Athlete Spotlight: Yoni & Ava

Published On: June 1, 2023

Yohnatan Elizarov and Ava Kemp are a next gen pairs figure skating team from Winnipeg. A university student and a high schooler, Yoni and Ava have been skating together for two years. Both of them started skating at an early age, first competing as individual skaters before finding their stride as a pair.

We sat down with Ava and Yoni to learn more about them…

How did you get started in figure skating, and then in pairs?

Yoni: My mom used to be a figure skater in Russia. And she loves figure skating so she was like, “why not put my son into it?” I did quite a lot of years of singles and around the time when Covid hit, I was slowing down quite a lot and was thinking about quitting. I had a talk with my coach and a couple other friends, and they’re like, “You know what… when I quit, I thought I could have done more…” and like, “don’t quit, keep going, find something you want to do or try.” And so an opportunity came to try pairs with Ava and I was like, “Sure, why not? I’ll try.” And here we are, sixth at the worlds, so that’s awesome. [Ava and Yoni placed 6th at the ISU World Junior Championships in March 2023.]

Ava: It’s sort of the same thing, my mom was a figure skater so I was enrolled at the rink very early. My dad wanted me in hockey but my mom wanted me in figure skating, so it was kind of a battle. And my mom won, I guess. I was doing singles for quite a bit and then I switched to pairs, so I’m not really on the track I thought I was going to be, but it’s been good!

Follow up question. Which is better: hockey skates or figure skates? 

Ava: I would say figure skates. Hockey skates… the blade’s a lot shorter so it’s harder to push.

Yoni: Figure skates for sure. I can’t skate in hockey skates. There’s no heel. If you rock forward or backwards, you just fall. Versus in figure skates, it’s much easier to balance.

Something cool about being a figure skater?

Yoni: Showing off at public rinks is pretty cool. You don’t really see people jumping on the ice and then turning 720’s or 1080’s. It’s quite rare so I think that kind of a cool thing that we can do. And now that we also do pairs, lifting a human being above your head while on super thin blades, and Ava obviously being up there, I think that’s a pretty cool experience. 

Ava, what does it feel like to be held up there in the air?

Ava: Well, I’m used to it now so it doesn’t feel very high anymore, but at first I was like, “I wasn’t expecting it to be this high up,” but it’s fine now. It feels normal.

Yoni: I always find it hilarious because when I watch our skates, when I look back at them, I don’t see Ava in lifts, I don’t actually know what she’s doing, I just feel her hip or where I’m holding her, and I’m focusing on my feet so I don’t trip. But then when I look back and watch the videos, she’s doing stuff up there! She’s moving, she’s in her positions, so I always find it pretty cool what she does versus, I’m just holding her and gliding.

How much of pairs figure skating is working as a single unit pair and how much is individually focusing on what your job is at that moment?

Yoni: Whenever we’re holding hands, or even skating separately, we’re always working together. We’re pushing each other, we’re helping each other balance. Especially in lifts we’re working together- if something’s off, she knows and she fixes it or if she’s off I know and I fix it, it’s a combined thing. Same with throws, same with twists. The only time I would say we’re not really using each other is our singles jumps or spins. We’re looking at each other and trying to match but we’re not really using each other. 

What’s your happiest figure skating moment so far?

Yoni: That’s hard… qualifying for Junior Worlds? That was a pretty happy moment for me.

Ava: Yeah, qualifying for worlds and also, the year before. At the end of last season, we had just started as a team, and we won Nationals and Challenge, the competition before, so I think that was sort of a surprise. That was pretty good too.

What do you do to rest or relax?

Yoni: I sleep a lot. All the time. I went to sleep at 7pm last night.

Ava: I really like just laying on the couch or my bed.

What’s a misconception that people have about figure skaters?

Yoni: That we get really dizzy when we jump. I mean, when we spin we do get dizzy just because of the amount of reps we do on the ice, but when we jump, I mean, jumps are like 0.3 seconds long. We’re in the air for less than a second, so I don’t think our brains have time to process how fast we spun, so we’re never dizzy from jumping.

Ava: Probably that figure skaters just like twirling. If you ask someone who doesn’t really know figure skating what it is, they’ll just put their arms over their head and spin, like that’s figure skating.

What’s the best advice you’ve received as an athlete?

Yoni: Trust in your training. That’s my motto. If you are training good, the competition will be good. If you’re training poorly, the competition will be poor.

Ava: Control the controllable.

Fun facts…


  • loves dogs and has a labrador named Lulu
  • plays video games
  • likes to run


  • likes baking
  • enjoys water sports- waterskiing, wakeboarding, swimming
  • is not a morning person

If you’d like to see Ava & Yoni’s performances at the ISU World Junior Championships, they are available on the Skating ISU Youtube channel.

Watch the Short Program and Free Skate.

This interview was conducted in April 2023 and has been edited for length and clarity.