‘It is a celebration:’ Boikova and Kozlovskii want a place at Beijing 2022 – for starters

The pairs team from Russia will be part of a fierce battle from that nation for three spots at the coming Olympic Games. They spoke about their goals, programs of choice, and more. 

By Nick McCarvel & Ekaterina Kuznetsova
Picture by 2021 Getty Images

“This is way too close!” says Aleksandra Boikova, laughing in her playful response but still with a seriousness about it, too.

She’s addressing the fact that 100 days to the Olympic Games Beijing 2022 landed on Wednesday (27 October), and the Russian pair figure skater – with partner Dmitrii Kozlovksii – is not only hoping to be there, but to contend for a coveted medal.

“To me it is [a] celebration,” Boikova says in Russian, in an interview with Olympics.com and translated into English. “Just even getting to the Olympics.”

“It’s important to understand that, to qualify for the Olympics for the [ROC] team, it is necessary to go through the most difficult selection because the domestic competition is very tough,” adds Kozlovskii. “There are many pairs with the world-class level in our country, and we still need to go through the serious natural selection, if I can say so.”

Boikova laughs: “Oh my, you are talking about it like it's some Hunger Games!”

Boikova/Kozlovskii were the 2020 European champions before the pandemic hit, and 14 months later, at the World Championships in 2021, they were in first place after the short program.

But a nervy free skate left them wanting, and instead of them, it was another Russian Skating Federation (RSF) team – Anastasia Mishina and Aleksandr Galliamov – that won a world gold.

Asked what they had learned most from the previous season, they replied:

You need to trust yourself,” Kozlovskii, with Boikova adding: “And believe in yourself.”

They believe they have found the right vehicles for the Olympic season, with a two vastly pieces of music in “Swan Lake” for the short and the Latin-written and vibrant “Malaguena” for the free skate.

I think Dima and I can convey passion,” she said, recalling their James Bond-themed free skate from the past two seasons. “For me it was such a stylish, cold passion, a bit detached... Then here in Spanish program, on contrary, you can let the emotions out, this Spanish, Italian kind of passion, where bright colours are born. And that's why this program is so festive, it should give people joy and a sense of celebration. We will try to embody this with every competition more and more.”

Boikova/Kozlovskii were third at Skate America 2021 in the first Grand Prix of the season, placing behind Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov (of Russia) as well as Japan’s Miura Riku and Kihara Ryuichi.

They’re next set to compete on the Grand Prix circuit in mid-November, at the Internationaux de France.

And while Russian nationals and the European Championships in December/January will be the final call for which ROC teams head to Beijing, the competition is fierce: At least four teams are contending for just three spots – with another two knocking on the door, as well.

Here, a discussion with Boikova and Kozlovskii – conducted in Russian and translated – as they set out in the Olympic season. The interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Boikova and Kozlovskii: Olympic-sized trust

Olympics.com: What would going to the [Beijing 2022] Olympics mean to you?

Kozlovskii: The fact that you have the opportunity to represent [your country] at such a major sports tournament... very little can be compared to the Olympics, to such a global sports event. That's why [qualifying] is already an outstanding achievement in itself. But we're still maximalists. So we would like not just to participate in the Olympic Games, but we would like to represent our country with dignity, if we have this opportunity.

Olympics.com: Do you have a first memory of the Olympic Games?

Kozlovskii: My very first association with the Olympic Games is connected to Evgeni Plushenko. Because you know, when I was a kid, I remember his beautiful victory in Turin [2006], then in Vancouver [2010]. These were my very first impressions of this Olympic [world], from that big victory.

Olympics.com: Pairs is such a difficult discipline. How have you developed the trust between you in your skating?

Kozlovskii: I'm actually imagining it, can you imagine how much she trusts me? Can you imagine my responsibility and how carefully I should be approaching my professional path, when a person gives me that kind of trust?

Boikova: Good job. [Touches Kozlovskii’s face]

Kozlovskii: I try my best. [Both laugh]

Boikova: We didn't have a problem with it from the very beginning, we trusted each other.

Teaming up - and staying at the highest level

Olympics.com: You joined together after each skating singles, in 2015. What was that like? How did you develop as a team?

Kozlovskii: We studied in parallel and developed in parallel. We had to learn how to skate together and [get] used to each other. It's not easy, it's a very time-consuming process.

Boikova: It is very difficult and I now remember how [former skater] Sasha Smirnov called us husband and wife because we were very emotional when we skated together and that's why they called us husband and wife.

Kozlovskii: The type of husband and wife who have been together for 30 years... [Laughs.]

Olympics.com: Now you’re at the highest level of the sport. How do you stay motivated and focused to stay in that position… even when you have little control over what the final result will be in competition?

Kozlovskii: These emotions are hard to convey. Especially when the victory is well deserved and you know you've come a long way to achieve it and you've overcome yourself. … It is an unparalleled emotion.

Boikova: I would love to add, it's also the love of the fans, because especially during global international competitions...You are being viewed and recognized by such a huge amount of people. … And when you do your job well, a big audience gives their energy to you and you're being fed with that energy, it's really cool.

Kozlovskii: This energy boost that happens at major tournaments is a truly unique event. Each of them is different from another.

Aleksandra Boikova and Dmitrii Kozlovskii
Picture by 2021 Getty Images

Mental health, Federer and goal-setting

Olympics.com: There has been a lot of conversation around athletes’ mental health. How do you take care of your own with the pressures you’re facing?

Kozlovskii: Some responsibilities that you have to fulfill not only to yourself but also to your country, coaches, other people who have invested it you. This is all not easy, not everyone can handle it. I can say that in addition to training physically and being responsible about that, an athlete should also take a responsible approach to his mental rehabilitation and recovery. Our mental capacities tend to get worn out. Therefore, if athletes don't engage intensively and in depth with their own psychology, then they will feel low mentally.

Boikova: For me mental health is first and foremost important, it's peace and some stability. What helps me restore it? Probably cats on the internet. [Laughs.] Every day I watch cats on the internet.

Olympics.com: Dmitrii, you’ve mentioned being passionate about tennis – is there one player who motivates you more than any other?

Kozlovskii: [Roger] Federer, without any other options.

I can tell you his game is just art. The most beautiful game ever. And of course I'm inspired by it, and as an athlete I'm inspired by a man of 40 years old and he's in the [world’s] top ten. So of course Roger Federer is probably the number one tennis player for me. Also I am very fond of football, cheering for Real Madrid and it's never been a secret. I support this team both in grief and joy. That's why there are some moments that inspire me both as an athlete and just as a person.

Olympics.com: Clearly it is a big season with big goals around the Olympics, but how do you achieve those global aspirations from an everyday perspective?

Boikova: There are always little steps that lead to the big goal. It's important to remember your end goal but also concentrate on the way towards it. You need to go towards it, but with these little steps.

Kozlovskii: This is different for everyone. For someone concentrating on the small steps works, for some on the global goal in front of them... Then the little steps are easier to approach. So it's all individual again.

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