|Balancing act: Pair skating is difficult. Anna Ngân and Kim Mincheoul are taking their first steps toward being competitive. — VNS Photo Đoàn Tùng|
Nguyễn Mỹ Hà
Born and raised in the Eastern European country of Ukraine, Iaruk Pavlo never thought one day he would board a plane to a tropical Southeast Asian country to teach ice skating.
But in his resume, he called himself in English as Paul Yaruk.
“We arrived in June in Hà Nội to get ready for the opening of the Vincom Ice Rink at Royal City,” he said. “I had never been to Asia before.”
After two years of experience teaching children and adults in Kharkov, Ukraine, he ventured to a new country in 2013 for a new life teaching children the sport he loves.
|Anna Ngô Hoàng Ngân won second prize in Advanced Novice Ladies. — VNS Photo Trọng Tuấn|
June is usually the hottest month in Hà Nội. Temperatures rise as high as 40 degrees or more.
But Paul Yaruk, 22 years old when he arrived, did not need to worry about the heat because he would be spending his days at the city’s first indoor ice rink in the Vincom Royal City Mega Mall.
“It’s been five years since the first days,” he said.
Yaruk said he was surprised by Hà Nội’s traffic. At first, he got to live in the new Vincom Riverside residential area and was driven to the rink each day to teach.
“After six months, we moved out, found an apartment for rent closer to the rink and rented a motorbike to get around,” he said.
He has already adapted to his new life and surroundings.
|New talent: Anna Ngô Hoàng Ngân won secnd prize in the Advanced Novice Ladies category. — VNS Photo Trọng Tuấn|
“I was struck by the city’s traffic,” he said, reflecting on how he used to try to figure out the traffic patterns. “There are rules, but nobody follows the rules when they travel. It’s chaotic. I don’t like the way people drive.”
Yaruk said that when we arrived, he was busy at the rink from 4 to 9pm each day.
He said his family was from Belarus and Russia. When he was 11 years old, he went to a New Year’s party and watched his seven-year-old sister skate. At the party, he tried skating and fell on his head. But he was not discouraged. He liked skating so much that he wanted to attend figure skating school. Before that, he had stuck to his schooling and music lessons.
Yaruk said if children want to go into professional ice skating in his country, they have to start early and get trained extensively. By the age of ten, you already know you need to train hard to become a professional skater
|Deep breath: Relaxing, focusing and keeping your balance are key to finding success on the rink. — VNS Photo Đoàn Tùng|
“Life on the rink sometimes gets boring,” he said. “Because all you have to do is to train, to polish your moves and your jumps to perfect your technique.”
“It’s all geared toward taking part in competitions and winning them. It’s nothing fun like playing hockey on ice!”
Yaruk graduated from the Kharkov State Academy of Physical Culture with a degree in cyclic sports. He was a medallist in national and international competitions, and participated in the ISU NRW Trophy, Golden Lynx and the Ukrainian Junior Championship.
All of the rink’s Vietnamese trainers were trained by Yaruk and two other professional ice skaters, one of whom is now his girlfriend. Eleanora Vinnichenko is a national champion of Ukraine. “She teaches single skating,” Yaruk said. “I’m teaching pair skating.”
At the rink, people mostly learn single skating, but there is a Vietnamese pair – a brother and sister – who are working with Yaruk. “They are making some progress and they also go abroad to skate. They work so hard, they have no time to sleep.”
“Other people learn to skate for fun,” he said. “I used to have an elderly lady from Japan. She worked really hard.”
For the competitive students, Yaruk said he likes to choose powerful music. “Back in Ukraine, usually it’s the teacher who picks the music for his or her students,” he said. “But here I let students choose the music they like, so that they get more motivated when they skate.”
|Practice makes perfect: Paul Yaruk demands quality each time his students train. — VNS Photo Đoàn Tùng|
Yaruk says there are some other differences from his life in Ukraine.
“I miss salted pig fat to be consumed with sour black bread. But I like bún chả (grilled pork with rice vermicelli) here in Hà Nội.”
In addition to bún chả, Yaruk said he enjoys tropical fruits like mango, lychee, longan and dragon fruit.
When life on the rink gets boring, Yaruk said he dreams of the icy European winter and Ukraine’s open lakes, where he could one day dig a hole and sit for hours fishing.
“For skating, it’s always better to be on a indoor rink, because everything is under control,” he said. “Out in the open air, if it rains or if it gets too windy, then you can’t compete.”
On the rink, you have to practise hard to perfect your moves, especially the jumps.
“The jumps are the most difficult,” he said. “All you have to do is work on it.”
The mother of Anna Ngô Hoàng Ngân, 12, who placed second in the Advanced Novice Ladies category at the 2018 Vietnam Figureskating Competition, at the rink last weekend, said: “My daughter gets a lot of bruises and hurt her legs while practising, but she keeps working because she loves ice skating.” — VNS