Translation of an interview with Elizaveta Tuktamysheva and Andrei Lazukin. About upcoming Olympic season, new programs, development of figure skating and their relationships.
Last season for each of you turned out uneven, which competitions satisfied you?
Elizaveta: For me, it was the Russian Cup Final, where I took 2nd place. It seemed to me that at these competitions my skating was so lively, natural, inspired, which I haven’t shown for a long time. Even the coach and choreographer of our group Tatyana Nikolaevna Prokofieva said that she was delighted with my performances and admitted that the last time she saw such was at the European Championships 2015. It was nice to hear that, because that’s what we wanted all season. I’m glad that I managed to show myself, albeit at one of the last competitions. Personally for me it was an important moment and a definite plus.
Before the last season I had problems with boots, I didn’t skate for a long time, and even after I’ve recovered, I did not have enough time and accumulated reserves to be selected for European and World championships. But we made conclusions about training process, programs, how to approach everything. I hope that we will combine all this, and next season I will show consistent skating, which is expected of me.
Andrei: Last season I actually had one competition – Russian National Championships, where I skated well. Before this I had an injury and missed half of the season. It took long to recover. Only for the Russian Nationals, the most important competitions, I was able to come up in good shape.
And what happened at the Universiade? Good performances in the short program and ridiculous mistakes in the free.
Elizaveta: At the Universiade, I was in some kind of prostration. Sad thing is that we were well prepared, but …
Andrei: I was in perfect shape during the performance of the short program. And the next day I felt that some incomprehensible regression started. It started in the day-off between the short and free programs.
We arrived five days before the beginning of the Universiade. At practices, I hadn’t mistakes at all. I was skating the programs clean. Coped with the short program. And then, I do not know what happened. Perhaps someone will say that this is an excuse. But we really did not understand why it happened.
Elizaveta: We arrived to the Universiade in a great physical shape. After the New Year we had a training camp in Courchevel. There we practiced a lot. At first there was a feeling that everything that we have gained in the highlands became a plus. So it was in the short program. But to the free program I went in a state of complete prostration. I did not understand what was going on. I just could not control my body, such happened with me for the first time.
Highlands are tricky thing, perhaps, you did not guess with the timing for this competition?
Andrei: It’s hard to say. But, perhaps, it was a tactical mistake.
Elizaveta: Everyone tends towards this version. But nevertheless, an athlete is an athlete, and he must be able to show decent skating in any state. We were very upset after the Universiade. After all, the athlete must go and fight in any state. At the Universiade, in the free program I made a ridiculous, pity and incomprehensible fall, which, I should not have allowed at all. Therefore, I was glad that a few days after I was able to mobilize at the Russian Cup Final.
Andrei: Before the Russian Cup Final I fell ill. Haven’t skated for a week and immediately went to competition. It is clear that competition turned out not well. Only at the end of the season at competitions in Slovenia and St. Petersburg I managed to get back to normal, started to jump quad loop. In St. Petersburg, I skated great. It was important for me. It is always important to finish the season on a positive.
Elizaveta: It’s easy to judge from the side, to discuss that the season didn’t turned well for an athlete. But when you have been performing at a high level for so many years, injuries cannot be avoided. During the season, sometimes I had a pretty bad backache, because of that I missed some periods of preparation for competitions. After the end of the season, we began to heal the back intensively. There was a big enough gap without trainings, because we were focusing on the health recovering.
At the end of the season, there always comes a time when everything, that you didn’t have time for during the year, should be done in this month. Debts on study, to improve health, I also got the driver’s license. In general, it turned out such a “troubled time” without serious training on the ice. Only now, after the break, I gradually return to the shape. But there is still enough time. Let’s see what will happen at the beginning of the season.
Can you say that injuries were the main causes that have negatively affected your results?
Elizaveta: Injuries, of course, hinders the process, because you can not work with full dedication and in full force. At some moments the pain makes itself felt. During the season, you do not have two weeks to lie down and be treated, so you have to skate on anesthetics. But even if you know that there is nothing serious, and you think that you are fully practicing, all the same, at the subconscious level the body takes care of itself. So much depends on the psychological state, the inner mindset.
Andrei: It is very difficult compete after a long break. And no matter how many competitions you had before, the absence of competitive practice still affects. I missed almost the entire first half of the season, and at first I felt like a 9-year-old child, whom the coach pushed out on the ice and he does not know what to do. Gradually, some things are recalled, sensations come back, but it takes time to accumulate and collect all this.
Elizaveta: After a serious injury and a long break you forget absolutely everything. At this moment such thoughts come to mind – to continue or to finish? If you decide to continue, then you start everything from scratch. You have a fresh mindset, a brand-new lease, before each competition you clearly understand what you need to do. You do not go through the accumulated negative and positive moments of performances in your head, turning it all into a mess, you just disconnect from everything and start to work again. Consciously, more mature, wiser.
Of course, injuries and long breaks are bad things and you will not wish that to anyone. But the athlete is not insured from anything. Anything can happen in his career. And you need to approach everything calmly and take something positive from bad things that happen. Sport is an overcoming. An athlete must think and analyze certain things in order to move forward. He must understand what is needed, what he wants. But this understanding not always comes easy. And yet, until you come to some conclusions yourself, no one will help you.
In other words, do you start the upcoming season with a clean slate?
Elizaveta: I always think so, but it does not always work. Strangely enough, but the biggest experience I’ve learned last season was after the Universiade. The unsuccessful competition in Alma-Ata and just a week later the Russian Cup final, where I skated with very different sensations. You see, the athlete knows how to behave before the competitions. He can understand some very important things for himself. But this does not mean that he is able to control himself. There is the rub. You know perfectly well what and how to do, what your emotional and physical state should be, but you can not catch it. Before the competitions you start shaking, and you just can not mobilize. It seems to me that first oa all it is necessary to work on the ability to get yourself together at the right time.
The Olympic season affect your trainings?
Elizaveta: Before, I’d have answered ‘yes’. But now I’m sure that the Olympic season is exactly the same as all the previous ones. You don’t need to rush, do a double amount of work, worry too much, you need to do everything calmly.
Andrei: You just need to approach everything thoughtfully.
Elizaveta: You do not need to set yourself, that if you do the programs for the Olympic season, then they should be the best – just an extravaganza! If you like the music then skate to it. Approach the work absolutely calmly. It seems to me that one of the mistakes that athletes do, including myself, is to think that the Olympic season is something special, and if nothing outstanding is done, then it’s a disaster! On the contrary, the Olympic season should be passed as calmly as possible, focusing on consistent skating.
Can you tell us something about new programs, with whom you worked?
Elizaveta: At the training camp in Tartu, we worked with new choreographers.
Andrei: The appearance of new specialists is considered a feature of our group.
Elizaveta: Alexei Nikolaevich (Mishin – ed.) loves fresh ideas, trends, because he believes that from every choreographer you can learn something interesting. Of course then the programs are adjusted, to make them convenient to skate. But some fresh ideas remain, and in terms of work, communication with various specialists develops you.
This year Alexei Nikolaevich and Tatyana Nikolaevna (Prokofieva – ed.) invited to the training camp choreographer Adam Solya. His mother is from Hungary, Adam lives in Belgium. He is a very interesting person. I liked working with him. From the very first moment our ideas and views matched. I understood all his movements – the language of the body, gestures … And it even happened that he only thought and I already voiced his thoughts aloud. It rarely happens when a choreographer and an athlete feel each other so well. But Adam turned out to be such a person. It seems to me that both programs that he did turned out quite good.
Who chose music for programs?
Elizaveta: The coaches know me very well, and I like what they offer. So it was this time. One tango in a modern style for a short program was offered by Tatiana Nikolaevna. Another, classical, for the free program was found by Aleksei Nikolaevich. But when we started to choreograph the free program, I decided to mix everything and as a result turned out a rich, varied and interesting program.
And with the music for the short program there was such a story. At first there was one option, but I did not actually like it, because both short and free were in similar style. I wanted to take some French melody. And one evening Alexei Nikolaevich sent me the music, asked me to listen, and it was exactly what I wanted. I immediately said: “You are just reading my thoughts.” And we did the program in one day and then worked on it in training camp.
Andrei: Misha Ge did the short program for me. Spain. Flamenco. Fire. I have never skated such, so for me it will be like a challenge. I really like the program. Free program – classical music. It was suggested by the coaches, they said that at international competition it will show me in the most flattering light.
Ramil Mehdiyev, the soloist of the Moiseev ensemble, worked on flamenco.
Elizeveta: Yes. After the first practice Andrei said that Ramil is very cool. He knows what is needed, clearly shows how to do the hands, the male part in the dance. For Andrei, this is an interesting experience. Am I right? I think the program will be bright.
What to expect in terms of technique?
Elizaveta: I need to restore the triple Axel. Andrei will have a quad loop in the program, two quad toe loops. At the competitions in St. Petersburg he cleanly performed a quad loop, a combination 4-3. By the way, Andrei is the first skater in Russia, who did this difficult jump. Fired up by the end of the season!
Andrei: Now the main thing is to keep it all.
Elizaveta: To keep and to avoid injuries that prevent you from working. So it turns out that life puts some footrests, but these moments must be overcomed. Now, after the break, I restore the technique, then we will work on triple axel. I hope that in the summer we will start doing it, but first I need to get in shape. If I’m not in shape, then there is fear, because of which it is impossible to do this jump. This is the crux of the problem.
Why does the fear arise, you have already done this jump before, and skated clean programs with axel?
Elizaveta: As I said, everything depends on the physical shape. In childhood, I also jumped triple axel and tried a quad toe loop. But then you grow, change, you need to adapt to the new body. It is not easy. I tried the axel after the break, being an adult, in a conscious state, and this is completely different thinking. You see, I began to try this jump, as if I have never done it before. So everything started from the beginning. Yes, this is a difficult jump. Adult athletes have more fears. Such a jump should be tried when you are in good shape, tonus, when you feel that you can, when you have a desire. Then, go and try. And if you don’t feel confident with triples, then do not risk. It seems to me that women subconsciously have a sense of self-preservation. Such is the woman’s nature. Men are different. They do not have such.
Andrei: I have no fear of a quadruple jump. Another thing is it’s not always possible to do it. In the upcoming season, I set myself for two quads in the short program, three in the long. I try salchow. I had problems with skates, the blade was not standing properly, because of this the curve was moving. But I keep the salchow in my head. If this jump stable, I’ll try to put it.
Your opinion about the “technical boom” in figure skating?
Elizaveta: I agree with Patrick Chan that figure skating should remain figure skating. It’s great that many go on complication, stert to do an incredible number of quads, but at the same time, it’s a pleasure for me to look at skaters who skate with the soul, who have a program, not just a run-jump. Of course, it’s necessary to go on complication, but do not forget what figure skating is, why it attracts the audience.
There is one more aspect: the reverse side of complexity is injury. I do not know who you should be to be able to perform at the limit of your abilities during several seasons and perform programs with six quads? Sport it is wonderful. But do not forget what you will be like in 20 years. This is a very important point. Of course, we all give ourselves to work completely, but if to jump and jump fearlessly, overcoming pain, not paying attention to injuries, consequences can be very serious.
Andrei: The guys who are doing six quads in the programs simply do not leave a choice to the rest. Regardless of growth, physique, if you want to be on a level, you must follow them.
Elizaveta: The same for girls. In recent years, figure skating is changing just in front of our eyes in terms of technique. This is a difficult moment. And doubly difficult for more experienced athletes.
It’s no secret that you spend a lot of time together. How much does this support help?
Elizaveta: It helps me a lot. Andrei has already tried himself as a coach, and I’ve trained children, we know technique, we’ve been working with Alexei Nikolaevich for so many years, so we see mistakes that athletes do. At trainings, it happens that the coach can not always follow everyone, in this regard, we are lucky. We know and feel each other, we see where it’s good, what’s missing, we tell some things about programs. We do not hide anything from each other, and if something is not right, we always say the truth.
Andrei: Such support plays an important role. We know what we need to say to each other after competitions. No matter how Liza skated, I try to refrain from criticism, even constructive one, because I feel her state, I understand when I need to wait, and what to say after.
Elizaveta: We know each other for a long time, we go to competitions together. It’s even easier when there is a person who can support you or hush up an unpleasant topic, cheer up. We do not bother each other. In our situation there are no minuses. If someone has them, then, perhaps, those who skate in pair. And we are single skaters, each has his own work. However, at training and competitions we can help each other. The fact that we are skating in the same group it is good. We’re not so tired from the routine. And if you are tired or something does not work out, you know that you can always complain and a close person will understand you.
Andrei: Absolutely agree.
Elizaveta: We have different characters, but we complement each other. Andrei is calm, I’m lively.
Andrei: When it’s necessary, Liza can turn me on and I can calm her down.
Elizaveta: So we do not have such that we are two fires that burn each other, constantly arguing about something. Our relationships only help us.
You said that you tried yourself as coaches. How was it?
Elizaveta: Before, I thought that, perhaps, fate will go in such a way that I will work as a coach. But after I tried it myself, my desire faded away a little. Probably, if it was my team and I coached my athletes, saw the progress, this is one thing. But when you work with skaters of different ages – from 5 years to 17 – then it’s completely different. Some children do not understand why they need it, do not understand the professional language. It is very difficult to teach others. It’s much easier to be an athlete yourself than to coach someone.
Andrei: For me it was a necessary measure, because for two years I had no financial support, I had to drive to the other end of the city every evening after practices to train children. I will not say that at first coaching work was a pleasure. Not at once, gradually, I started to notice that students improve and I liked it.
Elizaveta: I do not want to look forward, figure skating it is great, but I would like to try myself in other fields.
Andrei: I wanted to study to be a journalist, but Alexey Nikolaevich changed my mind. He said that first I need to get a physical education, and then try myself in another profession, so I went to Lesgaft.
Elizaveta: Of course, besides the education of a coach, I want something else. But I haven’t decided yet about my plans. I wanted to study to be a psychologist, but I realized that it’s difficult. Perhaps, in the future I will choose sport management or something like that. I would like to start my own business. But in any case, I need an active job. Sitting in the office, sorting the papers it’s just not for me.
The training camp in Tartu is over, what are the further plans?
Elizaveta: We’re going on vacations to Thailand. We haven’t been there yet. Will see. Then a three-week training camp in Courchevel. Then we’ll back home. We will train in St. Petersburg before the test skates.
Andrei: We will polish the programs to show them in Sochi in the best possible way.
by Olga Ermolina for fsrussia.ru