Uliana Chirkova: "No one is able to predict all possible consequences of the pandemic"


Uliana Chirkova started her career as a figure skater and then continued with ice dance. When she was 12 years old, she fell in love with synchro and skated with Team Junost. (Credits: Eugene Simdyankin- 2020)

Member of the Synchronized Skating Technical Committee, Uliana Chirkova from Russia is at home, like many others these days. Jura Synchro took the opportunity to ask her a few questions about the coming season.

First of all, what is the actual situation with coronavirus in Russia? 

Uliana Chirkova: Since 30 of March our President has introduced non-working days for everyone throughout the country. This did not affect the areas that participate in the livelihoods of people (doctors, grocery stores, repair workers and etc.)

Since 12 of May our country begins a stage-by-stage exit from quarantine and complete self-isolation. The first stage is planned to allow sports activities in the open air for a maximum of two people, if there are not too many people in the park or place for training. it is planned to open shopping centers, hairdressers and street cafes.

However, the number of cases in our country is still high, and it is growing, but every day less and less cases are added. We hope that soon we will see the light at the end of the tunnel. In Russia, the peak of the epidemic is delayed when compared to other countries. That is why the release of the quarantine could also be delayed.

Uliana, a lot of questions are currently being asked about the coming season because synchro is a team contact sport. How do you analyze the situation?

It is difficult to analyze the situation with Covid-19 and influence on our life and sport. We will discover the impact of the pandemic step by step, opening up new realities every day and trying to find ways to solve new problems unknown to us earlier, such as keeping the distance, limiting of social contacts, mandatory wearing of personal protective equipment, keeping tracks of social contacts, and so on.
It is true that Synchronized Skating is a contact and mass sport. This distinguishes us from other disciplines of figure skating - the number of Skaters. This is our strength, and, as it turned out, at the same time weakness when we face with the pandemic. I always want to believe in the best.

It is a joy to watch the Instagram of teams that began to go on ice. At least without contacts and without holds for the beginning. But together and on the ice and not through the computer screen. We can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Of course, the new reality will be different from what we had before the pandemic. But I want to believe that we can all meet again on the ice.

Team Unique - Finland. (Credits: Ice Galaxy - 2020)

In your opinion, if this situation were to last, a significant number of teams will not be able to practice together for a few months. How should the teams prepare for next season?

Since our sport is a team sport, coaches have to think both about maintaining of the individual physical form of each skater, and about the preservation of unity and «jointness» of the team which was achieved before the isolation.

And in this challenge any means are good. It can be online practices with accent on the development of strength, speed and agility. Such practices are probably the easiest to carry out online. Now there is also a great opportunity to work on flexibility. Dancing and ballet are probably the most difficult types of activities for carrying out online. Some special figure skating exercises can also be carried out without ice.

In my opinion, the main mission for the coaches now is to preserve skaters in good physical form, to support them emotionally, to make them feel the teamwork and friend’s shoulder. None of us are used to working remotely and we are all under stress about it. It's important to be together and support each other.

Keeping the same programs as the previous season: is that something that teams can imagine?

Keeping the same programs as the previous season is a forced measure. Probably it will be a great help for those teams that will not be able to start the season in time. Maybe it will be less relevant for Junior teams because for most Junior teams the season has been completed. The World Championship for Junior took place and despite the fact that not all countries were able to take part in these competitions, for most Junior Teams the season was completed. 

Another story with Senior Teams. They had no opportunity to show their programs in all their beauty at their top at the end of the season at the World Championship. Maybe some of the teams would like to keep the same programs in order to demonstrate selected characters and music which they have been working on for so long.

At the same time other teams can decide to turn over a new leaf and start the season with completely new programs. Keeping the same programs as the previous season does not mean repeating the previous season. Teams still have a huge choice of decisions about the new season suitable to each team. And we, the audience, will be happy with any choice. And will admire any programs.

Team Passion - Hungary. (Credits: Ice Galaxy - 2020)

In your opinion, is the future season threatened?

No one is able to predict all possible consequences of the pandemic on the world, on our sport and on each figure skater. Uncertainty always frightens. But our goal is to be prepared for any coincidence and to be able to quickly adjust to a new reality. When there is Plan A, Plan B and Plan C, the next season does not look so frightening. The main thing is to start. To start to skate, to meet, to invite the audience to skating rinks, and perhaps, everything will return to normal. It is important to support each other in a difficult situation. And we as a team sport always used to stand shoulder to shoulder in any difficult situation.

Part 2 of the interview: Uliana speaks about the new Guidelines and the next ISU decisions to come.