Mazingue & Gaidajenko: The Journey and the Miracle

by Daphne Backman | On-Ice Pictures 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 have been getting ready for the 2022-23 season when an accident throughout observe resulted within the season turning out a lot totally different than deliberate and Mazingue needing emergency mind surgical procedure to avoid wasting her life. Be taught extra about this younger crew’s particular person journeys in addition to how they’re transferring 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 previous, 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 appreciated it,” Mazingue stated. “I actually love skating, and the factor I really like essentially the most is to compete. I wish to really feel the music and to offer 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 youngsters going from one aspect of the rink to the opposite in a single course. When coaches arrived, they pushed him, however his legs went right into a break up. 

“I began saying I don’t wish to, I don’t wish to,” Gaidajenko stated. “They took me again dwelling. 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 way of life 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 increase is the factor what pushes you and likewise 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 artistic methods to proceed coaching and showcasing their abilities, 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 purpose to go someplace,” Gaidajenko stated. “It was like actually laborious to push to do nonetheless the run-throughs.”

When the partnership ended and although 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 stated.

Mazingue break up together with her accomplice on the finish of the 2019-2020 season. As a result of it was inconceivable to journey, she spent a whole lot of time searching for 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 stated sure to a tryout,” Mazingue stated. 

“Unexpectedly, Solene texted me as a result of she was with out a accomplice as effectively,” Gaidajenko added. 

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

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

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

“Yeah,” Gaidajenko stated. “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 have 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 Collection occasion in Poland, the place they completed fifteenth. After profitable 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 neater transition.

“It’s normally more difficult as a result of it’s normally completely two totally different rhythm dances, however final season that was the identical topic, like a hip hop and avenue tradition,” Gaidajenko stated. “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 have been assigned to the 2022 European Championships, which occurred in Gaidajenko’s dwelling 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 have been then assigned to the World Championships.  

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

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

“Once we end our rhythm dance, we will instantly see if we certified or not,” Gaidajenko stated. “We did top-of-the-line rhythm dances for our entire 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 stated ‘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. “Once we handed, I used to be tremendous completely happy as a result of we labored for one season. And that was a lot emotion as a result of truly one yr working daily, 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 form of tough, and it’s taking part in together 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 stated. “It was a pleasant expertise. and likewise fairly profitable for us as seniors and likewise juniors. Additionally, we watched all of the obstacles we went by. It’s a fantastic 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 have been skating in Moscow earlier than that, however there was a whole lot of troubles with Visas due to what’s occurring on this planet usually even earlier than it began the state of affairs with Ukraine,” Gaidajenko stated. “It’s already sophisticated 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 state of affairs with Ukraine began, so there was no likelihood to remain there in any respect. We had a great relationship with the coaches from Montreal earlier than, and we had concepts already to maneuver there. At this level already, we don’t have some 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 pieces began right here.”

In accordance with the crew, one coaching location will not be actually akin to the opposite.

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

“Right here they’ve their very own strategies, which works completely good and ideal,” Gaidajenko stated. “They’re totally different than others and the a lot effort, they put within the college and within the skaters. You’re feeling right here as a household. You’re feeling assist from from the skaters and from the coaches. Now we have psychological coaches. Now we have so many so many individuals round us, and the best half is that you daily you study one thing new. It’s data. It’s a whole lot of way of life altering as a result of right here you’re residing the lifetime of an precise athlete. You do your individual selection. in case you don’t wish to skate in the present day, you can’t 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 every thing modified for the couple. Falls occur in determine skating for various causes and even on parts which are practiced over and over. 

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

“He was serving to me to do the assisted bounce,” Mazingue stated. “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 raise that we’ve completed like gazillion instances earlier than that and was coming 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 typically there’s a concussion. Skaters actually battle with the concussions for like a yr or so after as a result of we simply don’t cease our season. On this case, she hit her head actually laborious. We went to the hospital as a result of the swelling on her head was loads, and she was she was in main ache. We known as the ambulance instantly with the coaches after the autumn.”

Gaidajenko continued, “Once 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 loads and quick, and this was pushing my mind within the left elements and center,” Mazingue added. “This was actually dangerous as a result of that’s how individuals can lose stroll and communicate. 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 essential circumstances, and he’s undecided she’s going make it by operation,” Gaidajenko stated. “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. Apply was nice and at this level, any individual was telling me that it is likely to be the final time you see her.” 

Gaidajenko continued, “I used to be in a fog. It was actually laborious 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 observe 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 might attempt to wake her the following morning at midday. They warned him that she could have amnesia or be panicked and never bear in mind the place she is, or why she is there.

“I got here again dwelling and subsequent morning I acquired a name at 7am,” Gaidajenko stated. “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 daily 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 searching for somebody like me to speak to me about what my future can be and really, there was nobody.  It’s actually laborious 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 can be my future? What can 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 desirous about Worlds,” Mazingue stated. “Once I began my rehabilitation with my physician, the very first thing that he requested me was ‘what’s what’s your purpose?’ He instructed me that for each affected person, for each athlete he all the time units the purpose. My purpose 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 day-to-day. 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 every thing 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 every thing to ensure that if I am going it’s okay. It’s actually in regards to the physician as a result of I want to attend for him to say sure. He stated sure. It was my purpose to do it in 5 months and I did it. It was simply unimaginable. It was identical to inconceivable to consider that I’m going.”

“I additionally grew loads from this accident,” Gaidajenko added. “Like every thing modified. My mindset modified loads and like my habits and every thing. I had the concept what are we going to do if we don’t go Worlds and likewise 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 wakened from surgical procedure, her mentality began to work in a method to put together herself for Worlds already. It felt wonderful seeing her being so completely happy doing this.”

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

“This competitors wasn’t a contest to indicate our greatest skating efficiency,” Gaidajenko stated. “We did present our greatest. We have been there to indicate that in case you don’t give up, 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 best place the place we ought to be right now. It felt wonderful.”

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

Wanting Forward
The crew remains to be reminiscing about their accomplishments and beginning to assume forward to subsequent yr and past. 

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

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

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

“Everyone seems to be trying ahead to subsequent season,” Gaidajenko added. “After competitions, in nearly each playlist, there may be music from the Eighties. We’re listening to these things and completely like when the ISU offers us a chance to do one thing fascinating to indicate 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 observe. 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 stated. “There can be fascinating applications. Not everyone seems to be coming again but to construct them, however when everyone seems to be right here, we may 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 leisure and hobbies after they can.

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

Mazingue does shade books as a part of her remedy. She is studying to write down once more and retains a journal of her every 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 current journey to New York Metropolis, Gaidajenko made a Solene lego character for her.   

The crew additionally makes a degree 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 crew wants assist to proceed combating for his or her dream. You possibly can assist the crew by way of their GoFundMe page.