For 22-year-old Roman Sadovsky of Canada, the Olympic season was one of peaks and valleys. The peaks included qualifying a second men’s Olympic spot at Nebelhorn Trophy in September and placing fourth at Rostelecom Cup in November. Unfortunately, the low point came at the Olympic Games in Beijing, where Sadovsky struggled and placed 29th in the individual men’s event, failing to make the long program. How satisfying, then, for Sadovsky to rebound at the 2022 ISU World Championships in Montpellier, France, where he recorded his highest placement so far at a major ISU championship (12th).
I talked with Sadovsky and his longtime coach, Tracy Wainman, in the mixed zone at Worlds to get their reactions to his performances in Montpellier. The duo also spoke about the war in Ukraine and how it’s affected Sadovsky, whose parents both emigrated to Canada from Ukraine.
Sadovsky: Worlds short program
In the short program in Montpellier, Sadovsky landed a quad Salchow–a jump he struggled with during the Olympics–to place 18th in a very competitive event, with a score of 80.54. He returned to his 2020-21 “Exogenesis Symphony part 3” short program.
Q: How did you feel about your performance in the short program?
Sadovsky: I’ve been practicing a little better than what I [skated] today, but I’m really proud of how I performed the first quad Salchow. That was a sticky element for the whole Olympics for me. To put it out there in competition right after, in the next event, was a real personal confidence-booster.
Q: Why did you go back to your old short program?
Sadovsky: Just a bit of a comfort thing. I did the [2021-22] short program [“Breathe for Me”] at Nationals, and then back to back at the Olympics, and none of them were quite the way I wanted. And every time I started to hear the music, I remembered times when I wasn’t feeling good. So I was like, “Let’s go with something more fresh.” Something that I can train and not think about how I did this, I did that. It was kind of a mental release.
Q: Were you nervous to do the short program today?
Sadovsky: Not particularly. You’re always nervous any time you’re performing.
Q: Did the Olympics have a negative effect on you?
Sadovsky: No. There were definitely times when it was …coming into my head. When I was thinking about what happened at the Olympics. But I told myself, “What are the chances it happens again?” Just statistically, it can’t happen. I just tried to trust myself, and trust the training coming in.
Q: Your parents are originally from Ukraine.. Do you have relatives back in Ukraine right now and, if so, how are they?
Sadovsky: I do have relatives back at home. I’m not going to go specific [in naming them]. They’re okay. They’re in “safer” parts [of Ukraine]. Although at this point, there’s not really a very safe or comfortable place in Ukraine. We’re just kind of hoping and praying that everything’s okay with them, and that they stay okay.
Q: How distracting or overwhelming has the situation been for your family?
Sadovsky: I think my family definitely feels it a lot. I’m really affected by it also. When it’s your family, it obviously hits closer to home. Because [when] you hear all these numbers online, they’re more statistical. There’s not much emotional connection with it. But once it’s you, it’s different. It’s very different, is all I can say. I’m doing everything I can do to help, such as providing people with donation opportunities on social media. I think that’s all I can do. And that’s something that sucks–that there isn’t a ton that I can do, personally. At the end of the day, I’m just a figure skater. But I did what I can.
Q: You went to the Olympic Games in China, which lasted for several weeks. What was it like to come back to Canada and regroup for Worlds?
Sadovsky: I left two days after I finished my event [at the Olympics]. That was the Canadian Olympic Committee rule; they didn’t want us sticking around too long. And I ended up being first [to skate in the individual men’s short program], so I was done really early. I took about a week off [afterward]. And then I started to build up again. I felt really motivated at first, and then motivation kind of dipped off a little bit. There’s definitely a post-Olympic drop that everyone was talking about, but I didn’t believe them. Then I started feeling it. And then, the last few weeks coming into Worlds, I was like, “Wait, it’s the World Championships, I’ve got to get ready!”
Sadovsky: Worlds free skate
In the long program at Worlds, Sadovksy again opened with a strong quad Salchow and completed a number of other good jumps to place 9th, with a score of 164.82. He finished 12th overall.
Q: What are your thoughts on your long program?
Sadovsky: I’m really proud of the impression I put out here. After the short program, I had some serious hip pain, to the point where I couldn’t even lift my leg. So honestly, the schedule kind of worked out for me. [There was a day between the men’s short and long programs.] If we’d had to do the long [program] yesterday, I would have withdrawn for sure. And I was concerned today, also, to pull out. But I did practice this morning, and it felt good enough, and I said, “Okay, I’m ready to go.”
Q: How did you overcome the disappointment at the Olympics?
Sadovsky: I think it’s just separating that it’s a moment by itself. And it doesn’t define who I am. I’m just keeping that moment as a moment, right? Living in the present, and the moments to come. Whether the old moments are good or bad, it doesn’t mean that the current moment is going to be good or bad, either.
Q: What are your goals for next season?
Sadovsky: I think my biggest thing is probably to up the technical content. I’m watching this last group, and the top three are doing quads left and right. So I’m going to have to catch up a little bit in that regard. I’m happy with this quadrennial; it’s been a time to start getting everything ready. This year, I stuck to a slightly easier program than in previous years, just to focus on my consistency. Now, with the new quad coming, I think the only way to fight these guys is with a couple more quads.
Q: It seems like your quad Salchow is definitely back on track. How does that feel?
Sadovsky: Huge confidence-booster. The Olympics was a very weird experience in that regard, and it made me question myself and my abilities, considering that quad Salchow is my most comfortable jump. So yes, really doing what I could to finish out the season with a bang.
Q: After the quad Salchow, you did a good job in this long program of keeping your triples on track, which has sometimes been an issue in the past. What went into that?
Sadovsky: A big part of that was the section of time between Skate Canada and Rostelecom Cup. We noticed, early in the season, that I was missing easier jumps. And so we decided, okay, let’s focus on easier jumps [in training]. I wasn’t missing so many triple Axels or quad Salchows in the early season. It was all the easier stuff that I was losing points on. After Skate Canada, we focused on working the basics, working the triples, and it really worked out for Russia [Rostelecom Cup].
Q: Overall, what’s your takeaway from this Olympic season? Good? Bad?
Sadovsky: Amazing. Just amazing. I couldn’t imagine the season would play out the way that it did. I basically never had a season go past February. [Laughs] And this time I was fighting for a second Olympic spot at Nebelhorn, and fighting for my season in general, because the Olympic criteria was general consistency on the season. So every competition was almost like an Olympic qualifier for me. That pressure throughout the season was really tough. Nationals was tough–we hadn’t done a Nationals in a while, so it was a new, fresh experience. And then after that, the Olympics. I never did the Olympics or Worlds before. Everything has just been … all up there. I’m kind of relieved that it’s done, but I’m also really proud that I finished it well.
Q: A question for next season: Do you expect that you’ll get two new programs, or one new program?
Sadovsky: Probably two new [programs]. I think I’m now in a situation where I’ve got to change programs every year. I’m getting closer toward the end of my career, and there are other things [music] I want to skate to.
Q: Do you have a list of music ready?
Sadovsky: No. I wish I did! [Laughs]
Wainman: Worlds short program
Tracey Wainman, a former Canadian national champion and now coach in the Toronto area, has been Sadovsky’s coach for most of his career, starting when he was eight years old.
Q: How did you feel about Roman’s skate today?
Wainman: I thought it was really good. I thought he looked really calm. The first quad Salchow was beautiful, and he kept fighting through the next two jumps. The triple Axel was a little tight, but overall [it] was really good. I’m very proud of him.
Q: What was it like to see him have a good skate here, after some problems at the Olympics?
Wainman: It was nice to see. [Smiles] For me, it was like, “Okay, now I’m watching Roman, the Roman I know.” So it was good. He’s been training well. He just needed to trust that a little bit, calm down, and do what he can do.
Q: Looking back at the Olympics, do you think it was the newness of the experience that got to him there?
Wainman: Yes. There’s really no excuse for it, but it was like a combination of everything. Looking back, he could have handled that better. But it was one thing after another. Everything happened so quickly. First he was doing the team event, and there was one day in between [the team short and long programs]. And he couldn’t quite get there again, after the first performance. It was definitely an experience, and I think he learned a lot from it. He trained well afterward. We changed up the short program. Because the last three times, that short has not worked very well. So I thought, “Let’s change something, so it feels different.” I think it worked. It’s a nice, calm short program for him. He used it last year at World Team Trophy. And he’s quite comfortable with the long [program].
Q: After the Olympics, Russia invaded Ukraine. Roman said that his family has relatives in Ukraine. How has the war affected him and his training?
Wainman: He’s pushed through his training. He hasn’t been taking it onto the ice. But definitely, I’ve seen it affect him emotionally. It’s a really difficult time for him and his family.
Q: You’ve worked with Roman for so long. How have you seen him mature or change over the last few years–say, since he won his Canadian national title in 2020?
Wainman: It was weird after the Canadian title. Because then we went into the pandemic, and not really competing, and staying at home. I do feel that he’s matured. He’s matured mentally–knowing what he wants, understanding himself more, so he’s able to make improvements. We’ve done a lot of work on that. He definitely knows what he wants to do, and feels it. The Olympics wasn’t a good competition. But I’d say he’s building mentally; he’s going higher and higher. You never go in one line–there’s always an up, and then a drop down. And then you go up farther the next time. You can’t be perfect all the time. But I do think that he’s really improving in this area. To do an Olympics like that and to come out and do that quad Salchow at the beginning [of the short program in Montpellier] shows his mental strength and how much he’s improved. So I’m very proud of him.