By Hiro Yoshida
Since winning the World Junior title in 2016, Daniel Samohin’s career has been full of highs and lows. With his first major test of 2019 coming up at this week’s European Championships in Minsk, Belarus, he is looking to finally fulfil the promise he showed in the junior ranks.
The Israeli skater admits that it was a challenging few seasons handling expectation after taking gold at Junior Worlds and it has taken him a while to mature.
“I’ve never been that tired in my life,” Samohin said about the aftermath of his victory in Debrecen, Hungary. “After that I think I had more expectations. Even though I didn’t feel like it got to me, it did mentally and in the back of my head. That’s why it was harder for me to do certain competitions.
“I was still at that age where everything was changing. Now I am starting to feel my body a little bit more. I’m still not to my 100 percent, but I think I will get there.”
It has not been all bad for the 20 year old as he was selected to represent Israel at last year’s Olympics in PyeongChang. The experience was an affirming one for him in which he finished in a respectable 13th place overall and earned a career best free skating score of 170.75 and combined total of 251.44.
“The Olympics was really cool,” Samohin said. “The Olympic environment was so positive the whole time I was there. There was not one day where I was feeling negative or tired. The whole time I was there I was, ‘Alright, I got this. I’m ready. I can do it.’ Everybody was so happy there because we had all made it to the Olympics!”
Following PyeongChang, Samohin was buoyed by his showing and was gearing up to compete at the World Championships in Milan, Italy the following month. However, an old injury resurfaced mere days before he departed for the competition. At Skate America in 2017 he dislocated his left shoulder after falling on a quadruple Salchow in the free skate. A reoccurrence of that injury put his debut participation at Worlds in doubt, but ultimately he decided to compete.
“Practicing for Worlds last year I was really ready,” Samohin recalled. “I would have been able to do two quads and an Axel in the short and I would have been able to do three quads in the long, but again the circumstances.”
Despite falling twice in the short programme, he advanced to the free and ended the event in 20th place overall.
“I was kind of shocked that I made it,” Samohin said. “I think my skate in the free was a little better. My emotions were getting much better during that time so I think my components helped me out a little bit.”
The ongoing issue with his shoulder has made him more conscious of protecting himself physically while he skates. However, the injury has not made him any more fearful.
“Especially because of my shoulder and all the past injuries, I have to be sure of where I fall. Even though I am a little more careful now, I think it’s okay.
“I’m not scared of falling or hurting myself. That’s a part of sport. You have to know what you are getting into. Just being aware of where I am and how I fall now is definitely more an issue for me to understand.”
For this season, Samohin choreographed both his programmes almost entirely by himself. For his short, he picked “Senza Parole” by Il Divo. His free is to “Once Upon A Time In Mexico” by Robert Rodrigues, a piece of music he used previously the 2014/2015 season.
“The footwork Nikolai Morozov did, but we couldn’t finish the programmes and I didn’t have time so I ended up finishing both my long and my short. The reason we decided to do ‘Once Upon A Time In Mexico’ was I did it a long time ago and I was younger. Everybody liked that programme.
“Nobody really used it for a while again so I thought it would be cool to bring it back in a more mature way. When I was younger, I was messing around, but now it’s a manlier type of programme which I’m excited about.
“Transitions wise it is totally different. The beginning is different. The jumps are a little bit different as well. It’s a different layout – trying to do two triple Axels in the second half which is much harder. The music is the same.”
Samohin began his competitive season at the Ondrej Nepela Trophy in Bratislava, Slovakia where he came sixth. He was sixth again at the Nebelhorn Trophy in Oberstdorf, Germany. He set a new personal best short score of 84.90 at Skate Canada in Laval, Quebec on his way to an eighth place finish. His second Grand Prix assignment saw him come 10th at the Internationaux de France in Grenoble, France. In December, his last international competition of the season was the Golden Spin in Zagreb, Croatia where he was fourth. The following week he travelled to Israel to compete at his national championships. He captured his second senior title.
He believes he has become a more confident skater this season and is not letting errors in his routines phase him any more as has happened in the past.
“I think this year I’ve become more mature and calm with skating even with mistakes,” Samohin said. “I’m not really scared of messing up now. I just really have to get myself together for the moments that matter.”
Samohin is part of Generation Quad and relishes any opportunity to compete against the top guns, such as World champion Nathan Chen. At the same time, he enjoys the sense of camaraderie amongst all the skaters.
“I think competition is important,” he said. “You have to have competition. I grew up with Nathan and we used to skate in Lake Arrowhead a long time ago. Sometimes he was a little higher and I lower or we were the same. It was always up and down, but it’s fun.
“I’m really good friends with all the guys – the Russian team, America and Canada. We’re pretty supportive.”
This will be the fifth consecutive appearance at Europeans for the Israeli. His primary mission in Minsk will be to advance to the free which is something he has not been able to accomplish for the past two years.
“This year hopefully I’ll do better than that,” he laughed. “As we go forward for European and Worlds, I do want to skate two clean programmes with two quads in the short and three quads in the long. We’ll see maybe even four. It depends on my body and how I get it ready. It’s hard, but it’s a part of it.
“At Europeans, I definitely want to be top five. I want to be able to shoot up there. Of course there’s a lot of good guys, but if I skate clean and do my job correctly I think I’ll be able to do that.”
How Samohin fares at Europeans will likely determine whether he will be making the trip to Saitama, Japan for Worlds in March. An extra motivating factor for him will be that he has never skated in Japan before.
“I’ve really wanted to go to Japan and I’ve never had the chance so hopefully Worlds will be my first time. I’ve seen the arenas in Japan and how the people are. It looks amazing.”