"It’s very important to have an ability to tolerate, understand each other and help"


A few hours before the start of the national championships in Russia, the big family of Junost celebrated this anniversary with dignity. / Credits: Junost 

This year, the Junior Russian team Junost celebrated their 20th anniversary. From the very first day, a permanent coaching staff is leading Junost: Natalia Sannikova, Elena Moshnova, and Mikhail Pavluchenko. They all came from different places but all were united by the boundless love for synchro. This trio brought up more than one generation of the champions.

The professional way of the team started in 1998 and, actually, wasn’t easy: rotation of the membership, financial difficulties, injuries of the sportsmen. However, the majority of obstacles didn’t manage to stop the development of the team. Nowadays Junost takes the lead on the international scene. What did it help them? We had a talk with Natalia Sannikova and Elena Moshnova:

How did you get an idea to create a team? Tell us the history of its creation.
Natalia Sannikova - We were brought together…in 1998. The thing is I used to work in the Ice theatre, we put on New Year’s plays, where lots of children with different level of professional skills took part. One day I got a tape with “Precision skating” and I was asked to take up the synchronized skating. It seemed to be really interesting and promising. However, I watched the skaters walking one for another and holding hands… I was like, walk this way? Oh, not a chance! I’d rather prefer putting on the ice ballets, New Year’s plays, etc. In fact, synchro wasn't practiced with such a higher intensity 20 years ago. However, what must be must be. Vladimir Shesternin, head of the ice-skating department of the Sports Complex «Junost», suggested creating a team in that complex. I agreed and, actually, there we first met with Elena.

How did you start? 
Elena Moshnova - Well, a synchro team was already created a year before in Pervouralsk, a neighboring town. And we arrived there to see what a real synchronized skating is. We learned from them. Besides, there was a good team in Perm. They were also so professional. I still remember they had a program “The Phantom of the Opera”, which impressed us so much. Everything was new and unusual for us those times.

What did your first programs look like?
Natalia Sannikova - Oh, we had “Sirtaki” as a short program and “For Russian Public” by Strauss. In a year we even go to our first Russian Nationals to Saint – Petersburg.
Elena Moshnova – We had the same pink leotards for two programs. So, we put on the white robes for the short one and lilac sundresses for the free. In these outfits, we came to Nationals.

Team Junost (center) at the 2017 Junior World Championships. / Credits: Junost

Did that championship influent on the team’s development?
Natalia Sannikova – At those Nationals, which were held in 1999, we saw strong teams from Samara, Kazan, and Paradise from Saint Petersburg at first. They appeared to us as gods and impressed us. We immersed in something more ambitious than simply New Years’s plays. This has already been the real ice-skating. It doesn’t matter that we took one of the last places. We acquired so much instead!
Elena Moshnova – We gradually started to select athletes for the team, invited ice dancers and solo skaters. We began to strengthen the squad.
Natalia Sannikova – By the way, Elena used to be an ice dancer and I was a solo skater in the past so we got the good skating skills. So, step by step being this way, we created our own view to the Synchro and our personal style of skating. We always got lots of remarks and corrections and something, necessarily, was wrong. Nevertheless, when you’re catching up somebody and trying to adopt, it’s absolutely normal to make mistakes.
For the next 2000-year, we finished the Russian Nationals at the 2nd place!

And when did you meet Mikhail Pavluchenko?
After those competitions in Kazan, we had dinner in the restaurant; wherein the same time was a wedding party. The guests were dancing to “Hava Nagila”. Elena and I immediately understood that it was a great idea to take this music for the next program. Oh, we made an awesome one! And by the by Mikhail joined us in that season and we have been working together to this day. And I’d like to say that in 2001 we became Russian National Champions for the first time with that very program.

The Junost during the 2010-11 season. / Credits: Junost

Do you remember your first international competition?
Natalia Sannikova – When we won Russian Nationals, there was the first World Junior Challenge Cup. Only one team that had won Nationals at last year might have represented Russia. However, they refused to participate. So, that’s how we went to Worlds, which took place in Switzerland. It was in our favorite Neuchâtel, by the way. Actually, we finished the forth, stating at once that Russia claims the podium! The following year we ultimately took the 2nd place! There were no limits to joy! It was a real triumph!
Elena Moshnova - Then I was invited to the international seminar to Sweden, where lots of aspects of the Synchro team’s preparation were discussed, for example, how to create a good working atmosphere in the team and make it the family. That trip was very useful.

What difficulties did you have on your way?
Elena Moshnova – We had lots of difficulties when the judging system had been changed. It seems to me that it was in 2006. We arrived at Worlds to Finland and earned just 16 points for the short program because we draw up all the elements in a wrong way. The reason is that those times I used to translate all the rules on my own with the aid of English textbook or dictionary and my personal experience. When we saw our scores, we couldn’t believe it! The team was really strong, however, we finished at the end of the current standings. It was a good lesson. Nowadays the rules and all the other special documents are translated by Uliana Chirkova (member of the technical committee ISU, judge of International Category ISU) that makes the situation much easier! We had an obstacle also in 2011: membership of the team was changed a lot. We even didn’t have backup skaters. So, we ended up at 8th, 10th, and even 11th places… Everything was very unstable. That’s why now we always pay particular attention to this aspect and prepare strong reserve in advance.
Natalia Sannikova – Yes, we had so many important lessons, lots of ups and downs. However, the real champion is not that person, who has never fallen, but is that, who fall and managed to go up!

«Fire Bird» - your free program of the season 2016-2017. It brought to you the first victory at the World Championships in Canada. What did inspire you to its creation?
Natalia Sannikova - It all starts with the music, but it’s incredibly difficult to choose the best one. Sometimes it can be a real torment. At the end of the season, I always listen to lots of variants in my car. Sometimes you like some music, but on the ice, it can sound in a completely different way due to another acoustic. Or another situation when a piece of music sounds wonderful but it’s so uncomfortable to skate. However, I’m not alone in the choice. We always choose the music for our programs together. The music will do all the work and you need just to dance in your personal style. «Fire Bird» by Igor Stravinsky is very difficult and unusual music as doesn’t have a clear melody. When I heard it for the first time and understood immediately that it should be skate by not only «bird». It would be better to see a whole pack. I had been thinking about this one for two years. Whether we can power through it or not? In the season 2015-2016, we hadn’t dared yet and made an amazing program to music for the ballet Nutcracker by Petr Tchaikovsky. However, the idea had been secretly living like a dream. And finally, it comes true!
Elena Moshnova – By the way, fluttered hands of the skaters became the central and so memorable detail of the program.

You show innovative and technically strong performances every year! What’s the secret?
Natalia Sannikova – We had a good coaching staff. We all hear each other and seek the same things. Common goals and mutual understanding, I think so.
Elena Moshnova – The secret is our trio. Everybody does his work.

How would you describe the atmosphere inside the team? What things do you find basic for the athletes?
Natalia Sannikova – Confidence to each other and an insane desire to attain the goal. A team has to have a good working atmosphere inside it. It’s very important to have an ability to tolerate others shortcomings, understand each other and help if it’s necessary. We teach our girls about these things. And, you know, when we arrive in the competitions, I’m happy for our team, because I see that very positive and kindness. However, you mustn’t be kind on the ice, you need to have sports anger because sport is a struggle. So, on the ice – fight, but outside of the rink – behave yourself!
Elena Moshnova – In a word… Goal. Every team should have a goal, which is standing above all personal interests. The core of the team is a very significant thing for every collective, namely, girls, who have been skating in Junost for years, because the understanding of team’s ideas must be passed on from generation to generation. We always explain to our girls: if you perform at such a high level, you must be a good example in the whole. How you talk to people and each other, how you behave – all these things are very important.

What are the qualities of the champion?
Natalia Sannikova – "Industriousness"... Don’t wallow in self-pity.
Elena Moshnova – Self-confidence and industriousness.

What are the goals for this season?
Natalia Sannikova - Perform well: clearly, honorably and confidently.
Elena Moshnova – Perform well. In order to be not ashamed.

The trio that has been training the Junost team for twenty years. / Credits: Junost

Love is contagious and creative. Junost is another confirmation for this fact. So, unbelievable love of the coaching staff to the synchronized skating and their devotion to the cause infect the skaters. Most of the girls, finishing their sports career, keep on the Synchro way. They become coaches, set up new teams, judge the competitions. Others become demanded specialists in any industry, thanks to the acquired skills of the teamwork and ability to pursue the goal. But, above all, they become good people.

Nowadays Junost has got the solid credibility in synchronized skating. Thanks to their commitment to the classical music, the team has acquired the individuality and recognition. The special Junost’s skating style has formed. Al these result in impressive victories and achievements.

Team Junost is….

 - 16 times Russian National Champion
 - Bronze medalist of the World Junior Championships in Helsinki, Finland, 2013
 - Winner of the French Cup in Rouen, France, 2017,2018
 - Winner of the Mozart Cup in Salzburg, Austria, 2018
 - 2 times World Junior Champion in Mississauga, Canada, 2017 and Zagreb, Croatia, 2018.

In November 2018 Elena Moshnova and Natalia Sannikova were awarded the rank of Merited Coach of Russian Federation.

Results - TOP 3

Russian National Championships 2019
JAN 12, 2019 - JAN 13, 2019

TEAM Score
1Team Paradise (RUS)239.84
2Team Tatarstan (RUS)222.59
3Crystal Ice (RUS)217.75

TEAM Score
1Junost (RUS)209.89
2Crystal Ice (RUS)207.16
3Sunrise 1 (RUS)191.49