Alena Leonova: "When I was born, someone gave my mom a horoscope of my life which said that I might become a successful athlete"┬á
By Maria Bagdasarova
Photos © Ivan Daniluk
Alena Leonova stunned the figure skating world last year when she broke into the senior scene with more than convincing results: she finished fourth at her first European Championships, won the Junior World title and placed eigth in her debut at senior Worlds. This year, with the bronze medal at the Rostelecom Cup and silver medal at the NHK Trophy, Alena has become the first Russian lady since 2005 to qualify for the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final which starts on the third of December in Tokyo, Japan. Absolute Skating had the chance to talk to cheerful Alena in Moscow after she won her maiden senior medal at the Rostelecom Cup.
You had quite a successful start to the season with a win at Finlandia Trophy and a bronze medal here in Moscow, at the Rostelecom Cup. What do you think about your results?
Yes, I started the season quite well, but still there is big room for improvement. I made mistakes both in Moscow and in Vantaa. The short program went better here at the Rostelecom compared to Finlandia, but in my free skate I made some really grave errors. I missed my triple toe loop – triple toe loop combination which I land successfully enough in practice. I need to work a lot on spins and spirals and not focus only on the jumps. But I’m happy I received a level three for my step sequences.
How long have you been practicing the triple–triple combination?
I’ve been practicing it since 2008. I started learning it when I became confident and consistent with solo triple jumps. Last season, I was injured and couldn’t practice the combination properly. I had other things I needed to concentrate on, such as the triple Lutz, which I had problems with. I put off practicing this element until the end of the season with the hope that I could include it in my programs this year. I’ve been landing it at practice since last summer and I hope to bring it into competition soon.
Could you please tell us about your programs this year?
The idea of the short program came from Tatiana Anatolievna Tarasova who believed that the image of a strong Russian woman (‘Barynia’) would suit me well. I really enjoyed working with Tatiana Anatolievna on the choreography of my short program; she’s very energetic and cheerful. She taught me a lot of small things which I had never paid attention to. She showed me when I need to hide my emotions and when to express them to ‘play’ with the audience and the judges.
My free program was choreographed by Detroit-based Olga Volozhinskaia. I met her at a camp before the World Championships in Los Angeles last year where we decided to work together. Olga saw the heroine from the Chicago musical in me. She emailed the music to me and it appealed to my taste. It took us only three hours to choreograph this program because we were full of inspiration.
After the break-through you made last season, you can be deservingly called the leader of the Russian ladies figure skating. What do you think about yourself in this role?
I’m obviously very pleased, but it’s very hard as well because there’s now a huge responsibility on me, on my coach and choreographer. We try not to think about it. There are also other girls whose outings may not be that successful, but sometimes at practices they skate even better than me. Everyone has a chance; it’s all about how you use it.
What goals did you set for yourself this year considering it’s an Olympic season?
First of all, I need to gain a spot on the National team and have a good outing at the Russian Nationals. Last year, I finished fourth at the European Championships, so this year I have to fight for a place on the podium at this competition. I believe it’s a realistic plan. I have already competed against some of my main rivals this season and have even been placed ahead of some. I know their programs and elements and think I can compete with them. As for the Olympics and Worlds, I would love to make the top six.
May you please tell us about your coach Alla Piatova?
Alla Yakovlevna obviously loves her job very much, is very hard-working, and puts all of her energy into teaching her students. She’s very good at explaining technical things – you immediately understand what you’ve done wrong. I can’t say she’s too hard on me, but she definitely is very exacting.
How did you start skating?
My mom brought me to the skating rink at the age of four. I was coached by Marina Vakhrameeva, but then moved to the group of Tatiana Mishina where Alla Piatova worked as an assistant. Then when I was ten, Alla Yakovlevna formed her own group which consisted of three other girls and me, and at that moment the practices became serious.
When did you understand that figure skating might take the leading role in your life?
Well, I’ll tell you a secret. When I was born, someone gave my mom a horoscope of my life which said that I might become a successful athlete, and because of that my mom always encouraged me in my skating. My coach always told me that I’ve got a chance to achieve good results in this sport and need to just work hard.
Did you have any role models in figure skating when you were a child and do you have them now?
When I was a child, I watched and liked everyone, and particularly supported Evgeni Plushenko. When I started competing at the international level, I had the chance to follow Japanese ladies, whose skating styles really appeal to me. Later, people began to compare me with Irina Slutskaya. That made me eager to re-watch her performances. Probably, we do have some similarities. As for today’s skating, I watched videos from last week’s Trophee Eric Bompard and must say that Yu-Na Kim is very strong.
Jumps put aside, where does the main emphasis lie in your training now and what do you think you need to improve to come closer to the top world ladies in the world?
During the summer, I worked a lot on my basic skating skills with Viktor Kudriavtsev and already received positive feedback on my improvement in this department. I also need to improve my spins and I need to work on my flexibility to be able to show better lines.
What are you off-ice interests?
I enjoy dancing, especially with my friends, and whenever there’s a disco after the competition, I’m there. I also listen to contemporary music, like Pussycat Dolls and Rhianna, and like going out to see new movies or theatrical performances.