Michal Brezina: "My task at the Olympics is to be a support team for my teammates"
February 4, 2022
By Titanilla Bod
Photos © Titanilla Bod, Iana Saveleva
"Real people!" That was the reaction of Michal Březina when he entered the mixed zone at the Europeans in Tallinn after his clean free skate. "All year I'm talking to computer screens, it's so refreshing to see real people!"
Michal is one of the two skaters, who already competed in Tallinn twelve years ago. (The other one was Allison Reed.)
Back then, a 19-year-old Březina showed fearless skating and surprisingly ended up on 4th place. Twelve years later, now a father, he skated to a Bryan Adams medley which somehow wrapped up his career. At the end of his last free skate at the Europeans, Michal kneeled on the ice for a few seconds, trying to take everything in and remember all the special moments.
In the mixed zone, he talked to the journalists about his actual feelings and Tallinn memories, as well as Olympic ambitions.
You took some time after your routine before you left the ice. What was on your mind?
I wanted to take the energy in, I wanted to remember the feeling, the emotion. I just wanted to get everything from the rink. People were great, they were clapping the entire program. That definitely was something I wanted to remember. So I wanted to take my time and let it in.
You skated a clean long program, though without a quad jump. When did you decide to skip it?
In the morning of the free skate. I probably should have done that for the short as well. I didn't feel my rhythm, my timing since I got here. Something just felt off, and I couldn't fix it. If I had more time, it would have been easier to go for a quad, but I landed on Monday night, on Tuesday I had practice and on Wednesday I skated. So it was a pretty easy decision, to skip the quad and go for a clean long. I wanted to end my last Europeans with a good feeling and good memories. At the end of this program I felt a little bit emotional. It was clean, everything was there, except that one revolution. The last spin was a bit funky, but I'm happy with the way I performed the program. I'm happy with the feeling I had when I skated. Everything just felt fun, I enjoyed what I was doing. And that's the most important thing about a competition.
You also competed in Tallinn twelve years ago. Did you recall something from the Europeans in 2010?
I have to say I don't even remember last Europeans. Twelve years ago is a very long time. It's just great, even twelve years after, being here and being able to compete.
I remember interviewing you twelve years ago and you were very surprised that you finished fourth.
I was! I had no expectations. I think that's what was great about that: when I was younger, at the first couple of Europeans I had no expectations. I just wanted to come here and show what I can do. Sometimes I got frustrated when I didn't get the points I thought I should have. But when you are nineteen or twenty, you get that feeling. You don't realize that it takes hard work and a lot of preparation and years of skating and skating to get there – for example, where I am now, twelve years later. The one feeling I definitely remember is being super happy with the way I skated. Just like today. I did a clean program twelve years ago, I did a clean program today and it just felt great. Every time we do a clean program – and it doesn't matter whether we do six quads or no quad – we always get a great feeling.
This season you are skating to a Bryan Adams medley, and some of the lyrics really fits the situation that this is your last season. Did you connect it intentionally?
Not really, but the more I hear the lyrics, the more sense it makes. The way we landed on this program with Shae-Lynn [Bourne] was definitely not intended this way. It was kind of a coincidence. I wanted something softer, little bit more lyrical, but Shae-Lynn didn't have the same opinion. She felt I needed something that had a little bit more drive, that wasn't so – don't take it wrong – boring. I'm not used to skating to soft music, I never did. And since she knows that, she knows how I operate and what gets me going, she was like: "Let's try this". And she sent me Bryan Adams. I listened to couple of songs and I was like: "This is great, let's do this!" She said: "That's good, because I know him and I can get some ideas for the program." That was kind of like: "Wait, what? You know Bryan Adams?" But he is Canadian, she is Canadian, they did a show together. So we put this program together and every time I hear it on the ice, it's just fun.
And what was Bryan Adams' contribution to this program? What was his advice?
I don't know, I never talked to him. She just told me she knows him and if he saw this program somewhere, he would probably feel great. Because as she told me, she doesn't remember anyone having skated to Bryan Adams, unless it was a show. So it is also taking some pride in knowing it. But I just like the music, the feeling that the music gives. Never really thought about the lyrics contributing to my last season.
It says: "Those were the best days of my life." So, which were the best days of your life?
My career was always kind of up and down. It was never either a steady climb or a steady decline. It was always like: one season was good, one season was bad, one competition was good, one competition was bad. And I feel like the music in the long program also goes with that. It's just the way you take the lyrics: it can mean one thing or it can mean the other thing. So it literally depends on how you feel. And I have to say this competition definitely summed up my career. In a bad a way and in a good way.
But there is still Olympics…
Yeah, but this is my last Europeans. And I wanted to show, that even though it's my last one, and it's my fourteenth one, I still belong here. As for Olympics… I'm not twenty anymore. I don't have the expectation going into the Olympics and fighting for a medal. I thought in 2012 and 2014 that it was possible. Now it's more like the old Olympic saying says: it's not important to win, it's important to participate. In my case it's going to be making sure that my teammates have everything they need to win. Nathan [Chen] is going to be there, Mariah [Bell] is going to be there. I'm just going to enjoy my time, enjoy my skating and be the support team, so he can bring home the gold he deserves.
How do you see the chances of Nathan?
Well, you probably saw Nationals, and it was not even his best skate. He fell, which is rare, seeing him fall, even in practice. Knowing what he is capable of and seeing him practice for the last two years I don't wish anything but him winning. If there's anyone that deserves to win the Olympics, for the way he works, and for his determination, it's definitely him. I don't know how anyone else trains, what they do, but purely from watching him on the ice every day and putting two hundred percent into what he does, it's just something out of this world. I've trained with people my whole life, that were European champions, world champions and Olympic medallists, and I've never seen in my entire career that determination that he has. It's really out of this world. One role plays his mum, she wants just the best out of him, one role plays Rafael [Arutunjan, the coach of Nathan Chen and Michal Březina] who prepared him for this. It's a long road, it takes very long time to get someone ready to be an Olympic champion. It doesn't just happen in one year. If there is anyone that deserves to win purely on the way he trains and the way he fights for everything in training, in competition, it is Nathan.
The Czech Republic participates also in the team event in Beijing. You and your sister Eliskka will also take part in it. What are your feelings about it?
It was always my dad's dream to have both of his kids at the Olympics. And in the probably last year of both of us skating, this dream came true. It definitely feels great that I'm able to share my last Olympics with my dad. I think it's going to be that much more emotional, knowing that we both made it, and my dad's going to be there, and that it's probably going to be the last time when we are all going to be at a competition with both of us skating.