A resurgent Mikhail Kolyada: This is just the beginning 

The two-time Russian figure skating champion ends title drought and is hopeful that coaching change will pay further dividends

By Sven Busch

Mikhail Kolyada is back.

The PyeongChang 2018 figure skating team silver medallist looked pleased after winning the third stage of the Russian Cup in Sochi on Saturday evening with a total score of 283.44 points.

It was his first victory since taking the Tallink Hotels Cup in Tallinn at the beginning of February 2019.

“It might sound mundane but I will say this: There is always something to work on. There were mistakes but Alexei Nikolaevich (Mishin) and I know where to go,” a resurgent Kolyada told reporters. “And we are on our way.”

Performing a free skate by choreographer Ilya Averbukh for the first time, he hopes that the end of his title drought also marks the beginning of even better things to come.

Next up for the 25-year-old is the Rostelecom Cup (Nov. 20-22) before the Cup of Russia concludes with the fifth stage (Dec 5-8).

A new beginning for Kolyada

Kolyada, who already looked good at the Russian test skates last month, switched from his longtime-coach Valentina Chebotareva to Team Mishin in the offseason, and the move seems to be paying off.

"The free program is getting better and better with every skate. It's part of me," he explains without sharing any details of his new partnership with the coaching guru:

"What exactly is this work? I will not reveal all the cards. I learned a lot from Alexei Nikolaevich, it is interesting to work with him."

Mishin has been working with Kolyada since June. The 79-year-old led Olympic champions Evgeni Plushenko, Alexei Yagudin and Alexei Urmanov to greatness, and he has proved knows how to polish a skating jewel.

But what prompted Kolyada's move?

"When you have been skating under one coach for 20 years like I did with Valentina Mikhailovna (Chebotareva), you know her style inside and out," the two-time Russian champion was quoted by goldenskate.com. "Now everything is completely new for me - a new group, new ice and new environment."

"It is interesting for me that Alexei Nikolaevich (Mishin) looks at me with a fresh eye, is noticing sometimes things that I hadn't even thought about why I am doing it like that."

Trying times

Rewind to the summer of 2018 when sinusitis began to bother him. The problem persisted, massively impacted his performances, and the 2018 World bronze medallist eventually decided to have nasal surgery on 31 October of last year.

However, the recovery process did not go as planned forcing him to miss the start of the 2019/2020 season.

Kolyada was cleared to start training again at the beginning of January.

"Why did it take that long? Because the nose is a very sensitive spot and it (the surgery) was not very pleasant," he explained to ifsmagazine.com. "The recovery took a very long time. The doctors told me that I needed to be careful. I should not jump the gun and that it was better to take a bit more time and wait so there would not be any complications."

Well rested, motivated and focused, the two-time European bronze medallist felt ready to make up for lost time but then the Covid-19 pandemic hit bringing not only the figure skating world to a standstill.

Kolyada who is the first Russian skater to perform a quadruple Lutz in international competition needed to be patient.


Sweet victory

All this waiting made his winning return in Sochi even sweeter.

Kolyada looked in sparkling form and physically in great shape. His opening quad toe-triple toe combination and following quad toe wowed the crowd. As did his mix of power and elegance in harmony throughout the free skate.

A small step on a triple Axel towards the end of his routine shows that there is work to be done.

But Kolyada is happy to be working again. And he is here to stay.


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