Eteri Tutberidze: coach shouldn’t praise all the time

season 2016-2017

Interview with Eteri Tutberidze. About her junior skaters, Polina Tsurskaya, Evgenia Medvedeva, their new programs and preparation for upcoming season. Also about her daughter Diana, who switched to ice dance.

Let’s start with juniors, who will go to the junior Grand Prix.

E.T.: Alina Zagitova and Ilia Skirda are going to first junior Grand Prix. Ilia has been training with us for five years. He came from “Sokolniki”, from Sergei Novitski. At that time he had problems with jumps, which we have overcomed. He doesn’t do a triple axel yet, doesn’t have enough weight, power, but it’s fixable. However, I think judges and audience will like him with the technical arsenal he has, because Ilia has interesting and light skating. Ilia doesn’t just do elements to the music, he tells the story, gets the audience involved,  draws attention. We really want to make him a skater of “western-style” – who doesn’t just jump and do spins, but skates, because that’s what we’re doing, it’s figure skating.

At the end of last season we planned that Ilia will perform at early stages of the Grand Prix. Not because we’re so fast and confident that will be able to prepare well for the beginning of the season. Though the athlete is prepared pretty good. The main reason that the older guys, who jump quads and a triple axel, usually are gaining shape later. So, realizing the balance of power, we decided that we’ll compete while they’re preparing.

Another participant of Grand Prix is Alina Zagitova. I can’t call her a newcomer, she’s been with us for year and a half. Not everything went smoothly at first. Three months after Alina appeared, I kicked out her, but then returned. I kicked out her because it’s important for me that the athlete works himself. And Alina didn’t quite understand our training system, that no one will hurry you up, persuade your to work or shout.

It’s clear that going to the new coach, not everyone can adapt immediately. The main thing is desire, whether you want to work or not. Alina came to us from Izhevsk. She had a little competition experience, respectively the same motivation. But she improved quickly. Now she has difficult jump combinations with lutz and loop. We’re planning  to show it in the free program. Zagitova has very strong technical component, because all her jumping elements are in the second half of the program. You can beat her in jumps only with triple Axel or quadruples. At the same time the program is balanced, rich for elements, musically done, performed in a rapid pace. Let’s see how Alina will cope. The main task is to survive psychologically, not to over motivate herself, as it happened last season. But no matter how Alina will perform at the Grand Prix, we will continue to work. Debut on the stages of Grand Prix it’s just one of the stages of the development of athlete. 

Polina Tsurskaya

Polina Tsurskaya didn’t skate in Novogors. How her recovery is going?

E.T.: Polina trains, makes all the jumps, her new programs are ready. Let me remind you that Polina got injure the day before departure to the Junior World Championships, and there, at trainings, aggravated the injury, that is why she had to withdraw from the competition. Recovery took a lot of time. She couldn’t run, jump for three months. Now everything is all right, but we are not rushing the preparation. Still, a skater of Tsurskay’s level can’t show average skating. She must go out and fight for the top places. Last season, Polina was inaccessible and now she’s doing everything. In the free program we didn’t go for an easier technical set, 6 jumping elements in the second part, with two 3 – 3 combinations. However, the program should be skated easily, because of the injury we had to move the schedule a little. It always comes back to the functional training. If we have time before Grand Prix – we’ll show, If no, than we’ll show it later. 

Over the summer, Polina grew up. Although, this phrase sounds quite unusual applied to such a high athlete as Polina. Now her height is 170 cm. Her body has changed, she became even more interesting, although there was a period at the training camp, when she looked “ugly duckling”, but we overcomed it. Polina fascinates by sense of movements. Her short program turned out a masterpiece. We did it with Daniel Gleyhengauz. Polina’s task is to skate it clean.

Can you tell us briefly about the programs?

E.T.: Music for the short program is from “Game of Thrones”, but it has an indirect relation to what she tells on the ice. This is the story of an artist, who paints pictures, but doesn’t like any. She’s suffering, trying, looking and suddenly begins to draw on herself. The picture is so mesmerizing that with the words “I experienced the perfection”, she kills her creation …

The free program is about love. We came up with a very interesting beginning. It has become popular to take a photo or a selfie on the topic «I follow you». When someone is standing with his back to the camera, holding out his hand. That’s how Polina’s free program starts. And then … love. She leaves, he returns her, she follows him …

Evgenia Medevedeva

Interesting stories, and what did you do for Evgenia Medvedeva?

E.T.: Ilia Averbukh did programs for Zhenya. Last season’s programs turned out very successful, and we wanted to do new ones not worse. Often it is an incredibly hard task for choreographer and in the process of working everyone starts to have some doubts, it’s happened with us too. But Evgenia fulfilled everything she was offered, tried new characters … We did a short program from the first time. It differs from what she previously did. But we tormented with the free program. We did one, but not quite liked the music, we doubted. As a result, we changed everything – the character, story and music. 

Last season was very successful for Medvedeva. She won all the starts, including European and World championships, rewrited the world record. But the ‘star syndrome’ doesn’t threatened her.

E.T.: Frankly, I don’t really understand what doest it mean a “star syndrom” in sport. You won, you’re standing on a pedestal you should rejoice this moment. But when you came down from the pedestal, all this in the past, because the preparation for new competitions has started. If you want to continue to achieve results, you should understand that the better you skate, the harder your competitors will prepare. You can’t avoid this.

Medvedeva’s talent is in her ability to work and understanding the essence of the sport. Someone is given a great stretch, another an insane jump, and the third has both. But every talent can be easily lost in the absence of the right attitude. Zhenya always had this attitude. She learned from childhood that coach’s criticism is probably the most valuable thing we have. Coach shouldn’t praise all the time. The others will praise an athlete, when he wins a medal. And the coach will be happy the most. Saying: beats – means love, in this case is relevant. No, I never raised a hand on skaters. It’s stories that Tutberidze is very tough with the skaters. Yes, I can be harsh on words. But if I criticize, It means that I care. Worse, if I shut up. It means I don’t care.

Your daughter Diana decided to try ice dance. Why?

E.T.: Diana started to do ice dancing on my initiative, because she is now at age when you have to decide what to do next. Diana is a good dancer on the floor and always loved to dance, since childhood. So why not to try it on the ice,  to realize her abilities? This also will be useful for coaching career, it’ll expand the range of professional skills.

Now Diana skates with Denis Pichuzhkin. He trained with me as a single skater, then switched to pair skating, and now to ice dance. While guys skate at our rink as conditions allow. They look beautifully, learned some compulsory dances. The task for the near future is to learn the basic elements of ice dance, skating skills, spin …the will see.

Almost all your skaters have entered the awkward age. Has it become easier or more difficult to work with them?

E.T.: Honestly, I have no problems with students. All guys understand my sense of humor, sometimes quite harsh. If you take the duo coach – athlete, then, perhaps, I’m  more difficult for them. And guys – they are wonderful. I was lucky with the students.



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