Meet Aleksandr and Mihhail Selevko
December 15, 2023
By Ayaka Okumura
Photo © Kasumi Nabikawa
Aleksandr Selevko is a three-time Estonian national champion (2020-2022), and his younger brother Mihhail is a two-time Estonian national champion (2019, 2023). They both attended the 2023 NHK Trophy, marking the first time two brothers competed at the same Grand Prix event. Thanks to this opportunity, we caught up with both of them in Osaka to discuss this Grand Prix, their summer camp in the US, coaching experiences, and their goals.
How did the NHK Trophy go for you?
Aleksandr: To tell the truth, I was not prepared that well because I didn't expect [to be invited to] this competition. But overall, it was not bad. And the main thing that I like is the audience here. I really love Japan and the Japanese audience.
Mihhail: For me, the short program was good, definitely, and I'm very happy with how it turned out, but the free skate didn't go so well. Still, I really enjoyed it. Also, like my brother said, skating in front of this audience was absolutely amazing, and the venue here is fantastic as well. Overall, I really enjoy skating in Japan.
For both of you, this is your second time competing in Japan. The first time was at the 2019 Worlds for Aleksandr and at the 2023 Worlds for Mihhail. How different is it from the competitions in other countries?
Mihhail: I would say it's the audience. In most countries, figure skating is not as popular, I assume. When you see this crowd cheering and supporting you, skating and experiencing such a response from the audience is an incredible feeling. Also, Japan is very different from Western countries. When we come here, it's an entirely different world. A very beautiful one, too.
There were so many Estonian flags. Did you see them from the ice?
Aleksandr: I was very happy to see so many flags and fans cheering for us.
Mihhail: It was very unexpected.
Did you have some time to enjoy Japan? To walk around, taste some new food, or do some shopping?
Mihhail: Not as much as we wanted, but we have two more days, so we're planning to. We have today and tomorrow as well, so we want to explore Osaka and maybe somewhere else, like Kyoto.
Aleksandr: We have a lot of time to enjoy Japan, so we will think about something.
Is there any specific Japanese food that you like?
Mihhail: I tried curry for the first time, and it was very good. I liked it a lot.
Aleksandr: I like ramen and mochi.
Let's go back to skating. What will be your takeaway from this event? What are you planning to work on towards your next competition?
Mihhail: I definitely want to work on consistency and concentration during the program. So my biggest takeaway would be to concentrate specifically on these three or four minutes when I'm skating the program, trying to give my best. It doesn't matter how the practices or six-minute warm-ups go; the most important thing is the competition itself.
Aleksandr: I think the most important work will be to clean my program because of a lot of small mistakes where I lost a lot of points. Another thing to work on is the quad toe loop because I fell on it in the short program and under-rotated it in the free, and it's not so good. I don't know what happened, but I must fix it.
You have been doing quad Lutz, but now you're doing more quad toe loops. Any reason behind that?
Aleksandr: It's hard for me now to jump both. Another reason is that I have pain in the leg, and I can't jump Lutz too many times.
Tell us more about your preparations for this season and the summer camp in California. How did it go?
Aleksandr: It was great; I loved our training, and the atmosphere was fantastic because there were many skaters performing at a high level.
Mihhail: We gained a lot of motivation, and there was this competitive feeling in every practice. We were all trying to push ourselves and keep up with the others. It was also very interesting and informative. We took away a lot from that camp. Overall, it was very, very nice.
Are you planning to go back next year?
Mihhail: Yeah, definitely!
Is there any possibility to train there for a longer period, or will it just be for the summer camp?
Mihhail: We may visit during the season, maybe this season or the next. We're still deciding about that. But I definitely want and hope to go there more often.
You both have been coaching kids recently. How did it start, and do you plan to continue this as your future career?
Aleksandr: I am currently attending university, so I don't have a lot of free time. But when I do, I feel the need to do something productive, so I started coaching. I initiated it and then asked Mihhail to join me. Now, we are coaching together, and we have two groups!
Mihhail: Yes, I started helping because during the competitive season, someone needs to assist. Although sometimes both of us go to the same competitions.
Aleksandr: This season, we attended all our competitions together, except for the Grand Prix Canada, where Mihhail was alone. So, due to competitions and our practices, we can't be there to coach every time [it's needed].
How do you like coaching?
Mihhail: It's challenging, for sure, but it's really rewarding to see those kids grow.
What do you think about the development of skating in Estonia? Is the Estonian skating community growing?
Mihhail: It's definitely been growing recently. We have many talented skaters from Estonia, and there are still quite a few juniors as well. It looks promising. We hope that this growth continues. Estonian figure skating has made significant progress in the past few seasons, which is great to witness.
Estonia has hosted several major events in the past few seasons, such as Junior Worlds, Europeans, and even unexpectedly, Four Continents. Do you want to see more of these big competitions in the future?
Aleksandr: I think, yes, but there is one problem. When we have a big competition there [at the Tondiraba Ice Hall in Tallinn], we don't have access to the ice, and we can't practice. We lose a lot of practice time because of that.
Mihhail: I would say another problem is that in Estonia, we don't have a lot of people attending the competitions. Most prefer to watch online. Not sure why exactly; perhaps it's a lack of advertisement. But definitely, there is not as large an audience as in other countries. Also, organizing these big competitions is very challenging. It would be nice to have competitions in Estonia, including major ones, but it might be a little difficult.
How is it for you to practice and compete as brothers? Is it good or bad to have a sibling who is also your rival?
Aleksandr: I think it's better for me to skate with Mihhail than without him. It's like a competition every day in practice; it's challenging. If he jumps something, I must do something similar or even better. I can't lose to him! It's like we have a small competition every day.
Mihhail: We definitely push each other to reach higher, to do better. If one of us achieves something, the other has to do the same or at least try. It helps to keep going and provides a lot of motivation. The downside is that at competitions, if one of us skates well, he is happy, but if the other one skates poorly, he also feels bad, so there are mixed feelings. It can become difficult because, basically, we get nervous for both of us, it's an additional weight, I would say. But it helps too because we support each other, so competing doesn't feel so isolated and lonely; we're in this together.
Aleksandr: During practices, we also support each other. If something is not working, we can notice each other's mistakes or propose a solution that may help.
And the last question: Do you have any specific goals you want to reach in your skating career?
Aleksandr: We have the goal of winning two medals at the same European championships. It's challenging, as [European] men deliver very strong performances. But we will work hard, and we will see.
Mihhail: Additionally, my goal is to establish my name, to showcase my best and demonstrate what I've been training for. I would also say that my personal goal is to land more quadruple jumps, including quadruple Axels. That's something I aim to achieve. However, the main goal is to try and showcase all I've trained for during competitions.
Aleksandr and Mihhail are competing this weekend at the Estonian Nationals. We wish both of them great performances and hope they enjoy this event.