Ice Network

Vasiljevs endearing himself to fans worldwide

17-year-old captivating audiences with immense talent, radiant personality
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Just 17 years old, Latvian skater Deniss Vasiljevs has captivated figure skating fans around the world. -Getty Images

Now training in Switzerland with Stéphane Lambiel, Latvia's Deniss Vasiljevs is rapidly making a name for himself in the senior ranks. In just his second season, and one year removed from finishing 12th at last year's European championships, Vasiljevs increased his notoriety by delivering a rousing short program at the 2017 European Figure Skating Championships.

In his own unconventional way, the 17-year-old was kind enough to spend some time with icenetwork to discuss his career and the way he continues to develop.

Icenetwork: How did you choose the music for your program, which suited you so well during your short at the European championships?

Vasiljevs: It was Stéphane's idea. I love rock music, and I like to express myself, but we decided that I would express myself even more with rock 'n' roll. It's more personal to me. "Voodoo Child" is something different -- very rhythmical and unusual. We tried it on the ice, and it was clear to both of us that I would skate to it.

At the same time, I had never performed to rock music before, so it was a huge step forward for me, trying to take something different. I took the risk, because I loved the piece and it was different.

My musical tastes are evolving. I used to listen to either rock or classical music. Now, I'm listening to more peaceful, yet powerful, things, like the Yoshida Brothers. I'm trying to show my own musical choice, moving very freely and trying to be strong in my body.

Icenetwork: What would be your dream program?

Vasiljevs: Let me do two quads in my short, a triple axel and all Level 4 elements in a program that will raise the applause and enthusiasm of the audience. That's what I'm here to learn. I want to be the best. I'm a very easy person, as you can see. I want nothing but the best.

In all seriousness, I try to become better and better and to win myself. I hope to stay with that motivation to do everything perfect and become someone. I love training with Stéphane for that reason: He pushes me and motivates me to do the best. That's exactly what I am looking for.

Icenetwork: You obviously give a lot of attention to your jumps but also to every step of your program. How do you balance your training between the various dimensions of your skating?

Vasiljevs: I love both jumping and the freedom of skating. Actually, I believe skating is much more difficult than jumping, at least in my opinion. You have to feel the movement and understand how it works. It's hard to train. Designing a single step sequence requires that you work on a maximum curve, with a precise inclination of your body and at high speed. It will be much harder than learning a jump, I believe. Everybody focuses on jumps, but there is a lot more.

Since I've been practicing with Stéphane, I've been more curious about figure skating as a whole, and I've tried to work more on the little details. I've worked a lot on how to make steps and spins as perfect as possible. I'm glad it showed.

Icenetwork: You seem to be quite interested in footwork. Is there a particular reason for this?

Vasiljevs: Absolutely. When I was young (Vasiljevs turned 17 last August), I started developing my own step sequences. I have defined nine combinations of turns, which could lead to a Level 4 step sequence. At home (in Switzerland, where he trains), we may spend some complete practice sessions working only on steps. I realized after practicing that it enhanced my skating skills at the same time.

Icenetwork: Where did that interest come from?

Vasiljevs: When I was a junior, I was not such a great jumper. I was making mistakes most of the time. I won points mostly because I was skating better than anyone else. My strong side is that I love to skate and I love to perform.

Icenetwork: You land a very pure triple axel and strong combinations. Are quads on the horizon?

Vasiljevs: They are in the process, and I'm learning them. They are coming. Once they are stable, you'll see them at each competition. You know, when I like something, I feel so attached and addicted to it that I can't get rid of it. It's like Swiss cheese: I would eat some all day long, but my coach doesn't let me. He says I need to learn moderation.

In fact, I should be happy with what I get. As a junior, I sometimes had the feeling that you needed to be Asian to skate in the last warmup group. They were amazing. Now I am skating at the Europeans, and I'm not a junior anymore. Nonetheless, I'll be happy to skate in the last group Saturday.

Icenetwork: The audience already took notice of your performing abilities in Boston at the 2016 World Championships. What is it about your style that appeals to the audience?

Vasiljevs: Skating is a good part of my life. No, skating is my life. I love it, and I enjoy every moment. I love the energy the crowd gives me. I love to feel that they are joyful when they watch my skating. That's a huge happiness for me. The purpose of figure skating is not only to win but to draw people into your routine and emotions.

To me, skating will never be a full sport you can measure by a distance or speed. There is an artistic side to it, just like ballet. Everyone can make his or her own uniqueness, which makes it even better. A skating performance can't be all walking and jumping. Everything has to come together, much like a story.

Icenetwork: As much as you like skating, the creative process is one you hold a passion for as well, is it not?

Vasiljevs: Oh yes! I love to create, I love to dance, and I love to draw. I do a lot of things, actually. I'm interested in many different activities. I love to express myself in multiple ways.

Icenetwork: Is there anything else you'd like to add?

Vasiljevs: Yes. We need to tell everyone to enjoy life, every moment of it. It's the most important thing.