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Radionova ready to make jump to senior level

Reigning world junior champ finds greatest joy on ice
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Born with a clubfoot, Elena Radionova originally took up skating for health purposes. -Getty Images

It's become a kind of annual tradition in junior ladies figure skating that there is a young woman from Russia who wins gold everywhere she goes. The latest of these is CSKA Moscow's Elena Radionova, following countrywomen Julia Lipnitskaia and Adelina Sotnikova.

Last season, the 14-year-old made her Junior Grand Prix debut and won both of her assignments handily. She qualified for the Junior Grand Prix Final in Sochi, Russia, where she also won the gold medal.

Radionova competed at the 2013 Russian Championships, where she finished second, ahead of Sotnikova, and later won the 2013 Russian junior title.

The culmination of her season came at the 2013 World Junior Championships in Milan, Italy. After placing fifth in the short program, she roared back to win the free skate and take the gold ahead of Lipnitskaia.

This season, the Russian will try her hand at the senior Grand Prix, in which she is assigned to Skate America and the NHK Trophy.

Icenetwork talked to Radionova about her thoughts on last season's successes, her great love of skating and about new challenges she will face.

Icenetwork: In your first junior season, you won every gold possible. How do you see that season now, on the eve of a new one?

Radionova: My first junior season was very memorable and successful for me. I had to deal with many things: lack of knowledge of my rivals, new cities and countries, the loss of baggage with skates and more. All this was exciting and interesting.

I learned so much about myself and got to see skaters from other countries. The biggest emotions came at the world junior championships when I stood on the podium -- I can't even convey those emotions. After a not-very-successful performance of my short program, my coach helped me to 'tune in' to my free skate, and I was able to skate it from scratch, completely forgetting about the short.

Icenetwork: How are you able to be so strong technically but also be very good in expressing your programs' emotions and artistry?

Radionova: I love music very much, and I live it. I always choose the music with my coach, Inna Germanovna Goncharenko, and we always listen to each other. She's been coaching me since I was 3 years old, and we have a mutual understanding regarding programs and music. She knows what suits me, and then choreographers begin to do their part of the work.

Icenetwork: Was it your initial goal to win all your debut JGP events or did it just happen?

Radionova: I am very pleased with last season. It was my debut, and I wanted to see how my performances would be evaluated by the international judges. At the first event, which took place in Courchevel (France), I skated without fear but with interest, since I didn't know the skaters. At the second stage, in Linz (Austria), I was already excited to get into the top three to qualify for the [JGP] Final.

At the JGP Final, I didn't want to lose face and take a place below first.

Icenetwork: You started figure skating just for your health. How has your attitude has changed toward the sport?

Radionova: My dad brought me to figure skating with a goal of aligning my clubfoot; my mother was against it. I was very lucky that along the way I met my coach and that she revealed the artistry in me, and began to develop it.

I won the gold at my very first competition. My mom was very happy, and she changed her attitude a little bit toward skating. When I was very young, I didn't realize why I needed to skate, but during the last three years I realized I can't live without figure skating. It's like a strong habit. Of course, sometimes it's very hard and I want to quit, but my mom and coach help me to forget about bad things and move forward.

Icenetwork: This year you will start the season with senior Grand Prix events. Tell us your thoughts on participating in this series and about your preparation in the new season in general.

Radionova: I began my preparation for the coming season in Novogorsk, where I'm slowly getting into shape. I do not hurry things. The coming season, as well as the last one, is interesting and important to me because I am going to a new level for the first time.

Icenetwork: New season, new rivals. What do you think about your competitors? Many of them are already experienced, world-level senior skaters.

Radionova: I don't think about the rivals yet. I'm getting ready, but I know that in this season they will be all strong and in a good shape, as this is the Olympic year. I have a very respectful attitude toward my competitors. Many of them are already famous athletes, who have done a great job and achieved good results.

After this interview, Radionova went to the test skating performances of Russia's national team members, where she debuted her new programs. For the short, she selected music from the Anna Karenina soundtrack, and for the free, she is doing a tango.

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