Mikhail Kolyada shelves popular ‘White Crow’ program

Mikhail Kolyada

Russia’s Mikhail Kolyada confers with Coach Alexei Mishin at the Yubileyny Sports Palace in St. Petersburg.

It’s full steam ahead for Russian Champion Mikhail Kolyada who trains alongside 2021 World silver medalist Lisa Tuktamysheva, 2019 European Champion Sofia Samodurova and others under Coach Alexei Mishin. Skaters are jumping left and right, executing quads and triple Axels, working on their spins and step sequences, and constantly receiving feedback from the coaches. Mishin, who has been coaching at the Yubileyny Sports Palace for decades, just celebrated his 80th birthday last March. He and his co-coaches, Tatiana Mishina and Tatiana Prokofieva, are out on the ice every day with their students.

The athletes not only work on elements, but also polish their new programs. When Kolyada switches on his new Short Program music, Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker fills the rink and the skater on the ice becomes a dancer, interpreting each accent of this soft, yet strong melody.

“I just love this music,” the 26-year-old said, following the practice session on a hot day in July. “I can’t say that I particularly liked classical pieces lately, but this music gives me the goosebumps. Obviously I’ve seen the ballet, but I’ll need to watch it again.”

Kolyada describes himself as a music addict and listens to all kind of music.

“As for my preferences—first of all there has to be music, text is already secondary. I am listening to the instruments and if I like it, I add it to my playlist,” he explained. “Here (for the Short Program) it is the same. I really enjoy how the orchestra is playing, the violin, the drums…this piece is rising powerfully in the end and it is great.”

The three-time Russian Champion suggested The Nutcracker to his coaches after the idea suddenly came up. “I said right away that’s it!” said Kolyada. “We had been searching for music for a long time, listened to a lot of different options, but nothing really caught me. But this piece did.” He then suggested it to his coaches Prokofieva and Mishin, who happily agreed with the choice. Choreographer Ilia Averbukh came to St. Petersburg in May to build the program.

The long program to Schindler’s List was a different story. Coach Alexei Mishin gave the skater this music and invited Nikita Mikhailov as the choreographer. “I am just following the coach’s orders, so to speak,” Kolyada noted. “I do as he ordered. Orders are non-negotiable.”

The program is an interesting challenge for the 2018 World bronze medalist. “It is difficult, because I have to do not only the technical part, but also try to bring across this tragic history to the audience and to do it in a way that everyone understands right away what this program, what this music is about. However, since the theme is well-known, I think nobody has to guess what this is about. For now, it is still difficult for me to combine the technical and choreographic part and to present it the way I see it.”

In regards to his Free Skate to Schindler’s List, he added that it does not bother him that other skaters have skated or are skating to the music.

While quite a few fans would have preferred the Russian Champion to keep his successful free skate to “Nureyev” from The White Crow, coach Mishin and Kolyada both wanted to change the program.

“I don’t like to skate a program for several years, because it gets boring,” the two-time European bronze medalist noted. “To skate a 1000 times to the same music in training and then to listen to it for another year is obviously difficult,” he explained. Coach Mishin added that the program would not have looked fresh anymore by the end of the season. He also feels that making a new program always helps a skater to develop.

While Kolyada had worked with Averbukh, who choreographed the White Crow, it was his first experience with choreographer Mikhailov.

“I have known Nikita for a long time, probably since 2003 or 2004,” the 2018 Olympic team silver medalist shared. “I always liked how he skated. He has very good skating skills and a strong presentation. He built the program, I repeated it. Nevertheless, I have my own vision of one of the choreographic moves and I am doing it my way.”

The preparations for the Olympic season are well underway. Kolyada took part in two altitude training camps in Kislovodsk in the Caucasus mountains and in Courchevel in France.

“The camps were very fruitful,” the athlete observed. “Kislovodsk is at 1240 meters and Courchevel at 1850 meters altitude. When we came back to Piter (St. Petersburg), we started with fresh energy. It is harder to train in the mountains, therefore it becomes a little bit easier when we return home.”

The 2021-22 figure skating season is approaching fast, but Kolyada is staying focused and calm.

“I approach it in an absolute normal way and maybe even calmer than in the years before,” he said. “I just need to work. I am just a performer, he (the coach) is searching for everything and obviously, this way it is easier for me to work.”

The athlete feels that he is in good hands with a coach that has more than 50 years of experience and helped him to come back strong last season after missing the entire 2019-20 season due to health problems. Indeed, the talented skater has shown much more consistency in his performances since switching to Mishin last June. Kolyada regained his National title and won four more individual competitions plus the World Team Trophy with the Russian team. He finished a respectable fifth at the 2021 ISU World Championships, and together with Semenenko, secured the chance for a third Olympic quota place.

The 2020 Rostelecom Cup Champion, who has been selected for the ISU Grand Prix events in China and in Russia, plans to compete in the Challenger events this fall as well. Meanwhile, he is looking forward to the Grand Prix.

“These are great competitions, there are not so many competitors, but they are all very strong,” he said. “It is another chance to compete and to work.” But he does not trivialize the smaller events. “There are no unimportant competitions,” Kolyada pointed out. “Just there is a bit more attention at the Grand Prix from the media and regarding the physical and mental preparation.”

Off the ice, the three-time Russian Champion enjoys spending time with his wife, Daria, who is a former competitive pair skater. The young couple got married two years ago. Sometimes, when they are out in the city, people will recognize Kolyada and ask for a photo or an autograph. He says he does not mind.

“It is nice, because it is similar to giving gifts,” he said. “I like giving presents very much. It is the action itself that evokes some emotions. Of course it’s nice to be recognized and to be able to set people in a good mood,” he concluded with a smile.

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