Interview With Béla Papp

Béla Papp

The great balancing act of school and skating is something Finland's Béla Papp knows all too well. The 2011 Finnish Champion lives and trains in Canada while pursuing a university degree at Simon Fraser University. You might say skating is in his blood! His four siblings all have skating backgrounds as well, his sister being two time Finnish Medallist Beata Papp. On the comeback trail from injury, Béla's passion to succeed is greater than ever and I was fortunate to have had chance to talk to him about everything from moving to a new country to his skating goals for this season to growing up in a skating family. You'll love this one!:

Q: You've had a really wonderful career so far. You've won the two Finnish junior titles as well as the senior national title and have represented Finland at the 2011 World Championships as well as at four consecutive World Junior Championships, not to mention a number of other international events from Australia to Romania. What are your proudest moments or most special memories from your competitive career so far?

A: One of my most proudest moments was when I won my first senior national title in Finland in 2011. It was a great feeling and training had really paid off. What made it more special was the fact that I did not have a good short program and was fourth after it, I believe. I just really wanted to show everyone what I was capable of doing in the free program and went out there and was able to perform a clean program. Another proud moment I had was when I was able to represent my home country in the World Championships. It was a great honor and an even greater experience to compete against the best skaters in the world.

Q: Although you were born in Kuopio, Finland, you actually live, train and study here in Canada - in British Columbia actually. Was there much of a culture shock moving from Finland to Canada in 2007 and what do you love most about here and miss most about Finland do you find? 

A: There wasn't too much of a culture shock when I moved from Finland to Canada. The biggest difference that I realized was the multicultural aspect that especially Vancouver has with all the different cultures and ethnic backgrounds. The thing that I love most about Canada is the fact that people are very friendly and easygoing so it was an easy transition. The things that I miss most about Finland are family and the friends that I grew up with. Also every time I go back to Finland I fall in love with the scenery as it is beautiful there.

Q: You have worked with Joanne McLeod, alongside a host of other great skaters including Olympic Silver Medallist Kevin Reynolds. How do you feel having the right training environment motivates you daily to improve and grow stronger as an athlete? 

A: I don't train with Joanne McLeod anymore. I made a switch to training with Bruno Delmaestro in the Coquitlam Skating Club a few years ago. Things didn't work out with Joanne and I. The training motivation that I have now is greater than ever. I try and go on the ice everyday with a great attitude and always trying to give 110% to achieve my daily and seasonal goals. I believe that these qualities have made me a stronger athlete and of course the love for the sport. I had the chance to train with Kevin Reyonlds and Jeremy Ten when I still skated with Joanne. Kevin and Jeremy are both great friends of mine and great skaters whom I look up to in both on the ice and off the ice.

Q: After not competing during the 2012/2013 season, you came back and finished third at your Nationals this past season. What can you share about your goals for this next season and the programs you will be skating? 

A: After recovering from my lower back surgery (L5 bilateral pars repair) I was motivated to get back into training and prove to everyone that I was still able to compete at a high level. My goals for this season are to skate as well as I personally can at each one of my competitions as well as to achieve the World Score. Another important goal that I have set for myself is to be able to compete for the title again at my Nationals. My short program for the upcoming season is bluesy with lyrics. It is a different style that I have previously skated to and I really like the challenge, because it makes me work hard on my presentation skills and hopefully it will reflect in my competition scores. My long program starts off with a classical side of music and then turns into tango and intense music towards the end, which I personally love because I can go full out in performing it in front of a crowd.

Q: Describe the ultimate day in your life. What would you eat, what music would you be listening to and where would you go? 

A: The ultimate day in my life would probably be hanging out with my closest friends and going to the beach or cliff jumping at some of the local locations and just enjoy life with great friends. I would most likely be having a barbecue at the location and making burgers and listening to hip hop or electronic music.

Béla Papp
Béla and his sister Beata

Q: Your siblings Beata, Bettina and Benjam all figure skate as well. Is sibling rivalry something has gone on often between the four of you or are you generally just very supportive of each other? 

A: Beata and Benjam are currently skating with me, but my younger sister Bettina has retired from skating. We have an encouraging relationship when we are on the ice and support each other as much as we can during training and competition. Of course there is some sibling rivalry especially between my brother who is five years younger than I am and his personal goal is to beat me one day. I have promised to have at least one competition with him sometime in the future when he gets his triple jumps.

Q: How do you think figure skating needs to change or grow to become more popular with the wider audiences of today and draw in more fans? 

A: I believe figure skating is moving the right way although individual perspectives differ with the new judging system. I have noticed that especially in my home country the trend of figure skating has bloomed and they are doing a lot of cool new things to get younger kids to start figure skating. I think that people just need to give the sport a chance and go watch a high level event to truly know what the sport is all about to really appreciate it to the fullest and get the whole experience.

Q: Who are your three favourite skaters of all time and why? 

A: Growing up my favourite skaters were Evgeni Plushenko and Brian Joubert. I really liked the European style that they had while skating and the athleticism that they brought to the sport. Currently my favourite skaters are Yuzuru Hanyu, Denis Ten and Maxim Kovtun. They're all young athletes with such great talent and it motivates me to get on the level that they are on at the moment
Q: What is one thing most people don't know about you? 

A: A thing most people don't know about me is that I'm really easygoing and love to meet new people. People are used to seeing me as a very busy individual always either studying on campus or at training. I guess that goes to pretty much all the student athletes.

Q: What do you love more than anything about figure skating? 

A: The thing that I love more than anything about figure skating is when you are able to have the skate of your life at a competition that really matters after hours and hours of working towards that goal and finally achieving it. That is one of the best feelings to have as a figure skater.

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