By Kama Stigall
Anastasiia “Nastyia” Smirnova and Danil Siianytsia arrived in Las Vegas for the 2021 Toyota U.S. Figure Skating Championships in January with high hopes for a gold medal.
But a leg injury to Smirnova the day before the short program put the junior pairs team’s goal of competing, let alone standing on top of the podium, in serious jeopardy.
“Although she really wanted to skate, it didn’t look like we would be able to continue,” their coach, Trudy Oltmanns, said. “I spent the evening before the short program rebooking our trip home for that day. The next morning, Nastyia really wanted to try the short, and then we could withdraw if she couldn’t make it.”
Smirnova had her own doubts as to whether she would be able to perform.
“I just kept icing my leg in a bucket and putting healing ointment on all night, and crossed my fingers that I could skate in the morning,” Smirnova said. “I wanted to skate so badly.”
When it came time to perform, Smirnova and Siianytsia exhibited their mettle, winning the event by more than 20 points.
It was their first U.S. title. The pair trains in Bloomington, Minnesota, and had placed third in the novice division in 2019 and second in the junior ranks in 2020.
The team credits Oltmanns with much of their success. Siianytsia began working with her in 2016. He partnered with Smirnova in 2018.
“I think we make a good team because our coach makes us great,” Siianytsia said. “She pays attention to everything. She taught me everything about pairs from the very beginning, and I trust everything she says and does, even if I don’t trust myself. I really believe we are only as good as we are because of where and how we train with our coach.”
He continued, “It took a lot of time to learn how to be good at things that Nastyia and I had always been told we were not good at. I was 16 years old when I learned how to do a juvenile group 2 lift. Everyone jokes that I couldn’t land an Axel at 15 years old, but it was true. Everything Trudy said we were capable of doing, we have accomplished.”
Oltmanns affirms that having an intentional, thoughtful plan has been the key to their success.
“I believe the reason they have been able to progress up the ranks is because we all sat down at the very beginning of the partnership and agreed on a plan of action that would keep them on track for exactly where they are today and where they want to be in the future,” she said. “We have never lost sight of that plan and those goals.”
Of course, they are already in planning mode for the upcoming season. The team will compete internationally as juniors and domestically as seniors. In addition, they will keep their popular short program to Tape Five’s “Dixie Biscuits” and introduce a new free program to Lara Fabian’s cover of “Je Suis Malade.”
“The goals for the team are to make the Junior Grand Prix Final, to be on the podium at Junior Worlds and to have a top-four finish at the U.S. Championships,” Oltmanns said.
During the offseason, the pair is committed to becoming as strong as possible — inside and out.
“We are taking much more care to make sure there are no weaknesses in our bodies and to prevent injuries,” Smirnova said. “The other new addition is that I now speak with a sports specialist [Julie Learner] on how to be the best competitor and athlete every day. Julie makes me want to run onto the ice and be my best always.”
The young pair has learned a great deal over the past few years of competing together.
“I think skating always teaches you to work hard to achieve your goals,” Smirnova said. “Your goals can always change, but how you get them will always require the same hard work to be the best. You always have to care for yourself and your relationships — they don’t just take care of themselves.”
Building upon the knowledge they have already gained, whether on the ice or in life, gives the team a blueprint for future success.
“Winning the junior title made me feel like I want to be better,” Siianytsia said. “It made me feel like we have taken one more step in the direction we want to go. It felt almost like a learning experience about all the things that need to improve.”
Getting to Know Anastasiia
Year in school: Recent high school graduate
Skating club: The Skating Club of New York
Tell us about your pet kitten. My kitten’s name is Bonnie. He is cute and fluffy and loves to play with everyone.
If you could go on vacation anywhere in the world, where would you go and what would you do? I would go to Italy with my family. I would like to lie on the beach, walk around the city and spend time with my family.
Do you have any hobbies or hidden talents? I like to do all kinds of crafts. I love to draw. I spent a lot of time embroidering masks for my friends during quarantine. Also, before I moved to the U.S., I was a modern jazz/funk dance performer. I love all kinds of dance.
Where is your favorite place to shop? I love shopping. It doesn’t matter if it’s clothes or makeup — I could shop 24/7. I love Lululemon, Zara and Sephora.
Getting to know Danil
Skating club: All Year Figure Skating Club
What is your favorite way to spend time at the gym? I love lifting. I would be a more serious weightlifter if I wasn’t a figure skater. Deadlifts and squats are my favorites.
What is your favorite way to spend a day off? I am definitely an introvert, so I need to decompress by myself one day a week. On that day, I like to connect with my friends through video games. I like to sleep in, stay at home, clean my room and get mentally ready for the new week.
Do you have any hobbies or hidden talents? I used to ballroom dance and act when I was younger.
What is something SKATING magazine readers might be surprised to learn about you? I have two webbed toes. I am also kind of a neat freak; I like to keep fresh flowers in my room.
What is your favorite movie? Due Date