SOCHI – Kazakh figure skater Denis Ten won bronze in the men’s individual competition at the Sochi Winter Olympics, Kazakhstan’s best Olympic figure skating result ever and the first medal for team Kazakhstan at these games.
Ten, 20, has enjoyed the support of his countrymen and fans around the world, especially after his silver-medal finish at the world championships in Canada last year, where he came in second to local favourite Patrick Chan, but won standing ovations from the crowd.
In Sochi, Ten was among the favourites, but facing some of the world’s best, including Chan and two-time Olympic gold medallist Evgeni Plyushenko of Russia skating on his home ice, was bound to be intimidating. Ten, however, said he never stopped believing in himself and was eager to get the first medal for his nation of 17 million.
“Right after my performance, I went to a gym to exercise. There are two such gyms at the Iceberg rink where the figure skating events were held. While pedalling the stationary bike, I could watch the main contenders on the screen. On one hand, the anticipation was not easy; on the other hand, I could distract myself a little,” Ten commented.
“I didn’t follow closely what was going on with other athletes and tried not to build up high hopes to avoid a disappointment,” the skater said, laughing. “This [bronze medal] was a big gift for me.”
On Feb. 13, Russia’s top skater, Plyushenko, retired after a landing that “felt like knife in the back,” he said, during warmups right before the short programme. However, Ten was already determined to do what he had to do after falling himself during the short programme earlier.
“I skated in the short programme after the first warm up, so when I got on the ice, Plyushenko had retired,” he said. “I didn’t know how Chan and Yuzuru reacted to this news, as they skated in a different group.”
Ten was also concerned about the Kazakh Olympic team throughout the games and closely followed other athletes. “I watched Alexey Poltoranin and Denis Kuzin in particular. It is a pity that they didn’t win medals, but I hope that my medal will bring luck to our national team. Perhaps my medal won’t be the only one [for us],” Ten said.
The Kazakh skater said he was not sure about the world championship this year. “I don’t want to plan ahead of time; I have had problems with my health throughout this tough season. I skated here in Sochi in different skates – one pair was made of leather and the other from a different material. My shoes are from two different pairs. I have had various injuries this past season. My skate broke, I had to change it to another one, then I couldn’t get used to it and eventually strained my left foot. There has been a tonne of these situations. So far, I have been planning to pay more attention to my own health after Sochi, as my feet have been a concern during the past season, including at Sochi,” Ten said.
Despite massive media exposure in his native Kazakhstan, Ten prefers to stay an athlete rather than a celebrity. “I never considered myself a media person, as I consider myself an athlete first of all,” Ten said. “I am fortunate that people want to socialise with me, ask me for interviews. But first of all, I am an athlete. Sport is my top priority and I am planning to stick to it in the near future,” he said.
Ten hosted a skating show with figure skating stars last year and wants to repeat such a show in Kazakhstan by inviting some of his figure skating counterparts from all over the globe. His only concern is that the show was named after him, and he’d like to change it to something bigger, something like, “Kazakhstan Invites Friends,” he said, “to place the emphasis on our country first of all.”
But he’s not leaving the ice rink yet. “Figure skating is a tough discipline, and I am not planning to stop yet. Time will tell,” the skater said.