Ice Network

Risky program structure paying off for Samohin

Israeli skater proud of country's success at European championships
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Daniel Samohin was impressive during his fifth-place short program at the European championships, which included two quads. -Getty Images

One of the major surprises of the 2015-16 season was the performance of the Israeli men's skaters at the 2016 European Figure Skating Championships in Bratislava, Slovakia. To the surprise of many, Alexei Bychenko claimed the first European medal for Israel (silver), while Daniel Samohin impressed with a respectable seventh-place finish.

Despite still competing primarily in the junior ranks, the 17-year-old Samohin showed that he already has the ability to contend with Europe's strongest skaters.

Prior to his success at the European championships, Samohin competed very well on the 2015 Junior Grand Prix (JGP) circuit, winning silver in Spain and Colorado Springs, respectively. He went on to finish fifth at the JGP Final. He also won gold at the 2015 U.S. International Figure Skating Classic and silver at the 2015 Mordovian Ornament.

Icenetwork spoke with the Lake Arrowhead, California,-based skater about his country's historical success at the European championships, as well as his own achievements, the importance of improvisation and his goals for the upcoming 2016 World Junior Championships.

Icenetwork: The 2016 European Championships were historic for Israel. How do you feel about being a part of it?

Samohin: Yes, I agree that this was a historic moment, and I'm very happy for our team and the federation in general. I consider my personal result as not bad, but I was hoping for a higher placement.

Icenetwork: It seems like there is a friendly and warm atmosphere among Israel's skaters. What do you think about that, taking into account that figure skating is an individual sport?

Samohin: You're right! We have a very healthy and friendly team atmosphere. I treat other members of our team more as friends than as competitors. At the same time, I understand that this is a competitive sport and try to act accordingly. I hope my achievements please my friends and rivals, because their successes make me happy. I am sincerely happy when my friends perform well or win but only if they do it in an honest and decent way.

Icenetwork: You captivated and surprised the audience in Bratislava with an original and technically strong short program, which featured two quads and a difficult step sequence. Please tell us about this routine.

Samohin: My parents are very fond of Scorpions and often listen to their songs. So, as you might guess, I was listening to them, too. Once we started working on music selection for my new programs, I asked my dad if we could make use of the Scorpions and he said, "Why not?" So we began to work on ideas, images, choreography, etc. Then my dad and (and my other coach and choreographer) Igor Pashkevich invented that step sequence, and my short program was ready. I did not expect that it would work so well, but I liked it very much and I'm very glad that people like it, too!

Icenetwork: The general wisdom is that performing an axel after two quads is very difficult. You take that risk, however. I take it that keeping a program simple for the sake of stability is not for you?

Samohin: Well, many, including specialists, note that during conversations. They say, "Daniel, you skate well and have a good technique. Why take risks? Just skate clean and nice, and take your medals." But you should understand that I compete in men's singles skating, and that risk must be in the blood of a man!

I want to get satisfaction from my performances, and then I can respect myself and my work. If I did it like others, I wouldn't be myself.

Icenetwork: Although not everything turned out well in your free skate at the European championships, many experts took note of the creativity and freedom in your skating. A famous coach, Tatiana Tarasova, said that there was a feeling that you were doing improvisation on the ice. What do you think about that and your Sherlock Holmes free skate in general?

Samohin: Yes, I agree with Tatiana Tarasova, who often notices things that few people see -- even the judges. Actually, that feeling of improvisation was the exact idea for my program. My coaches and wonderful choreographers, Olga Volozhinskaya and Igor Pashkevich, were thinking about it from the very beginning of us working on that program. We all wanted to make it look like a movie, when people are immersed in an image and no longer notice the actor and just think about the hero of the story.

But there also is a complexity, because you have to tell a story and not forget about the quads, triples, axel and all the rest. The viewer has to fall in love with Sherlock and believe him. I don't know if I succeed in that, but I tried very hard! And I'm deeply thankful to everyone who helped me.

Icenetwork: This season you received an invitation to compete in the Grand Prix Series but chose instead to stay in the junior series, where you competed very well. Was that a tactical decision?

Samohin: Yes, sure. We thought that it would be significant to perform in one of the Grand Prix events, but because it's impossible to reach the [Grand Prix] Final with just one assignment, we decided that it was far more important to reach it in the junior circuit.

Icenetwork: During the 2012-13 season, you competed at the U.S. championships in the novice category, finishing fourth. Why did you decide to change which country you represented?

Samohin: The fact is that my fourth-place finish at that tournament caused bewilderment among many specialists, but my parents and I were ready for it. They already had a similar experience with my older brother, Stanislav. Therefore, we all had long been accustomed to all sorts of strange things. No one should be offended; I respect their opinion. I fully admit that maybe some judges didn't like me and my brother. After all, it's a subjective kind of sport.

So, when my brother and I were invited to perform for Israel, we decided that it was better to compete where we were needed than to sit and wait for something to fall into place, not knowing when.

Icenetwork: Your family's business seems to be sports, with your father being a coach and your mother working as a choreographer. Is this an advantage for you?

Samohin: I would say this is an advantage but only in the general way of life. You know, since I was born into a sports family, it's my natural environment. However, it is also not easy. It is much harder to force yourself to do something when you're working with your family. But we learn to negotiate, and it seems to me that we're succeeding. I want to thank my father, mother and brother for that.

Icenetwork: Tell us about your goals for the remainder of the season.

Samohin: The main event for the remainder of the season is the 2016 World Junior Championships in Debrecen, Hungary. The plan is simple: I will try my best to perform no worse than the other skaters, and maybe even better!