Do you love to travel? I really do. Moreover, now you can do this even without crossing the borders of states. Let’s move right now to New Zealand, to visit Olga Levien and learn about her most interesting competitive experience and her unique story. Today, she shares an amazing story about herself in figure skating and the figure skating around her…
How did your figure skating career start?
I started figure skating at the age of 25, in St. Petersburg, when I learned that adult groups had opened.
I loved watching figure skating from my childhood and wanted to do it when I was 6, but it was too late for Soviet sports?
I studied for about 4 years, took part in competitions, but in 2011 I met my kiwi husband in Europe and moved to New Zealand. I didn’t skate for about 8 years (because of my family, two small children), but 2 years ago, after moving to Oakland, where there was a skating rink, my husband suggested that I should return to training (he knew that I used to skate and enjoy it).
So the next page began for me in this beautiful sport in New Zealand.
What is Amateur figure skating in New Zealand? How many competitions are held, how many are engaged, what are the conditions for skating?
There are also amateurs here, not as many as in Russia, but the conditions are good.
There is a coffee club for beginners (an hour-long class for adults with skating and communication after training), I started with it, as I returned to the rink two years ago.
Most of well-skated amateurs are engaged individually with a coach. Usually it is a half-hour training session on mass skating — during the day while the children are at school, there are almost no people on the rink.
When I first returned to the rink, I was seen by members of the synchro team and they immediately invited me to skate with them.
It was difficult to get involved in synchronized skating, but it was interesting. Skating as a team, trusting each other, supporting each other both literally and figuratively, and getting new skills is a whole story.
I took a dip in a new direction of figure skating in order to spend more time on the ice and be able to communicate with people.
For me, as a photographer who mostly works at home, and a mother who talks mostly with 6-7 year-olds, getting out of the house in the evening and chatting with adults is a great opportunity!
In New Zealand, the competition season lasts from June to September. Usually 3-4 club competitions in Auckland, North Island competitions and at the end of the season — The National championship, where adult competitions take pride of place on a par with children’s.
We also have the opportunity to go to the Australian national championship, and they come to us as neighbors. We were last year with a synchro team and took the 4th place (with a difference of 0.1 from the 3rd place) — a great opportunity to see other teams and motivation to train and grow. (There are only 2 synchronized teams in NZ, and there are many more in Australia, as well as adult Amateurs).
You recently participated in ANZUS competitions. How do they differ from others?
I recently participated in two great competitions — New Zealand Masters Games (Dunedin, NZ) and ANZAS competitions (Melbourne, Aus). These are sister competitions held every 2 years. In NZ, they are held in a cohort with other sports on the principle of masters (like the Olympic games), with an opening ceremony, a parade of athletes and a great atmosphere of support. The most wonderful thing in both competitions is the atmosphere and support. (Almost like in Oberstdorf — I participated there for the first time in May last year). It was nice to see the familiar faces of athletes from America, England, Japan, Australia and NZ at the past two competitions.
I was particularly struck by Maggie Harding of America’s interpretation in Melbourne, where she won the Stewart Marshall awards for athletes over 50 for best performance. (Named in memory of an adult who skated in old age).
You perform not only singly, but also as part of a team. How do you combine this? What is the responsibility of skating as a team?
I skate individually and as a team. Until I figured out which one I like best. In single skating, all the responsibility is on you and the result is appropriate. The team has support, but the result is a team, there is less stress and responsibility (and technically it is not so hard, you can skate for pleasure).
We rent ice once a week in the evenings. Here it is easy (competition only with hockey — who will reserve earlier).
How does professional activity help you in figure skating, and how does figure skating help you in your work?
I am a wedding photographer (I never dreamed of a creative profession in Russia, I worked at a University), but New Zealand has opened up new opportunities for self-realization.
Training helps me change scenery, kind of activity, break away from the computer with photo processing, and play sports, communicating with friends who have similar interests and desires.
I also think that years of watching figure skating Championships have helped me improve my view of beautiful lines, expressive movements, and posing and organizing people in the frame is not a problem for me.
The photo, in turn, gave me the opportunity to think about how my movements look from the outside. Also, my history with photography (when I started studying about 5 years ago, I myself learned and built a successful business, brand, and lead workshops and participate in world conferences) taught me that the impossible is possible, and hard work beat talent. Or maybe past training has taught me this?! ?
What dreams in figure skating would you like to realize in the near future? Is there some sort of unreal but very desirable dream?
The nearest plans are to prepare and take part in competitions in Oberstdorf, to make up for the lost level of skating after a break, to work on skating skills, spins, but most importantly, interesting programs, presentation and pleasure from performances. Meetings with old and new friends, love and support!
Olga, thank you for your informative and lively interview and we wish you to discover new things in figure skating!