Translation of Elena Vaitsekhovskaya’s interview with Brian Orser. About Elizabet Tursynbaeva, skating parents and Yuzuru Hanyu and Javier Fernandez’s plans for the future.
Brian, I watched closely how Tursynbaeva skated, and was, frankly, surprised how much she has changed this season. She became faster, more powerful, if you can say so about such a fragile girl.
– It’s so nice that you noticed this. In fact, it took a lot of time and patience to achieve such quality of skating, but I knew from the beginning that the process will not be quick. Elizabet’s problem is that she’s small. Very little. I do not mean age, but purely external data. In order not to look as a junior on ice, competing with such skater as Gabrielle (Daleman), Kaetlyn (Osmond) or Mariah Bell, my athlete has to do a bloody amount of extra work. But according to the marks, sometimes I see that they continue to perceive Tursynbaeva as a little girl.
It seems to me that this year there has been some kind of turning point. Elizabet began to look more independent on the ice, started to realize better what she is doing, you can see that in her skating. In short, she grows up. And we continue to work further.
Tursynbayeva is almost three years older than Alina Zagitova, although she looks like her age. Could you compare these two athletes? What, in your opinion, is the difference between them, apart from the fact that Alina is an Olympic champion and Elizabet has not won medals yet?
– First of all I want to say that I’m a big fan of Russian girls. In my opinion, they are all absolutely amazing. But if we talk about the progress in skating as such, about skating itself, then in my opinion, Tursynbaeva’s is more obvious. She’s fantastic in this aspect, she skates very fast, without making any visible effort. The main feature of Tursynbayeva’s skating and at the same time her difference from many other skaters, is that she skates absolutely noiselessly. This is noted by all who saw her skating live. No sound, no rustling, like she skates not on the ice, but on butter. But all this is also a result of a long work, no less serious than jumping. Elizabet has been training with me for about five years, and all this time I have been paying a lot of attention to her skating skills.
After Alina Zagitova at the Games in Pyeongchang beat the two-time world champion Evgenia Medvedeva, and after a while the 13-year-old Alexandra Trusova, performing in juniors with two quadruple jumps, came to the same level of results, many started to say that work with girls over 17 years old become senseless.
– Kaetlyn Osmond and Gabby Daleman are the very examples that disprove this point of view. They both jump terrific, but in skating and ability to present themselves on the ice, I would put them on the same level with Carolina Kostner. If a skater really likes to skate, like those athletes whom I named, working with them will never be senseless for a coach. Whoever wins the gold medal at the Olympic Games in women’s single skating, the history, you will agree, knows a lot of not too predictable victories, but such athletes as Kaetlyn, Gabby and Carolina will always be the essence of this sport. The same way as in my time, the essence and the model of women’s skating was Katarina Witt. For me, for example, it is very important that such athletes perform in the final warm-ups at Olympics and world championships.
Would you like the International Skating Union (ISU) to raise the age of eligibility for figure skaters to perform in senior competitions?
– No. I am quite satisfied with the current state of affairs. Despite the fact that Yuzuru Hanyu, skating in my group, won two Olympics in a row, and before that Yuna Kim, medals have never been a paramount task for me. I put all my knowledge in each of these athletes, but first of all I tried to keep them healthy people, that figure skating gave them pleasure. Only then a person can love training. In the same way, I consider my coaching responsibility all that happens to my athlete after he left sport. So that he does not leave the ice completely devastated, with the thought that all the invested efforts went to dust, if suddenly it was not possible to win this or that medal.
Does this mean that you would never agree to work with a child who doesn’t like skating?
– Coaching work is to teach the athlete to treat properly what he does.
I asked this question for a reason. I know that after Julia Lipnitskaya’s performance in Sochi, a large number of parents, guided solely by their ambitions, brought little girls to the rinks to make them champions. Had you to deal with such?
– Of course. In this respect, the coach is often between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand parents who sincerely believe that they know better what their child needs, but in fact they try to realize their own ambitions, on the other hand the athlete himself and my ideas how to work specifically with this skater. For example Yuna Kim and her mother. Many for some reason believe that me and Mee-hee always had some problems, although we hadn’t any. Mee-hee did everything in her power to make Yuna practice, recover and be in great shape. In this respect, I always knew that I could rely on her completely. And now I can say, although we stopped cooperating with Yuna soon after Vancouver, that the contribution of her mother to her Olympic victory is huge, it cannot be overestimated. Mee-hee never allowed herself to interfere in my work, never insisted on something. At the same time, I clearly saw: the first time after coming to me in Toronto, Yuna Kim was constantly internally overcame herself. Her whole life was a constant overcoming for the sake of being “good” in the eyes of her mother. But when she was skating at the Olympics in Vancouver, I saw a completely different Kim. Who likes what she does, who wants to skate and gets great emotions from this. I will say more: I am very proud of the fact that I managed to turn the athlete’s consciousness in this direction. Now I have otherathletes skating around with their parents who have the problems you mentioned. And I understand that I will never tolerate situations if parents begin to explain me how I should train their children.
What about the famous saying whoever pays the piper calls the tune?
– It does not work with me. Rather, I’ll just start parting with someone from the athletes, but in my “kitchen” there will never be room for a second cook. Do you understand what I mean?
Have you already discussed with Hanyu and Fernandez their plans for the future?
– Yes. Yuzuru has not made any decision yet, asked to give him time. I myself was in this position, so I know that the athlete can not be rushed in no case. The same applies to Javier. I agreed with Javi’s decision not to go to Milan and never take part in world championships again, but he told me that he would like to perform at least at one European championship. Not ready to tell you now, will the idea be realized or not, but I will always support Fernandez in any of his endeavors. He is a great athlete and an outstanding person in terms of human qualities. As for Yuzuru, I’m ready to wait for his decision as much as needed.
Have you decided on a deadline for the decision?
– There is no deadline, and from the very beginning I was against setting any limits. The athlete must feel completely free, making a decision about his future fate. Of course, I asked Hanyu a question, when I approximately can expect some kind of statement from him. He said he isn’t sure that he wants to make any statements in the foreseeable future.
How do you think should he stay for another four years?
– He is a unique athlete and I am sure he still can give a lot to figure skating. Including even raising the bar of existing records. But the ball is on his side now. All that remains for me is to wait patiently for his decision.
How does it feel to be at the World Championship without Yuzuru and Javi?
– Actually, it’s terribly. I have a Korean boy in the group who performed excellently at the Olympic Games and in all respects should become a prominent figure in men’s single skating. But the Korean federation has hopes on him for the next four years and did not deem it necessary to send him to Milan. I’m not used to the fact that I do not need to go to men’s training. It’s such a cool feeling when you stand by the board surrounded by a large number of people and realize that all these people look at what Yuzu and Javi do rather then at their own athletes. Only now I realized how much I miss this. Even despite the fact that we had a very hars, intense and unpredictable season.
What exactly do you consider unpredictable?
– Everything. Including Hanyu’s second Olympic gold. I had no idea how things would go at the Olympics. Everything was not spinning around his performance, but around his ankle. I kept in mind that he should not stay without legs before the season ends. Believe me, if the doctors gave us a green light in regard to the World Cup, Yuzuru would come to Milan, it’s not in his rules to skip competitions. But the break between this two competitions was too small to have time to recover without risking his further career, no matter in what form. Perhaps that’s why Hanyu is in no hurry with the decision about his future career. He wants to heal his leg first. As soon as this happens, he will be able to skate for a very long time.
by Elena Vaitsekhovskaya for rsport.ria.ru