The Mental Series: Oleksandr Abramenko

The Mental Series: Oleksandr Abramenko

The interview with Ukrainian freestyle skier Oleksandr Abramenko, an Olympic champion-2018 and a silver medalist in Beijing-2022
The Mental Series: Enver Ablaiev Reading The Mental Series: Oleksandr Abramenko 7 minutes Next The Mental Series: Tamas Trunk

Oleksandr Abramenko is a Ukrainian freestyle skier, specializing in aerials. Not only is he the 2015/16 Aerials World Cup winner and 2019 World Championship silver medalist, he also competed in every Olympics since 2006 and won the Olympic gold medal in the men's aerials event at Pyeongchang (2018) and the silver medal in Beijing (2022).

In October 2022, Oleksandr visited our Milan headquarters to personalize and tailor this season’s clothing. We sat down with both Oleksandr and his coach; to read the interview with Enver Ablaiev please click here.

- Let's recall the Olympics in Beijing. Were you confident before the competition that you could win a medal? Which one, if so?

- In general, I was confident; I was more focused on the team-event, as we already collected two podiums at the start of that season in Ruka. Therefore, the Olympic medal was in reach; I didn't have a specific position in mind, but a medal nonetheless was very likely. Unfortunately, complications arose and we could not participate [Note. Most of the team got sick with covid-19 and the quota for the team performance was not reached], which is when I started to tune in to the individual events. There was no certainty on a medal, but I understood that this was the only opportunity to delight Ukraine and the fans. Therefore, I “gathered” myself and tried to perform at my best.

- Did you have any fears that the Covid story could affect you at the Olympics and knock you out of the main start of the quadrennial?

- In general, I underestimated the severity of Covid-19, and hence it was a bypassing thought. It was when we had to take tests daily, that reminded me of the possibility to be quarantine and watch the Olympic experience go by.

- Is there a difference in performance at the Olympics in terms of psychological pressure when you are already an Olympic champion? Or have you already learned how to concentrate at the right moment and not give in to pressure?

- In general, I reckon that I had learned, that I am already an Olympic champion and that I have nothing to fear; I will just come, do my job and that's it. But when I went to actually compete, I realized that there was no difference, it was the same as the first, second, third, and fourth Olympics. I was very worried. It seemed even stronger than the previous one, where I won gold.

- You jumped three flips with five twists before the Olympics only a few times, but despite this, you were able to do it successfully at the Olympics. What is your secret for concentrating on the final jump?

- I know how to tune in. And the more responsible the competition, the better I can concentrate. I simply did not watch how others jumped, but concentrated on myself, what I should do and how I should do it, it helped me. Although I still made mistakes, the faith in myself brought me a silver medal.

- The head coach of the national team, Enver Ablaiev, said that your state at the Olympics was different from the state at competitions throughout the season.

- That’s right.

- How did you feel?

- People would notice a calmness in me that would not usually exist for an athlete at the Olympics. It was as if my head was somewhere completely different. This being said, contrary to their beliefs, I was in an intense battle with myself and my worries. Since the Olympic Games are like no other in terms of the responsibility we feel, the way I mentally approach the race is also completely different.

- In your opinion, does the status of the Olympic champion influence the judges at the Olympics when evaluating the jump? Can they slightly increase or, on the contrary, lower the points?

- I don't know, I can't answer for sure, anything can happen; they are capable of doing either. At the competition in Beijing, I noticed the judging was very strict because in the qualification I felt that I jumped full-full-double-full even better than in Korea [Note. Aleksandr won gold in Korea 2018 with this jump], and I got much lower points. It was a surprise for me and I was even a little disappointed. I even doubted my ability to get to the finals with the points I scored. It was when I witnessed the other athletes receiving lower scores than anticipated, that I realized the strictness from the judges.

- What memories are left about the Olympics in Beijing?

- The highlight memories are the tests every day, the worry that you might miss your main four-year start due to some illness, and the severe cold.

- How long have you been wearing VIST ski clothing? How do you value the quality of clothing and does it affect jumping?

- Before the Olympics, I had a VIST suit, it was a test suit. I really liked it because the materials and the suit itself were comfortable. And we tested it in -25C. It handled; I was not very cold. And I performed comfortably.

- What are your plans for the upcoming season as an athlete and what are your future plans in sports?

- Me and my country’s situation makes it generally very difficult to make any plans. It seems that nothing makes sense except to live in peace. That's why I don't make plans at all. If there is an opportunity, I will go to compete at the World Championship, however I already missed a significant part of training. I could not go with the team to the USA because I could not leave my child and wife at home alone. I stayed with them in Kyiv. Only now have I managed to go to Switzerland and train for three weeks. 

- The next Olympics (2026) are in Milan and Cortina d'Ampezzo, is it possible that we will see you there again as a participant?

- Everything is possible. But whether I want it or not, I don't know yet. As always, after every Olympics, there comes a moment when you don't want it anymore. But no one knows what will happen next. Maybe I will. But if I go there, it will be a little scary, because it will be my 6th Olympics, 2006 I started in Turin, and in 2026 I will finish, and some scary number comes out [laughs]. But everything can be.