Betina Popova & Sergei Mozgov: "Sergei is the most reliable partner ever!"

July 3, 2018
By Oxana Shkrebtienko (LMDJ) 
Photos © Oxana Shkrebtienko (LMDJ) 

The dance couple Betina Popova / Sergei Mozgov is only two years old.  They started skating together in the spring of 2016 in Ksenia Rumyantseva's group. There was a lot of gossip at the beginning of their joint career. The newly-minted couple was condemned for abandoning their previous partners Anna Yanovskaya and Yuri Vlasenko. But the guys continued to skate, they endured, worked, created new programs, participated in competitions, showed themselves to the judges and public. And at the beginning of the 2017/ 18 season they made a quantum leap; the couple hit the target with their free dance "Carmen", getting a slot at the home Grand Prix event. At the Russian Nationals they won a small bronze for their free program. This interview was taken in St. Petersburg, after the Nationals.

What goals did you set for this competition and how did you manage to accomplish them?

Betina: It was our first Nationals, we needed to show ourselves, to declare ourselves, and we coped with it.
Sergey: We performed almost everything, not counting small mistakes, and we are fully satisfied with our result.

What are your future plans for this season?

Betina: At the moment we have no definite plans, this will be decided by the coaching staff. Perhaps, we will compete in the Cup of Russia final, maybe we will take part in some series B competition. If we do not go anywhere, then we will begin preparations for the next season.

Let's return to the beginning of the season. Whose idea was it to use the "Carmen" music for your free dance?

Betina: It was the idea of Ksenia Gennadyevna and Ekaterina Valeryevna, our coaches. They have found this image for us. At first we tried to dance with a completely different music, reggae themed. It did not work at all, nothing came out... And at some point they came to the training and said: "That's all, you will skate Carmen!" The first reaction was: "Wow, this is a twist! Where is reggae and where is Carmen! "But then all of us were inspired by this idea.
Sergey: We liked the "Carmen” theme, we came to training so happy! We really got a 100% hit with these images.

How do you feel about these roles?

Sergey: Convenient, comfortable.
Betina: Fine, this is the most convenient program in my entire career. I do not need to play, to invent anything. The music is so charged that the movements happen on their own, organically, from the inside, from the heart. We enjoy this dance so much!

Your pair was formed not so long ago, you are new partners for each other. How difficult was it for you to start skating together?

Sergey: Quite comfortably, we found an approach to each other at some particular moment.
Betina: Like everyone else, we got used to each other's characters, movements, nothing unusual. At the beginning there were some problems with technique, because we have completely different schools. Sergey changed many coaches during his career, and I trained with only one coach, Ksenia Rumyantseva,  all my life. Therefore, we did not escape technical problems on the first steps. But in the end we were able to find a golden middle, convenient for both of us. In general, I would say that the skating process is completed, we feel comfortable together. Sergei admirably suffers some my improvisations during the performance of the program. (laughs).
Sergei: Yes, Betina likes to add suddenly somewhere a new hand or leg movement, a new head turn. Sometimes it happens during competitions... I need to adjust very quickly!

This is the pair skills when the partner feels it when you start improvising in programs?

Betina: Sergey feels me very well, in this aspect he is great!
Sergey: I do not have a choice (laughs).
Betina: Yesterday during the free dance, in a lift, I decided to add a new hand and head movement. Sergey stood, as if there was nothing new, as it should be like this! He is the most reliable partner ever!

Please tell us a little about your dance group. There are several pairs at almost the same level. How does this competition affect the quality of practice?

Betina: Yes, there are 3 master pairs and 3 junior pairs in the group, and the competition within the group at each level is quite high. This sparring, of course, spurs us. Our group mates are working, we are working. Every day we have mini-competitions in our training, it helps us to grow.
Sergey: In a certain way it charges us for the struggle, forces us to look for something new, motivates to work even more.
Betina: When you're the only couple at the practice, it's not so interesting. But when there are many couples, and all of them are at the same level, of course, the pairs follow each other, internal competition gives an additional stimulus.

What are the relationships in the group?

Betina: I cannot say that we are one family and we all are friends. We have simply a working relationship in the group. We are not a team, but just a dance group. Each pair exists in its own comfort zone. There are also conflicts between couples, and among masters, and among juniors. This is a standard working situation for us.
Sergei: In short, we are constantly in the atmosphere of small local competitions, where all are rivals. No one will help anyone.
Betina: We rival in everything, absolutely. Whose music will be the first, who will be the first on the ice ...
Sergey: Who will be the first to occupy the place to sleep. (laughing)

And how is the training process going, how much time does the choreography, physical exercises, ice practice last?

Betina: We practice choreography every day, one hour after the morning ice training, which lasts 1 hour and 15 minutes. Then we have a short break, the second ice training session and after that 2-3 times a week we have physical exercises. Plus we do 30 minutes jogging every day.
All sports practice ends in the first half of the day, after which the second half is completely free for our creative activity.
Sergei: Someone is working, and someone is sleeping, it depends on fatigue. Half a day of intensive training, and then I prepare for the next day (laughs).

You guys are very emotional.  How passionate are your workouts?

Sergey: That's exactly how they are, passionate, explosive!
Betina: We quarrel loudly, but very quickly we make peace. From the outside it looks probably strange - we shout at each other, and after a minute we are already laughing. Sometimes we even fight!

Tatyana Tarasova said that all pair skaters fight.

Betina: Yes, that really is true! Let them not think that we are all so cute. Even if there is love in the pair, we have such pairs, all the same, during training, no one can avoid hassles. Something does not work out, we become a little bit crazy, because everyone is trying to accomplish a task better, so sometimes it comes to a fight. The main thing is to treat this with calm, with understanding that these are just working moments.
Sergei: We just do not take these quarrels seriously.

And who is first to give in?

Sergei: We have this happening somehow at the same time.
Betina: It looks like we splashed out our emotions, and then quietly joined hands, smiled and continued practicing.

Apparently, it's called "to find your partner".

Betina: Yes it is! Because it does happens that partners shout at each other and then spend half of training skating at different sides of the rink. We don't do this, and it is great!

You still have a lot of free time. Do you spend it together or do you rest from each other?

Betina: We rest from each other. We spend enough time together during the first half of the day, then everyone has his own life.
Sergey: I work with children, I train them in a joint school of ballet on ice with my friends. I spend the rest of the time with my two dogs. In general, it takes all my free time.
Betina: And I am engaged in creativity - I sew, I draw.
Sergey: Betina has a very creative personality -  she writes poetry, paints pictures.
Betina: They are futile, but it does not matter. Just to splash out all my accumulated emotions in some other form than in training. For example, on a canvas or a piece of paper. I also sew sometimes. For example, at the beginning of this season, I had to sew dresses for the control skating in Sochi during just two nights. And I realized for myself that it would be nice to develop this skill to know for the future that I can sew a suit for myself in case of force majeure.

Now you only need to learn the man's suit sewing, and you can relax.

Sergey: And to open your own tailor's workshop!

Well, this is quite a good idea for the future, after the end of your sporting career. There are such examples.

Betina: Why not, it is not necessary for every skater to become a coach; we can find ourselves in other areas close to figure skating.

Do you have any ideas for the next season?

Betina: At the moment there are no ideas, absolutely. It is necessary to find a theme that would not look weak after "Carmen", but to be different from it. Also, I'd like it to be something interesting for the public.
Sergei: It should be a program as good as "Carmen", on the same level, but preferably even higher.
Betina: Our strong point is good interaction, a sense of partner, as it was in last year's blues. It's happening now in "Carmen". There is chemistry, passion in our programs.
Sergey: I would like to develop this theme, to show the interaction, the feelings in our new program.

What would you like to say to your fans?

Sergey: Thank them for being our fans!
Betina: When we skated the first season, we got a lot of negativity. It was not very pleasant to read, especially as some people wrote in my personal pages in social networks. So I want to say a big thanks to everyone who supports us!
Sergei: And leave be those people who do not like us, it's not interesting without them, our sports anger disappears. We will also skate for them, and try to improve the result!

After the end of the World Championships, news about Anjelika Krylova's move back to Russia and coaching in Moscow spread all over the figure skating world. Betina and Sergei were the first couple who announced their transfer to a new coach.

From Betina's Instagram message:
We were happy to work with Ksenia Rumyantseva and we are very grateful to her. Our results are completely her merit.
Now we go further, taking a new step in our career, having found better training conditions and ways for evolution as professionals.
Soon we'll start in a new group. To work, to work and again to workÂ…

That work now is in progress. Programs are choreographed, the theme of their new free dance will be Bulgakov's "Master and Margarita", that is definitely not weaker than "Carmen". Hope to see it soon during the test skating in September.
Let's wish Betina and Sergei the best of luck in their new start!


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