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Menshov tries to move past tumultuous season

Skater emerges emboldened after controversy-filled campaign

The 2012-13 season was one of extreme highs and lows for Konstantin Menshov.
The 2012-13 season was one of extreme highs and lows for Konstantin Menshov. (Getty Images)

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By Vladislav Luchianov, special to icenetwork.com
(05/15/2013) - At the beginning of last season, Russian skater Konstantin Menshov had every reason to believe the upcoming campaign would be a successful one.

As it turned out, he was in for the most stressful year of his career.

He started by winning the silver medal at the 2012 Nebelhorn Trophy. He then finished fourth at both of his Grand Prix events, Skate America and the Rostelecom Cup. In December, he won the 2012 NRW Trophy in Dortmund, Germany, with an overall score of 238.63 points, outdistancing silver medalist Michal Březina of Czech Republic by more than 25 points.

Menshov took the bronze medal at his country's national championships, but the Figure Skating Federation of Russia chose not include him on the team that competed at the 2013 European Figure Skating Championships in Zagreb, Croatia. Instead, it sent 17-year-old Maxim Kovtun, the fifth-place finisher at nationals, who went on to place fifth at Europeans. The decision was within the federation's rules, which state that only the top two skaters automatically qualify for the national team and that the third athlete can be determined by the coaches' council.

Despite its legality, the decision caused great discord in the Russian skating community, as many felt it contradicted basic sporting principles. Top Russian skaters -- including Maxim Trankov, Dmitri Soloviev and Alena Leonova -- organized an Internet campaign in support of Menshov and signed an appeal to Vitaly Mutko, Russia's minister of sport, tourism and youth policy, to overturn the decision. Despite protests, the Russian federation voted to uphold its original decision.

In April, Menshov competed at the 2013 World Team Trophy. He placed third in the short program but dislocated his right shoulder during the free skate and had to withdraw from the event.

Icenetwork.com talked with Menshov about his thoughts on this past season, his disappointments and the health of his shoulder.

Icenetwork.com: How is your recovery period going?

Menshov: I've just returned from Nice (France), where we had a training camp, but for me it was more (about) rest and recovery. There, I first went to the ice after the injury. I've tried to skate very carefully and almost without working with my injured shoulder.

Honestly, I was afraid that [returning to the ice] could be far worse after nearly a month break, but in the second training session I felt that I could do a quadruple jump even if I hadn't had the injury. The doctors told me not to make any abrupt and sudden movements in the shoulder until early June. In general, the recovery is going well, but, unfortunately, the shoulder sometimes still hurts. So, I'll continue visiting the hospital in order to continue my recovery process.

Icenetwork.com: This season your name was one of the most frequently mentioned in the skating media, especially in Russia. I suppose that you would like it to be mentioned in connection with other events which are more directly related to the sport. How much emotional and psychological energy did you expend during this past season?

Menshov: This season wasn't a simple one for me, of course. After the Russian championships, when the decision was made about the national team members, and during the next several days, I couldn't believe that I was not going to the European championships. I had a hope that the skating federation could not do that. I think the season was going very successfully for me and I really could fight for the medals, and I believed in that.

It is very painful when everything falls apart. I thank the people who worried about me and supported me through that period. Thanks to them, it was easier for me to go through it all. But I think this event has made me stronger. Now I look at things differently.

Icenetwork.com: Taking into account your good start of the season, you most likely had high goals for the rest of it.

Menshov: It could have been my best season. At the beginning of it, I competed with top athletes and beat them. Just a year ago, I didn't believe that I could compete with the top skaters, but in this season everything changed; I gained confidence in my abilities.

I really wanted to go to the Europeans and compete for medals there. I was not sure about worlds, but Denis Ten showed that anything is possible.

Icenetwork.com: It seemed that after the controversial decision of the Russian skating federation, the worst should have been over. And then you suffered an unfortunate injury at the World Team Trophy. What did you think about that?

Menshov: I had the same injury four years ago, and after that, nothing like it had happened since, even after hard falls. I still do not understand how it could happen and how I should react to it. I don't want to see it as a 'fate' or something like that. Of course, it is very disappointing to be third after the short program and eventually have to withdraw without earning points for the team.

Icenetwork.com: Did that event carry any particular importance for you?

Menshov: Going into an event, I try not to think that something 'depends' on it. My goal is to skate clean and show all I can. All competitions are important for me, whether it is the championships of St. Petersburg or the world championships.

Icenetwork.com: How do you feel about the concept of 'sporting principle' and what do you think about its importance?

Menshov: Of course, sporting principle is very important. There is no sense at all to competing without it. But I understand that there can be exceptions. For example, if some top athlete was unable for whatever reason to compete at the national championships and this athlete is an absolute leader and contender for medals, then it probably makes sense to choose that person.

Icenetwork.com: Did you expect such great support from different skaters?

Menshov: Honestly, I didn't expect it. We already had such cases, but this was the first time it caused such a big resonance. I'm very grateful to everyone. I thank them very much.

Icenetwork.com: Next season will be the Olympic one. Do you think the Russian federation will be guided by sporting principle during the qualification for the Olympics in Sochi?

Menshov: I'll try to do my best in competitions, and the rest will not depend on me. But I think that our federation learned some lessons from this season. Let's wait and see.

Icenetwork.com: Given the events of this past season, has anything changed in your attitude toward sport?

Menshov: Of course, this season left an imprint on me. However, now it's easier for me to compete. Previously, I always felt that I owed something to someone, and now that feeling has subsided.

Icenetwork.com: How would you evaluate the past season in men's skating in general?

Menshov: Every year men's skating becomes more difficult. More skaters are trying to perform quads in their programs. But besides good jumps, skaters also have to show high skating skills, spins, performance and strength. Of course, the undisputed leader for now is Patrick Chan, when he skates clean.

Icenetwork.com: How will you be getting ready for the new season?

Menshov: I was supposed to fly to the United States this week to create my new programs, but because of the treatment I'm getting, the trip was canceled. I need to finish my recovery process. At the end of June, we're going to Latvia and then to Sweden for training camps. I already have ideas for new programs, but I'm still not sure about the music. The main thing for now is a full recovery.