In preparation for the 2019-2020 season, the World Curling Federation has been speaking to some of the world’s top athletes, finding out how they got involved with curling, who inspires them and what motivates them to get out onto the ice and be the best they can be.
In the third of the series, meet Russia’s Galina Arsenakina – 2018 World Women’s bronze medallist and 2016 European champion – who plays second on Alina Kovaleva’s team. The newly formed team – skip Alina Kovaleva, third Anastasia Bryzgalova and lead Ekaterina Kuzmina – is coming off their first season together, where they managed to represent Russia at both the Le Gruyère AOP European Curling Championships and the LGT World Women’s Curling Championship. Although this season, Maria Komarova will be playing third in place of Bryzgalova.
In 2018, Arsenkina competed on Victoria Moiseeva’s team at the PyeongChang Olympic Winter Games, finishing ninth. At the last two World Women’s Curling Championships, Arsenkina found herself on the All Stars team based on having the highest shot making percentage in her position.
How did you begin playing curling and what motivates you today to you continue to play competitively?
I used to do figure skating before I began playing curling. I got a serious injury and doctors prohibited me to continue figure skating as it is more traumatic sport than curling. At the same time there was a curling group in my hometown (Zelenograd, about 25 km away from Moscow) and I got interested in it. Therefore, decided to try. Surprisingly enough, my first competition happened just two months after. It was in a local junior curling team and it turned out to be successful. We got a silver medal at that time. Afterwards, I was invited to practice among the Moscow team and since then curling has become my passion. I fell in love with it and simply cannot stop playing it. I like the feeling of sliding, making nice shots and winning the game.
This season will be your second year with Alina Kovaleva after playing with both Anna Sidorova and Victoria Moiseeva, who you won bronze with at the World Women’s Curling Championship 2018. What did you learn from that experience? What is your best advice for playing with a new team?
The current team has a completely different atmosphere. I have learned a lot of new things for myself in the working process. I have become more enduring. The best advice I can give is always doing your best and work hard whatever happens.
How did your first season with Alina Kovaleva go? Describe your teammates for us?
Our first season with Team Kovaleva was not as successful as we have expected. Generally, the team was playing very good and we confidently won both challenges for Europeans and Worlds. With that, the team represented our country at the international events. But unfortunately, we couldn’t get a medal there, this disappointed us a lot as we had everything needed to win.
My teammates are great guys. They are very ambitious, result oriented and hard-working.
What is your greatest accomplishment in curling?
Winning European gold 2016 as well as World bronze 2018 was my greatest accomplishment and memory for me, especially because I have been able to be back to curling after a back surgery a year before.
What was your toughest loss in curling and what did you learn from it?
My toughest loss was at the last European championship. We did not win bronze and that was quite a pity as we have been only one step away from it.
The lesson I learned is that we need to have more experience to play under pressure.
What is your mindset waking up on the day of a big game? How do you learn to control your emotions? Do you have special ways to deal with pressure?
The mindset waking up on the day of a big game is a high level of concentration. I do think only about the upcoming game and nothing else. I find meditation helpful before the game which also helps me to deal with pressure.
Who is the most influential person in your life and what have you learned from them?
I would say my father is a very important person in my life. He was a good athlete in the past too, so he inspired me. He taught me to stay strong in sport and never give up and to fight for success.
What are your long-term goals?
Like any professional athlete, my long-range goal is an Olympic medal.
The curling community is so different around the world. Describe what the curling community is like in Russia and what does the competitive curling scene look like?
There are several leading regions in Russian curling, whose athletes often get into national teams and win all-Russian competitions – Moscow, Mos obl, St. Petersburg and Krasnodar region. Now, thanks to the efforts of the Russian Curling Federation, curling is actively developing in other cities across the country from Kaliningrad to Vladivostok.
Regarding the competitive curling scene, well, yes, we can be friends off the ice and play in different teams, but on the ice one team compete with the other and of course wants to win.
You were on the All-Star team for your position at the last two World Women’s – how do you achieve this with different teams and how do you feel about winning the award?
A few years ago Anders Kraupp gave me an opportunity to try this position when he worked with the Russian team. Since then I remained to play so, and apparently play well.
I like this position and always do my best at it. Of course, it’s nice to win such an award and I am very happy and grateful for that.
You competed at the PyeongChang Olympic Winter Games! How would you describe the experience and what does it mean for you to be an Olympian?
Honestly, it’s great honor to be an Olympian [pictured below © WCF / Richard Gray] and part of such a historical event. It was amazing experience even though we did not succeed there.
What are your tips for being a good teammate and a successful elite curler?
In order to be a good teammate and successful elite curler you must respect your partners, love curling, enjoy the process of trainings, games and no matter what the results is, work hard and all the time improve yourself.
Thank you Galina for the insight to your curling career so far. All the best to you and your team for the season ahead.
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