Olga Best√§ndigov√° and Ilhan Mansiz - a crazy dream about Sochi
October 9, 2011
By Titanilla Bőd
Photo © Tibor Somogyi / Új Szó, Olga Beständigová
“We don’t care about what the others say”
When do you plan to have your first competition?
Ilhan: We set a goal that we should start to compete in two years after we start to practice regularly. Now we are on the ice for a year, so we should start next September. Sometimes the development is going faster then you expect and nowadays we are at a point that we need to set up the really hard elements, maybe in September or October and then we can think about competing in this December. We are not rushing anything, we want to go to a competition when we are ready. Now the hardest elements what we are working on are my single jumps. A few weeks ago I landed a double toe and some single axels. If I learn two doubles, maybe the toe and the salchow, it should be enough for the first year. From the single spins I have the most troubles with the flying camel. It depends how fast I got these three elements and then we can go to a competition. We have all the other elements, but from five attempts there are only one or two good, so we have to work on them until we can perform flawlessly five from five.
What does your single practice session look like?
Ilhan: At my single sessions I do the figures, because they are so important, it’s a pity that the new generation is not doing them any more, because it helps a lot for the quality of skating. Everybody wants to learn everything very fast, without learning the base, but if you don’t have the base, you have nothing to build on. You can’t start a house with the walls: at first you have to have the base. I think we are in the schedule, a bit forward then we expected, but we are not rushing it. If we finalize those three elements, we can try some international competitions.
Is there any other pair in Turkey?
Olga: No, but it doesn’t matter for us. We don’t compare ourselves to some Turkish pair, if there was any, but we compare ourselves to ourselves at first, then to the international level.
Ilhan: I don’t want to do a single axel, a double jump, all the other things level one or level two and then be all happy that I’m a champion of Turkey, I’m a hero.
Olga: We want to be proud of ourselves, we don’t want to be the ones people make fun of.
What was the reaction of your friends from the figure skating world and also the soccer world when they heard about your plans?
Olga: “Are you crazy?”
Ilhan: They said I’m crazy but that’s nothing new for them, they already know it. I got some reaction from the public, such as “If you put that much energy into soccer, you would play again” and I said: “I know, but this one is harder, and I want to do the harder way.” I don’t care what the others say, I know what I want to do.
Olga: The people at first said it’s never going to work for competition, because he’s never gonna jump, he’s never gonna do this or that element. There were also reactions like “He’s gonna kill her because he is not skating long enough”. But there were some positive reactions, that it is cool. At the very beginning maybe just my mother believed in me, because she knows that I always want to do something different, she saw Ilhan and she was also impressed. But like Ilhan said, we don’t care about what the others say, sometimes even a negative comment can make you stronger.
Ilhan: I don’t think that anybody else but Olga would have the courage to skate with a non-skater.
You skated together with your brother for many years. What was his reaction?
Olga: For a long time he just heard the news what we do. But last year he began to get more into it, and when he saw us, he said, Ilhan must’ve been skating earlier. He was amazed and now he is working with us, and I hope he will continue, if not full time than for some periods of time. He is the one who knows me the best, so he can give Ilhan very precise information and it would make the whole process faster as we don’t have to discover the best solutions by ourselves. We don’t have that much time, we don’t have another ten years to get better. We don’t want to skate that long (laughs).
Ilhan: In summer 2014 I will turn 38 and I think that’s just the age to retire.
Your goal is to qualify to Sochi. If you really make it, it will be one of the biggest stories of the Olympics.
Olga: Not only of the Olympics!
Ilhan: And not only one of the biggest – it will definitely be the biggest story. Nobody did something like this before. To switch from soccer to beach soccer or to American football – it’s not such a big change. But for me my two sports are totally different.
Olga: I got a bit of influence or example from my former coach, Craig Shepherd, who coached us with my brother. He had it a bit easier, though, he used to be a hockey player and then he switched to figure skating. He knew how to skate, he was comfy on the ice, even if he had no toepicks, and they were still bothering him a bit, but then he skated with the Olympic champion Natalia Mishkutenok. They were skating together as professionals, so he didn’t have to jump and to do the single spins, but still, he was the one who taught me that you can do whatever you want, when you have a dream. He was very embarrassed at the beginning, specially because she was a former Olympic champion, so they were practicing at two at night when nobody could see them, till they got to the point they could do great stuff. We are in a bit different situation, because Ilhan is so confident in anything. He doesn’t care about the others, he just goes for it and is not bothered by what the others think.
Ilhan: We were practicing even at public skating session when there was no other option for us. All the people were watching, but I just concentrated on my stuff. Maybe this mentality comes from soccer. I also started late, at 14, while usually you start at 6. When I was practising, my schoolmates were staring at me, but after one year I got better than them, because I was working harder. This is a lesson for a whole life.
Maybe you are the example that you don’t have to start a sport in your childhood to be successful.
Ilhan: It’s individual. I started to play soccer very late but I made it to the national team. Even if I had some teachers who made fun of me, I believed in what I was doing. You have to believe in yourself. There are always people who say: “You can’t do it”, but sometimes you can reach more with work than with talent.
Olga: Belief was the first thing we had. We trust each other so much.
Ilhan: In Turkey we say: if you believe, the half way is already done.
Is there any advantage of starting a sport late?
Olga: As a kid you don’t understand your body that much. You are just trying to do a good element. But as an older athlete you know your body and you work more with your brain. And if you are thinking about it, it doesn’t take so much time to learn a new element.
Can you use something you learnt at soccer also on the ice?
Ilhan: Oli sometimes says that this or that movement is just like shooting the ball, but I don’t think so and probably she never shot a ball in her life (laughs).