There is this great sense of maturity in Javier Fernández’s answers, in an interview for Inside Skating which took place in Moscow, at this year’s edition of Rostelecom Cup. The 24-year-old Spaniard, reigning World champion and three-time European gold medalist, talked about everything, really, but with a seriousness that’s almost palpable: the Grand Prix Final in Barcelona (“I want to take this opportunity and perform for my people really well”), the need to build more ice rinks in the cities of Spain (“This is exactly the right time to push the sport, because it’s on TV, a lot of people hear about figure skating, hear about me”), his programs this season – including that masterpiece of a flamenco routine, choreographed by Antonio Najarro, the challenges the quadruple jumps bring to the sport (“Maybe, in a period of time, we will be counting how many triples we do, not how many quads. It will be like: Oh, he did one triple. And the rest is quads”).
One thing is sure: leaving aside the titles, the medals, the crowns, Javier Fernández is a very down-to-earth young man – and you have to admire this in him. He’ll tell you simply: “Being World champion doesn’t really change anything in me” – and then he’ll add with modesty and a mind-set that really distinguishes him: “But then I’m the World champion from last season, and I have to really work hard to be a World champion again”.
by Nadia Vasilyeva/Moscow
Nadia Vasilyeva: Does it make the Grand Prix Final special for you, that it will be in Barcelona?
Javier Fernández: Definitely yes, it is really special for me. Also because it’s the second time when the Grand Prix Final is in Barcelona, which is really big. And to be able to perform in front of my people is really special. The first time I ever did it in a big competition like this was last year, and this year I have another opportunity; and I want to take this opportunity and be able to perform for my people really well.
Do you feel like skating is getting bigger and bigger in Spain already?
Oh, yes, it is getting bigger and bigger, we just have to try to keep it going. This is exactly the right time to push the sport, because it’s on TV, a lot of people hear about figure skating, hear about me. Now we just need to make it bigger and build more rinks. There are a lot of big cities in Spain that don’t have an ice rink, and people can’t enjoy figure skating. So we have to try to bring this opportunity to these people, so they can have a chance to try it.
Is this the reason why you chose a Spanish theme for your programs this year, for the short one and for exhibition?
No, actually, the Grand Prix Final is not the reason. [The thing is] I’ve always wanted to do a flamenco program, but I was waiting for the perfect moment to perform to Spanish music, to have a Spanish program.
…Maybe not only to get Spain more familiar with figure skating, but in both ways, to get figure skating world more familiar with Spain?
Yes and no. Hopefully, everybody knows Spain, knows flamenco. And in ice dance they have a lot of it, they have the Paso Doble. So, it doesn’t really make a difference if I do a flamenco program or not. On the other hand, I knew I had to do it at some point. And this is a really good program, and we worked really hard on it. The important thing is that people like it and I can perform a good program. The point in competing is keep adding titles if I have the opportunity. So this year I have a flamenco program and next year I’ll have a different one – this is competition. But this year was flamenco because I had the chance to do a good flamenco program.
So this time it was your idea to have this program?
Definitely it was my main idea. And then choreographer Antonio Najarro, who is the director of National Ballet of Spain – he contacted us to see if I wanted to have a program at some point. He didn’t say this season. But then that got me thinking about flamenco, and maybe this season was the right one. That’s definitely what I thought: This is the season. I’m gonna try to talk to Brian, I’m gonna talk to David Wilson, and hopefully they’re gonna be happy about this option, this decision. And they were.
Javier, tell us about working with Antonio Najarro. How was it?
It was really cool. Working with him is definitely very interesting. I had never done a flamenco movement before, never ever in my life. I do have a flamenco family, like people in my family who dance flamenco, but I never got involved with dancing. So it was a really cool thing to do, because if we’re talking about flamenco – Antonio Najarro is the top. So to be able to work with the top of something, and to be able to see every single movement – and you have to make it at least close to what he’s doing – it was really cool. I think I did a really good job, I think he helped me a lot, and I think we ended up having a really good program.
And was your flamenco family the first judge of the program? What did they say?
I actually haven’t talked to them about my program yet. I will at some point, but I didn’t have the chance because I didn’t go to Spain.
Tell us about you free program…
David Wilson, my choreographer in Toronto, he chose the music and he had some ideas for the costumes. We actually watched “Guys and Dolls”, the movie, and it’s a really cool movie. It’s all about these guys playing at the casino, but they’re dancing everywhere, and they’re jumping everywhere – it’s a really active kind of dancing movie. It was a very interesting program to do from beginning to end: we tried to copy some of the things, tried to give the idea to the people of what I was skating to. And it ended up being also a really good program, with a really nice costume, and a lot of people really like it.
What about your exhibition number, when you’re a bullfighter?
I actually did the Bullfighter program in Japan with this choreographer called Kenji [Kenji Miyamoto] and another choreographer that helped, his name was Takaya. I contacted them because they do a lot of programs for Japanese skaters, and I travel a lot to Japan, and I asked them if they had an idea to do a new show program. And Kenji came up with that: “You’re gonna be a bullfighter, you’re so cool, but then the bull is gonna come in, and you’re gonna be scared, and you’re gonna play around”… And I was like: That’s great, let’s start. And we had a lot of fun with it. To me, the most important thing with the shows is that people enjoy their time off, enjoy skating, laugh if they have to laugh…
Speaking of shows, in Cup of China you did a very interesting exhibition number with Mao Asada, when you got to skate each other’s short programs – bits of them, at least. Who came up with that?
The organizers in China. They just told us that they wanted us to do something special, to do a little thing together.
Did you find it difficult?
Well, it takes a long time to remember all the steps. And we didn’t really have much time to practice, and we didn’t really know how the music was supposed to be cut. It was like: One music is going to finish, and the other music is going to start. [Smiling] And we were just out there, we didn’t know absolutely anything, we just knew some steps from each other, and that was it. We tried to make it look at least decent for the people.
You won the Worlds in Shanghai in March – how does it feel to be the World champion?
It feels the same. Being World champion doesn’t really change anything in me. Maybe I have to do more interviews, or I have to do more meetings, but it doesn’t really change much, at least in me as a person. It is true that every time you go on the ice everyone is like: “Oh, here’s the World champion”, and if you make a mistake, they are like: “Oh, the World champion made a mistake”. But then I’m the World champion from last season, and I have to really work hard to be a World champion again. It’s not an easy thing to do, I know that there are a lot of strong skaters that want that title back, like Patrick, like Yuzuru, and all of the skaters that want it for the first time.
I’ve already told people: I’ve been World champion once, that doesn’t mean I’m going to be able to do it for the second time. I’m going to work for it, but it’s going to be hard. I know it’s possible, but it’s not easy. I will always try to defend the title, I will always try to win. But I’ll have to get to that day, I have to do good programs, and then the judges will decide if other skater is the champion or if I’m the champion.
At Cup of China you competed against a young Chinese skater, Boyang Jin, who did 6 quads in two programs. What do you think about that?
There are many different kinds of skaters, many different kinds of programs. You can do a program full of components and a level of technical elements that may be lower, and you can have a good program. Or you can do a lower level components and really hard jumps, and it can be a good program too. And if you put everything together – then it’s a way better program, right?
As for Boyang Jin, he’s still like a junior skater, you can see it. It was his first big senior event, Cup of China, and he was a crazy good jumper. But then you can see in his skating, his components – he’s a little bit lower. When you put more difficulty before the jump or after the jump, or the whole program, when you keep adding difficulty and more steps and turns – then, at the end of the program, you’re going to be way more tired. And, of course, if you have things going into your jump, your jump may be a little bit off. It’s easy to say: If you go skating like this you may be able to do five quads. But if you’re going to do crazy stuff, then it’s more difficult.
There’s a difference between people who have good components and people who have really good jumps, like a lot of quads. It’s complicated. Every skater is different, every skater is trying to play with what is the best for them. You might like one more than the other one, but everybody’s trying to win and to play their best card.
Do you think this is where we’re going? Skaters adding more and more quads?
Yes. If you think about it like 10 years ago, you could see maybe 4 or 5 skaters doing quads, where now it’s everybody, and they keep adding. How was it when I first did 3 quads in one program, 3-4 years ago? Everybody was like: ”Wow, wow, wow!”. And now everybody’s doing three quads. So skating is growing as a sport, it’s getting more complicated and it will probably be growing even more. And, maybe, in a period of time, we will be counting how many triples we do, not how many quads. It will be like: Oh, he did one triple. And the rest is quads.
So how many quads are you planning to add to your programs?
I’m not planning to add any more quads for now. I think technically I’m good, and I think in my components I’m good too. There’s place to improve, of course, but I just have to do my programs. Right now that’s my thing: I have to perform my short program and my long program clean. That’s what I have to work on.
So what does it take for you to skate clean? And what may interfere with that?
Nothing, really. Because I perform clean programs in my practices in Toronto often. So it’s just going on the ice in the competition and do it. Skating is more complicated than it looks from outside. One person told me a long time ago: There are a lot of World champions on practice, but not so many World champions in competition. It’s a different feeling, from practice to competition. You just have to be patient. Because it looks really easy when you see it on TV or from the stands. But what we feel and what we have to do before and after – that’s only on us. Not on anybody else. We’re alone there. It’s just us, and then the coach who’s trying to help, but it’s only us. If we don’t do it, nobody else will do it.
[Interview by Nadia Vasilyeva, Moscow/editing by Florentina Tone]
Other photos from 2015 Rostelecom Cup in Moscow
You’ll love these photos from the exhibition, with Javier Fernández as a torero, a confident torero, wearing proudly his traje de luces (the matador’s specific suit) and his capote de brega (the colored cap) – at least, till an imaginary bull enters the arena. The program suits Javier Fernández like a glove.