Meet Anthony Ponomarenko
Anthony Ponomarenko is the ideal male ice dancer: he's strong, expressive, and his parents are 1992 Olympic ice dance champions Marina Klimova and Sergei Ponomarenko. His success, however, comes from the fire within him and his relentless drive to not only succeed but succeed well. I have met few people as kind-hearted and thoughtful as Anthony, and the figure skating community is lucky to have a great role model like him. Also, he's hilarious, a meme king, and can strike a pose like no one's business! Read on to learn Anthony's thoughts on carrying on the family legacy, balancing high school and skating, and his plans for the future.
Birthday: January 5th, 2001 (18 years old)
Born: San Jose, California, USA
Hometown: Morgan Hill, California, USA
Currently: Novi, Michigan, USA
Skating Club: SC of San Francisco
Country Represented: USA
Discipline: Ice Dance
Partner: Christina Carreira
Training Location: Novi Ice Arena in Novi, Michigan, USA
Coach: Igor Shpilband
Basking in the glow of his amazing first senior season!
Q: What was it like growing up with parents who are Olympic ice dance champions - did they encourage you to follow in their footsteps, or was it something you came to by yourself?
A: At first my parents did not want me to skate. They had to live through so much drama and refused to put me on the ice. But at the age of five, I was a huge troublemaker/baby food-eater, and our babysitter had quit, so my parents had no choice but to take me to work, which was the rink. I was terrified at first, but the more I attended the rink, the more I loved it. They now encourage me to follow their footsteps, but that wasn’t the case before.
Q: After skating with Sarah Feng for four seasons, you teamed up with Canadian-born Christina Carreira and, well, the rest is history! How did your partnership get started and what makes it work so well, in your opinion?
A: Christina and I were both part-time students of Igor Shpilband with our previous partners, and we would visit Novi to work with Igor. We both broke up with our partners around the same time, and Igor recommended a tryout. Being a male in ice dance, I had a few tryouts planned, but I knew right away Christina would be the one. We felt comfortable with each other the first day of the tryout. The funny thing about this is the fact that my mom had asked Igor about Christina two years before the tryout at a competition. She was already interested in her then for a potential partnership and followed her skating.
Aren't they adorable?! (Photo by Daphne Backman, ice-dance.com)
Q: You guys just moved up to the senior level this season - and you already picked up one Grand Prix medal and three Challenger Series medals! How has it been transitioning from junior to senior? What differences or similarities surprised you the most?
A: When moving up to senior, I never would’ve believed that we would have such a successful season. This summer was super difficult, and we put in a lot of extra hours into our training to guarantee that we would be ready for the season. What surprised me the most was the amount of familiar faces we see in competition; we saw most of our competitors at the junior level. I am also very surprised on how chill and relaxed everyone in senior is. Seeing that in the junior level was a rare occurrence! A huge difference would be the importance of each competition because the difference in placements is very small, and you have to focus on details to overcome opponents.
Q: How has your Russian heritage impacted both your personal life and your skating career? And is the Russian style of coaching as intense (and terrifying!) as it seems?
A: My Russian heritage has impacted me greatly. I feel like it has made me a tougher person and taught me how to work hard. I also have many superstitions that I live by. During my whole childhood, I was taught by my mom and she was super scary. Moving to Igor, I thought he would be nicer, but I was super wrong. The Russian style of coaching is very intense, but it rewards hard work and proper behavior and punishes laziness. I believe it works so well because it is basically survival of the fittest.
With coach Igor Shpilband after winning silver at Junior Worlds last year
Q: Males in figure skating - especially in ice dance - are few and far between, and I know some boys are discouraged from pursuing it because of the perpetuated stereotype that figure skating is "too girly" and all that nonsense. Have you ever been made fun of for being a figure skater, and what advice would you give to a young boy who wants to skate but is worried he'll be bullied?
A: When I was younger, I was constantly made fun of and teased, but as I got older and everyone else around me did as well, they started to respect my commitment to the sport and such stereotypes were forgotten. One piece of advice I would give to any male trying skating is that there is nothing girly about it. You have beautiful women all around you, and you need to embrace yourself and be confident!
He's a Northern California boy - born and raised in San Jose, close to San Francisco
Q: On the ice, you're a US junior ice dance champion, but off the ice, you're just a normal teenager. What are your interests outside of skating - and I read in your ISU bio that one of your hobbies is extreme ironing? Um, details please.
A: Off the ice, I like to hang out with friends, cook, and play video games. Extreme ironing is a competition to see who can iron clothes in the weirdest spots on earth. It takes both balance, agility, and extreme strength, and I found it very interesting.
Q: You're also a senior in high school - how do you balance schoolwork and studying with flying around the world every other week? Do you ever sleep?!
A: I attend normal school in the mornings and skate in the afternoons. Most of my teachers are very flexible and helpful, and I always have time to catch up and make sure I have good grades. I rarely sleep a full night, though, and I am looking forward to finishing high school and having the extended summer off before uni.
Q: You and Christina have really blown up on Twitter in recent months, with #CPom becoming a thing amongst skating fans worldwide. Was it weird at first having a huge surge of adoring fans, and what's it like interacting on social media - and sometimes at competitions - with that community?
A: At first it was weird having so much attention from skating fans. I didn’t know how much of it was happening until I was forced to join Twitter (by Christina and the fans). I’m really thankful for all of the people who follow us on our journey because we have people who care about us and only want the best for us. This is a very opinion-based sport, and a lot of times negative comments and criticism can really hurt. Having positive fans helps return our confidence level to where it needs to be.
Q: What is it about skating that you love? I mean, you have to love it a whole lot to basically dedicate your entire life to it!
A: I love the freedom you have. Choosing music at the beginning of the year is always so exciting because you’re starting from the beginning again; a whole new work of art that we can create. We have been very fortunate to have the opportunity to choose our own music and interpret it in our own way.
Truly ethereal, graceful, and beautiful (Photo by US Figure Skating)
Q: As you prepare to go to your first senior US Nationals this month, what are your goals for the rest of the season and for the next four years - both on the ice and off?
A: Going into our first Nationals as senior competitors, we just want to put out two super strong performances and show that we can compete at such an elite level. The US dance field is very tough, and we always have competition. Each performance matters, and this summer we will work on consistency and cleanliness.
*Latching* onto their new exhibition (Photo by Maria Kateshova Photography)
Most-played song on your phone?
"Africa" by Toto
Favorite program your mom and dad did?
1992 Olympic free dance
Favorite program you and Christina have done (or are doing)?
Muse free dance
Skating to Muse's "Exogenesis Part III: Redemption" (Photo by Melanie Heaney Photography)
Favorite compulsory dance?
Tango Romantica or Dutch Waltz
If you had to change your name, what would you change it to?
What would you do with a million dollars?
Pay for skating and have enough money left over to buy a movie ticket and a medium sized popcorn at the local movie establishment.
What's on the top of your bucket list?
Skydiving or sleeping in for once
Jazz/blues music and Animal Planet documentaries
I approve of this (Meme by Buzzfeed)
Quote to live by?
"Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard" and "You only live once (YOLO)"
KEEP UP WITH ANTHONY
Team Facebook: Christina Carreira & Anthony Ponomarenko
Team Website: carreira-ponomarenko.com
And be sure to read our interview with Anthony's partner Christina here!
All other photos courtesy Anthony Ponomarenko