Mazingue & Gaidajenko: The Journey and the Miracle

by Daphne Backman | On-Ice Photographs by Robin Ritoss

Estonia’s Solene Mazingue (20) & Marko Gaidajenko (21) had a whirlwind 2021-22 season. They relocated to Montreal within the off season and had been getting ready for the 2022-23 season when an accident throughout follow resulted within the season turning out a lot totally different than deliberate and Mazingue needing emergency mind surgical procedure to save lots of her life. Study extra about this younger group’s particular person journeys in addition to how they’re shifting ahead after an unpredictable season. 

Each Mazingue and Gaidajenko began their skating journeys on the age of three, however their early experiences couldn’t be extra totally different. 

Mazingue was born in Paris, France. Her mother introduced her to a rink native to her neighborhood to see if she would really like it. She fell in love with skating and the ice. She by no means left.  At six years outdated, she began competing in small competitions in her metropolis, which she actually loved.

“Earlier than 15, I used to be simply skating as a result of I preferred it,” Mazingue mentioned. “I actually love skating, and the factor I really like probably the most is to compete. I prefer to really feel the music and to present some emotion feeling to the general public who watches me.”

When Gaidajenko’s dad and mom put him on the ice for the primary time, there have been 20 or extra children going from one aspect of the rink to the opposite in a single path. When coaches arrived, they pushed him, however his legs went right into a cut up. 

“I began saying I don’t wish to, I don’t wish to,” Gaidajenko mentioned. “They took me again residence. The subsequent time, I used to be seven, and then I caught to it. It began for enjoyable, however at one level if you begin to perceive that you simply prefer it, you’re getting higher and hold going. It simply turns into your life-style such as you’re knowledgeable athlete. You skate, you’re employed out and also you compete, and that’s what drives you from competitors to competitors. This adrenaline and emotional enhance is the factor what pushes you and in addition like drives you.”

The COVID-19 pandemic impacted the world of determine skating with the World Championships being the primary occasion casualty in March 2020. Whereas the skaters discovered inventive methods to proceed coaching and showcasing their expertise, forming a brand new partnership throughout journey restrictions introduced its personal set of obstacles.

In 2020, Gaidajenko was coaching for the Junior Grand Prix with accomplice Darja Netjaga when the ISU introduced the occasions wouldn’t be held that fall. The truth is, there have been no competitions being held in any respect.

We determined to cease skating for a second as a result of there was no objective to go someplace,” Gaidajenko mentioned. “It was like actually onerous to push to do nonetheless the run-throughs.”

When the partnership ended and despite the fact that he had but to announce it, he began to obtain messages about tryouts from potential companions.

“The world of determine skating is so tiny,” Gaidajenko mentioned.

Mazingue cut up along with her accomplice on the finish of the 2019-2020 season. As a result of it was inconceivable to journey, she spent quite a lot of time in search of a brand new partnership by viewing video trailers of skaters from the U.S. and Russia. Then, she heard about Marko. 

“I instantly texted my coach, who texted him, and he mentioned sure to a tryout,” Mazingue mentioned. 

“Swiftly, Solene texted me as a result of she was and not using a accomplice as effectively,” Gaidajenko added. 

It was December 2020, and journey was nonetheless restricted to and between sure international locations. The duo determined that having the tryout in France can be the most suitable choice.

“I mentioned let’s strive,” Gaidajenko mentioned. “Let’s go to France.”

“We tried out for 2 weeks,” Mazingue added.” “It [the tryout] was good for me and ideal for him too, proper?”

“Yeah,” Gaidajenko mentioned. “I went for New Years again to Estonia. I got here again to France, and we began to skate collectively and to consider possibly we must always strive for our future.”

Season One
Mazingue & Gaidajenko moved ahead with their partnership for the 2021-22 season. They had been nonetheless age-eligible for the junior degree and debuted on the second Junior Grand Prix occasion in France, the place they received the bronze medal, adopted by a ninth place end on the Cup of Austria JGP. 

A month later, they competed at their first senior occasion, Warsaw Cup Challenger Sequence occasion in Poland, the place they completed fifteenth. After successful their first Estonian senior nationwide title, they completed ninth at Golden Spin of Zagreb. 

Whereas competing at each ranges introduced its personal set of obstacles, the rhythm dance theme lended itself to a better transition.

“It’s often tougher as a result of it’s often completely two totally different rhythm dances, however final season that was the identical topic, like a hip hop and avenue tradition,” Gaidajenko mentioned. “Additionally, it was each the blues. It’s Midnight Blues (senior) and Blues (junior), so it was simpler.” 

Being Estonia’s newly-crowned nationwide champions, they had been assigned to the 2022 European Championships, which passed off in Gaidajenko’s residence metropolis of Tallinn, Estonia. The groups who end 1-20 within the rhythm dance transfer on to the free dance, so Mazingue & Gaidajenko’s twentieth place end (out of 27 groups) meant they certified of their first try. They had been then assigned to the World Championships.  

“We went there with the thought of high quality technical qualification for the free dance,” Gaidajenko mentioned. “We’ve labored rather a lot earlier than earlier than this Worlds, and we additionally had the actually good draw for us. We had been within the fourth group.”

For a brand new group, they exceeded expectations and certified for the free dance in a well-known twentieth place.

“After we end our rhythm dance, we are able to instantly see if we certified or not,” Gaidajenko mentioned. “We did among the best rhythm dances for our complete season. Me and the coach are sitting in kiss ’n cry and already understood this as a result of we noticed the factors. Solene didn’t get it but. We noticed the ‘Q’, and she mentioned ‘what does it imply?’ We certified for the free dance, and she’s so excited.”

“I didn’t perceive if we certified or not,” Mazingue added. “After we handed, I used to be tremendous glad as a result of we labored for one season. And that was a lot emotion as a result of really one 12 months working each day, 5 hours, much more.” 

Their first season, the place they straddled junior and senior occasions, ended with the duo ending nineteenth at their first World Championships, 

“It’s sort of difficult, and it’s enjoying along with your thoughts a bit as a result of we began the season as a juniors, and then we slowly moved to the seniors,” Gaidajenko mentioned. “It was a pleasant expertise. and in addition fairly profitable for us as seniors and in addition juniors. Additionally, we watched all of the obstacles we went by. It’s an ideal expertise, after all competing in a single class it’s a lot simpler.

The Transfer to Montreal
In preparation for the upcoming 2022-2023 season, Mazingue & Gaidajenko made the choice to coach on the famend Ice Academy of Montreal below the steering of coaches Marie-France Dubreuil, Patrice Lauzon, and Romain Haguenauer. 

“We had been skating in Moscow earlier than that, however there was quite a lot of troubles with Visas due to what’s occurring on the planet basically even earlier than it began the scenario with Ukraine,” Gaidajenko mentioned. “It’s already difficult to get in Russia due to they didn’t wish to give a Visa to anybody, so all of the final season we tried to search out was looking for the place to skate and ice instances all internationally. 

“Then the scenario with Ukraine began, so there was no probability to remain there in any respect. We had a superb relationship with the coaches from Montreal earlier than, and we had concepts already to maneuver there. At this level already, we don’t have every other options, and plus we actually wish to go there. We simply after Worlds had two to 3 weeks break, after which we went to the Montreal. All the things began right here.”

In accordance with the group, one coaching location will not be actually corresponding to the opposite.

“It’s actually two totally different strategies,” Mazingue mentioned. “For instance, in Russia, it’s extra by your self, and there’s a coach, and she or he comes that can assist you, however right here it’s extra like a non-public session. We like each. It’s actually how the skater likes it.” 

“Right here they’ve their very own strategies, which works completely sensible and ideal,” Gaidajenko mentioned. “They’re totally different than others and the a lot effort, they put within the faculty and within the skaters. You are feeling right here as a household. You are feeling help from from the skaters and from the coaches. We’ve psychological coaches. We’ve so many so many individuals round us, and the best half is that you each day you study one thing new. It’s information. It’s quite a lot of life-style altering as a result of right here you’re dwelling the lifetime of an precise athlete. You do your personal alternative. in case you don’t wish to skate as we speak, you cannot skate, however then it’s the way it will have an effect on you sooner or later.”

The Accident
The transition from Moscow to Montreal was a clean one for Mazingue & Gaidajenko, till September twenty ninth when all the things modified for the couple. Falls occur in determine skating for various causes and even on components which are practiced time and again. 

The group’s first competitors of the season can be the 2022 Finlandia Trophy occasion, which is a part of the ISU Challenger Sequence. The group was skating run-throughs of their packages and had been engaged on their free dance.

“He was serving to me to do the assisted soar,” Mazingue mentioned. “There was a gap, so his blade will get caught within the gap. He fell again, and at this one he was lifting me, so my head was down, and my foot was up. When he fell again, I fell on my head, and at this second I lose consciousness for 10 seconds.”

“It was a easy carry that we’ve achieved like gazillion instances earlier than that and was getting into to the twizzles,” Gaidajenko added. “I used to be caught on the ice, and she hit her head.  Generally we hit our heads on the ice. Generally there’s nothing, and generally there’s a concussion. Skaters actually battle with the concussions for like a 12 months or so after as a result of we simply don’t cease our season. On this case, she hit her head actually onerous. We went to the hospital as a result of the swelling on her head was rather a lot, and she was she was in main ache. We known as the ambulance instantly with the coaches after the autumn.”

Gaidajenko continued, “After we arrived to the hospital, I went proper to the ready space and through this time it was two and a half hours. They did this head scan, and it confirmed that that her cranium was damaged, that there’s a fracture, and then there was a bleeding, however they didn’t actually see how precisely it’s affecting the mind but. They noticed that there’s bleeding inside and outside.”

“I had a fracture and was bleeding rather a lot and quick, and this was pushing my mind within the left components and center,” Mazingue added. “This was actually unhealthy as a result of that’s how individuals can lose methods to stroll and methods to converse. My physician’s nurse who was doing my head scan known as instantly to the surgeon. At this second, my physique stopped to react. My pupils stopped responding, and I fell into the coma. My physique dropped to 32 levels. I went to surgical procedure. It was about three hours.”

“They began to do operation and through this time the nurse got here to see me and say that she’s in vital situations, and he’s unsure she’s going make it by operation,” Gaidajenko mentioned. “The nurse instructed me if she’s going to make it we don’t know if she’s going to speak once more or stroll once more. Three hours in the past I noticed her. I talked to her. Follow was nice and at this level, anyone was telling me that it could be the final time you see her.” 

Gaidajenko continued, “I used to be in a fog. It was actually onerous to take it as a result of I used to be alone there for like these three hours.  I used to be on the telephone with my dad. He’s additionally in medication, however again in Estonia. God bless Tim [Dieck] and Olivia [Smart] who got here to see me instantly. Patrice [Lauzon] got here after follow and right now she was within the working room.”

At 10pm on the identical day as her accident, Mazingue had an emergency craniotomy. They opened the cranium, drained the blood and checked her mind exercise. They put in titanium plates with six anchors. The nurses instructed Gaidajenko they’d attempt to wake her the subsequent morning at midday. They warned him that she could have amnesia or be panicked and never keep in mind the place she is, or why she is there.

“I got here again residence and subsequent morning I obtained a name at 7am,” Gaidajenko mentioned. “It was Solene’s voice asking are you coming to see me. She was doing nice. She was smiling, and we defined to her what occurred. The subsequent day, her mother arrived and was visiting her each day within the hospital. The development went actually quick.” 

Early on in her rehabilitation course of, Mazingue determined she wished to share her progress with others to be an inspiration to others. 

“I used to be in search of somebody like me to speak to me about what my future will probably be and really, there was nobody.  It’s actually onerous to search out somebody as a result of individuals who had surgical procedure don’t speak once more. They don’t work, or they’re nonetheless in hospital. I used to be feeling actually alone. I used to be like, what will probably be my future? What will probably be occur with me? To get on social media, I wish to give hope to to everybody and encourage everybody, and I wish to be this one who is right here for assist. On this case, no matter downside this is, it’s not simply just for surgical procedure, it may be for any harm or any downside. I wish to be this one who may give hope and let you know that it’s not inconceivable.”

The Journey to 2023 Worlds
Whereas Mazingue had a protracted street to restoration forward of her, she determined two days after her surgical procedure that she wished to skate once more.

“In hospital, I used to be already eager about Worlds,” Mazingue mentioned. “After I began my rehabilitation with my physician, the very first thing that he requested me was ‘what’s what’s your objective?’ He instructed me that for each affected person, for each athlete he all the time units the objective. My objective with my accomplice was to go to Japan 5 months after the surgical procedure.”

Mazingue continued, “It was not 100% certain that I’ll go. It was actually daily. I actually took my time. I began to skate like quarter-hour a day, half-hour, one hour after which one hour half-hour and calculate all the things for possibly going to Worlds. Two weeks earlier than Japan there was a gathering with physician. There was a gathering with federation, with coaches. We actually took our time and mentioned all the things to make sure that if I’m going it’s okay. It’s actually concerning the physician as a result of I would like to attend for him to say sure. He mentioned sure. It was my objective to do it in 5 months and I did it. It was simply unbelievable. It was identical to inconceivable to consider that I’m going.”

“I additionally grew rather a lot from this accident,” Gaidajenko added. “Like all the things modified. My mindset modified rather a lot and like my habits and all the things. I had the concept what are we going to do if we don’t go Worlds and in addition what we’re going to do if we go to Worlds. I used to be prepared for it every state of affairs. She was doing all this tough job. Because the first day after she awoke from surgical procedure, her mentality began to work in a solution to put together herself for Worlds already. It felt superb seeing her being so glad doing this.”

Each Mazingue and Gaidajenko knew that they had been heading to Saitama not at full energy, however for them it was extra vital that they had been capable of compete versus any consequence achieved. The Estonian group completed twenty eighth within the rhythm dance and didn’t qualify for the free dance, nevertheless it was simply being there that made the entire effort price it.

“This competitors wasn’t a contest to point out our greatest skating efficiency,” Gaidajenko mentioned. “We did present our greatest. We had been there to point out that in case you don’t stop, you can also make it.  After we completed our rhythm dance earlier than in entrance of 20,000 Japanese followers, I used to be clapping and that felt proper. We’re in the appropriate place the place we needs to be right now. It felt superb.”

“I used to be actually I did it,” Mazingue added. “Simply to be on the ice on the World Championship in Japan with a lot individuals round me. This was simply an expertise, an unbelievable expertise.”

Trying Forward
The group continues to be reminiscing about their accomplishments and beginning to suppose forward to subsequent 12 months and past. 

“The primary objective for me since I’m six and even seven years outdated is to go to the Olympics,” Mazingue mentioned.  “Simply to go to Worlds in Japan was step one after the accident on the best way to the Olympics. My subsequent objective is Olympics Milano 2026. Three years.”

For the speedy future, Mazingue & Gaidajenio are wanting ahead to the rhythm dance for subsequent season, set to music from the Nineteen Eighties. 

“Proper now, we’re getting ready for the subsequent season and we’re listening the 80s music,” Mazingue mentioned.

“Everyone seems to be wanting ahead to subsequent season,” Gaidajenko added. “After competitions, in nearly each playlist, there may be music from the Nineteen Eighties. We’re listening to these things and completely like when the ISU offers us a possibility to do one thing attention-grabbing to point out cool stuff, some dancing strikes. For 80s music, we’re completely in!”

Mazingue continued, “I actually just like the 80s music once I heat up earlier than follow. It’s 80s music, however I’m listening as a result of it (creates a) actually good temper for me.”

“We already heard some songs groups listed here are selecting,” Gaidajenko mentioned. “There will probably be attention-grabbing packages. Not everyone seems to be coming again but to construct them, however when everyone seems to be right here, we can have an 80s vibe on the ice for certain.”

Off the Ice
Whereas most of their time is targeted on coaching, the duo finds time for rest and hobbies once they can.

Gaidajenko is a giant gamer and performs Name of Responsibility, Hogwarts Legacy and God of Warfare: Ragnarok on Ps. Each have a Nintendo Change, however Mazingue doesn’t presently play as a result of she’s nonetheless engaged on her mind restoration. They hope to start out a Youtube or Twitch Channel in some unspecified time in the future to stream a few of their gaming actions. 

Mazingue does colour books as a part of her remedy. She is studying to write down once more and retains a journal of her each day actions. Her mom helps her with math and calculations.  She additionally likes to play board video games, together with Seven Wonders.

Each like to construct with Legos, together with a bonsai tree that’s below reconstruction. Throughout a latest journey to New York Metropolis, Gaidajenko made a Solene lego character for her.   

The group additionally makes some extent to purchase a pop determine at each competitors vacation spot. 

How You Can Assist
As you may think about the price of Mazingue’s ongoing remedy is expensive by itself, however coupled with coaching bills the group wants assist to proceed combating for his or her dream. You’ll be able to help the group through their GoFundMe page.