Ice Network

Sotskova feels confident ahead of Grand Prix debut

Talented Russian aims to be competitive among top skaters in the world
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Russia's Maria Sotskova continues to grow on the ice as she prepares for her Grand Prix debut in France. -Getty Images

"Maria Sotskova made a serious step in the development of her skating, and she is now able to provide strong competition to the leaders of ladies singles figure skating," said coach Elena Buianova, to whose group Sotskova moved this summer.

Sotskova recently won her first senior international event at the 2016 Ondrej Nepela Memorial in Bratislava, where she outpaced 2014 European champion Julia Lipnitskaia. In addition to that triumph, she also finished ahead of Olympic champion Adelina Sotnikova and 2015 world champion Elizaveta Tuktamisheva at the 2016 Russian Championships.

"I think she is absolutely competitive on the senior level," Buianova continued. "As you know, a transition to the senior level is not an easy thing. There is an absolutely different atmosphere as well as different requirements. We all worked together in order to make Maria strong and competitive, and she became so -- and not just technically but emotionally as well."

Icenetwork talked with Sotskova about moving to a new coach, her recent success in Bratislava and her thoughts on the coming Grand Prix Series.

Icenetwork: In the offseason, you decided to leave Svetlana Panova's group and moved to CSKA skating club in Moscow in order to work with Elena Buianova. Tell us about this decision.

Sotskova: This decision was very hard for me because for 13 years I worked with Svetlana Panova. However, I felt that I needed to change something in my life, and I decided to take this important step in my career.

We easily found a common language with her and immediately went to work. Elena is an excellent specialist who works at a high level, and I quickly became comfortable in her group. Now I work with older and much more experienced skaters, like Adelina Sotnikova. This greatly boosts your performance and gives you really strong motivation.

Icenetwork: Which aspects of your skating do you hope to improve upon with a new coach?

Sotskova: We've worked very hard on everything but paid special attention to my step sequences. We also worked through every gesture and every glance that I showcase in my programs.

Choreographers Irina Tagaeva and Maxim Zavozin work with me every day. We are working on everything. In our group, there is no situation where a skater works alone on the ice. We rehearse everything together and, as a result, we have a continuous workflow.

Icenetwork: This season you will compete on the senior stage, although at your age you still could skate one more year in juniors. What led you to the decision about moving to a higher division?

Sotskova: I competed three seasons in junior skating and, perhaps, I felt that it was time to take the next step. But our national team and the skating federation saw that I can represent the country in the senior division, which was a major reason for my decision.

Icenetwork: You have successfully competed and performed well this season, particularly at the Nepela Trophy, where you took gold. What are your impressions of your season thus far?

Sotskova: Well, my short program at Ondrej Nepela was not as successful as I planned, but in the free skate, I gave a good performance and received decent scores. Now we'll work even harder on the short program because we're more aware of what exactly needs additional work. And, of course, my long program, where there are some details that need to be polished. In general, I work on improving my programs all while preparing for the next competition.

Icenetwork: In Bratislava, you presented your new programs, both of which are set to the music of Alfred Schnittke. Tell us about how they were created.

Sotskova: Both of my performances are set to Schnittke compositions: "Agitato" & "Waltz of Farewell" in the short and "At the Manilovs" in the long program. My coaches and I liked both compositions from the very beginning. However, when I learned that the author of the two pieces of music is Schnittke, I was a little alarmed because it may look a bit strange. But my coaches convinced me that it was a good idea to give it a shot, that my free skating will be a continuation of my short program and that everything will turn out well.         

So, I decided to trust my coaching staff, and it appears that was a very good decision. I hope that when I improve my performances even more I will be able to fully convey the messages of these pieces to the audience.

Icenetwork: This offseason you worked with renowned choreographers Peter Tchernyshev and Nikita Mikhailov. Tell us about these experiences.

Sotskova: It was very interesting to create programs with these wonderful teachers. Peter has a very unique approach to his work, and I certainly benefit from it. He makes all the movements with the music and does not work if the music is turned off. All his movements are designed precisely to the music, and it was an extremely interesting experience to work with him.

Icenetwork: Next month you will be debuting in the Grand Prix Series in France and Japan. How are you preparing for the series and what do you ultimately want to achieve in these competitions?

Sotskova: I would like to come to my first start in the senior Grand Prix in France being well prepared. I want to appear there in good shape and to show everything at a high level. We have a lot of work to prepare for this tournament, but I'm pleased with my direction.

I'm also going to compete in Perm, at the Russian Cup, where I want once again test both performances and make sure I'm 100 percent ready for the 2016 Trophée de France.

My next Grand Prix event will be in Japan, which is my favorite country, so I'm definitely looking forward to participating there. There are always numerous fans who strongly support the skaters and create the perfect atmosphere for each competitor.