JULIA’S SKATING JOURNEY: A PERSONAL ENDEAVOR
It’s about time you find out something else about Julia: financially, this whole skating journey has always been on her.
On her parents, her family, at first, “my grandpa still helps me once in a while”, on Julia working, in recent years, on Julia’s and her husband’s finances lately.
A story of endurance, passion, perseverance. A committed, a strenuous effort of financing herself – while wearing Romania’s name on her jacket.
“The Federation never paid me a single dime. If I got some support, it was that some seasons I would get the hotel for some competitions… Sometimes, some private person gives me a little money, but it’s not like a sponsorship or anything – otherwise, it’s me working”.
Julia knows a thing or two about the Romanian Skating Federation – one that, in recent years, lacks financing itself, due to ongoing legal entanglements – but she has, frankly, given up in understanding the whole situation.
She shrugs her shoulders, there’s nothing she feels she can do.
One thing is clear though: for a decade already, this has been Julia’s reality – no funds available for her or her coach, Marius Negrea.
Literally everything that is needed throughout the season, throughout the seasons, comes from Julia’s pockets.
And if you hear Marius Negrea from time to time, in the Kiss and Cry, talking incessantly and very seriously in Romanian while waiting for Julia’s scores, you should know he does just that (since nothing changed over the years): season after season after season, he thanks the Romanian authorities for the big „nothing” they receive.
But how are they able to pull it through then? How is Julia able to finance just about everything?
Working three jobs, that’s how – and cutting every little expense she can cut.
“EVERY SEASON IS THE SAME JOURNEY”
And we’ll delve into Julia’s efforts to earn the needed money, and then to save some of those money, many times into our conversations – either in Montpellier last March, either in Otopeni, Romania, this January – just because she wouldn’t be able to keep skating otherwise.
“I work as a waitress, I work in a school helping little kids to go to lunch and stuff – and I also work as a coach in the rink where I train. I would rather just coach – but it’s not enough”.
Skating and working, working and skating – that’s her everyday life in Ravensburg.
She would tell us in Montpellier, at Worlds: “It was really tough on me this year – and, I mean, it was all worth it and I am grateful to be here, but it would be something else if I had a salary, like a lot of other athletes, if I would get a little more support, maybe pay for at least half of the competitions…
This season was long, but I think every season is the same journey in some ways, and if you want to improve and have more difficult elements in your programs, you need to compete, and you need feedback for the judges.
And for me having so many different competitions helped me to stay focused and work hard every day.
And, it may sound stupid, but I would rather focus on recovery, and spend a little more money and a little more time there, but I basically can’t do that, because I need to go to work, you know?”
Take Julia’s Wednesdays and Thursdays for example.
“On Wednesdays, I work for five hours and then I go on the ice, and I can only do one hour there, and then I have to coach. On Thursday I go back to work three hours, and then I go to practice, go to practice again, and then I have to coach”.
She’d come back to this topic again and again.
“If you look at it, obviously, that’s not the way you should prepare for a competition – but otherwise you can’t go to a competition, you know?”
And there’s something else here too – that opens up a whole new layer in Julia Sauter’s story.
“You know, I love choreographing my programs, but you’d actually think I want to choreograph my programs by myself, and not have a real professional help to look over it…”
WITH LITTLE MONEY COMES SELF CHOREOGRAPHING. BUT AREN’T HER PROGRAMS GOOD?
Remember the layers overlapping in Julia Sauter’s story?
Former Romanian competitive skater Roxana Luca has been listed as Julia’s choreographer for almost a decade now.
But the truth is, in recent years, Julia has really tried her hand in the choreography of her programs – and she talked about it at length last March in Montpellier.
“Short program [for 2021/2022 season, to “I Can’t Go on Without You”], I did it all by myself. Free skate [to “Unsteady”], I did all by myself – and then Roxana looked over it and added a couple more arm movements”.
Dreaming to be a coach and a choreographer herself in the future, Julia definitely understands the need for different eyes, different perspectives in making the programs, in order to be able to grow as a skater, as an artist.
She would love to gain more depth and work with many other choreographers – “I would love to have that, have someone say Push harder, go more down, do more of this arm movement!, gain that experience to give it to my students in the future. But choreographing is expensive, and never having any financial support for it…”
There’s something here though – a sisterhood of women sharing the same trajectory as hers – and Julia doesn’t feel alone when working on her programs, or handling her career with so little outside support.
“You see, Daša Grm from Slovenia, she also does a lot of things by herself – and for me, that’s an inspiration: if she can do it, I can do it too!
We’re pretty good friends now, and we also travelled after Japan [Worlds] together. So I would ask her to look over things and tell me what she thinks, and she would look over and say: This and this and this”.
Take Julia Sauter’s old-and-new free skate – to “Unsteady” by X-Ambassadors and Erich Lee – since she kept it for 2022/2023 season too. We’ll call this part the anatomy of a program – and Julia would walk us through the process, choosing the music, cutting it, actual choreography involved.
And little tidbits in the process too.
“For this free skate I tried so many musics and… Now you’re gonna laugh, but I was watching Germany’s Next Top Model, and they had this catwalk, when they had to kind of perform like angels to this music, and I was like: I need to try this one!”
Julia bursts into laughter: “And I cut the music while I flew to Atlanta, in the plane, actually. I had like ten hours – so plenty of time.
But the cutting part was very easy for me, I felt really good about it, I started it on the ice, and I kind of knew my layout, how I wanted it to be, and the way I cut the music was working out that way.
I only had a little problem at the end, with the choreo sequence, how I wanted it to look like, and then I texted Roxana and said: I made the layout, can we look over it in August, when I’m back at the rink?
So I started skating it, to have a little routine, just the plain program, and then, when we met, we added arms and a little different entrances in the jumps.
And I think because it’s all my own, the free skate feels very natural to me – I love skating it, it’s so much fun!”
As for her short program, Julia decided to change the one she had in the Olympic season – remember, she attended so many competitions while chasing her TES-minimum, “I couldn’t listen to that music anymore!”
This season, wearing a beautiful, soft green dress, she skates to “In This Shirt” by The Irrepressibles – a piece of music that goes so well with skating.
And you might have seen Julia perform it in Sheffield, in her first ever Grand Prix assignment, GP MK John Wilson Trophy, and you might have seen her again at Europeans in Espoo, where she finished 10th overall.
Did she cut the music in the plane again, while flying to the States in the summer?
She laughs: “No, I cut it in the basement of my parents-in-law, with my husband. It took me a lot of time to figure out the music – but, once decided, I cut it, I made the layout, I decided on the dress…”
As for her mentor, Roxana Luca, “she was pretty happy with the way I designed the program. I mean, we took some little things out because the music developed a bit over the season, but that’s like a normal thing”.
DREAM CHOREOGRAPHERS: ADAM SOLYA, MARK PILLAY
Just for the sake of the conversation though, would she love to work with someone in particular?
Does Julia Sauter have a dream choreographer?
“I don’t know who is going to fit my style better, but I think Adam Solya is… If I look at Loena’s programs, I’m like: Muah! [sending an imaginary kiss in the air] She’s such an inspiration to me!
And then there’s the choreographer that makes Emmi Peltonen’s programs… Mark Pillay! I love his work! I would love to work with both of them, obviously [smiling], just to see what they can get out of me”.
But then reality strikes again in Julia’s skating world.
“I have to pay my training, I have to pay for my competitions, I have to pay my dresses, I have to pay everything! And, at the same time, my husband and I live on our own, we also want to save for our future house – there are a lot of things to consider, it’s not just figure skating, you have a life too.
We didn’t even have a wedding to save the money, because we really need to look into our future. Right now, we live in Europe, and my husband, as a hockey player, gets all the accommodation and car and stuff – but the moment he has an injury, or he cannot play anymore, we have to have something.
So we cannot spend our money for things which aren’t 100% necessary, if that makes sense…”
Listening her talk, her honesty, her realness strike you.
It definitely makes sense – but then Julia herself bursts into laughter, with obvious joy, pride, enthusiasm:
“At the same time, I did not expect to be Top 18 in a World Championships! And now I am!”