Evgeni Rukavitsin: there are rules of figure skating and there are rules of the game
I know that many of you like this handsome Russian guy Dmitri Aliev, so here’s translation of the interview with his coach Evgeni Rukavitsin.
The first senior season for Aliev is over. How do you assess his performance at the last competitions – the World Championships?
– Positively. As for the free program, I am satisfied with the very performance and Dmitri’s psychological stability and set of physical qualities. Many said that he doesn’t have strength at the end of the free program. But there were three quads in the beginning, mistake in the middle of the program, but the ending was with a good speed and clean execution of the elements.
As for the short program, there was a big mistake on the quadruple toe loop resulted in a triple toe loop which was not counted because of the repeat. As Dima said, he got into the trace and could not “save” the take off. There was no way to rotate this quadruple in any way.
But I believe that combination quadruple lutz-triple toe-loop should have been counted in favor of the athlete. We have a subjective sport, and I think that there becomes more and more of this subjectivity.
Are you talking about the situation when one athlete didn’t get an underrotation and the other athlete for the same jump got underrotation?
– Yes, that’s what am talking about. I also think that the audience that follows figure skating, enjoys it and sees the difference between quadruple and triple jump, does not understand why the athlete who has fallen three times is scored highly, and his opponent, who has performed a few quadruple jumps at a good level, is scored lower.
As far as I understand, here comes the sixth, secret part of figure skating, about which no one will ever officially say – rating?
– I’ll just say that there are rules of figure skating and there are rules of the game, and everyone who participates in this game knows them. But sometimes it’s too much.
The peak of Aliev’s career, let it be an intermediate one, was at the Olympics, and it was followed by a splash of physical and psychological energy. How hard it was to “overtake” this peak before the World Championships?
– Dima really admitted to us after the Olympics that he is devastated. That’s why we sent him to do ice show to get inspired by the communication with the Olympic and world champions. But before the show in St. Petersburg, Dima threw his back out that it was even painful to walk. Dima and I felt very uncomfortable, we let down the organizers of the show, moreover, we invited many of our friends who wanted to see him on the ice in St. Petersburg, but we had to decline performances. We immediately went to the osteopath, did a number of other procedures and within three days Dima was back to normal.
But in general, I want to note that he learned to overcome himself. As well as after that leg injury at the beginning of the season, he told us: could you pretend that nothing hurts? We really liked it, although, of course, we understood everything.
Now is the time for new programs?
– Now we will have a small rest, then we will get more precise information about the rules for the next year and start working on the new programs. At the moment we are looking for music, a lot of people help us, including Tatiana Tarasova, whom we are very thankful. We are also looking forward for her suggestions.
Can she take part in choreo process?
– While we did not decide who specifically will participate in choreographing, we do not rule out such an option. We also consider the option to ask Ilia Averbukh.
At the beginning of the season Aliyev could not help but understand that the dream to perform at the Olympics is at least difficult to achieve. Has something changed in his head after reaching this dream?
– Firstly, I do not want to make people angry and I understand those specialists who thought that Dima was not a favorite in the selection for the Olympics, but I will honestly say that we were moving toward this goal with absolute faith. And the obstacles that appeared in front of us did not stop us. Knocked but didn’t knock down. In our minds, we have never gave up this goal.
Secondly, speaking about how Dima changed, I must emphasize that after the Olympics, after a successful short program, after all this atmosphere, he want to develop even more. And those difficult tests he has courageously passed through since the beginning of the season, could not but affect the strength of his character. Unbearable pain, daily treatment, bitterness from the inability to train fully, to perform the elements that are necessary. The failures at the competitions because of this. Loss of self-confidence on the background of his rivals’ success. But he overcame all this and saw the real goals that he can achieve. It is important to constantly set some goals for Dima. One achieved, another appeared and so on. And not only big goals like to get to the Olympics, but also micro-goals.
To leard a new jump?
– Anything. Yes, to complicate the content of the program. Try something new. We sometimes have training without a specific plan, which I call “training for pleasure”. Not often, but we have such. There we improvise, play in different unusual combinations, for example. So, in such training Aliev is beyond competition. We give the task to do a combination quad lutz triple loop – he does. A quadruple lutz-half loop- flip – easily. Such things, small provocations within reasonable limits give him a thrill. In these moments, you see that he can do absolutely everything.
Aliev’s seventh at the Olympic Games in his first senior season was considered successful. But Alina Zagitova also had her debut senior season, and she left Pyeongchang with gold. Could have Dmitry placed higher at the Olympics?
– I don’t want to say the phrase “it was impossible.” And in general, I respect the opinion of people who wants to see Russian athletes on the pedestal without any reference to debuts. This is normal, this is right. But we, people who are inside figure skating, know what really happens. Yes, Zagitova really had a debut season in which she won the Olympic gold. But she, like Zhenya Medvedeva, came as a favorite. Together they won all the competitions of the season. And they defended their titles of favorites. Dima did not come to the Olympics as favorite. Everyone knew that the leaders had gone ahead. We let them go. The Japanese and two Americans did four or five quads in the free program – and we two. In women’s skating, even with the combination “lutz-loop” and all triple jumps in the second half of Zagitova’s program, all skaters do the same elements – plus one American jumps a triple axel. We do not speak about juniors now.
If Aliev hadn’t got injured in September, could he have catched up with the leaders before the Olympics?
– In one season – no. If we had a little more time and no injury, we could have come closer. Yes, we learned quadruple lutz, began to catching up, but it was unreal to catch up. And then, the question of components. We can not avoid it if we discuss the topic from the experts’ point of view. Yuzuru Hanyu’s components are soaring. Shoma Uno’s. Nathan Chen’s components were on a different level.
Let’s look at what happened in the short program. Aliev brilliantly coped with the program and this gave him the opportunity to take only the fifth place. Did someone skated better in terms of technique? No. And this is still only the fifth result. This is some indication of what we could count on. Yes, seventh place is not the maximum result at the moment, I agree. But look at the scores: if the leader performs the jump he gets “+2”, “+3”. When not a leader performs the jump of the same quality he gets “+1”, “+2”. This difference is very large. But these are the rules of the game. We knew that in the last junior season Dima was the absolute favorite. At the World Junior Championships 2017, he did a quadruple jump with a hand down in the free program, but did the rest well. And this “well” was rated higher than the other. I hope that if we achieve Dima’s stability in senior skating, he will soon become a favorite. But while he was not.
Tarasova in Pyeongchang publicly expressed disagreement with the fact that Aliev did not put a quad lutz in the free program. But, it turns out, there was no sense, he still wouldn’t placed higher than fifth place?
– In a conversation with Tatyana Anatolyevna, I expressed gratitude for her opinion, I accepted it. But I made another decision. Indeed, with the maximum option, which, moreover, was not ready for that moment, we could only fight for the fifth place. Only in case of real failures of the main competitors, we could claim something more serious. That’s why I decided to stop on the option with two quadruple toe-loops.
In addition to gaining stability, Aliev needs to take the next step to get closer to the leaders. How?
– I have already said that we are waiting for information about changes in the rules. It is planned to reduce the “cost” of quadruple jumps, plus there will be an opportunity to earn points on qualitative triple jumps, as the graduation of GOE will increase to “+5”. When we find out the final decision of the ISU congress, our further path will be more clear.
But the elite, most likely, won’t jump less quads anyway.
– Dima can do five or six quads in the free program. But it is important that moving upstairs you can jump two and three steps. But then it can have a negative effect. I believe that Dima is developing very harmoniously as a skater. This is also a second mark, which, by the way, requires a lot of time. It is often said that Aliev skates with his soul, but it still needs to be developed and controlled. The guy is very emotional. If everything is good in his personal life, I see how confidently he is working and progressing. And suddenly – the emotional decline. I do not want to pry into his soul, but I understand that maybe he has problems. This is normal and this development. Yes, it’s possible to speed up his preparation, but I believe that we must go in balance with everything else. In any case, it is necessary to use the athlete’s strengths and I use them.
by Andrei Simonenko for rsport.ria.ru