In Shanghai, China. Photo by Alex Shu

Sveta Stepanova is a 27-yeard-old freestyle slalom skater living in Minsk, Belarus. Originally from Vitebsk, her and her friends moved to Minsk to further pursue their passion of slalom skating. Sveta spent 2017 traveling and competing in many competitions around the world. In that time a couple of photographers (including my friend Bruno Santos) captured some beautiful photos of her skating, which caught my attention on social media. I wanted to find out more about Sveta, so I present this interview with her.

How old where you when you began skating?
I only began skating when I was 21-years-old. Sometimes I wish I had started at an earlier age, but I am happy with what I have achieved in the past six years. Beyond the competition aspect, the most important thing to me is to have fun doing what I love.

What were your first skates?
My first skates were a pair of Chinese off-brand fitness skates. These skates were poorly made and not fun to skate, so after three months I bought a pair of Seba FRX skates, which were perfect for me. The difference in quality between the two skates was incredible! And of course what brand skates you use is very important for us. It is much easier to learn new tricks on high quality skates.

What made you want to start skating? How did you first discover it?
One day I was in St Petersburg, Russia and I saw skaters, who were so fast, gliding across the streets. From that day on, I knew I badly wanted to become a skater too. At first I just wanted to feel the speed beneath my feet and use my skates to quickly get me around the city. Then I started researching skating, and found information about freestyle slalom. I was so surprised by the beauty and technique of that sport. My belief was that too be really good at that type of skating you had to start training, like in ice-skating, with a coach from early childhood. But when I bought my first pair of skates I decided to try freestyle slalom to see how I would like it, never expecting that one day I would be taking part in competitions

In Shanghai, China. Photo by Alex Shu.

How difficult was it learning to skate slalom right after having just started?
I began to learn the basics of skating and doing my first freestyle slalom tricks simultaneously. At first I was skating alone, so I watched some tutorials on YouTube by Rekil. But very soon, I met some guys who were already doing some tricks, so we began to skate together. They helped me, especially my friend Andrew, to learn the basics of slalom skating. The level of slalom in the world was so high at that time that we had to start learning new tricks. This was accomplished thanks to watching videos, going to competitions and skating with more experienced skaters.

How is the slalom scene in Belarus? Who do you enjoy skating with the most?
Unfortunately, freestyle slalom is not popular in Belarus. But I’m happy that I met good friends in the beginning in Vitebsk and we were able to grow together every day. Now we are living in Minsk, me and my guys, Filipp Stalmakov and Sasha Shedov. This is the best skating crew for me and we all still skate together.

Have you done or do you do any other disciplines of inline skating?
I like to skate around the city, especially cities in new countries. Some day I want to try a skate-cross course. But so far I haven’t been to any competitions that skate-cross are part of. Maybe this will be the season I get to try it!

Are there any disciplines of skating outside of slalom you enjoy watching?
Besides freestyle, I like to watch aggressive skating. I especially like to watch edits of Montre Livingston. His style is so awesome! Even though I don’t practice aggressive skating, watching people like him skate inspires me. For me style is everything.

In Shanghai, China. Photo by Alex Shu.

How many hours a day do you spend practicing?
In the winter it is difficult to find good to locations train, so I can only skate about 2-hours a day. In the summer I skate a lot more.

Are you part of a skate crew? Who sponsors you?
At first we formed a crew called Mad Roller Club in Vitebsk. It was a long time ago but it was such a cool moment in my life. Soon after we moved to Minsk and found different sponsors. For three years I was sponsored by a shop, which noticed me skating in competitions. Then in 2017 I joined the InMove Skates team.

Tell me about InMove Skates.
InMove Skates was created by Alex Shu a few years ago and is both a shop and a team. Being park of this team is awesome and a big opportunity for me. Together with my teammates Filipp Stalmakov and Sasha Shedov, we are taking part in competitions, travelling together, training together and having common goals. InMove Skates helps us out with equipment (skates, wheels, bearings and so on) and also covers travel expenses. So this is ideal for me now! Also we are doing tutorials on YouTube about freestyle slalom, basics of skating and slides. Also, while travelling we take pictures, shoot videos, and try to show the beauty of slalom and to popularize freestyle. This year our team became international with the addition of Yuki Santoni from Italy.


What is your favorite places that skating has taken you to? How often do you travel for skating?
Travelling with skates is the best part of my life. I try to travel as much as possible. Last year was a great year for competitions and I visited France, China, Russia and Spain. I try to take skates with me everywhere I go. During my skating career I’ve skated on the streets of France, Germany, Italy, India, China, Ukraine, Spain, Russia, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and of course Belarus.

Where would you love to skate that you haven’t been to?
I want to visit Singapore, South Korea, Japan and countries of South America some day. This year I plan to go on WFSC (World Forum of Sport & Culture) in The Netherlands.

What are your favorite edits you have put out?
One of my favorite edits is definitely from Paris. I love skating in Paris! It is the perfect city and it is so charming.

How often do you compete?
Last year I competed in at least three 3 cones competitions. What I enjoy the most at these events is seeing old friends, meeting new friends and learning new things about the world around us through traveling.

What are your favorite competitions?
My favorite competition is the PSWC (Paris Slalom World Cup). And that may be because I fell in love with Paris itself. I also really liked the Berlin Inline Games I attended in 2016. Last year, I took part in Arnold Classic Europe event in Barcelona. That was unusual competition for us, but a very interesting experience and super relaxed atmosphere.

Who are the hardest skaters to compete against?
The hardest are the skaters who are on your same level, or close to it. You feel like you can win; yet it makes you nervous.

What are your greatest personal achievements in skating?
The greatest achievement is my WSSA (World Slalom Skaters Association) ranking for the last year. I am ranked number 4 in speed slalom in the world, took 8th place in freestyle discipline, 2nd place in speed slalom on 3cones event at RCC, 5th place at EFSC in classic slalom, 4th place at ACE in battle and finally 1st place in classic, battle and speed slalom at BSS (our 2cones event in Belarus).

What are your future goals in skating?
For now my main goal is personal growth, like any athlete. I want to become more technically skilled and also more stylish and fluent. I also want to teach about five young talented skaters, who want to take part in competitions. I already have some skate classes I offer children here. My goal is to help make slalom more popular in Belarus. And of course, I want to continue travelling around the world with skates and take part in competitions. It would also be great to take my classes to other countries

How long have you been teaching slalom skating?
I started teaching slalom a long time ago, but as a job, for only three years now. I used to have much more time to teach people before. But now I work as an orthodontist and don’t have the time to teach others as much. I have also experienced that if I have a lot of students, then I won’t find enough time to train for myself. To balance out my time I now only take students who are beginners of slalom and want to compete.


How does skating slalom on 3×100+ setup differ from a 4×80 setup? Do you have to change your style of skating or re-learn any tricks? Is there anything you can’t do on that with the 3×100 setup?
My usual setup is 4×76 and previous years it was 4×72. This year I tried the 3×110 Seba frame for the first time and I really like them. I like the speed and control you get on them when skating around the city. I tried skating freestyle slalom on 3×100 frames for fun. Because of the wheel size it makes doing spinning tricks so easy, but at first gave me problems with my footwork. Now there are no tricks that I can’t do on these frames. I also tried them out on speed slalom and liked it, so maybe this year I will take part in competitions on them.

What were the most challenging tricks for you to learn?
Now I’m working on backward spinnings and hope I will have enough time to master it before competition season. I like this trick so much, that I am really enjoying learning it.

Do you ever travel to different places to teach skating?
I’ve just taught some lessons in Ukraine. Soon I hope to teach classes in other parts of the world.

What skater influenced your skating the most throughout your career? Who is your current favorite skater?
During my skating life I had different favorites. I like Feng Hui; she is one of the best skaters for me. She is so inspiring, so emotional and I like her classics. I also like Igor Cheremetieff and Carlos Nelson, their skating is so unique. It is awesome when you have your own unique style and footwork. Before I liked European skating the most, but in the past two years I’ve become a fan of Asian style. Ye Hao Qin and Zhang Hao are two of my favorite skaters now!

Who is greatest slalom skater of all time?
Ohh, this is a difficult question! Maybe Kim Sung Jim. His skating career was great and now through his dancing, he is inspiring a lot of skaters around the world.

I’ve seen many beautifully shot photos of you, who are your favorite photographers to work with?
Yes, we always try to get good photos, but last year was especially awesome. I especially like to take photos with Bruno Santos. We met this year at the PSWC and were able to take several cool photos throughout Paris. I’ve also had several great photos taken this year by Alex Shu.

Do you do any other sports outside of skating?
Yes, I am crazy about snowboarding! I really love it, and of course I love the mountains! I am absolutely happy there. Also I like to learn new snowboarding tricks when I am there. And if I lived by the ocean I would surf for sure!

What are your favorite edits you have put out?
One of my favorite edits is definitely from Paris. I love skating in Paris! It is the perfect city and it is so charming.


Follow Sveta on instagram to see more of his skating action.

Follow the InMove Team on instagram and check out their YouTube page for videos and tutorials.
To find out more about Slalom visit the World Slalom Series website at worldslalomseries.com.


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Jan Welch
Jan Welch

Founder and creator of bigwheelblading.com

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