LOOKING FOR A WAY TO KEEP SKATING. “ROMANIA GAVE ME THE TIME I NEEDED”
It’s time for Julia to really embark on a journey of figure skating memories.
And, for the most part, our conversation last March, in Montpellier, was exactly that: searching for the layers, and efforts, and motives behind one’s decision to keep on skating, against all odds.
“I think the year I started working with Marius was 2010. Because he was commentating Vancouver Olympics – and I switched to him right after. I was 12-13 at the time”.
The coach confirms it: “Julia was still 12 when we started working together, in May 2010, when she transferred from her club in Germany to our club, where I was coaching”.
Julia turned 13 in June 2010, she was competing on junior level and she still represented her native Germany.
“I skated at Novice German Championships, then Junior Championships… but when I skated the year in junior for Germany [2011/2012], we already prepared everything to go and switch countries”.
READY TO MAKE A FUNDAMENTAL CHANGE
How come, why would she do that?, you ask yourself – and then you ask Julia, years after she made the decision of representing Romania.
It turns out, there was no other way to keep on doing what she loved – no other way than making the radical decision of finding another country to skate for, and reach those competitions that every European skater dreams about.
Julia explains it in details – and so is her longtime coach, looking back.
Julia: “In Germany, you have 16 little states, and I live in the one called Baden-Württemberg… And when you are a kid, you get a little hep – but it only lasts until 14-15, and then you have to enter this elite group of Germany, you get invited there and you have to have specific elements.
And, when I was 14, I was only able to do double Axel – so, after that year, I was out.
Now it’s different, but back then I think you needed to do one triple, or two triples. Basically, you had to have those two jumps and you needed to show them in two competitions.
And I was just not able to do them at the time.
I’m not gonna lie: it took me a lot of work to have them – I think I landed my first triple when I was 16.
And then I got two more, but it was very inconsistent, because when I was 14 my body changed, I gained a lot of weight, and it was just a struggle for me.
And then because I had been doing very high double jumps for six years straight, I had a very, very slow rotation, so it was even harder. And it just took a lot of time, and I had to be very patient…”
But, apart from patience when it comes to learning the jumps and adjusting to her new body, something else was required too: a solution.
Both Julia and her coach were really trying to find a way out of what seemed a dead-end.
“We looked for a solution, we looked for a way…
And I remember going at my first international junior competition – Santa Claus Cup, I was still competing for Germany – and there was this skater from Romania there, and I beat her”.
We turn to statistics: at 2010 Santa Claus Cup in Budapest, in the junior event, Julia Franziska Sauter (Germany) finished on the 10th place, while Sabina Măriuţă (Romania) placed 11th.
“And it turns out that representatives of the Romanian Federation were there, and they saw me, and they started questioning Marius, and he was like: Yeah, she would be able to switch countries… Because we had already discussed if we would be willing to make a switch and try to have a brighter future ahead. And my aunt is living in Denmark – and, at the time, we were thinking about Denmark as well – but then Marius was like: You know? If you want, we can try and do it for Romania. And then… Why not?”
Coach Marius Negrea adds layers to Julia’s story.
“Yes, I suggested the move, because she was better than the Romanian girls in competition at the time, she had her chances – and Germany didn’t really give her any. They said she was too old, that she couldn’t have the jumps, that she was already 14…
They had greater demands there, and Julia didn’t meet them – so she couldn’t enter the elite group of the land, at first, much less the national team”.
Julia remembers her exact feelings at the time. Frustration.
“Back then, in Germany, everyone told me that I had so much talent, but they never really wanted to push forward for me, so… Their fault”.
She shrugs her shoulders. It is what it is.
GERMANY’S JULIA FRANZISKA SAUTER BECOMES ROMANIA’S JULIA SAUTER
Per the rules of switching countries, Julia had to stay a year off-competition – and she used that time to get herself acquainted with Romania.
She lived with her mom in Braşov, a city surrounded by Carpathian Mountains, in the historical region of Transylvania, she enrolled a local club, CSU Braşov, and really made the most of her stay while waiting for her release, which happened in 2013.
Up until her first international competition as a Romanian representative, she remembers skating her first Romanian Championships.
“My first Championships was in the old ice rink in Bucharest, in juniors – it was very cold! And that happened right before the rink got shot down, if I remember well. And I think it took two more months until I was able to skate internationally. And that was in Luxembourg – and the following season I know I went to Bulgaria for my first Junior Worlds.
And then it started like that – the ice journey I had”.
We’re filling the gaps here and there: Julia took part in her first Romanian Championships during 2012/2013 season and her first international competition for Romania was Coupe de Printemps in Luxembourg, in March 2013. She finished the junior ladies’ event on the 4th place.
During the following season – 2013/2014 – she would go to Bavarian Open (9th place there) and then to her first Junior Worlds, in March 2014, in Sofia (34th place).
For the next two seasons – 2014/2015 and 2015/2016 – she would compete both on junior and senior level. She remembers her first trip to a Junior Grand Prix event in Zagreb, Croatia, in 2014 (21st), her trips to Junior Worlds again, in 2015 and 2016, but also her first edition of the Europeans (2015 Europeans in Stockholm, Sweden).
“THE MOVE OPENED SO MANY DOORS FOR ME”
All in all, in the decade following her switch, Julia Sauter took part in three editions of Junior Worlds, six editions of the Europeans, and she also competed in two editions of the World Championships.
She was 29th in Saitama, at 2019 Worlds, and finished 18th in Montpellier, last March – her biggest accomplishment so far on the world stage.
But her competitive sheet is absolutely filled with various placements at various competitions, bigger, smaller, spread across Europe.
“She is the competitive-type”, her coach agrees. “She focuses very well in a competitive environment – she does everything German-like, as they say in Romania. She’s very hard-working, she’s very thorough, very demanding with herself, with everything that she does”.
We’ll say it for you: Romania got really lucky with Julia Sauter.
But we can’t help wondering: Has she ever regretted making the switch?
Julia’s answer comes fast – she knows it by heart, she thought about it herself, many times before.
“No – because the move opened so many doors for me.
I think… if I kept skating for Germany, I wouldn’t be skating at that point, if that makes sense.
Because I know I wouldn’t have had any chance or opportunity for Junior Worlds, like I had, and make all those experiences and memories, see what it could be like, and go to competitions, and skate at Europeans, and then, obviously, way further ahead, finally making it to Worlds.
I wouldn’t have had that journey.
Because they do expect a lot more in Germany, and quicker – and Romania gave me the time I needed”.