Figure skating pair Hocke/Kunkel ahead of World Championships: “Bronze medal gave us a lot of motivation”


As of: 03/20/2023 4:45 p.m

After bronze at the European Championships, the Berlin pair skaters Annika Hocke and Robert Kunkel are leading the German squad at the World Figure Skating Championships in Japan.

rbb|24: Annika Hocke, Robert Kunkel, you have been in Japan for a few days. Figure skating is extremely popular there. How do you perceive the atmosphere at the start of the World Cup?

Annika Hocke: Figure skating is really much more popular here. We had practice today [am Montag, Anm. d. Red.] with the Japanese pair skaters, who were vice world champions last year. There is a big focus on them. There was a lot of press and a lot of people who were interested in them and therefore also watched our training. So it’s always a nice experience to run in Japan.

Do you have time to immerse yourself in this atmosphere?

Robert Kunkel: Actually, the World Cup feeling is the same as always in larger competitions. But we were able to take the Japanese atmosphere with us very well. We were here a week earlier. We prepared in Fukuoka to get used to the time difference. So we also saw a bit of the city and the culture. That was really nice. Not just traveling to the competition – without really noticing where you are – and flying straight back home.

The time difference between Bergamo, Italy, where you train, and Saitama, the venue for the World Cup, is eight hours. What’s the danger of sleepwalking across the ice?

It really wasn’t easy to adjust the first few days. As a competitive athlete, the smallest details are crucial – even if you have a bad night’s sleep, you notice it on the ice. This is even more extreme as a couple when you have to coordinate two different people.

In terms of sport, the World Cup starts for both of you early on Wednesday morning with the short program. What are the final processes and preparations?

We now had the first day of training in the hall to get to know them. Each couple has about half an hour on the ice. So you can’t choose the time. Then you go through the programs again. Not the complete ones anymore – you don’t normally do that so close to the competition anymore. But you practice the elements again, get to know the ice and get a good feeling.

The Berlin figure skating couple Hocke/Kunkel at the EM (imago images/Lehtikuva)

Berlin figure skating pair Hocke/Kunkel wins EM bronze


dude: The important thing is to dose well. Not too much to do so that we are not exhausted – but not too little either. The aim is to be able to get the maximum out of it on Wednesday and Thursday. For this it is good to simulate the competition a bit. The people who rate later also watch. That’s why it’s important to present yourself well during training.

You won bronze at the European Championships in Finland at the end of January. It was the first international medal for a German couple since Aljona Savchenko and Bruno Massot won the Olympics in 2018. They lead the German squad in Japan – and have become hopefuls in a sport that has been missing so much recently. Do you feel that?

dude: We don’t feel like we get that much attention. Maybe most of them in the German team, but figure skating is still very, very niche. It’s not like in football or other sports that the press and media …

Squat: … to tear us apart (laughs). In fact, we didn’t notice much at all. For us, the EM was a great experience and a great start to hopefully many more big events. We don’t feel much of the attention, which might be an advantage for us.

We don’t feel like we get that much attention. Maybe most of them in the German team, but figure skating is still very, very niche.

They are only 22 and 23 years old themselves. It’s your second World Championship as a couple, you finished 13th at the first. With the European Championship medal, expectations have changed: does that mean pressure or motivation?

Squat: Definitely motivating. I think we felt the greatest pressure at the European Championship itself, because we knew everything was possible. We train together with all the couples who were on the podium. Anyone could have been at the top. After that it was clear to us that – as always – we want to do as well as possible at the World Championships. We just take this third place with us, which can carry us a bit. He gave us a lot of motivation to show our best performance again.

Nolan Seegert with ex-partner Minerva Hase (Image: IMAGO/Aflosport)

Nolan Seegert ends career as a pair skater


Despite the medal, you were not completely satisfied with the freestyle at the European Championships. What have you been working on since then?

dude: Exactly. At the European Championship we had a pretty big mistake, which then caused a second small thing. We have changed something about our jumps so that something like this can no longer happen. So we did error prevention, ran with a different jump element and also changed the combination a bit. We worked on that, but unfortunately we also had to be careful not to do too much. I’ve had a few back problems since the European Championships and actually even during it. They need a bit more time to be worked up again by rehab. That’s why the goal was to hold out now and then take care of it after the World Cup.

The Russian top competition was absent from the European Championship because of the war of aggression against Ukraine. This will also be the case in Japan. Nevertheless, the quality is significantly higher than the competition. Who do you pay particular attention to?

dude: only on us.

Of course I like to look at the other couples, but preferably after our competition.

Squat: Yes, exactly. On the first day of training, I was also quite amazed that you didn’t notice so much about the others. But that can also be very pleasant. Of course I like to look at the other couples, but preferably after our competition. It’s actually best when you can really stay with yourself.

What have you planned for yourself, when do you say: it was a good World Cup for us?

dude: If we get the maximum out of what is possible for us. Also with the preparation. In terms of placement, as always, we haven’t really planned much. Everything between fifth and twelfth place is somehow realistic. It also depends on how the others are doing. But we didn’t look at that and we can’t influence it. We want to be satisfied with our performance, i.e. to have called up two error-free or almost error-free programs.

Squat: We’ve built a good foundation this season in terms of throwing and pair skating elements in general. The point of the competition is that we show them as well as we have always shown them and also do the individual jumps without making any mistakes. I think that’s also possible.

Thank you for the interview!

The interview was conducted by Johannes Mohren, rbb Sport.

Broadcast: rbb24, March 20th, 2023, 9:45 p.m