Maiia Khromykh on her Winter Olympic dreams: ‘I plan to fight and not give in’

The 15-year-old is part of Eteri Tutberidze’s training group, but has an uphill battle to try and grab one of three ROC spots at Beijing 2022. She spoke to Olympics.com exclusively.

By Ekaterina Kuznetsova & Nick McCarvel
Picture by Sergei Bobylev/TASS

Maiia Khromykh is one of up to seven figure skaters in the running for the ROC’s three-woman singles team for the upcoming Olympic Games Beijing 2022 in February.

The 15-year-old made her senior Grand Prix debut earlier this month, skating to a silver medal finish behind reigning world champion and training mate Anna Shcherbakova at the Gran Premio d’Italia in Torino.

She has a quadruple toe-loop in her repertoire, and said she’s working on stabilizing her quad Salchow (which she's competed with before) – as well as trying to add a triple Axel into the mix.

The teen heads to the Rostelecom Cup this weekend (26 & 27 November), where she’ll aim for another strong performance ahead of the pivotal Russian national championships in December. She also still has a shot to make the exclusive Grand Prix Final in Osaka, as well.

MORE: Previewing the Rostelecom Cup in Sochi

She spoke exclusively with Olympics.com, discussing Olympians she looks up to, what training with Eteri Tutberidze is like, how she’s motivated to go to the Games and much more.

First Olympic memories - and meeting Alina Zagitova

Olympics.com: What is your first memory of watching the Olympic Games?

Maiia Khromykh: I watched the Olympics for the first time in 2014 – Sochi. Naturally I only watched figure skating because I wasn't interested in anything else. And my first memory is about [the Russian] pair Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov. I was a big fan of their programs and I really liked them before [the Olympics]: How they skated; performed their elements. And I wanted to be like them.

Olympics: What about the 2018 Olympics, where Alina Zagitova and Evgenia Medvedeva competed. Did you watch that?

Khromykh: That competition was shown at four or five in the morning... at this point I was asleep, [but] as soon as I woke up, I immediately went [onto my] phone watching all the results and was very happy for Alina and Zhenya. I re-watched their programs several times...

Olympics: At that point in time, were you training with them? Or you didn't know them personally yet?

Khromykh: It was during the Olympics that I moved to [train with coach] Eteri Georgievna [Turberidze]. But since she was at the Olympics, I spent a month just training with this group and as soon as she arrived... [then] the work started.

First I met Alina Zagitova. We were doing our warm-up at the gym and after we started stretching. So, we had a few people sitting there. Our topic was pets. She was and she remains [to be] very humble and calm, and a very nice person to speak to.

Olympics: Who inspires you the most now and why?

Khromykh: Well, right now I'm probably inspired by [Olympic gold-medal winning gymnast] Nikita Nagornyy. I really like to follow his progress as he won the Olympics in the team competition. At the same time, he manages to keep up with Instagram and YouTube. It amazes me.

Olympics: Do you have a favorite quote or a motto for life?

Khromykh: Probably not a quote, but more the words that I learned through my personal experience: 'The result is the outcome of my work.'

Looking up to... Nikita Nagornyy

Olympics: What makes you smile every day? Something that you feel grateful for?

Khromykh: Every day I smile because of my dog who - as soon as I wake up - she runs to me and starts asking for attention. We lay together usually [in the mornings] and I pet her. She enjoys it and so do I.

I am grateful every day for the fact that my whole family and me are healthy. Everything is well despite some disappointments or bad luck that also happens. But the most important thing is health.

Olympics: Let's imagine a holiday dinner table. You can only invite three people. Who will they be?

Khromykh: The first person is Nikita Nagornyy. Because he's so hilariously creative. I think it would be nice to meet him. The second is the singer Billie Eilish just because I'm a fan of her songs; I can listen to them infinitely, and I love the fact that she always stays herself. And a third person... probably the [Italian] band Måneskin. I like their songs, and they're also so open-minded and funny. And I love the way they bring themselves to people.

Olympics: Your dad is involved with hockey as a coach in Russia. How has that influenced the choice of how you got into the figure skating?

Khromykh: When I was little I was very energetic. At home I was constantly dancing, jumping, running. Next to our house we had a skating rink. So I didn't have to go far to do figure skating. The fact that my dad is a coach [well] we were all at the same rink - his team was there, and figure skating too. I think it influenced that choice for me.

Khromykh on Tutberidze: 'Her training process is very different'

Olympics: We've touched on the topic of you moving to train with Eteri Tutberidze in 2018, but what was that like when you joined the group? There are obviously so many talented skaters who are a part of it.

Khromykh: It was very exciting at first. I thought that Eteri Georgievna was some kind of alien; I felt a bit afraid. But after the first training session, I really liked it because, she and her energy... she gives it out to everyone on the ice, and everything starts falling into place right away and makes you want to go and get it.

Her training process was very different because it felt calmer [than I expected]. You come to training, you have to understand what you need to do. Everything that has to be done is based on your own self-awareness. The coaches certainly help, [but] you know you need it.

In my previous trainings, the process differed. It was very active and had a lot of exercises.

Olympics: When you say, 'You know you need it.' What do you mean by that? And what drives your passion for the sport?

Khromykh: First of all, I really like to feel like I'm flying in jumps, especially during the quadruple jumps. It's hard to describe it in words. I just love gliding, skating on the edge... When I go to the competition, I get a huge high and want to train and train for [that moment].

Olympics: Do you have a memory of when you joined the 'quad club'? How did it make you feel?

Khromykh: Of course, it was when I jumped the first quad at the Russian Cup final [in early 2021]. I was so focused on making that jump happen that I didn't even realise it. I mean, very few thoughts ran through my head. I didn't fall, but I had to go do the next jump, too. And it was important to complete the program so I didn't focus on anything else.

And then a couple of days later I realised that I had finally done them. It didn't work for so many years. And then I started to analyze why it didn't. I tried to understand the reason. In the end it's a problem in my mind, a barrier I couldn't overcome. It's all about the training process.

Olympics: You have a very different height to other skaters, you are very tall – well, for a skater. In what way do you think that impacts your skating, if at all?

Khromykh: Well, I don't worry about it; it doesn't prevent me all. I don't know the sensations when you aren't tall, so I feel like everyone else. It doesn't seem to have any effect on my jumps or skating at all.

Maybe it's something special, but it's not for me to say. I didn't even think about it.

Khromykh on staying balanced - on ice and off

Olympics: The internal competition at your training rink, does that motivate you or stress you out?

Khromykh: Of course, in some moments it helps and motivates you not to relax. When we're all in the same training session, someone jumps a quad, then the next one goes and jumps a quad, and then the next. You get so much adrenaline from that!

Olympics: There has been a lot of attention for your training mates Kamila Valieva and Daria Usacheva. Have you been more comfortable performing as a dark horse? The less expectations the better?

Khromykh: I don't even know how to say it... I have a goal to do my job and everything I can do, and whether there is a lot or no buzz around me... I don't even pay attention to it. I even sometimes delete social media during competitions so I am not really aware of some things happening. (Laughs.)

Olympics: Is the dream of getting to Beijing and the Olympics something you think about?

Krhomykh: Definitely, yes.

I think every athlete dreams about it because it is the highest award in sport and how can you not dream about that?

Olympics: You have the quad jumps, of course, but what is the most important thing in figure skating for Maiia Khromykh? The program components, the jumps?

Khromykh: For me, jumping and composition are very important because you can jump well but still lose your rotation, or skate badly. And a girl who will make a good rotation and the steps can beat you with components and because of that you can lose.

That's why both jumps and composition are very important. I can't choose one.

Khromykh eyes adding the triple Axel

Olympics: Beijing and the Olympics are drawing nearer. How will you fight for a spot on the team among a field of up to seven skaters who have a chance to go?

Khromykh: First of all, I want to learn triple Axel. Because without it, it will be difficult to fight for getting into the Olympics. But in general, I plan to fight and not give in.

I want to stabilize [my quadruple] Salhow and include it into the program, too.

[With the triple Axel], there have been attempts... I've been training it every day. Now during the Grand Prix season I had to stop training it, but there were a couple of good tries before that. It's already getting close... I hope it works out.

Of course, there is this realization [I could go to the Olympics], but when I start thinking about it... I start losing my head, because it's so cool!

Olympics: What are your hobbies away from the ice and your time training?

Khromykh: I love creativity very much. I love painting, putting together a diamond puzzle. I already have a bunch of paintings that I was given for my birthday. I love to dance sometimes at home.

Olympics: Four years ago, did you already think of making it to Beijing? Alina Zagitova won her Olympics at 15.

Khromykh: Back then it seemed like something unbelievable to me. [At that point], I couldn't even imagine doing that as a junior; it felt like it was something very special. We recently spoke with Kamila [Valieva] about this: How we were so small, participating in big events... how we fell and tumbled.

And now we're going out of being juniors and into adulthood and it is... time flies very fast.

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