Is it possible to find a more unpredictable form of figure skating than men’s singles? Junior men’s singles. The guys take the lead, grow up, then disappear, they fight not only with rivals on the ice, but also with their own problems, and all without exception are actively developing their potential.
In the 2021/2022 season, Nikolai Ugozhaev won the silver medal of the Russian figure skating championship, and a year later the youth took the lead, those who are now 13 years old. But at the end of this season, the lutz quad returned to the skater, and all the other quads began training.
In an interview with Championship, Nikolai recounted how growing up influenced his jumps, shared his impressions of participating in the only international start last season, and also dismantled Ilya Malinin’s quadruple axis.
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“At first it was clear to me that the quadruple axel is a super-difficult jump, and now he does it like his usual quad”
How did your path in figure skating begin? – I was sick, and my mother decided to take me to the skating rink to toughen me up, and then it went on and on. It started working fine right away. I started competing in local competitions mainly, I was always in the top three. We did not have many children in Novosibirsk then, there were two more people my age. At the age of 10, I realized that I needed to move on, I had to switch to triple jumps, so we decided to move here.
— Why Saint Petersburg and not Moscow? Peter liked it immediately. From a financial point of view, it was more convenient and I immediately liked being here. In Moscow, before that, I was passing through, the rhythm of the city was already knocked out, in St. Petersburg it is calmer.
– A year ago you were a silver medalist of the Russian championship and since then you have changed a lot – at least you have stretched a lot. – During this time, I have grown a lot, then my height was about 170 cm, now – 180. I changed my image, became stronger, it became easier to jump. Previously, muscles lagged behind in growth, one might say they caught up. Now the growth has more or less stopped, the muscles have recovered and I am in probably the best shape of the season. At first, the muscles have not yet reached the desired conditions. Thank you very much to the coaches for this season, I am very grateful to them for their work.
Photo: Dmitry Golubovich, Championship
– Did the strong growth somehow affect coordination? Maybe you had to re-ride some jumps? – There were no obvious problems, I just suffered a little for a couple of days, and then everything was back to normal (laughs). The quad lutz got better as he got older. This jump requires a lot of strength, so when more strength appeared, it was possible to spend more, and the lutz became more stable. The first time I jumped it was in 2021, but then it was still very small, weak, so as soon as I learned it, I “forgot” it almost immediately.
I suffered in a sheepskin coat for a long time, I don’t know why. One could just skip lutz, as it turned out. But it was worth it, now I can jump almost all the quads. In training I picked up everything except the axel, of course (laughs).
— Is it possible to add an axel to the collection? – If you want to jump the quadruple axel, you need to work even more in the gym and do general physical training, and then, perhaps, in six months you can get closer to the first twist.
– That is, not even to travel, but simply to enter the jump? Yes, it’s still too complex.
– Even if you perform this jump on a fishing rod, does it take a lot of strength? “It is still very difficult. It seems like only half a turn to add to the quadruples, but in reality they are very complex. Even the transition from three and a half to four is not as difficult as from four to four and a half. This is almost the limit of human capabilities, as it seems to me. But what will happen next, no one knows, we must analyze the situation.
– Performed by Ilya Malinin, this jump looks pretty easy. – It has a natural touch better than all the others. It also has a jump-friendly texture. I think he trained the quadruple axel a lot, from the first more or less proper spin in the jump to the start, it seems to me that he trained him for a year, and this season he’s doing well. Not always, of course, but he often has good tries. At the beginning of the season and at the end, it’s almost two different jumps. He started to make it much more stable, and the quad axel stopped looking like something complicated. At first it was clear to him that it was a super-difficult jump, but now he does it like his usual quad.
Photo: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
He also learned the technique very well, I think. He has a good relationship with the stopper. If I jump even a triple axis from the “plug”, then most likely it will fly in the wrong direction. I have a “plug”, but a small one, if I jump like Malinin, I just won’t push myself. Arseniy Fedotov, for example, jumps the shaft without a “plug” at all, makes it fly.
“The whole season was lovely Shoma Uno, he won everything that was possible”
– Do you have enough competition in the group now? – Yes, we are constantly trying to contact Petya Gumennik. It’s a milestone to strive for: jumping, sliding, in everything. Andrey Kutovoy is also a good sparring partner. He is good for the younger athletes when there are tops in the group, there is always something to strive for. They see with their own eyes how to jump, peek at the tiles, details of jumps, rotations. It’s good to have motivators around.
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– This season you managed to take part in the international start – the Russian-Chinese Games. What do you remember about them? “The organization was very good, everyone was very kind. Of course, it is difficult with masks, but there is experience. Was there nowhere to go? The truth is that I didn’t really feel like it, I’m not a big fan of going out for a walk, I’m more used to relaxing in my room. The products were interesting, and the prices, to put it mildly, were very low. If you take the same Snickers, the Chinese one is twice as cheap as here with us.
Everywhere there were inscriptions in Russian and English, in the dining room everything was in Russian, in the rooms – so everything was clear. The volunteers are cool guys, they weren’t good at speaking Russian, but they tried (smiles).
– It turns out that you did not manage to see the city (the Russian-Chinese games were held in Changchun. – Approx. “Championship”)? – It was necessary to drive far enough to the skating rink, about half an hour. The city is empty, there was not a soul on the street. All mostly in personal transport, empty buses go. We didn’t get to see many things, but when we went, we could see the city, everything is in the skyscrapers. This is the north of China, it was quite cold, but there was no snow.
– Did you manage to follow the international season? – Yes, I closely followed almost all the big tournaments. Mainly for singles and pairs skating.
Do you remember anyone in particular? – The whole season was charming Shoma Uno, he won everything that was possible, Ilya Malinin, of course, was remembered for his jumps. At the European Championships, Matteo Rizzo and Adam Xiao Him Fa gave life skates. Adam has a masterpiece short film, for me one of the best of the season. In men, the level was high and was maintained. With our guys it would be even higher, but not fate. I remember Lucas Broussard, Nikolay Memola as juniors: they can be considered half of us.
“In 2014 I saw the race once and fell in love with motorsport”
– Did you have any idol in your form, who would you like to emulate? “The first was Yuzuru Hanyu. Then when I was older I started to like Patrick Chan, all things sliding and shows. Hanyu was and still is the same, but somewhere in second place, in terms of jumping and understanding the show and music, I want to match him. Nathan Chen is a benchmark in terms of jump and program stability.
– When setting up the programs, choosing the music, do you show initiative or do the ideas come from the choreographers? – Yes, I chose tango for the free dance. I saw how Syoma rolled, she said: “We must try to pass.” She passed by, and they said we’d shoot it. So the choice of music turned out to be quick and obvious (smiles). And the same with the short of this season: she offered “Shape of my heart”, she said: “Let’s try, we’ll see.”
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– When Nikolai Moroshkin talked about staging a short program, he noted that you love mathematics. He was not joking, do you really like this topic? – Yes, mathematics has always been easy for me, it was easier than other subjects, there were stable fives. Russian for the exam stopped, two years of hard work with a tutor are paying off.
– Many skaters are now receiving an education that is far from sports. Have you ever thought about connecting your life with something other than figure skating, doing something else at the same time? – If in parallel with sports, then maybe some car racing, but there are no budgets (laughs). I want to be a coach, I like it, sometimes I already suggest something to the little ones on the court.
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Is car racing your main hobby? Do you follow Formula 1? – I am a fan of many car races – if I start listing everything, it will drag on for a long time (laughs). I watch a lot of things, I follow all the Formulas from Formula 1, IndyCar single-seater racing, NASCAR, drag racing, all the GT3 championships, GT World, GT World Sprint… I even read the technical regulations in English once with a translation.
How did you get into this hobby? – In 2014, I watched the race once and fell in love with motorsport. I also like skiing, not mountain skiing, but running cross-country. I don’t follow figure skating, of course, but I try. I follow tennis a lot, but above all I follow the results: Medvedev, Rublev, Djokovic.