Ice Network

Past struggles only strengthen Bobrova, Soloviev

Russian couple emerges emboldened after enduring tumultuous times
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Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev's strong bond has helped the Russian duo rebound from past hardships, both on and off the ice. -Getty Images

Over the last two years, Russian ice dancers Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev have had more than a few reasons to end their competitive ice dancing careers, and even thought about that possibility on multiple occasions. The team experienced difficult moments, situations that could have easily knocked other skaters from the competitive arena.

The duo was forced to miss a chunk of the 2014-15 season due to Soloviev's knee surgery, but that procedure was just the start of their troubles. After claiming their fifth national title at the 2016 Russian Championships and taking bronze at the 2016 European Figure Skating Championships, Bobrova disclosed to the media that she had tested positive for meldonium, a heart medication that is banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency. As a result, the team was not permitted to participate in the 2016 World Championships in Boston.

Despite these difficulties, Bobrova and Soloviev never stopped believing that better times were on the horizon.

Sporting officials would eventually soften their decision concerning Bobrova's doping issue, and the Russians were able to resume their training, an occurrence that became a true turning point for the talented team.

Rejuvenated and inspired, they took gold at the 2016 Ondrej Nepela Memorial and followed that showing with a bronze-medal performance at 2016 Skate America. One week later, Bobrova and Soloviev celebrated their 16th season as a team by taking gold at the 2016 Rostelecom Cup, earning a new personal-best score and a spot at the Grand Prix Final in Marseille, France, in the process.

Icenetwork talked with the skaters about their difficult past, earning redemption on the ice and the new goals they've set for themselves.

Icenetwork: What are your impressions of the recent Grand Prix stages and how did it feel to earn bronze and gold medals at these competitions?

Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev: The first Grand Prix stage was difficult for us because it was the beginning of the season and we couldn't imagine how we would be evaluated by judges.

It's always difficult to compete in America. We have constant thoughts that it's extremely necessary not just to perform our programs correctly and clean but to be in great shape as well. Yes, we made some mistakes, which ultimately did not allow us to claim second place at Skate America, but we had a week before Rostelecom Cup to clean up those issues. Overall, we are very happy with the result and how we were evaluated by the judges.

Icenetwork: You were very dissatisfied with the marks you earned at Skate America.

Bobrova and Soloviev: Well, it was rather the dissatisfaction with how we performed our programs there.

Icenetwork: At the 2016 Rostelecom Cup, you earned 186.68 points. With such gaudy numbers, you can see why you'd be considered among the favorites at the upcoming European and world championships. Do you think about that sort of thing?

Bobrova and Soloviev: We believe it's too early to predict results for the championships because we have strong competition among the other ice dancing teams at the national level. And, of course, we cannot exclude the fact that this is a sport where anything can happen, because we are all human.

Icenetwork: Your team went through the drug suspension handed down by WADA last season. How did that occurrence impact your team entering the current season?

Bobrova and Soloviev: It was a big test for us. At some point, we began to realize that we may never hear our names announced at these competitive events. But, we believed in ourselves until the very end and fed off each other. It was hard to start the new season since we did not know what things were going to look like from a program perspective, but we were able to do it.

We ultimately decided to move on and immerse ourselves into one program. We thought that if everything turned for the worse, then we'd try to find something to do away from the sport.

Thank God the stars aligned and allowed us to continue our careers. We are very grateful to our coaches, relatives, friends, fans and everyone who supported us throughout those extremely difficult times.

Icenetwork: In the past -- most notably with Dmitri's injury and the doping scandal -- it seemed that bad luck always found you. Through all the tough times, how did you maintain focus and never lose faith in yourselves?

Bobrova and Soloviev: We are strong, and we became even stronger by overcoming those difficulties. They only hardened and strengthened us.

Icenetwork: When you compare this season to the previous two, what are the main differences you see in you two as a team?

Bobrova and Soloviev: Judges, coaches, other athletes and people who know us say that we have changed and have a renewed sense of accomplishment. This is certainly a huge step forward for our team, and we are very pleased to hear that we're not just changing but also improving.

Icenetwork: You've been skating together for 16. Can you recall some of the moments from your past that truly stand out?

Bobrova and Soloviev: You know, we have memorable moments almost every day, but the most powerful moments are related to situations when we overcome all difficulties, defeats and failures as one.

Icenetwork: What issues are you concentrating on the most in your preparation for the Grand Prix Final?

Bobrova and Soloviev: While not excluding working to improve our technique, we will work to ensure that our performances sound and breathe more. We'd like to hear and feel that we have improved even more.

Icenetwork: Tell us about your goals for the Grand Prix Final and for the remainder of this season.

Bobrova and Soloviev: Our objectives are simple: Achieving new ice dancing highs by improving the cleanliness and consistency of each program, down to the final detail.