Ice Network

Ten ready to compete at worlds after bumpy season

Kazakhstani skater back on track following injury woes, program change
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Kazakhstan's Denis Ten says he is doing better after being forced to withdraw from multiple competitions due to undisclosed injuries. -Getty Images

This season has not been easy for Kazakhstan's Denis Ten. Early on, the Olympic bronze medalist had to withdraw from the 2015 Autumn Classic International due to injury. He went on to compete at 2015 Skate America and 2015 Trophée Éric Bompard, coming away with disappointing results. Things looked up when he won the 2015 Golden Spin of Zagreb in December with 276.39 points -- the sixth-highest total of the season -- but then had to withdraw from defending his title at Four Continents, again due to injury.

Icenetwork had the opportunity to speak to Ten before the start of the 2016 World Figure Skating Championships. Despite the injury woes and a program change, the 2015 world bronze medalist says he feels better and is ready to compete.

Icenetwork: Skating fans will certainly be excited to see you compete at the world championships. Can you please tell us about your recent injury?

Ten: I want to thank everyone for supporting me at this interesting time. I don't think it's quite necessary to go into details regarding my health. Athletes are subject to injuries and it's a natural occurrence.

I returned to the Toyota [Center] last week; I'm doing better. I've been training, pushing the limits and I'm ready to compete.

Icenetwork: You decided to change your free skate after Golden Spin, which you won. What drove that decision? Did you select the new music from Romeo and Juliet on your own? Is it difficult to change a program in the middle of the season?

Ten: It was a challenge to change the program during the season, but I've never done it before. But, at the same time, it became an interesting experience. Despite the program being a creative process, it is still a competitive element. I have goals that I want to achieve with it.

Icenetwork: When and why did you decide to add another quad -- the quad salchow -- to your free skate, as you did at Coupe du Printemps? Are you planning to perform a three-quad free skate at worlds?

Ten: I performed in Luxemburg [at Coupe du Printemps] just as part of my training. It was the first time since the injury that I started working on quads and performed the program with music. I had goals from the beginning of the season and, unfortunately, a lot of things didn't go according to plan, but it's still my journey and an interesting experience.

My goal is the 2018 Olympics, and I'm ready for any situation at this stage of my career. In the free skate, the idea of three quads never disappeared, so I trained the sequence with confidence in January and wish to implement it moving forward.

Icenetwork: You entered the 2016 Team Challenge Cup as the leading man for Team Asia. Are you looking forward to this new event?

Ten: The Team Challenge Cup is a unique event for the whole figure skating world, and I fully support the idea of organizing an innovative competition. This is a historic step in developing our sport and it will be an honor for me to participate in the first championship of this kind.

Icenetwork: You will team up with another world-class skater from Kazakhstan at the Team Challenge Cup, Elizabet Tursynbaeva. What do you think about the progress she has made, and what does it say about the growth of figure skating in Kazakhstan?

Ten: I first heard about Elizabet Tursynbaeva in 2011. By then, I was already based in the U.S. and did not follow the progress of young Russian athletes. Elizabet's family is from Russia, and at that time, they expressed their willingness to represent Kazakhstan for the first time. They represented Russia before that. I think that Kazakhstan's progress on the international stage has given her the opportunity to fully use her potential, considering the phenomenal level of competition in Russia.

I'm really glad to hear about her success, and I think she has great potential, even though it's just the beginning of her career. I'd be glad to be of any help to her in the future, and I'm just happy that Kazakhstan's national team can compete consisting of more than just one athlete. I hope that this is just the beginning.

Icenetwork: Your bio lists photography as one of your interests. What drew you to this medium? Do you want to try and make a career out of photography when you are done skating?

Ten: I'm into many things. My mind often likes to surprise me, so that's why I threw away the idea of taking breaks from the sport, unless I decide to quit. It's just that, in this case, there is a risk that I might not come back.

I was drawn to video and photo production since I was a child. In general, I was always dedicated to one day becoming a director. I wrote scripts and shot short films with friends. But today, my way of thinking has really changed; I like to follow different things like technology and innovative financial products. When I don't train, like when I'm injured, I have time to think about things not relating to sports.

Then the craziness begins -- I form a list of commercial things that I can realize. In music, I try to find the style of music that I write the best. Also, my sister, who's convincing me to start writing a book, inspires me to write. So I do that sometimes as well. As for photographs, it's nothing more than an experiment I do once in a while. A lot of my friends are actresses, models and other creative people. Sometimes, when we meet, I always have something to say, but if there are things that are impossible to put into words, the camera is there to help.

Icenetwork: You're also working toward your MBA, with a concentration on the oil and gas industries. What interests you about this area of study? How do you plan on using this degree in the future?

Ten: When I was in school, I always wanted to study at the Kazakh-British Technical University. It is one of the best and most prestigious universities in the country. But the idea of studying before the Olympics was not very reasonable. I had my first meeting with the university chancellor a few years ago, but back then I was not multi-tasking as much as I am now. But during that period, I got a degree in sports science.

When I began working on my MBA, I only wanted to broaden my knowledge spectrum. Kazakhstan is one of the leading oil and gas producers, so I chose this direction based on some facts. And, in business, I'm getting experience organizing things like the ice show and other private projects with friends.

Icenetwork: Could you share a bit of your plans for the offseason? Are you doing your ice show in Kazakhstan this year?

Ten: I have some plans for the summer. Maybe, this summer, I'll decide to participate in a few shows. I have plans regarding my own ice project, but it's too early to talk about. In general, I have plans for a few very interesting projects for the figure skating community. These will take time -- maybe years -- but I hope to present them in the near future.