Skating prodigy Andrei Kutovoi dreams of the Olympics

You might have noticed him during the Junior Grand Prix event in Courchevel, this August.

We sure did.

The posture, the qualities of his skating, the musicality. You just couldn’t take your eyes off Russia’s Andrei Kutovoi.

He finished the event – his single JGP assignment this season and his first ever international competition – with a bronze medal, and left skating fans in wonder, in amazement: who is this incredibly gifted teenager, debuting on the World stage? Andrei was still 13 this summer.

Well, he’ll tell you that himself, in an interview done in St. Petersburg, his home town, by our very own Natasha Ponarina. Based in St. Petersburg as well, and working as a figure skating photographer, Natasha knew Andrei already – she had been following him for a couple of seasons, eyes glued, lens glued to the talent that he was, practicing at Yubileyny Sports Palace and, since 2017, at Tamara Moskvina’s figure skating sport club.

Cousin of Elizaveta Nugumanova, another skating wunderkind (Elizaveta is three years older), Andrei tried skating as well, when he was 5. And, as everyone expected, he liked it that much that he literally started running on the ice – he’d tell you with a smile.

…and you’ll notice the smile, but also the seriousness, in the numerous photos accompanying this interview.

Work of Ms. Ponarina, the tens of pictures recompose Andrei’s journey and career so far – and we gladly share them with you. Adding, you’ll see, some heartwarming pictures from the family’s archive.

Ladies and gentlemen, there you have him: 14-year-old Andrei Kutovoi, Olympic hopeful.

Natasha Ponarina: Andrei, let’s start from the very beginning – when did you start skating? How old were you?

Andrei Kutovoi: I was almost 5 when I put the skates on for the first time.

And how did that happen? Were you watching skating on TV, were you following your cousin, Elizaveta Nugumanova? What made you decide that you wanted to skate?

By that time, Liza was already training, and they decided to bring me to the rink as well, just to try it, maybe I would like it. I wasn’t following skating then, so it wasn’t my decision.

Who brought you to the rink, remember?

It was my grandmother who brought me to the rink for the first time.

What do you remember from your first day on skates? Did you like it right from the very start?

I think the first day at the rink was exciting and interesting, because it was something new for me. My mom says my first steps on the ice weren’t really steps, but it was running. I was running on ice, so to speak [smiling].

And judging by the fact that we kept going to the rink, I think I really liked it.

He definitely liked it. Happy Andrei, 5-years-old approximately, with a medal and a diploma, in one of his first skating competitions (photo courtesy of Kutovoi family)

Where did you learn to skate and who was your coach back then?

My first coach was Irma Georgievna Bukhartseva, we trained on a small rink of Yubileyny Sports Palace.

And on the practice rink of Yubileyny Palace, Alexei Mishin’s group trained, which I joined later – and it was where I met my current coach, Veronika Anatolyevna Daineko.

When you first started skating was there a skater you wanted to be like? What about now – do you have a skater you admire?

When I first started skating I didn’t know any skaters and I didn’t watch figure skating.

It changed over time, and now I’m watching closely what’s going on in the skating world. I try not to miss any event of junior and senior level.

I admire the Japanese skater Yuzuru Hanyu, his skating skills, musicality, the way he feels every single movement. The ice and Yuzuru are like a single entity, that’s his element. Nathan Chen is also very strong technically, he can do all the quads – it’s the highest level.


Tell us, what do you like to do in your free time? You tried drawing, maybe something else?

There isn’t that much free time, but if there is some outside my studying, then I like recreational activities. Recently, my mother and I have been to the Norwegian ropes course park “Orekh”, that was a lot of fun, all that climbing, I really liked it, and I’ll definitely come back there.

I like to draw, as you mentioned, and I also like dancing and photography.

How does your weekly schedule look like? One has to train a lot to get the result that you have. Do you have time for school?

I train six days a week and I have one day off. Each training day includes two ice practices, two warm-ups, cool-down, stretching, and, on different days, I have specialized physical training, acting classes, choreography, jazz classes.

Unfortunately, I don’t have much time for school, I get to go there infrequently, but I’m being home-schooled, with the help of my mom and online lessons.

You’re 14 now – tell us, which medal/result/competition you are most proud of so far? [Andrei turned 14 on October 4, 2019]

Some of the most important ones are the first places in Championships of Russia (Younger Age) in 2016 and 2017.

Which is your most vivid memory from your career so far? Looking back, what comes to your mind first?

The strongest memory so far is the first Junior Grand Prix in Courchevel [August 2019]. It was my first international competition.

I was also really impressed by a show in Germany I took part a while ago [Media Markt Eisgala – Concert on Ice 2016]. We were touring different cities on a bus, I was surrounded by, and performed with, amazing famous skaters, aerial and ice acrobats, and there were also famous singers and music bands in the show. It was such a memorable experience.

Was it hard to learn the triple Axel? Which jump do you like the most – and the least?

Yeah, triple Axel is an ultra-C jump, like quads, so you can’t equate it to the triples. My favorite jump is the Lutz, and I don’t have jumps that I don’t like.

Can you tell us about your programs this season, how would you describe them? Judging by your inspired performances, you really like them, you are so in character, one-on-one with the music…

Thank you, I’m really glad to hear it.

Most of my SP is to “Fly Me to the Moon”, it’s a love theme. At first, I’m waiting for my beloved, counting the hours, then I see her and I hold out my hand, inviting here to fly with me to the moon, to immerse into the music of the stars. And, in the end, I confess my love to her.

At the end of the program there is a part for the step sequence, and I just dance to the music “I Won’t Dance”, the modern version of it.

My FS is to the music from “Les Misérables”. I represent the character from the times of French Revolution, Jean Valjean, but many people see me as Gavroche, which you can say is also right, since both these characters represent the best ideas of “Les Misérables”: independence, devotion, purity, compassion.

I really like these programs and I’m very grateful for them to Nikita Mikhailov.

You started you first season on junior Grand Prix level with a bronze medal in France. What are you plans and goals for this season, what do you want to achieve?

My plans include two triple Axels and a quad in a program and, of course, to skate clean. My team and I are working towards that.

What is your biggest dream as an athlete, a dream that you can share with the readers? What do you wish for as a skater?

[smiling] My biggest dream? The Olympic Games.


This is how it all started – a very young Andrei Kutovoi posing with one his first figure skating medals (photo courtesy of Kutovoi family)

Funny faces with 5-year-old Andrei, as recorded by his mom (photo courtesy of Kutovoi family)

A boy, a medal – and, surely, a smile behind that medal (photo courtesy of Kutovoi family)

Glimpses of a young, but very talented champion, proudly posing with a gold medal, on his way home after a competition (photo courtesy of Kutovoi family)

Faces-faces, in front of a phone held by mom or dad (photo courtesy of Kutovoi family)

In between cousins: Andrei offers a bouquet to Elizaveta (Liza) Nugumanova and receives a kiss in return (December 2014)

With Liza and other skaters, in December 2014

During Alexei Mishin’s anniversary Gala, on March 8th, 2016

Following: a series of photos taken during Alexei Mishin’s training camp in Tartu, Estonia, in May 2016; there you have Andrei learning how to skate in a pair with his cousin Liza Nugumanova.

Practicing the moves he just learned

Smiling young boy on the ice of Tartu, Estonia

Still in Tartu, in May 2016: having fun with Carolina Kostner; she was coached by Alexei Mishin at the time.

Heartwarming photos of Andrei Kutovoi and Carolina Kostner

During a skating seminar in China, in July 2016, alongside other fellow skaters, Alexei Mishin, Misha Ge and Jun Ge (photo courtesy of Kutovoi family)

With Misha Ge, during the same seminar, China, July 2016 (photo courtesy of Kutovoi family)

Thoughtful Andrei, behind the boards, in August 2016

Skating his short program during Cup of St. Petersburg, September 2016

Free skate during Cup of St. Petersburg, September 2016

A very serious bronze medalist, Cup of St. Petersburg, September 2016

Now there’s a smile from Andrei, on the podium; from left to right: Makar Ignatov (silver), Evgeni Semenenko (gold), Andrei Kutovoi (bronze)

Andrei Kutovoi and his coach, Veronika Daineko, in November 2016

Skating his short program, in January 2017

Learning new choreography, in August 2017

The choreographer? Natalia Bestemianova herself – at the rink of Tamara Moskvina’s figure skating club, in August 2017

Progress in learning the choreography is recorded for further study

Andrei, watching attentively and then replicating the moves with a lot of dedication

And when the process is done, there you have him smiling in a photo alongside Natalia Bestemianova and Igor Bobrin

A couple of days later, he’s still in the process of learning the new moves – and, from behind a camera, Natasha Ponarina “catches” the passion, the enthusiasm

Alongside Tamara Moskvina, in August 2017

Skating an old short program of his, to “Minnie the Moocher”

Under the attentive eye of Tamara Moskvina and Oleg Vasiliev, in the background

Alongside Elizaveta Nugumanova, Dmitrii Kozlovskii and Aleksandra Boikova, August 2017

Smiling champion-to-be

Andrei Kutovoi, skating to music from the movie “The Artist”, in his long program, in October 2017

[During season 2018-2019, Andrei moved to Moscow, to train with Elena Buianova; the following season finds him again, you will see, in St. Petersburg, with his previous coach, Veronika Daineko.]

Season 2019-2020 starts – and Andrei shows his new short program, to “Fly Me to the Moon” and “I Won’t Dance”, by Frank Sinatra, at his home rink, in the presence of Tamara Moskvina (September 2019)

A couple of days later, he competes in the first stage of the Cup of St. Petersburg (September 24, 2019)

…and then he gets to show his long program also, to music from “Les Misérables” (September 25, 2019)

[interview by Natasha Ponarina, St. Petersburg/translation by Nadia Vasilyeva/photos by Natasha Ponarina; other photos courtesy of Kutovoi family]