Interview with Eteri Tutberidze for Russian skating magazine. Translation. About approach to difficult jumps, men’s skating and being a strong coach and a strong woman.
Eteri Georgievna, today many are wondering how your athletes have become the strongest in the world, and how you managed to make “the production of champions” happen on the regular?
– I do not like such definition, because there is a human factor in our work. Reasons? Correct work. Non-stop work. Serious work. For tomorrow, the day after tomorrow and even for what will happen in 10-12 years.
If we talk about girls, then we have athletes of higher echelon, and this is work for the highest results. Next to them quite young girls train who by age can’t even participate at the junior Grand Prix. The youngest girl, jumping 3-3, is 9 years old. The youngest boy who is working on triples is 7 years old. I understand that with this boy, perhaps we will fight for getting into the Olympic team, but this will happen not earlier than in 10-12 years, and I don’t want to think and calculate my age, how old I’ll be.
What we have built now is like in school, there are preparation group, first-graders, older students, graduates. Some quit, others replace them, new ones appear. It’s always easier to grow up your own skaters than to take someone from the side, mature skaters. First, it is necessary that the athlete came to you. Secondly, as usual, something needs to be reworked. And this is more difficult in terms of prospects and results.
There are a lot of strong girls in your group. How do you manage to maintain a healthy working atmosphere?
– Before I’ve also had a lot of athletes. I just have more competitive ones now. Now I have two groups, then there was one where figure skaters of different ages trained. Polina Shelepen didn’t immediately start to compete with Julia Lipnitskaya. Sasha Deeva trained, also a strong girl, but she could not stand the competition with Lipnitskaya. Julia began to gain momentum and Sasha, on the contrary, faded.
Of course, for a coach all this is not easy. I used to worry, I tried to “share” correctly, to distribute my time and attention between skaters. Now I take many things easier, with humor, even irony, it helps to remove unnecessary stress. Current figure skaters themselves motivate each other. If one does something, then the other understands that in competitions she shouldn’t be worse in any aspect. They are not stupid, they all think themselves, and in trainings we constantly repeat them how much this or that element costs. This is mathematics.
At what point did you understood that it is necessary to be proactive?
– When I started to work with Shelepen. Polina was one of the first to jump combination 3-3. Moreover, even then she had two jumps in the first half of the program, all the rest was in the second. Unfortunately, Polina did not have good skating skills to get high PCS. She often didn’t manage to do well at competitions, but she was a “proactive” athlete.
At the age of 11 Polina mastered all the triples and combination of two triples. Moreover, we did not act according to the scheme, that first we need to learn the double axel, then triple salchow and so on. The first triple that Shelepin did was flip. Literally the next day, she jumped all the other triples. We did not work separately on each jump. Everything turned out right away. On jumps Polina rose to such a level that among young age skaters she did not even have anyone to compete with. Then came the thought that you always need to move a little bit faster.
Today your young athletes try not triples, but quadruple jumps.
– Because it’s an evolution. What the girls did yesterday, today is not enough, and tomorrow – especially not enough. Today’s the generation of athletes looks at figure skating otherwise. Probably, it’s possible to compare with the fact that once we all were insanely happy about Gagarin’s flight to space, and today we sometimes do not know who has flied and where to. The the same thing in figure skating with athletes who try quadruple jumps. Yes, today it causes a furor. But I guess that in three or four years, quadruples in women’s skating will become ordinary jumps.
When they’ll jump – in three years, sooner or later, I do not know. But if we do not want to be in a situation like our men, who came to the World Championships and in fact did not claim for medals, because their technical arsenal did not allow to do that, we should prepare now. In advance. It is better to be the first, to set the trend than to be in the role of catch-up. The most difficult thing is to wait and to catch up.
Starting from what age skaters can learn multi-turn jumps?
– Skaters must become mentally different. Probably, now some home slippers of readers will be thrown at me, but I will give an example. There’s a boy in our group, he’s 7 years old, and he is already perfectly jumping double axel. Once I told him: “Go triple “. And because he is still a child, he did not make round eyes, just nodded and went to try. After 10 attempts I gave him another task. He nodded again and continued.
Why am I telling this? To clarify my idea. Yes, this boy just does three turns on the axel, lands forward and, like little children who just learn to walk, gently sits on bottom. Gets up and continues. He does not have in his mind: Triple Axel! He does not take this jump as a sentence. He was given a task – he did it. It’s important not to focus on this, especially for parents. Let him try.
I believe it should be so. First triples, then quadruples. This should be an ongoing process, because there comes a point that as soon as skaters start to land all the triples, the fall on the jump during trainings is perceived by them as something outrageous.
If you came to trainings of little kids, they more often fall from jumps than land them. In seniors, on the contrary. This is normal. But in order to master the quads, you still have to go through falls. Senior figure skaters don’t want this anymore, they have become unaccustomed to this. They either want everything at once or not at all. That’s why I’m saying that the process of learning jumps should be continuous. Started to do triples, immediately moved to quadы. Yes, there will be falls, athletes will fall, but mentally they will treat it more calmly, without stress.
And with no fear.
– The phrase, which I heard more than once from athletes: “I can break”, scares them most of all. But you can walk on the street, slip, fall and get more serious injuries than when you fall from a quad. You shouldn’t think about bad things, that something can happen, do not think about that at all, because our thoughts and fears materialize. Fear always leads to stress, and athlete gets the most serious injuries on stress. Seven-year-old does not think about it. And this is the main difference.
It is clear that I’m not going to learn the triple axel with the seven-year old now. Especially since the guy doesn’t do triples yet. But it is important for me that in the future difficult jumps won’t be scary for him. So that, when the time comes, he starts to work on them calmly. The same applies to girls. Difficult jumps should not frighten.
How do you think, why we have a deficit of strong male skaters?
– I myself try to find the answer to this question: why, for example, I don’t have moral-volitional boys. Something they can, but it’s not easy. One of my favorite students is Adian Pitkeev – an insanely talented figure skater, but how hard it was with him in training! Adian constantly needed proof of our love for him and this affected the work. I want the athlete to come and just work. Love, hugs, if there is a reason for hugs, let it be then, outside the ice, on the ice you should work.
Before it seemed to me that Adian was the only one. But other people come to replace him, the same, and this scares me. Why are our boys so vulnerable? Every time, if something doesn’t work out, they swallow a lump in the throat. They don’t have anger, to go and prove. Prove to yourself, to me, to someone else that he will do, that he can, that he is no worse!
Strong mothers and sons are under their authority.
– No, that’s not the reason. If we take our Russian figure skating, then not a lot of boys come to figure skating, because there are male sports – football, hockey, which bring money. In this sense figure skating is inferior to the game sports, and parents think that figure skating is not very masculine. So, starting from the age of 4, boys-figure skaters are being pitied, cherished, idolized, because they are few. Forming a new group in a sports school there are 30 girls and 2-3 boys. And no matter how these boys skate, no matter how they behave, they will still pass to the next group.
And there are a lot of girls. Out of 30 will stay 15, out of 15 – five. From the first day they understand that if they do not match, they will be expelled. Take any Russian competitions. Out of 54 started after the short program remains 24. I looked the protocols for the sake of interest: the skater, who took 35th place, did the same set of elements as the 23rd. To be selected, girls need to be two heads above competitors. Girls know that they can’t relax in the off-season, because in early September there will be a selection for Moscow (local competition – ed.) and if they do not pass, they will not receive a spot for Russian Cup and they will fail the season. And the boys: out of the 16 who started, all will get the events of Russian Cup. There is no competition. Greenhouse conditions. I think this is the main reason.
Well, and parents who believe that boys can not be scolded, because they are future men, the support of the family. In this situation, boys very quickly start to understand that if you don’t raise your voice at them, they can do whatever their want. So it turns out that in the end nothing turns out.
How many boys do you have now in your group?
– There are 25 people, one third of them are boys. To say that someone gives hopes … All this is nonsense. They can give any hopes untill they start doing five quads.
You make an impression of a strong coach and a strong woman. What is it like to be a strong woman?
– In fact, in everyday life, if something goes wrong, I quickly and easily break. Once in the winter, I left the parking lot and the tire blew out, so much that the car tilted. In a panic, I began to call everyone whom I only could, sobbed into the phone so they saved me, because on the street was -25C and I didn’t know what to do. And Sergei Viktorovich Dudakov, who at that moment had almost reached home, turned back, came and did everything. So I do not take myself for those women who can stop the horse at a gallop and enter the burning house. I won’t get close to the horse and will run far away from the burning house.
Skating rink is completely another matter, there I completely control the situation, everything is mine. Strong coach is not necessarily a strong woman. And who gave me such diagnosis?
What did your students teach you?
– To take many things easier, accept that everything that happens, happens for the best. Sometimes I see that this is bad, but six months later – a year it turns out that this is a road to somewhere.
What do you want your athletes to take from you?
– I want them to set goal and achieve it. Not necessarily it should be a goal related to sports – life is long, walk and ye shall reach. You can never say I won’t succeed. It is necessary to do, to do and to do. And do not show how hard it is for you. Especially to the audience. They come to competitions for positive emotions, they do not have to see hysterics and tears. This can be allowed with mom, dad, coach. But people who bought tickets, came to the ice rink, they want joy and a holiday.
What is the ideal athlete for you?
– The one who does not ask unnecessary questions, performer.
Is Zhenya Medvedeva like this?
– Zhenya is a good sportswoman, hardworking. She took a lot from me. She treats many things with humor. Evgenia can ask an ironic question, but only at the moment when she’s moving from the board to do the task.
by Olga Ermolina for fsrussia.ru