The Olympic season has ended – yet, some topics are still being heatedly discussed by the figure skating fans all around the world. Take, for example, Aliona Savchenko’s decision to continue her competitive career alongside a new partner, the French Bruno Massot. Given the huge amount of interest in the recently formed pair, we asked Aliona and Ingo Steuer, her longtime coach, to talk about their plans and this new partnership. The Olympics haven’t turned out as they wished – a second bronze, when all they wanted was the gold – but one can easily sense their ambition and determination. Four years prior to the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, Aliona says it loud and clear: „We are both ready for this and we are hungry to start working”. Here it is, the skater-coach’ perspective on the past season and, above all, on the future.
by Florentina Tone
Looking at this season’s results, you and Robin were first in every competition you entered (Cup of Russia, Cup of China, Grand Prix Final, Worlds), except for the Olympics, when you won the second bronze of your career… Watching the pictures taken on the podium in Sochi, with you crying, I’m assuming it was hard to cope with the result. How would you describe this third Olympic experience?
Aliona: We did all we could do for the last four years, but it was not enough to win against the strong Russians Tatiana and Maxim. We did too many mistakes to think about getting the gold. Of course, there was a chance to win, but only with two clean programs and the throw triple Axel. At the end, we were unhappy, but happy we got the bronze…
One might say your Olympic season was just like a rollercoaster for you and the fans, giving your continuous attempts to land the throw triple Axel. Why have you decided to include it in your programs in the first place? Wasn’t it risky to keep trying it?
Aliona: If you don’t take the risk, you will never win! We knew from the beginning that we need something special to have a chance to win – that’s why we decided to take the risk with the triple Axel. We are not the kind of skaters to wait for others’ mistakes; we can win by ourselves!
That piece of news, with you deciding to continue your competitive career was very well received by your admirers. But when have you first thought about staying competitive? It was a decision taken after the disappointment at the Olympics – or it was something you had in mind for some time now?
Aliona: I started to think about continuing to skate at the Grand Prix in China; and, during this time, Eric Radford asked me: “What will you do after the Olympics? Will you keep skating?”. After this question, I thought even more – and got the answer: I will continue; I’m still too young to stop skating in competition, but I’ll continue maybe with a different partner.
Having won almost everything with Robin Szolkowy – 5 World gold medals, 4 European crowns, 2 Olympic medals etc. – why this decision to keep on going? For your fans is a wonderful piece of news, but there has to be a strong reason for staying competitive, given the fact that it would be difficult to return in the arena with a brand new partner…
Aliona: I’m still young and in good shape and I will try something new, because I feel this is not the end. Also I asked Robin what he would do after this season and he only told me that he would stop skating with me. That’s why I made this decision to continue with someone else and told my coach to find the right partner for me after this season.
From what I know, you have to sit out for an amount of time before returning to international competitions with Bruno Massot… How do you plan using this time?
Aliona: First, I will train with Bruno and see if it’s possible or not… Of course, we have to wait minimum one year to compete in international events, but we will need that time! I hope we’ll get the chance to skate in some shows to prepare for the future.
How do you and Ingo look at the months in front of you? Starting from scratch with a different partner requires a lot of work… Are you ready for this?
Aliona: Yes, we are both ready for this and we are hungry to start working.
Ingo: First of all, Aliona and Robin will finish their career in the show “Imagine on Ice”, on 26th of April, in Chemnitz, a show which is already sold out. After that, I’ll start training the new team of Aliona and Bruno; first in Chemnitz and later we will go to Coral Springs, Florida, and start working together with Silvia Fontana and John Zimmerman, as we did in the last couple of years.
Ingo, what kind of work needs to be done in order to turn Aliona and Bruno into a competitive pair?
Ingo: I know Aliona and I know Bruno and I know exactly what I have to do in order to turn them into a good, strong team! Of course, it will be a lot of work, but my intuition says we will have a lot of fun and it definitely won’t be boring.
France or Germany, when it comes to representing it? Have you made up your mind?
Ingo: We haven’t decided yet. We also need to wait for the decisions of the German and French federations, to know what plans they have and also what is best for us.