivate you?
Yeah, I’ve been asked that question before [she laughs]. It does motivate me indeed, very much!
What kind of relationship you, girls, have with one another?
Only good relationships, everyone’s very nice and friendly to each other. If something happens, we’ll surely support one another.
You’re only 18 and you’re already a double European bronze medalist and World bronze medalist. Do you, maybe, have a dream, the biggest dream of your career, something you want to achieve?
No, I don’t.
Wait, no Olympic gold or something like that?
No. I think step by step. Now I have a Japanese Grand Prix and I have to prepare for it [this interview was taken at Rostelecom Cup in Moscow, three weeks prior to Anna’s second GP assignment, NHK Trophy – ed.]. I don’t set Olympics as my particular goal, because I want to, gradually, step by step, walk this way. Of course I wanna get to the Olympics, but I don’t want to get steamed up because of this.
Apart from figure skating, what else is going on in your life? You’re also a student, right?
Yes, I’m a student of RGUFK [Russian State University of Physical Education, Sport, Youth and Tourism], second year now.
And how are things in the university going for you?
It’s hard. Right after Sochi I had to get to the university and find out what subjects, what exams are there, when, where and everything there is about. So it’s another thing that gets my mind off figure skating, a thing I can switch over to. Also, lately, I’ve been going for walks a lot with my brother and his dog. He has an English setter, and it’s a very high-speed dog [laughing].
Some fans compare you to the wonderful Maria Butyrskaya, what do you think of that?
I never heard of that! That’s extremely pleasing to hear [she smiles].
Do you have any role models in figure skating?
There are so many that I like: Mao Asada, Carolina Kostner, Yuna Kim, I can’t even name all of them now. In one skater you love one thing, something different in another. You can find something to admire about every athlete.
Do you get recognized on the street? Or maybe in the halls of the skating arena?
At the ice arena, of course. Sometimes there is some little child with his mother, and he would go: Look, Pogorilaya! And he points his finger at me [laughing]. That’s funny. Usually I’d walk with my classmates, on my way to warm up, or back from the ice, and they’d go Ha-ha-ha! at this.
How do your classmates take your, one might say, famous status?
They’re cool with that. They support me, they did it now. But they always treat me normally.
So you don’t feel any pressure because of your success?
No, I try to stay away from it.
[Interview by Nadia Vasilyeva, Moscow/intro and editing by Florentina Tone]
More photos of Anna Pogorilaya at 2016 Rostelecom Cup
FURTHER READING – 2016 Rostelecom Cup