Vladislav Bykanov (ISR) started to leave his mark in Short Track Speed Skating. We sat down with him to get a little back story on his journey.
Q = interviewer (Selina Vanier for ISU), VB = Vladislav Bykanov
Q: How did you end up doing Short Track Speed Skating?
VB: I started just for fun when I was eight or nine in the north of Israel. We have just one ice rink, which we are trying to get a bit bigger. I started, because a lot of my other friends skated and I fell in love with it. Over the years I was the last one to stay and everyone else kind of left and stopped skating. I loved it, a lot! And I am the national champion since the age of 16. I always tried to achieve my best and I was always a competitor, and Short Track is the kind of sport that I like. It is with people and against people and not against time but against somebody else. You have to outsmart them, out play them.
Q: Where do you train now?
VB: I started training outside of Israel when I was 19 I think, with Jeroen Otter; he is the current coach of the Dutch national team. He was coaching back then the Belgium national team, with the Latvians, Austrians and some New Zealander guys. It was kind of a mixed international training camp in Calgary and we trained with the local Calgary Olympic Oval program. It was a good mix for us and for them and then I made my big step with him. When he moved to Holland, I moved with him as he asked me and the Latvian guy to go with him. So we kind of had a better team, now that I train with the Dutch national team.
Q: So you moved from Israel to Calgary, and then followed your coach to the Netherlands and now train with the Dutch national team? Does that mean you cycle everywhere too?
VB: That’s correct and yes I have a bike but not here. Although I travelled with it for one year, I have not travelled with it this year. I am getting to be a true Dutchman, I have a Dutch girlfriend.
Q: Israel has been doing well in ISU sports. You recently won a medal at a World Cup Short Track event and Israeli Figure Skaters also did well. How do you explain this recent success?
VB: The head of our Federation is really interested in sport and the development of the sport and getting results. He also invested a lot of himself to get us into the right conditions and into the right hands to make us the best. He took the best Figure Skaters and brought them to New Jersey (USA) and they have their own local trainers there and local facilities and they are getting their job done. Anyway it looks that way; they got medals at the European Figure Skating Championships and get the good results, and big jumps. You have got to have the right support behind you I guess. Although we have access to good facilities and coaches, it is not in Israel and that is the problem. It is a shame I think, it would be better to train in your own country with your own language. It is always nice to get out there and see the best Skaters and athletes in the world and how they train. But at the end of the day you want to be in your own country. But I am used to it now; it is my seventh or eighth season already being away from Israel. Although you miss friends and family, you do get used to it.
Q: how do you feel in this pre-Olympic season?
VB: I am really motivated! I felt a lot of pressure before Sochi but now I am like: “OK I did my first Olympics, I’ve seen it, I know what it’s like”. Now it’s about getting the results, going and participating. I am coming back from a really big surgery on my hip. Actually I had two surgeries, one before last season, and one this season. It is going really well, and my recovery is almost 100%. So far it goes well, I’m really motivated and hoping to have a good season and going into the Olympic season.
Q: did you have your surgery before or after you won the 1500m race at the ISU World Cup Short Track Speed Skating event in Dordrecht (NED) last season?
VB: the first one was after I won the European Super Final in 2015 in Dordrecht (NED), the same ice rink I won the World Cup. Right after I went back to Israel for my surgery, with an expected six month recovery so I skipped the rest of the season and didn’t do the last two World Cups or the World Championships, so I could be ready for the next season. But the recovery took a little longer than expected and I started the season really late. I skipped the first three World Cups, then I did the fourth World Cup. Unfortunately my hip started hurting again, so I didn’t do Europeans, then I came back from Israel after further treatment. I did World Cup number five; it was decent but not what I had hoped for. Then I do not know what happened in Dordrecht but I just blew up right away and it was a big surprise to me and has been a very good motivator finishing the season with a good result. I really felt on the downside last season but I started this season with a lot of motivation and hard training so I am ready to rock and roll.
Q: can you tell us a little more about that medal? How did it make you feel?
VB: it was the 1500m, it is not my specialty but I like all distances and at the World Champs I had 500m as my best distance. There were eight people in the final, Sjinkie Knegt (NED) got injured the day before, so he wasn’t there. It was a shame as it is always good to race against him. I had thought before the race, sometimes it starts really really slow, so I will just sit in the back and see how it goes. If they start really really slow, I will do a surprise attack by accelerating really fast, surprise them, and by the time they react I will be long gone. And that is what happened! There was a small reaction but I was already gone half a lap and nobody wanted to be the guy to try to catch me. So I guess I outsmarted everyone. Strategy is part of the game and that’s what I like about Short Track, making the right move at the right moment.
Q: the Netherlands seems to bring you luck. How do you feel about the ISU World Short Track Speed Skating Championships being held in Rotterdam?
VB: I am really excited about that. It is basically like a home country for me now. I’m learning the language and I know a lot of people there and the local crowd knows that I am skating with the Dutch national team and kind of one of the guys. So it is also really nice to see the support from the crowd. Ahoy is a really big stadium in Rotterdam and I am really excited to see it. It will probably be something like the Olympics, with a big crowd really looking forward to it. It should be sold out. You got Sjinkie the World Champion and sportsman of the year and you got Suzanne Schulting winning medals left and right last season and it is her first year with the team so it should be interesting.
Q: Thank you very much for the interview and good luck for the rest of the season!
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