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World champions on debut, Mishina and Galliamov don’t take anything for granted: We 'could end up in first or tenth'

In an exclusive interview, the surprise pairs winners at March’s figure skating world championships credit hard work for their success after a hiccup at Russian nationals – and “We Are the Champions.”
By Nick McCarvel. Interview conducted by Tatjana Flade

Not since 1986 had a pairs team won a world title on debut, when the legendary duo of Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov did so. They would go on to win two Olympic gold medals.

In March, Anastasia Mishina and Aleksandr Galliamov matched that feat at the ISU World Figure Skating Championships, the team – representing the Russian Figure Skating Federation – leaping from third place to first and setting themselves up to be one of the favourites for the coming Olympic season ahead of the Beijing 2022 Games.

“We had strong competitors that skated well,” Mishina told Olympics.com in an exclusive interview conducted in Russian. “It is twice as nice also since we did not expect to win. We were third after the short program and ... we understand that the results could have been very different. There were enough top teams competing and you could end up in first or tenth place.”

Compatriots and training mates Aleksandra Boikova and Dmitrii Kozlovskii ended up with the bronze medal having led after the short, while two-time world champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong captured the silver medal.

Another Russian Figure Skating Federation team, Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov, two-time world medallists themselves, were fourth.

The victory capped a meteoric rise for Mishina/Galliamov, who only started to skate together in 2017 and claimed the world junior title in 2019 ahead of their debut on the senior Grand Prix circuit.

While they are now undisputed world champs, their spot at the coming Winter Olympics isn’t assured, as the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) will send three pairs and the duo finished fourth at nationals this past December. Boikova/Kozlovskii, Tarasova/Morozov, as well as Daria Pavliuchenko and Denis Khodykin are all part of that conversation too.

Below is the transcript from their exclusive interview, conducted in and then translated from Russian following their victory in Stockholm in late March. The interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Olympics.com: How do you feel now about winning the world title?

Anastasia Mishina: We got a lot of congratulatory messages and calls. It was very nice to receive congratulations from people that we have not seen in a long time, but who watched us on TV. It is nice how our fans supported us from afar. Even though the fans were not at the event, we felt their presence.

I would like to take the opportunity to say a huge thank you to Anton Sikharulidze (2002 Olympic pairs champion), one of the founders of the club where we train. He helped [make sure] Tamara Nikolaevna (Moskvina) has a club that offers us excellent conditions and he supports the preparation of the athletes. We also want to thank [previous coaches] Liudmila and Nikolai Velikov and their whole team. They gave us the basics; even more than that. Their input into our result is very big.

Olympics: How did you feel at your first World Championships?

Mishina: All high-level international competitions are great, because except for the exciting competition, we get to know other cultures, with people from other countries. That is very interesting. They not only train and prepare in a different way, they also communicate in a different way. Their life is different and that is very interesting for us.

Olympics: Did it really feel like Worlds? Alexandra Trusova said in an interview that it felt like a test skate.

Mishina: Yes, indeed, I felt the same way, because there are no spectators, and all the other skaters that we have known for a long time come together to watch. Maybe we were even lucky that our first Worlds was without spectators, because we didn't feel tension. There were our coaches, some athletes and that was it.

Aleksandr Galliamov: There were lot of different impressions. As there were not many spectators, it was kind of very calm, but on the other hand, there was not that support that we would have liked to have.

Olympics: How nervous were you at your first Worlds?

Galliamov: Each athlete feels nervousness in a different way. I talked to other skaters and they really feel something. Maybe something is happening, but when you go out to compete, then it all goes away and you just enjoy skating your program to your music. Maybe it was unusual to go out without spectators and it was a factor, but we went out without any mental blocks in the free and skated great.

Mishina: We were glad that we skated first in the warm-up group in the short program. We didn't even have time to think about something or to get nervous. We were called to the start right away and skated.

Mishina: 'Fourth at nationals pushed us'

Olympics: You were in third place following the short program and you knew that you have a chance for a medal. What impact did that have?

Mishina: Obviously we knew we could keep that place, improve, or fall out of the top three. The main goal was to skate well. We did set the goal to do everything in an ideal way, we just wanted to do it well, without major errors. Also, it was our job to remain calm, not to be nervous and do everything without panicking.

Olympics: How was it for you to watch the performance of your training mates Boikova and Kozlovskii?

Galliamov: We came to see the second part of the program. We saw that she made an error on the throw jump, but we hadn't seen that she missed the jump combination. We didn't know that.

Mishina: We only saw the technical score on the screen and that it was bit lower than usual. We understood that we could win, but also that maybe we won't win. We were sitting there and waiting and were hoping...

"The first five seconds or so we didn't understand that we won. We looked at each other and were like, ‘What? We won?’" - Anastasia Mishina on crowning moment at Worlds

Olympics: Looking back at the season as a whole, how do you feel about it?

Galliamov: There were some positive and even great moments – like now – but also some negative moments. After Russian nationals, where we didn't skate so well and I was a bit sick, we thought about how to stay healthy, not to fall sick, and how to take care of our health and preparation, how we need to approach the competitions.

Mishina: This fourth place [at nationals] pushed us, because the first part of the season went well and maybe mentally we relaxed a bit. After the failure at nationals, we started again to work very hard and regained our position, got back into shape, because at Russian nationals we weren't in our best form, although we were well prepared.

Bold choices: Coaching change and free skate music

Olympics: Exactly a year ago you changed coaches [to Tamara Moskvina and Artur Minchuk] and you said it was not easy. How did that process go? How did you decide to switch?

Mishina: I don't remember when the idea came up first, but we discussed it and thought about it for quite some time, individually and together. We came to the conclusion that it is worth trying. We were not sure that it will be a positive step, but we thought it is better to try than not to try. Therefore, we decided it together. We also got some advice from our parents. They are taking part so much in our skating life that we thought they'd give us useful advice, but the decision we took ourselves.

Olympics: How do you describe your development in this past year?

Galliamov: Last year, or in the past, we paid a lot attention to the technical part of the program. In this season, we paid a lot more attention to the transitions and the second mark. It is important that all details of the program are right: The music, the choreography... and we wanted to make a little theatrical performance out of the short program, which worked out.

Mishina: We did not change a lot our technical content compared to last season, and therefore we had more time to work on the choreography, on details such as little interesting lifts and transitions.

Olympics: Who suggested your music?

Mishina: Maria Bakanova, a friend of Tamara Nikolaevna, suggested the short program [La Esmeralda]. A big thank you to her, because this music suits us very well.

Galliamov: Alex Goldshtein re-arranged the music and added some instrumental part to it and modernized it. We really liked our long program, too. We started with the Bohemian Rhapsody, because we liked this music. However, at the beginning, we had only "We Are the Champions", but [only] this as the free program [was] boring. ... Therefore, we thought we needed another part. Alexander Zhulin right away suggested the Bohemian Rhapsody during the choreography process. He switched it on and saw that the music works for us and it all came together well. So we decided to continue with this and Tamara Nikolaevna and Alexander put the music together.

Olympics: You were not shy to skate to "We Are the Champions".

Mishina: At the beginning, maybe, it was a bit embarrassing. At first the music was without lyrics, but during the season we realized that the original sounds better. Not just because there are lyrics, but it is just more powerful.

Olympics: What is the most valuable experience you take from your first Worlds?

Galliamov: The experience proved, once more, how to approach the competition the right way, from the preparation until you go out to compete. Next time we'll know better how this all comes together at an event. Pressure is something people make up themselves and it sits in their heads. We should not think about that.

Mishina: I also realized that not everything has to be perfect a competition. The preparation might be a bit off, a bit unusual, but it does not affect the competition, we nevertheless need to pull ourselves together and do what we have prepared.

Olympics: What are your plans for the future?

Mishina: Our coaches are already looking for choreographers.

Galliamov: Our task is to listen to the choreographers and to pick it up quickly and then to perfect it. It is clear that at least one lift will be different, because in the short program the group is changing and we need to learn another lift. That is something to work on.

Mishina: We can also think about new elements, maybe not for the next year, but just for future.

Galliamov: Yes, some elements are interesting for us to learn, for example some new pair elements, because figure skating is developing.