My translation of Elena Vaitsekhovskaya’s interview with Maxim Trankov.
Maxim came alone, explaining that Tatiana is at home with a baby.
– Tanya is constantly with the baby. We don’t have a nanny yet, my wife does not really want to trust our baby-girl to the strangers, and I do not like strangers in the house.
The question of the possible continuation of the sports career has been finally closed?
How difficult was this decision? Haven’t you any hesitation inside?
– We still have. As it turned out, possibilities of the post-sport life, even with a large number of titles, are very limited. I, frankly, reasoned quite differently, when I was thinking what I could do after leaving sport. I considered myself quite creative and flexible person and I was sure that I would not stay without work. In fact, it turned out that everything is completely different. It’s extremely difficult to find employment in Russia.
How quickly did you begin to understand this?
– Almost immediately after returning from the World Championships in Boston. At the beginning of the summer, when we found out that Tatiana is pregnant, so I began to think actively about what to do. I did not want to continue to train alone, I’ve never liked it. I tried to work as a coach and quickly realized, that all the years that I skated myself, I was looking at so many things through rose-coloured glasses.
Did you expect to start a coaching career in the same place where you skated, at Nina Mozer’s school?
– Not that I expected. When Tanya and I were skating, this was repeatedly said out aloud. That after the end of our career we can always join the team. In fact, everything turned out to be more complicated. When the team has already formed, any new person becomes simply superfluous in it.
Isn’t it offencive to understand that there was a place for Robin Szolkowy in this team, but for not for you?
– To be honest, for me it’s still a sensitive subject. Tanya and I brought Robin to Mozer’s school. After Alena Savchenko decided to continue her career, and Robin as a five-time world champion and Olympic medalist was left out with nothing, we just felt sorry for him. It’s very difficult to be a “brand” in pair skating for so many years and lost everything at once: without a partner, Robin wasn’t needed in any shows. Also it was interesting for me and Tanya to take some professional things from Robin, as now Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov do under his guidance. For a long time they have been a “fifth wheel” in the group, no one especially believed in them, they were considered unstable, faceless, although this season it became quite obvious how much this pair is able to shine.
Looking at these athletes, I recall those times when you just started to train with Moser. From the side it was very clearly visible, that your pair is a certain state project.
– So it was.
The best forces were given to this project: all the necessary specialists were involved, every detail was provided, so everything was done to exclude all weaknesses by the time of your Olympic performance. Now I just do not understand, why after the Games the coaching team did not work for Tarasova and Morozov with the same zeal?
– Tanya and I have talked about this with Nina Mikhailovna many times, we tried to convince her that Zhenya and Vova are capable of a very big result. But no one was making any special bet on them. Perhaps some skepticism was due to the fact that Zhenya and Vova were just from juniors, and in addition, our sport has bee always keen to listen to what others say. On the other hand, Tarasova / Morozov made a fairly rapid raise, starting to perform at senior level.
You have worked with them once.
– Yes. I did them programs in their first “senior” season, just after the Games in Sochi. I do not remember how this idea came, but the guys did not mind. In that season, Zhenya and Volodya became third at the European Championships and sixth at the World Championships. I am very proud of that work with them.
Was it first such experience for you?
– With pairs – yes. I was late for the first choreographing camp due to the fact that I was healing an injury, so we started working on programs late, and on new boots. Then, in fact, I realized how unique Zhenya is as an athlete. She is quite capable of becoming such an outstanding partner, like Alena Savchenko and Tanya Volosozhar, she has everything for this.
What is it?
– Tarasova is very partner-like flexible, she can adapt to any situation. Therefore, it was very easy to work with her. Volodya is more stubborn, but he, in turn, has very good acting talents. Simply put, he is an artist, not a “jack”, as in pairs skating male-partners are often called.
Has “public opinion” ever interfere with you?
– Maybe only in the very beginning, when Tanya and I teamed-up. Things didn’t go well there, but I was not too worried about this: it was the same with all six partners with whom I skated before Tanya.
I have already forgot they you had so many partners.
– Well, that’s from the very beginning. Three partners were in Perm, three more in St. Petersburg.
What prevented to get used to each other more quickly? Did not have the partner “flexibility”?
– I’m not really a good skater, after all. No matter how much I love and respect my Permian school, skating skills are not taught very well there. I realized this when I came to St. Petersburg to Lyudmila Smirnova to try out with Irina Ulanova, whose father was an Olympic champion. Ira has lived and trained for a long time in America and skated greatly. And here – I, with “irons” instead of legs. I knew the names only of the basic steps.
They worked a lot with me: teaching, explaining, removing the “village” out of me, as we like to say. I learned to do Rockers and Counters only when I was 25-26 years old, when I went to Tamara Nikolaevna Moskvina and it was necessary to do the step sequences in accordance with the rules.
In general, in my life everything happened quite late. I began to win at juniors competitions, when it was two years left until the end of junior age. I’ve won all that was possible in these two years, although I hadn’t performed before even at the Grand Prix. With Tanya we also won all the highest titles, when there was very little time left before the Olympic Games.
How difficult was it for you personally to win that Olympics?
– The hardest competition I’ve ever won was the Junior World Championships 2005. Nobody believes me when I think about it, but it’s true. This was the only time in my life when I cried standing on a pedestal. For some reason during that period of my career I was sure that this world championship is the only thing that I can ever win at all.
Then Petrova / Tikhonov, Obertas / Slavnov, Totmianina / Marinin were skating at the senior level and I was sincerely sure that it’s impossible to live to see the end of this queue. And the world championship gave a chance to get into to the Grand Prix in the first senior season, to compete at the senior Russian Nationals and then finish the career in order to continue to skate in the show or somewhere else.
But Masha Mukhortova and I were lucky: At the Russian Championships we unexpectedly became third and even went to the 2006 World Championships, because Totmianina and Marinin decided to skip that competitions.
Before Tanya Volosozhar and I started to train with Mozer, I was very afraid of performances. This fear appeared at a time when I was training with Mukhortova with Oleg Vasiliev. Maybe such approach didn’t suit me. We train a lot, somehow I dealt with the load, but almost always approached the competitions exhausted, did not have time to recover. After every skate at competitions, I even tried to jump through the mixed zone quickly, because I really got out of the ice in a half-unconscious state and was afraid that I would start to puke before I reach the locker room.
Mozer helped me a lot to cope with this fear. The peak moment in this respect happened when we arrived at the competition in Courmayeur – this was the last chance to gain a technical minimum to participate in the World Championships.
We have trained only for five days before that competitions, because we performed in the show Art on Ice, and I immediately felt all the delights of the highlands. Somehow we dealt with the short program but before the free program I was pale of horror. Nina Mikhailovna noticed that and said absolutely calmly: if everything is so bad, then we will not skate at all. I asked: “How is it? And what about Worlds?”
Mozer replied calmly: “If you want to get to the World Championships, then go and skate.”
We won that competition, gained the necessary points and, already leaving the ice, I suddenly realized that during that skate I hadn’t thought of fatigue even once. That competition in Courmayeur was psychologically a turning point for me. I began to learn how to think, began to understand when and how fatigue comes, how spread energy correctly, where I can add emotions. Before winning the World Championships, we have been second twice, so the victory in 2013 was taken for granted.
Returning to the question of the Olympics, let’s say, for me it was important not to spoil Tanya’s holiday. I once talked about this with Robin and he admitted that he felt the same towards Alena. So first of all these were the competitions of our partners: Robin and I played the heroes of supporting roles.
You started the Olympic season not quite well.
– We started it very badly, to be honest.
I’m interested in something else. Have you ever feel uncomfortable at such moments because of the fact that Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov are skating near and gaining momentum?
– When Ksenia and Fedor decided to leave Lyudmila and Nikolai Velikovy, I was even glad that, at last, I would have a company: after moving to Moscow I talked only with Tanya, but she had her own life outside the ice rink, and I had mine. But sparring with Stolbova and Klimov didn’t happen: it quickly turned out that Ksenia and I simply can not exist on the same ice, conflicts begin.
And Nina Mikhailovna put us in different groups. Was it uncomfortable for me to compete with them? I can not say that. Many times I heard that Stolbova and Klimov skated in Sochi almost better than we, but in fact there was a big technical gap. We could fall and still win.
Did it take long to get over the devastating failure at the World Championships in Boston?
– That season in general turned out difficult. It is generally believed that Tanya wanted to return to the sport, but in fact, I wanted this no less. I really turned on after I had to cure a shoulder injury for a long time: I did not want to leave the sport on such note.
The strategy was to start the season at the Grand Prix and finish it at the European Championship. But before the Grand Prix in Japan, where we had to meet the world champions Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford, Tanya got a very painful heel injury. Of course, people immediately started talking that we were just afraid of rivals. It was offencive, because we were very well prepared. Tanya even cried, believed that it’s her fault that we have to listen all this. Aftertaste did not go away even after we became Russian champions and then European champions. We didn’t plan to go to the World Championships at all, but then talks that Russia can loose spots for the next season began, and so on. In short, we were convinced that it would be right to go.
At practices everything was well, but as soon as the Championships began, everything went wrong from the very beginning. I did not even have an excitement, only emptiness. And the only thought: I’ve lost for so many times that I definitely won’t die, finishing once again without a medal. I remember that after the performance I went into the locker room, where were Stolbova / Klimov and Tarasova / Morozov and saw that guys look very strange at us. As if they are uncomfortable that they beated us. I congratulated everyone and even joked: “It’s okay. Akela missed. ”
Then I told Tanya that I do not see any reason to be upset. Once it all happened, then it’s a sign from above. That we should think not about figure skating, but about the child.
What do you think of Chinese Wenjing Sui / Con Han, who became world champions this season?
– I really like them, not the first year.
You always against the idea that pair skating should continue to get complicated?
– This duo does not have any special ultra-c. There is a clear balance between complexity and choreography.
– In the mid-80s, Katya Gordeeva and Sergey Grinkov also did the quadruple twist. At the same time, the Chinese did not even try the quadruple throw.
It seems to me, that you have some long-standing dislike for this element?
– Rather, I simply do not understand the judges’ delight and “+2” only for the fact that the pair do a quadruple throw, landing it somehow. Turns out, double standards: people cease to understand how they should skate. Chinese also make figure skating understandable to me, as a viewer. In addition, I like them because in them I see our Russian skating, our school. All the best that it ever has.
Would you like to have your own school?
– It’s almost impossible. If I had been given a state ice, not even in Moscow, but somewhere in the suburbs, I would gladly work there. The school of pair skating can not exist as private institution in principle. Where almost all pairs skaters in our country come from? Perm, Achinsk, Gremyachinsk, that’s a poor people, no matter where they come to train, it’s necessary to pay for housing and food for the first time. Where did their parents get the money to pay for it? There is also a second problem: in figure skating small children bring money to the coach. In pairs, there are no children, because they start doing pairs at the age of 14. Accordingly, coaches earn a little money. In addition, you can’t have more than three – four pairs at the same time on ice. Therefore, the only option to develop a pair of skating in our country is when some oligarch builds a skating rink, allocates a separate ice for pair skating and says: “Revive traditions!”
So, your work in the foreseeable future can only be connected with the show?
– Probably yes. I can not say yet where exactly.
And where it would be more interesting for you?
– In Japan, in Switzerland. It’s not a matter of earnings: in such shows you learn a lot simply because strong foreign athletes skate nearby. So, you see who and how to trains, warms up, prepares for the performance, with what attitude. For example Hanyu, it is clear that in Japan he can go out on the ice, jump two triple salchows, and the audience will be hysterical with delight. Instead, every day Hanyu has a full-fledged training session on the floor, and on the ice gives out such a warm-up, from which I would have died long ago.
That’s the whole secret of invincibility?
– Plus Japanese physiology and the Japanese mentality. It would seem that Takahashi finished, Hanyu came and then there is no one. But Shoma Uno appeared, who jumps like a ball and skates like a god? The trouble with Russian figure skating is that we have few coaches who teach us how to skate. We do not go anywhere, while in the same Japan, China, it is customary to send athletes to training camps, every year to various specialists, to invite famous coaches. For example Nathan Chen, he trains during the season in three different places – with Marina Zueva in Detroit, with Nikolai Morozov in Hackensack and with Rafael Harutyunyan in California. Three former Russian coaches are coaching the American, and at the moment this American is one of the strongest in the world. I’ve also seen how Chen trains, when I was at the training camp in Hackensack. If our single skates were doing at least half of this work, we would now have a completely different single skating.
By the way, for whom you cheer in men’s competitions?
– For Javier Fernandez. It’s most difficult for him. In figure skating he’s like the last of the Mohicans, all his rivals have Asian roots: Chen, Patrick Chan, Denis Ten, Yuzuru Hanyu, Shoma Uno … And besides, Fernandez’s skating is really masculine. Now it’s a rarity.
Do you have an explanation how Fernandez and Hanyu have been getting along well in one group?
– The thing is, in the West the sport is based on the contract system. You pay money, and the coach fully works out this money, because he understands: if the athlete remains dissatisfied, he will leave. Such system also disciplines the skaters. When a person paid for training out of his own pocket, for this money he will take everything that the coach can give. The fact that someone else is also working with this coach does not bother anyone at all. Our coaches have such a salary that he constantly has to look for additional earnings. If suddenly an athlete wants to seek help from some other specialist, talks about betrayal begin immediately. And all because the coach is afraid to lose an athlete to the horror.
The next season seems to be the first, when the girls begin to perform quadruple jumps.
– I would not hurry to say that.
But you probably saw the videos on the Internet?
– I saw. The fact is that in May a lot of skaters do sometimes incredible things. Quadruple jumps, quadruple throws. This is understandable: the shape at the end of the season is always high. It is quite another matter to return to the ice after a summer vacation. Therefore, I prefer to wait until the season begins.
And do you like the trend of turning female skating into a childish?
– I would say that it has a right to exist. Just single skating becomes as “Asian”, as gymnastics, jumping into the water have became long ago. It’s easier for those athletes who have not yet grown up to counter this onslaught. Although if you compare the Olympic chances of Zhenya Medvedeva and Alina Zagitova, whose next season will be the first on the senior level, I wouldn’t say that Medvedeva’s are a lot higher. If Zhenya skates clean in Korea, she will win, no matter how everyone else skates. I saw Zagitova last year at the Russian Championships. She jumps perfectly, but her second place caused me questions – simply because it’s childish skating. It’s great that Daniel Gleyhenhaus did her a Don Quixote, I was very much looking forward to this program in junior skating.
– This music greatly emphasizes jumping accents. And junior skating first of all is about jumping. I would not say, by the way, that the tendency, about which you said, is frightening me: the full arena won’t come to see Zagitova, whatever she jumps, but it will come to see Carolina Kostner.
At the Russian Championships you commented on the skaters’ competitions. Was it difficult?
– While Tanya and I did not perform because of my injury, I watched all the television broadcasts, listened to various commentators, not only Russian ones. I know how they comment on ESPN, on American channels. Therefore, it was interesting to try myself.
Why did not continue?
– Because, turned out that no one needs it. If you take the same Americans who haven’t been winning anything in figure skating for a long time, they always send three or four channels to the main competitions and people like Michael Weiss, Tara Lipinski, Johnny Weir, Tanit Belbin, Charlie White. Shizuka Arakawa, Daisuke Takahashi, Nobunari Oda comment for Japan. French “Eurosport” attracts Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat. Here it’s extremely difficult to get on TV. I commented on the competitions almost the whole last season, but all this thanks to Tatyana Anatolievna Tarasova, who went to the offices, beat out money for trips. After the World Championships in Helsinki, I was offended to hear critical statements about Tarasova from many respected people. These people simply do not understand: if they remove Tarasov, there will not be figure skating on our television at all.
Have you thought about becoming a technical specialist?
– I will say more, I was asked to. After all, in pair skating, the situation with refereeing is not very good.
Only in pair skating?
– Not so bad in other disciplines. There are only a few people who skated in pairs and stayed in this business. Therefore, pair skating is judged mainly by former singles. In Boston, one of the technical specialists gave us level 2 for the twist, although throughout the previous years we have been receiving level 4 and “+3”. How should I react, knowing that I’m doing this element always the same: from the same entry, with the same technique? When the talks began that it would be good for me to pass the exams and get a license, Robin Szolkowy came to me and invited to go somewhere to have a beer. We went, and there Robin said that he was also offered to become a judge. And that he refused.
We started to discuss all this and understood that we are looking at things exactly the same way. Both Robin and I, so many times come to the locker room haven skated frankly badly, but still having won, that we did not know how to look into the eyes of those who objectively skated better than us but lost.
After that talk with Robin I realized for myself that I’m not ready to be a part of this system. If the great champions in front of my eyes skate badly, I can not put them higher. Because I was in this skin and I know how it is. I think that’s why there are no outstanding sportsmen among the judges.
You and Tanya constantly “shone” in media, almost until the birth your child took part in the photo sessions. Was it a pleasure, or a necessity?
– Mostly necessary, although a number of projects turned out to be really interesting. We have our own team that deals with our promotion in the media and on television. I am not ready to leave the sport, settle in the woods, have a vegetable garden there and to live from such an income. And in order to remain in demand, you need to be constantly attending events, be in advertising, on the pages of the press.
And if you will not be able to pay for your own PR-service?
– I’m not afraid of that yet. Huge expenses are not foreseen, we have an apartment, house, car, I’ll somehow make money to pay for apartment and food. If life really mekes me, I’ll do additional lessons for kids.
Do you have such experience?
– No. Frankly speaking, I’m generally against it.
– Because none of our champions from Panin-Kolomencin to Evgenia Medvedeva has never needed them and never took them. Neither Plushenko nor Yagudin, nor anyone.
But after all, Plushenko is now doing it in his school – teach those who are not talented, but are willing to pay the price list.
– Now many people are discussing the amounts that Plushenko takes for a month or a year of training, although in reality these amounts are small enough. For additional lessons (often for completely untalented child) parents usually pay the coach 2500-3000 RUR (appr. 43-50 USD) per hour. With the fact that lessons sometimes are held every day, that is, seven times a week. Zhenya just made this “shadow” price list open.
by Elena Vaitsekhovskaya for sport-express.ru