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Stepanova, Bukin not satisfied with past results

Couple believes Russian dancers held to higher standard than others

Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin are looking to break out of their bronze-medal rut at the Junior Grand Prix Final.
Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin are looking to break out of their bronze-medal rut at the Junior Grand Prix Final. (courtesy of Alexandra Stepanova)

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By Vladislav Luchianov, special to icenetwork.com
(11/27/2012) - In recent years, a new generation of talented juniors has appeared in Russian figure skating. Some of them have already anounced thier presence on the international scene, particularly in ladies singles.

But junior ice dancing is also developing, thanks in part to the talented team of Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin.

Stepanova and Bukin debuted as juniors in 2010-11, winning both of their Junior Grand Prix events and qualifying for the 2010 Junior Grand Prix Final, where they took the bronze medal.

The next season, they continued their success by again winning both of their JGP competitions and claiming the bronze at the JGP Final. They followed that up by taking home silver medals from the 2012 Russian Junior Championships and the 2012 World Junior Championships.

This season, Stepanova and Bukin won gold at their Junior Grand Prix events in Turkey and Germany and qualified for the JGP Final, which will take place in Sochi, Russia, Dec. 5-9.

An interesting fact: Bukin is the son of Andrei Bukin, who, with his partner Natalia Bestemianova, is the 1988 Olympic champion, a four-time World champion and a five-time European champion.

Icenetwork.com talked with the Russian couple about their successes, sporting family histories and thoughts on this season.

Icenetwork.com: For the past three seasons, you took only first places in your Junior Grand Prix events. In addition, you're two-time JGP Final bronze medalists. What is the secret of such stability?

Stepanova and Bukin: We and our coaches also were surprised when we realized that we were leaders at all of our Grand Prix events. As for the JGP finals, unfortunately, not everything turned out well there. In our first season, we even didn't expect to be among the Grand Prix finalists, but we competed there and took the bronze medal. Last year, we had big goals for the Final but made a mistake in our short dance, which cost us a lot of points, so we were again only the bronze medalists.

Icenetwork.com: Comparing this season to the previous two, what are the main features of your team in this season?

Stepanova and Bukin: This season, we have more confidence in each other, in our programs and in general.

Icenetwork.com: Last year, you were also the silver medalists at the Russian Junior Championships and junior worlds. Does the fact that you are only gradually going into seniors have something to do with the fact that you have not achieved all of your goals in junior skating?

Stepanova and Bukin: Yes, we believe that we have still not achieved everything we want to in junior ice dancing and that it's too early to move into seniors. Also, there is no reason to hurry.

Icenetwork.com: You have skated together for six years. Tell us a little about the formation of your team.

Stepanova: I began to skate in St. Petersburg, and Ivan and I had friends in common. At those times, Ivan was looking for a partner and his parents knew about me through friends. One day, we decided to try. Since then, I live and train in Moscow.

Icenetwork.com: Ivan, having such a famous father as Andrei Bukin, you must be able to take something from his experience ... or you prefer not to talk about sports at home?

Bukin: No, the theme of sport gets plenty of attention. If we need some sort of help from the Olympic champion, he always helps us. We are always happy to listen to him and do as he sees fit.

Icenetwork.com: It is no secret that competition in ice dancing is very high, both nationally and internationally. How do you set out to beat the already-established teams in this sport?

Stepanova and Bukin: Yes, ice dancing is not simple and easy. The requirements and rules are constantly increasing and become more difficult. But we need to fight with ourselves and every day try to raise our level to "three heads" above.

Icenetwork.com: In a recent interview, your coaches, Alexander Svinin and Irina Zhuk, said that Russian couples have to skate not only 100 percent but even 150 percent in order to get the points they deserve. What is your opinion on this?

Stepanova and Bukin: Yes, it is so. In junior ice dancing, Russia has been ahead for a long time, and many foreigners don't like it. To some of [others'] mistakes, judges close their eyes, but to ours -- never. And this is right, in general: You need to skate 150 percent, and then, no one will doubt.

Icenetwork.com: In your opinion, how will ice dancing further develop? Will it become even more technical?

Stepanova and Bukin: Now we see that every year -- technique becomes more and more difficult, but we must not forget that ice dancing is first of all, dancing. So it's difficult to imagine what will happen next.