by Daphne Backman | Photos by Robin Ritoss & Andriana Andreeva
In just three seasons as a team, Russia’s Anna Yanovskaya & Sergey Mozgov have excelled as juniors on the world stage. In the incredibly deep field of Russian juniors, though, Yanovskaya & Mozgov were left off the World Junior team in 2013, despite having placed fourth in 2012. This past season, with a goal of making it back to World Juniors, they dominated the Junior Grand Prix circuit, winning both of their events as well as the Final, along with several additional junior international events. This year, their inclusion on the world team was never in doubt, and they capped their successful season with a silver medal at the 2014 World Junior Championships in Sofia, Bulgaria. Like many others, their love for the ice developed at a young age.
“When I was four years old, I saw an ice skating competition on TV for the first time,” Yanovskaya said. “I enjoyed the combination of beauty, grace and strength. I therefore asked my parents to bring me to a skating rink, where I tried skating, and I could not give it up since.”
“When I was a child, I had allergies,” Mozgov added. “My parents were suggested to bring me to the ice. This is how I started ice skating.”
Prior to forming their partnership, Yanovskaya skated domestically with Egor Kosheev, while Mozgov debuted on the international scene first with Evgenia Kosigina and then with Tatiana Baturintseva. None of their previous partnerships resulted in the success the two have experienced together.
“We started skating together in 2011,” Yanovskaya said. “Before that, we were skating with other partners. However, at some point, I became taller than the partner I had. Sergey also needed a tall partner. During the very first attempt to skate together, we felt very comfortable sliding with each other. I noticed the strength, stability, and security when Sergey’s big and firm hand was holding my small hand.”
Their instant connection led to quick success. In their first season together, they won the gold medal at the inaugural Winter Youth Olympics, and went on to finish fourth at the 2012 World Junior Championships.
“In my turn, I noted that we suit each other so well,” Mozgov said. “Anna’s very kind eyes and bewitching smile are so impressive. I felt myself as a man responsible for my partner, defending her, and willing to show her beauty and grace to others.”
Yanovskaya & Mozgov train at the Medvedkovo skating rink in Moscow and are coached by Svetlana Alexeeva, with Elena Kustarova producing their programs and Olga Riabinina serving as their choreographer.
“Our skating school is so dear to us as we spend so much time there,” Yanovskaya said. “It is such a big part of our life, that we even spend less time with our families. The most important thing is complete trust between the coaches and us. The coaches are always supportive, helpful, motivating, and responsive both in sports and in our day-to-day lives.”
The development of their programs and the stories they portray are very important to them and they enjoy the process of bringing the characters to life on the ice
“For the short dance in 2013/2014, we chose ‘Puttin on the Ritz’ for the quickstep and ‘Fever’ for the foxtrot, and Alessandro Safina’s ‘El Mirto e La Rosa’ for our free dance,” Yanovskaya said. “The choice of a melody and a story is our common decision. These ones suited us very well.
“Our dance as well as our couple is a fairy tale, a story of a relationship, a story of a transformation,” Mozgov explained. “Anna is a flower, which I am trying to bring back to life with warmth and attention. The rose bud blossoms, becomes a pretty lady, which I am falling in love with. Our love helps to overcome all the difficulties we have on our way, helps to be together, live for each other.”
“We followed the line we started in the previous season, and this time the rose bud has blossomed,” Yanovskaya said.
The couple’s connection to the music was evident, particularly by the end of the season. Their dramatic performance won the free dance in Sofia, though they were second overall. Even more than their silver medal, Yanovskaya was particularly proud of how they impressed the composer of their free dance music.
“Alessandro Safina was in Moscow at the time with a concert,” Yanovskaya explained. “We were in Sofia. And just the evening before the final program in the season we received a gift—a CD disc with his personal signature and very warm wishes: ‘Good luck in Sofia Gorgeous Rosa on Ice, Anna & Sergey.’”
“Therefore, when we were on the ice, we knew we were dancing for the Maestro, for the audience, and for each other,” Yanovskaya added. “It was the biggest award for the end of the season. We received best points in the season for our free dancing and won the small gold medal.” When looking back at their achievements so far, singling out just one as their favorite is difficult.
“Every start is unique for us and it is hard to single out any one of them,” Yanovskaya said. “However, we can mention two of them. One is the gold medal in ice dancing at the first Youth Winter Olympic Games in 2012. Another one is of course the victory in the Grand Prix Final in the Land of the Rising Sun, in Japan, in December 2013. These two events are completely different and the emotions from each of them are very dear to us. We are very proud of the first one, as it was indeed the very first time for us and we managed to achieve such a success regardless the fact that we were skating together for a year only. The Grand Prix Final is the recognition by the judges and the audience of us as more experienced ice dancers. It gave us the certainty that we were developing in the right direction.” After a season of gold and silver medals, the duo is focused not only next season, but has a long-term goal of preparing themselves for the next Olympics.
“Now we plan to stay in juniors for the following season, to become champions of all the competitions and end the season as the winners of the World Junior Figure Skating Championship,” Yanovskaya said. “We will work on the best programs that correspond to the requirements of the judges and, of course, that appeal to our audience and fans. The top priority for us is to become part of the national team of the Russian Federation for the Olympics in South Korea in 2018, represent our country on the highest level and fight for the prize-winning places. All the seasons until 2018 we will be working hard in order to achieve this aim.”
So much time is devoted to their training that the team doesn’t have very much free time for themselves or to spend with their families. To compete at this level takes an increased focus and the sacrifices become bigger as they have progressed. Education is important to both as after their skating career ends, Yanovskaya would to enroll into the Federal Security Service Academy and Mozgov would like to practice medicine.
“It is a very difficult time for me now, as I am preparing for the state exam,” Yanovskaya said. “Therefore, all the energy is devoted to my studies.”
“Anna’s exam is very important for both of us, and therefore our schedule is adjusted to fit the studies,” Mozgov said. “There are no time to study during the competition season, unfortunately. Now I try to support Anna in all possible ways. I have passed this exam myself some years ago, and I am sharing the experience. I am also pursuing my studies as a student at the University now and want to end this year properly. Taking into consideration that I ended the first year of studies as the best student, I am trying to do my best now.”
“As busy as we seem, we have not given up the social life,” Yanovskaya added. “We try to participate actively in the social projects in our country. Thus, recently we were addressing the Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation.”
“We also try to keep up with and be active in the cultural life of the capital,” Mozgov said. “In the beginning of April we attended the preview of the Russian action movie Startup, which is about the possibilities for the young people to open internet businesses, the difficulties they could face, etc. We took part in the discussion of the social orientation of the movie and importance for the youth. As for non-Russian movies, we recently watched the new Luc Besson movie 3 Days to Kill. It was very special to come back on the screen to Paris, recall the moments we spent there together, and of course see the wonderful Peugeots, from bikes to cars.”
Both Anna & Sergey are philosophical about their partnership and future together and what they have learned so far on this journey. They hope that their commitment to each other and to grow as a team will carry them to achieve more of their goals in the future.
“If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together,” Yanovskaya said. “This is the greatest lesson for us. We go far and, therefore, we go together. We know that we are not simply one plus one, but a single entity, we are a pair. We are responsible together, we are happy together, we worry together, and, of course, we share the happiness of our success together.”