If they didn't follow their parents' wishes, perhaps Russian ice skaters Anastasia Ignatyeva and Bogdan Berezenko would be football stars now.
But they did and they don't regret it.
"I like football! My family likes it... sometimes I play with my brother," says 22-year-old Ignatyeva. The bubbly Russian plays Maria, the lead character in The Imperial Ice Stars' The Nutcracker On Ice, now showing in Singapore.
Her muscled male cast members joke that it is "very dangerous to play football" with the petite skater.
Coming from a nation whose citizens dominate the global scene in ballet, rhythmic gymnastics and even synchronised swimming, Ignatyeva says she never even considered those fields.
"I never tried (anything else)... and I never wanted to. Ice skating is my life, and I like that when I'm on the ice, I forget about everything outside," she told Yahoo! Singapore in an interview on Tuesday afternoon, ahead of the show's opening night here.
Ignatyeva, who is in her final year in university majoring in public relations, juggles her studies and nine hours of skating, six days a week by corresponding with her teachers over email. She sends assignments through her coach, does readings while on tour, and will return to Moscow to take her exams within one week in the middle of next year.
"It's difficult, but perhaps I can (juggle both) because I am young," she laughs.
Her co-star, 28-year-old Berezenko, who performs the Nutcracker Prince role, holds two degrees — one in law and another in management — and the two of them are in fact among many in the 26-skater show cast who hold university degrees.
He, too, would also have been playing football if he wasn't practicing triple jumps on a daily basis. But about seven years after he started his training at four years old, he knew there was no turning back for him.
Speaking in halting English, Berezenko shares that he enjoys everything about skating — the music, the skating and the feeling he gets when he accomplishes a jump successfully. "Everything I do about it, I like it," he says.
Comparing himself to his role as the Nutcracker Prince, he says he admires the kindness and courage his character has, qualities he hopes he himself possesses as well.
He also enjoys performing the second-act adagio (a slow dance) with Anastasia — a scene where he executes two triple jumps, spins and complex lifts, all while adding on the theatrical aspect of a prince who falls for the girl he saves.
The requirement of theatrical acting brings on a whole new challenge for these athletes, most of whom competed and won championships at least at national level, if not on the global.
Ignatyeva admits it is hard work. "In the first place, you're an actor, and it's really really hard work to be an actor, and you're always learning," she says.
Coping with injuries is part and parcel of the life of an ice skater, too, and the two young stars share one incident that happened on stage when the show first went on tour in South Africa last year.
"It was funny, really. I was wearing long skirts, and after the adagio when we finished and ran to hold each other, I fell through his (Bogdan's) legs and cut my hand on his skates... there was blood everywhere, my whole dress had blood!" recalled Ignatyeva. After her fall, she promptly ran backstage where a doctor wrapped her hand up in bandages, while the troupe's two wardrobe mistresses did what they could within the time to salvage the situation.
"Seven minutes later, I was back on the ice and we finished the show," she added proudly, not even mentioning that after it ended Berezenko carried her off stage and that she was later brought to a hospital to get 13 stitches for the wound, now just a reddish scar beneath her index finger.
"I've had many injuries (while ice skating), but when you've skated for a long time... when you're on stage, you forget about everything. It's your job, you're a professional, and this shouldn't matter to you," Ignatyeva says simply.
"It's your problem, not the audience's — people just want to see (the show) to the end," adds Berezenko. "We are professionals, and we must be ready if something happens."
The Imperial Ice Stars Present: The Nutcracker On Ice is now showing at the Marina Bay Sands Grand Theater until 28 October. Click here for more information and to purchase tickets.
Watch the trailer for the show here: