Tim Dolensky: Looking Back and Forward

By Miwako Nagata

After participating in several summer competitions, Timothy Dolensky (26) of the United States, travelled to Europe to compete at Lombardia Trophy in Bergamo, Italy earlier this month. He was accompanied by his new coach, Daniil Barantsev, who also choreographed his new short program to “Spark” by Amber Run. Dolensky moved to Texas from his hometown of Atlanta in the spring of 2017 mainly for the opportunity to train alongside other top-level international skaters, but also work to with coaches Peter and Darlene Cain. Europe On Ice got the opportunity to interview him during the Lombardia Trophy on how his coaching change came about, what his goals are for the season and his plans for after his competitive career.
“I first started working with Daniil as a supplemental coach in October 2017 and we worked really well together right from the beginning. He would just work on some of the choreography that I already had, not new choreography, and every once in a while, we would have a lesson. Then in the beginning of the spring, he started helping me with some of my quads with the pole harness. I really like his jump technique and I just really like working on jumps with him too, and with the pole harness. We work well together, and we have a really good relationship with one another and so I felt very strongly that I wanted him to be my main coach. I needed a change.”

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Dolensky previously trained at the DallasStar Center in Euless together with the Cains’ other skaters, but since he has started working with Barantsev, he has moved his training base to one of the DallasStar Center’s facilities in Farmers Branch.
“The biggest difference between training with the Cains and what I’m doing now is that I don’t train with this many high-level skaters. But now I feel that I don’t need that as much as I did when I first moved. When I first moved, I definitely needed to train with other skaters – where I was in my life, it felt like I needed that. It helped me a lot to keep growing and the Cains helped me in a lot of ways, so I’m very thankful and appreciative toward them. But as I said I just love the way I work with Daniil and I like his mental outlook. The way he thinks about things – it makes a lot of sense to me. I feel more comfortable now.”

Earlier this season Dolensky named two things that he needed to work on: consistency in his jumps and his self-confidence. He and his new team have found an effective way to attack those challenges.
“Something we’ve been doing recently that has been helping with my jump consistency is that we only do a few of each jump. This makes each one really count. For example, I will only warm up one or two triple Axels before I do a programme run through. It puts the pressure on me to do them because I don’t have unlimited tries, just like competition. It helps my confidence to know that even when I have limited chances to do a certain jump, I can still do it because I do it at home in practice.”

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On 1 July 2018, an update of the International Skating Union (ISU) Judging System officially came into effect. One of the most notable changes is in the scale of the Grade of Execution (GOE), from “–3 to +3” to “-5 to +5”. Another major change is the reduction in length of the men’s and pairs free skating programmes to four minutes. Dolensky shares his thought about the changes and his experience performing his shortened free.
“I like what they’re doing with the new judging system. I don’t think all the kinks have been figured out with the whole minus five to plus five change, but I think at every competition it is getting better and better — it is similar to when they first changed it from 6.0 to IJS. I feel like it’s not quite to what it’s supposed to be yet, but it’s getting better and I think it will be a good change for our sport.
“As for the four minutes (free programme), I think that it is a good thing. To me, personally, the long has not felt any shorter or easier – it still feels long, and it is still hard. If anything, it is maybe even harder because we have 30 seconds less, but only one less jump, which honestly doesn’t take up that much time. We still have to fit everything else in, so it feels a bit tighter. “

After three consecutive seventh place finishes at Nationals, Dolensky has set a new goal for this season: to podium at Nationals.
“I definitely think that if I skate well and I do the content that I have right now well, I can podium at Nationals this year. I think that it is definitely possible and so that is my goal for this year. After this season, I am not certain as far as whether or not I will continue competing. I’m definitely taking it one season at a time to see how it goes. I am starting to get older and, at some point, I do want to move on with my life. I think every skater reaches that point, so I’m taking it one season at a time”

Dolensky began skating at the age of six after a school trip to an ice rink and is admired by many for his skating skills and spins. He talks about the skaters who inspired him throughout his career.
“When I was little, I loved watching Timothy Goebel because he could do those quads so easily – he was my favourite. When I was a bit older my favourite skater was Jeremy (Abbott), and now I would say that Jeremy and Josh Farris are my favourites. They are the ones who have inspired me the most. I love their skating and I love both of their personalities. I love the way they skate, and I try to emulate that with my skating as much as I can. I want to skate like that.
“Josh and I are from the same generation of skaters and we competed as rivals, but we are also friends. It was really fun competing with him for so many years. He inspired me, and I inspired him in his music choice. I was the one who suggested he skate to ‘Libertango’ by Astor Piazzolla for his short programme in the 2013-14 season. We keep in contact and we text sometimes. I posted pictures of us from Broadmoor, before and after. That was fun. It’s great that his second career as a coach is starting off so well.”
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Dolensky is well known for his musical talent. He has studied music since he was in elementary school and plays the piano and the violin. He also composes. In the 2011 and 2014 seasons, he skated to music he composed himself. He has also contributed music to the Young Artists Showcase competition, which is a competition providing opportunity to young choreographers, in 2014. At the event, Alissa Czisny skated to Anna Cobb’s choreography to his music. Katie Stewart and Mauro Bruni also choreographed programmes to some of his compositions. When thinking about his long-term goals after his competitive career, he sees himself pursuing a career in something related to music.
“I definitely think – I’ve actually thought about this a lot recently – that when I’m done skating I would like to coach a little bit, but I recently figured out that what I really would like to do is to go back to school. I think it would be really cool to study music education and then become a music teacher in a school or some type of setting like that. Music is such a big thing for me. I would love to work with a school orchestra because I was in an orchestra in high school and I loved that whole experience. I think it would be really fun to be a high school or middle school orchestra teacher. They don’t make that much, but I don’t care about that… And I really like Texas, so I think that I might to try to go to school there and stay there even after I’m done skating.
“Also, I would love to compose for other skaters. Someone would have to be interested in order for me to do it though, but if they were then I would love to try composing for someone else. It would be really cool to see another skater skating to my own music.”

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Dolensky grew up in a Catholic family. He is a devoted member of the church and often volunteers in church activities. In what ways has his faith helped him in the ups and downs of his career?
“One of the things that has really helped me throughout my career has been my faith. It’s something that has really helped because it is such an important part of my life. It helps me keep a lot of things in perspective, not just skating. Whether you do well, or you do poorly, there is a lot more to life than just this little world of skating that we all love. The Catholic faith has really helped me through all the good times and the bad times and I know that God loves me, and he will always be there for me. That is something that I really take with me everywhere despite whatever happens – in skating or life – that’s something that has always really helped.
“I love to be involved and I love to volunteer. It’s good to have people in your life that you can share your faith with. I’ve been meeting more people at church, being more involved and I feel that as I got to be an adult, being in my twenties now, I’ve gotten more serious about it – and it’s only been better.”

Once a competitive figure skater steps onto the ice at competitions there is no one to stand beside them. Is there anything that we as an audience can do to support the skaters? What does the audience mean to the skaters?
“I love when the audience cheers for the skaters – whether you fall, or you land, you’re doing well or not. I especially love at the end of programmes feeling their energy. I’ve been to competitions where the crowd’s energy was really good and it is just so much fun. I remember the moment in my long at Nationals this year, after the very hard falls on the first two jumps and then I nailed the spin and the crowd just lit up. That really pushed me through the rest of my programme. The audience can have such an effect on you. Skaters can definitely hear and feel the audience.”

As an international level figure skater, Dolensky has travelled to many different countries. What are his thoughts on being in Bergamo, Italy and does he have any specific country he wants to compete in?

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“It’s really fun. Especially here – I’ve never been to Italy before. It’s always cool to go to a new place. I love competing in Europe, but I’d really love to compete in Asia somewhere – maybe Japan – that would be really fun. I’ve always wanted to do that.

“If it’s possible I definitely try to go out and see the place I am at because who knows if I’ll ever come back. I always try to do that if my schedule allows. I think on my day off, the day between on Friday, after practice, we might go to the old city and go look around.”

Looking ahead to the upcoming Challenger Series competition Nebelhorn Trophy this weekend, Dolensky has this to say.
” I am looking forward to skating better at Nebelhorn. I am glad that I have another chance so soon! I loved doing Nebelhorn Trophy two years ago. The scenery there is breath-taking. I have some great memories there with my old coach Debbie Prachar and I cannot wait to make some new ones with Daniil!”

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