Born in New York state to Slovakian parents, Nicole Rajičová took advantage of her heritage by beginning her career representing Slovakia in 2011 and just a few short years has already won two Slovakian titles, competed at two European Championships, two World Junior Championships, two World Championships and the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. She's also amassed an impressive five medals in international competitions the last few seasons and after a top fifteen finish at this year's Worlds in Shanghai, she seems poised to take things to an even HIGHER level next year. Nicole was gracious enough to make time to speak with me after just finishing her finals at university and it was my pleasure to learn more about her story including how she came to compete for Slovakia, her ambitious life both on and off the ice, her goals for the future and much more. I hope you enjoy this interview - I know I did!:
Q: You've had some incredible accomplishments thus far in your competitive career – you’re a two time Slovakian champion, represented your country at the Sochi Olympics and at the World, European and World Junior Championships and have won five medals internationally in the last few seasons. Reflecting on it all, what moments stand out as your proudest and which have been the most challenging?
A: My figure skating career has been an incredible journey and I am very proud of how far I've come. I would have to say that the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games stand out, making it the proudest moment of my skating career as well as the most challenging. The journey to make the Slovak Olympic team was extremely difficult. Slovakia only had one spot so the 2013/2014 season was predominantly devoted to deciding which skater would go. In total, five competitions were heavily considered and I don't think I have ever skated with as much pressure and stress as I did in that season. Looking back, I am incredibly proud of the fact that I came out of this successfully, ultimately making the Slovak Olympic team. It was certainly a life changing experience and I learned a lot about myself. I am also very proud of how far I've come as a skater, and I hope to continue to improve.
Q: You represent Slovakia as both of your parents were born there, but were actually born in New York City and currently train in New Jersey. How did you reach the decision to represent Slovakia as opposed to the U.S. and was it an easy process?
A: Since I was born and raised in the United States, naturally I started competing in the United States. I qualified for the U.S. National Championships three times. In 2012, I won the Eastern Sectional Championships in the Junior level, which meant that I would be going to Nationals in a good position. However, after lots of thought and consideration, my family, coaches, and I decided that I should withdraw from U.S. Nationals and instead compete in the Slovak National Championships. At first, I was VERY torn between the two options because I felt that I was in a good position going into U.S. Nationals that year and I did not want to give that up. I was also scared to compete for a different country. However, we ultimately did decide that I would have many more opportunities if I skated for Slovakia because it was less competitive than the U.S. Although it was originally a difficult decision, I could not be happier that I chose to skate for Slovakia. I have had so many incredible experiences competing on the international circuit and I have made it to some places that I never would have had I continued to skate for the U,S.
A: You've worked with some of the best in the business – Nikolai Morozov, Peter Johansson, Phillip Mills… What has each of the coaches and choreographers you have worked with over the years uniquely brought to your skating?
A: I am extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with all of these amazing coaches. They have all provided me with helpful guidance and advice that has stayed with me until today. I worked with Peter Johansson for two summers and he helped my jump technique. After working with him, my jumps became much more consistent. Additionally, he helped me maintain a level of inner discipline which helped me tremendously with my consistency. Phillip Mills choreographed my programs for the 2013/2014 season, and continued to help me mentally throughout the season. He helped me highlight my strengths while overshadowing my weaknesses. Additionally, he helped me remain mentally strong while fighting for the Olympics. Nikolai Morozov choreographed my programs for the 2014/2015 season. We still have not totally decided for sure what I will skate to for either one of my programs but we are currently working on that. We are planning on experimenting with new styles and genres of music, so they will definitely be something to keep your eyes out for! Working with Nikolai is truly amazing – he is very creative, extremely fun to work with and has a unique style on the ice. He helped really enhance my artistic aspects of my skating.
Q: What are your goals and plans for the 2015/2016 season and beyond when it comes to competitive skating and what would you say are your main focuses in training right now?
A: For the 2015/2016 season, I really would like to improve the execution of my long program. In the 2014/2015 season, I consistently performed great short programs, however my long programs have always had a few flaws. Additionally, I hope to generally improve my skating skills and components. Beyond the upcoming season, I my main goal is to qualify for the 2018 Winter Olympic Games.
Q: Of the skaters you competed against in Shanghai at the World Championships, who would you say is the toughest competitor? The most intimidating? The nicest person you could ever meet?
A: I would say the toughest competitor is Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, primarily because of her consistency and perseverance throughout the past season. She performed incredibly well at numerous competitions and it seemed as though she did not let anything affect her. I don't really believe that anyone in particular is intimidating. I try to focus on myself at competitions and not let other skaters affect me. All of the skaters are very nice people! I do know Natalia Popova (of the Ukraine) very well, because we train together, and I have to say that she is probably one of the sweetest, nicest, most friendly and positive people I have ever met!
Q: What are two things you absolutely can't travel without?
A: I absolutely cannot travel without my Bose noise-cancelling headphones. They are absolute lifesavers on every flight. You can’t hear a single thing through them! I also always bring a good book and my number puzzles (Sudoku, Ken-Ken, Kakuro and such). I get bored super easily, so this always helps the time go by much faster.
Q: What movie do you think you've watched the most times? What about a song or piece of music you've had on repeat more than once?
A: One single movie doesn't really come to mind. I don't really have a favourite movie, but I love to watch anything new that will make me laugh. I'm really similar with music, but the song "Calling (Lose My Mind)" by Alesso and Sebastian Ingrosso featuring Ryan Tedder is my favourite. It always gets me in a good mood and never gets old!
Q: Who are your three favourite skaters of all time and why?
A: My three favourite skaters are Yuna Kim, Elizaveta Tuktamysheva and Yuzuru Hanyu. I really admire the entire package that Yuna Kim brings to the ice. Her grace, jumps, power and elegance are unmatched, and it was always a pleasure to watch her skate flawless programs wherever she competed. Elizaveta brings incredible consistency, confidence, and power to the ice. Her triple axel is amazing and extremely admirable. Yuzuru Hanyu seems as though he floats on the ice. His skating and jumps look so light and effortless. He always seems so focused, and I really admire how he executes his programs under any circumstance.
Q: What's one thing about you most people don’t know?
A: I am not sure that people know that in addition to being a skater, I am also a full time college student. I just finished my freshman year at the Gabelli School of Business at Fordham University. I am currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Global Business with a focus on Healthcare Management and Global Finance. I love math and science, and I want to incorporate this with my international experience.
Q: What do you love more than anything about figure skating?
A: When I am on the ice, I feel like I am in a world of my own. I am in complete control of my movements and I have a chance to get away from everyone and everything when I skate. My absolute favourite part of skating is the feeling I get after performing a good program at a competition. All of the training leads up to those few minutes I get to myself and when I skate well, nothing else in the world matches the happiness and satisfaction I feel.
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