Interview with Nina Mozer for Russian figure skating magazine. I translated most interesting parts.
How do you feel about the fact that people say that you’re more a manager than a coach, because you assemble a great team that actually works?
N.M.: At first it hurted, but then I stopped being offended. Apparently, all have different understanding of the word “manager”. This word is not a negative for me. I reasoned, for example, clothing designers don’t sew the buttons. They come up with a model, sketches, pick up the material. Or conductor who controls the orchestra. No one is embarrassed that he doesn’t play at all instruments by turn. Why in the figure skating can’t be the same?
Those who can assemble a team or become part of the team, they work very efficiently. Previously I also had done everything myself, because, as they say, If want to do something well then do it yourself. But after many years I realized that I was wrong. I came to work to the rink and I want to move forward. Today it’s unrealistic to achive results in the sport of highest achievements working alone. Only if to work with one skater or one pair, thus if coaching experience and level allows. I believe that this practice is the most modern. When I do something, I always want the maximum. I always say, look at the scoreboard, if there is a result then don’t interfere the work. I’ll realize if my golden pages are in the past. If there is a person who can replace me, I’ll move over and I’ll help him as I can. I’m quite a modern person without such cheap ambitions as ‘won’t give, won’t let’.
How responsibilities assign in your team?
N.M.: Everyone knows what to do. Someone works in the gym, someone is on the ice, someone does massage, someone works with documentation, etc. I even don’t check anyone, because I have no doubt in anyone. I left for myself only preparation of the athlete for the competitions. I need that at the right moment, in the right time, in the right second an athlete can go on the ice and win. It’s my job to prepare athlete for the start, to plan everything correctly, to determine the number and sequence of run-throughs. So, I’m at the board 24 hours a day, because I have to feel my athletes, to know everything about them.
Figure skaters are talented, ambitious, but very vulnerable, touchy people, such an explosive mixture. How do you deal with them?
N.M.: It’s complicated. All happens, joy and hysteria. It’s necessary to be a psychologist to tell people the truth, to explain how to work in a team. Previously, I was embarrassed to do it, but then I’ve learnt. I don’t say this to offend someone or to punish, but to make it better.
I love my athletes and know them very well. When they are without makeup, not in costumes, with her household, family, personal problems, poor health, desire/reluctance, capabilities/impossibilities. I know when it’s necessary to say something and when it better to keep silent, where to help, where to stop, where to insist on some things. There are so many kinds of “before” and “after.” Tatiana and Maxim took each others hands for the first time at this rink. When I’m reading that they came to me already a ready pair, I laugh. Yes, as skaters they can everything, but making a pair it’s psychology, because they were taught by different people.
It often happens that coach is looking at someone else’s student and thinks “What a cool athlete, I would like to train him” and then this athlete moves to your group and it turns out that every day sunrise manually. Someone else’s always seems better than yours, but in the daily work all is very different. No matter what I think about Canadians Duhamel / Radford, but it boggles mind, what can reach people absolutely, in my opinion, mismatched to each other in parameters. What do coaches Bruno Marcotte and Rishar Gauthier it’s a skillful coaching to hide their weaknesses, show strengths, and then implement their skills at the competitions. This is the most important thing in the sport of high achievements.
What do you think about current progress in pair skating? Do you know what to do to continue winning?
N.M.: It is a very complex and hurting question for me. I always accept rules of the game and accept the challenge. Now, we’re also trying to accept it, although it is very difficult. My guys are formed athletes and all competitors set a task to beat them. As a result, they found an alternative in ultra-c elements- and that’s natural. Mature Canadian duo also went this way. I’ve always liked beautiful figure skating, not only pair skating, but now I can’t say I enjoy it, because pair skating turned into acrobatics or singles skating with infinite jump elements. There are almost no interesting programs, because it’s not interesting to watch mathematically counted amount of seconds per element. Now Kolya Morozov did a program for Ksenia and Fedor, we’re discussing it. He tells me that he had to refuse of doing some transitions because it took extra 10 seconds. And I understand that all beauty is already cutted because we don’t have enough time. Only the elements remain and you realize that they need to be in ultra-c version, otherwise you won’t be competitive.
Las season you were criticized a lot in media for backlog from world leaders: Chinese and Canadians. How do you plan to catch up?
N.M.: It hurts when journalists don’t notice the Stolbova / Klimov’s unique side by side combination, that not even all single skaters can do. Ksenia and Fedor set a goal – quadruple throw, but last summer they got injured learning this element, so we had to stop and to enter the season with what we have. After the Grand Prix final we began to learn it again, and again got injured. But we’ll do it. Last summer we was just trying, now we know that it’s real. We had a plan to do a quad throw in the program at European Championships, but Ksenia got injured again.
By the way you asked – whether I accept the challenge? Of course, I accept. Will succeed or not – it’s another question. But I think I stopped loving my job: every day I put my girls into a mortal danger, because when you see how they fall……One journalist wrote that I had a lot of injuries in my group, forgetting that I have three pairs from the main national team, who try super difficult elements. Every body has a limit. Yuko Kawaguti had a torn of achilles, Kristina Astakhova had a fracture of the spine process, American Haven Deny tore all ligaments in the knee due to overrotation on the quad throw, Chinese Wenjing Sui fall and hit a temple, at the World Championships she skated almost blinded on one eye. It’s become dangerous to competefor and I don’t like it.
ISU does not think to ban such a risk?
N.M.: I asked them this question, but no one will stop the progress, however everyone understands that it’s terribly risky. When a single skater do a quad jump he controls his body. Here are two people working as a catapult. If they do not catch the speed, the rhythm, it’s terrible to imagine how it can end.
When Maxim Trankov saw Natasha Zabijako’s fall, he said that he’ll never throw his wife like that, because he doesn’t want to take her in a wheelchair and spoon-feed, because it is life-dangerous.
But athletes want to win. Natasha laying in a hospital under the wires, the next day send me sms and then says, ‘Well, let’s do this throw on a rope for a while?’ I’m telling you about this now and have a goosebumps.
How should girls be prepared to do such elements?
N.M.: To perform a quadruple throw, girls must have muscles like a man, because the loads are male. Before the World Championships I look at the participants – all in nice dresses, hairstyles, makeup, high heels – and I felt sad. Here are long-legged, slender ice dancers and next to them pair skaters – bowlegged, square shoulders, like boys. I don’t want to offend, but now it’s a choice of pair skating. Coaches don’t want to work with leggy girls, because they have a high center of gravity and it’s difficult to learn elements.
We will work on the quad throw. I have assembled a team of people who want to win, not just to participate. And I also realized that adrenaline of victory is very important for me. I don’t want to sit in the kiss&cry corner in order to wave with a hand, taking 18th place. To be honest, neither with fourth place nor with the third. Because if we go to fight, we fight for the first place.