Olga Best√§ndigov√° and Ilhan Mansiz - a crazy dream about Sochi
October 9, 2011
By Titanilla Bőd
Photo © Tibor Somogyi / Új Szó, Olga Beständigová
“In soccer they don’t say, hey, it wasn’t a level four goal!”
What was the hardest thing for both of you? What was the most difficult to teach and what was the most difficult to learn?
Olga: There is nothing that hard. Maybe the hardest part is to be patient. Not because Ilhan is not able to do something, he is learning very fast. I mean patient in a way that miracles can happen, but it won’t be tomorrow or in the next few days. So I have to be patient and I think I am.
Ilhan: For me the hardest thing was to understand the elements have the start, the execution and the ending. I didn’t understand why we have to circle around to do a lift or the death spiral, why we can’t do it just directly. After a certain time you get some skating skills and you feel that the moves are easier to do this way. There were also a lot of technical misunderstandings. For example, they said we are doing a forward spiral on the inside edge, so I also tried to have my right leg on the inside edge, and I was always stopping, when I realized it has to be the outside edge.
Olga: To Ilhan the coaches cannot explain the stuff the way they explain to a figure skater. For us, skaters some moves are coming naturally, but for him they have to give the whole package of information.
Ilhan: I have to learn all the details, the position of the shoulders, the hips, the arms, the legs. Then I put it together one by one. I have to try it five-six times, to put all the different information together and got the right move.
Isn’t it hard to explain everything so much in detail?
Olga: No, but there was another hard thing for me: at the very beginning, when I taught him the basic skating, I was just coaching him, I was not skating myself at all. I wasn’t improving and not even staying on my previous level, but that’s the fee for what we do. We had to learn the basics together because if we had gone to a coach at the very beginning, there probably wouldn’t be anybody who would trust us. I was the only who believed in what we do, sometimes it wasn’t even Ilhan. I had to coach him, and I was not improving because we had to get to a point when we can start something with a coach. Even if we did a few pair elements in the show, we had to get the technique, we had to get all the base, because for this the show was not enough.
Ilhan: Technically figure skating is one of the hardest sports to learn. Precision, biomechanics, it has to be like this, it has to be like that… In soccer it doesn’t matter how you hit the ball, if you score, it is all okay. Even if you hit it with the butt, the goal still counts, they don’t say, hey, it wasn’t a level four goal!
Olga: When we got to the point we could start doing something with the coach, we still didn’t know if the coach believes in what we are doing, sometimes yes, sometimes not at all, but we were improving fast. In the first three months we were improving like crazy, then it naturally got a bit slower and now we are just building up from element to element. In the basic skating you can’t see the improvement immediately, but you can feel it in a few months, it gets steadier. I think now we are at a point when people can believe in what we do. Until they saw us, they were very sceptical, but now they maybe changed their opinion.
Ilhan: We know where we are. We are not saying we are already there. We know there are thousands and thousands miles on the ice ahead us. Our aim is still far away, but if we work, we can reach it.
What was your coach’s first reaction when you first approached him with your idea?
Olga: We didn’t tell him at the very beginning about the Olympics, we just said we want to do pairs. And since then we have a new coach, Stefan Zins and now we practice in Garmisch.
Ilhan: I also had separate single sessions. We had twice a day a pairs session and one single session. Then after a certain time it also caught the attention of the media, that some soccer player is practicing in Oberstdorf…
What was the first thing you learned together on the ice and how you improved?
Olga: During the three months of the show were able to do death spirals, lifts, although without turns, we did the typical show element, the head-bang, also some throw jumps, we also tried a double toeloop… We also did a double twist in the show! At first we just had a simple twist, but after a few weeks I got the idea: let’s do a double! We were trying it off ice two days, and on the third day we did it on the ice. It is the hardest element in pairs skating and we were able to learn it so quickly, so maybe that’s when I realized we should go on further. Even when he still had some deficiency in his skating, he was always were stabile, I never had to fear that I will fall. When my brother saw the tapes from the show, he said Ilhan must have had skated earlier, it’s not possible to make such an improvement in such a short time. But Ilhan really learnt to skate at the age of 32, and he had never skated before the show.
However, the real training must have been different from the ones you had during the show.
Olga: Compared to what we did in the show, we didn’t do almost anything when we started to skate “officially”. We had to go back to the very basics, to simple crossovers, steps, the absolute base. It was hard for me, not that it was boring, but I wanted to work, to work very hard and if I remembered what I was doing before and now I can’t do it, it was not easy. I had to be patient and it wasn’t always pleasant. We practiced some easier elements even when we had no coach, like pairs spins, spirals, some simple parallel jumps. Off the ice we were practicing the lifts and the twist. When we got to the coach, we could say that we are doing pairs, that it’s not about him, but it is about us. Now we practice all the pair elements, the throws, the twists. Of course it is not that easy as it was in the show, now we want to do it perfectly technically and with speed. Now we have the base for all the elements, we just have to improve the quality.
Which elements can you already do flawlessy?
Olga: Some of the elements, the spirals and the pairs spin are on the highest level, if we execute them as we can. The hardest are obviously the solo jumps. There are days when he fully rotates a double salchow or a double toeloop and lands it on two feet, but there are days when he simply can’t get into the technique and then he can’t do it at all. We still need to spend many hours on ice. But for example the pair spins are already quite good, we just have to add little details and even the side by side spins are getting better and better. His sit spins are already very nice, also his libelle is getting better. As for the lifts, we do the lasso with three turns, but it seems a bit heavy. I don’t want to say he has to get softer, but he has to learn how to make his moves graceful.
What is your favourite element?
Ilhan: The death spiral. When I saw it on TV, I said wow. This is maybe the only element when I said wow, maybe the element why I want to do figure skating (laughs). I like the position of the legs.
Olga: And he likes the lifts. When we learned the turns, no matter how he lifted me, no matter that I got wrong in it, he was turning, turning, turning! Even if I was upside down, he just turned and turned (laughs).
Ilhan: Of course, the pair elements are easier for me than the single elements. In pair elements I have something to hold. It’s easier to do a pair camel than a single camel.
Olga: Because you can hang on me! You have my arm!
Ilhan: If we do a pair camel, it works, but when I go into it on my own, I sometimes lose balance, sometimes I fall. There is still a lot to learn, for example I don’t like I can’t throw her.
Olga: He wants to throw me out of the rink! He has to understand that some elements you don’t have to do with the power but with the technique and you don’t have to spend almost any energy on them, if you got the right technique. He wants to do everything with power.
Ilhan: I don’t like when the movements are too loose, I want to do everything firmly, I like to feel that tension in my muscles.
Olga: That’s the art of figure skating: you have to do hard things so they seem very easy.
Ilhan: Of course, also in soccer there are hard things which look pretty easy if you have the skills, but soccer is much more powerful. You are showing your strength. In figure skating you have to look very aesthetic, the effort can’t be seen. That’s what I sometimes miss, I just want to clinch my teeth and my fist.
So what’s the problem with the throw jumps?
Olga: At the throws he wanted to throw me with such a big power that I was not able to catch the rhythm. Basically at the throw the guy has to follow the girl, and that’s the technique what makes the height and the length of the jump. I don’t like the singe throw jumps because sometimes the landing is so hard, that I feel my legs in my neck… But I think it is an advantage that Ilhan is very strong, because when we get to the right technical point, we can use this power in a positive way. Of course I never want him to become a soft guy, I always want him to look as a real man. There is some range between aesthetic and powerful where we can put Ilhan. He has to look as a man. I’m there to do all the girly parts. That’s the same for the costumes: I will have a very shiny outfit, while he will have a simple, normal costume. He hates the stones and the flitters.