Nina Mozer: “Since we have turned figure skating into a kindergarten, our children suffer psychologically.”

Posted on 2023-10-04 • No comments yet


Translation of the interview with Nina Mozer.

photo Alexander Vilf / RIA Novisti

source: Sport-Express by Dmitri Kuznetsov

Over the weekend, another season of the “Battle of the Schools” started – a team competition between the academies of figure skating in Moscow. “SE” talked to the general director of the Moscow Federation and well-known pair coach, Nina Mozer. She talked about the problems of Russian figure skating, and American defenders of children’s rights, and journalists.

Nina Mikhailovna, in Moscow the second season of “Battle of the Schools” is already underway. I really want something like this to happen for senior skaters. Is it realistic?

Nina Mozer: Seniors don’t need this. They have fewer schools. It will turn into a fabricated story, especially since so much has already been invented for seniors, they are loaded.

Does the poster “Tutberidze vs. Plushenko” not sound?

Nina Mozer: I don’t see the point. It’s only from your journalistic point of view to stir things up. They already have a conflict, something is constantly exploding. Why provoke more?


Nina Mozer: What popularization are you talking about? There will be three schools – the two mentioned and CSKA, and we will kill all the others. No one will have a desire to move forward. My goal is to preserve all the clubs so that they develop, and there is no outflow to these three, because we only popularize them. This is wrong.

But sponsors will come for such events. Sponsors who come to the Figure Skating Federation of Russia come for such posters.

Nina Mozer: Yes, and now our juniors can afford anything. It turns out there is a bias – some group of athletes has everything, and other people cannot break through, they have no resources. Absolutely wild imbalance on a global scale. Nowhere does this happen. When we competed on the international stage and represented our country, there was never anything like it at any tournament. We are actively shifting towards certain groups. For children, everything is fine there, for the development of these groups everything is great. Therefore, parents begin to strive only for these schools, knowing that there is a flow there. In the end, we will come to the point that we will have no schools at all, and even the main ones will die out, because there will be nowhere to draw children from. This can be the beginning of the end, the worst thing.

Is there statistics, are there more schools in Moscow now?

Nina Mozer: More private schools are opening, that’s true. But now we have 16 branches combined into one Moscow academy, so it’s difficult to talk about an increase in numbers. What’s important is that fewer children have come to train this year. I can’t give you the exact number, but we understand that people now have a slightly different attitude to everything. The absence of international competitions plays a big role. We realize that such a process is taking place.

What should be done then?

Nina Mozer: Talk less, and people will develop. The space you create around the three schools leads to a shift in thinking exclusively in their direction. We want to help everyone stay afloat, be public.

I see the approach of St. Petersburg, where they sell tickets to their competitions, hold their own test skates. In Moscow, for example, there are no test skates of their own, and not everyone can get to the competitions.

Nina Mozer: You are now saying a set of words that do not correspond to what needs to be done. Let the schools and coaches work. These endless test skates… no one understands. There was never such a thing in the Soviet national team – one skate, and then everyone knew where they would perform. For normal preparation for competitions, you need two to three weeks without stress. We have a trend that everyone is endlessly controlled. I remember those years when I often went to Novogorsk – after each test skates, the athletes lost 3-5 kilograms due to nervous tension. They made mistakes, they were written off even before going to international competitions, immediately after the test skates.

I talked to one judge – “we help, we tell.” But not every athlete can do what the coach set! Due to technical issues, injuries, not because they don’t know how. It’s not about constantly pushing the athletes and coaches – they can’t, they don’t know how… Well, you can hint once. Further, each athlete and coach calculates the rotations themselves, thinks about how to make a turn in the step sequence with quality, and so on. But if a person is constantly told that he is a pig, he will become a “pig” who will only make mistakes. In this way, we kill the athletes’ energetic desire to win. They will be afraid to make mistakes. This is the worst.

And we have it very common.

Nina Mozer: Of course. You come to an international competition – all athletes come to skate happy, and ours go to work. Because they understand: if they make a mistake – they will be removed from the next stage.

But fear works. There are medals. Isn’t it so?

Nina Mozer: You know, I have always treated figure skating as creativity, art. It brings pleasure. It is much more pleasant to receive it from a well-skating athlete than from an “accountant” who goes out, skates, and an hour later everyone has forgotten that he skated. I love the creativity in figure skating. Others love this accounting. It was we, Russians, who brought in full this accounting to the international level. But we forgot that we also need to skate. The sport is called “figure skating.” Not “figure jumping” or “figure running.”

Since we’ve touched on creativity, do you consider the ban or refusal of Rammstein for two figure skaters as a threat to this creativity?

Nina Mozer: Don’t drag me into this topic! Firstly, I’m not that deeply involved. Secondly, when I was a novice coach, back in the USSR, I had one young pair skating to music from a cartoon. And in the program, there was a piece with the music… “God, save the Tsar.”

It can’t be!

Nina Mozer: Yes, I took that risk in the Soviet Union (laughs). I used to experiment back then.

Did you get reprimanded for it?

Nina Mozer: Most people didn’t understand anything. Well, the composition was not for two minutes either. So yes, there is freedom of creativity, and there is a historical context. I don’t want to get involved in a situation with unpredictable consequences.

Then there were no provocative journalists like us, thank God.

Nina Mozer: Exactly, there was no one to hype it up! I don’t personally have a complaint against you, but you, chasing after scandals and heating, create conflicts in which people lose themselves, their identity. And chaos ensues. It upsets me.

Can you provide an example of such a conflict?

Nina Mozer: Even regarding Tutberidze, Fedchenko.

What about Sofia Fedchenko are you ready to talk about her?

Nina Mozer: I’m not interested, it will turn into dirt. Every coach can make a mistake, they should have the right to make mistakes, you can’t turn one of their phrases into dirt. It’s just amazing, sometimes you think – my God, how is this possible? I’ve had such experiences myself. You say one thing, they hear another, and it turns into…

We say “hype.” That’s what text vetting is for, and what readers see now has been approved by you. Just isn’t the topic of Fedchenko important? Nina Mikhailovna, did you ever run away from home as a child?

Nina Mozer: Listen, for example, I know that before every Olympics, our leading figure skaters, in every discipline, used to run away straight from the skating rink in Novogorsk. You don’t know about that. And it happens against the backdrop of fatigue, nervous tension. A child becomes an adult, they give their strength and emotions to sports, and sometimes they can’t cope. And since we have turned figure skating to a kindergarten, our children suffer psychologically. An adult can look at the situation differently.

What’s more – there’s so much rubbish on the internet now, there are games where you have five or six lives – children have a different attitude towards life! A poor, unfortunate generation that doesn’t distinguish what’s right, what’s normal in behavioral models. Look at what’s shown on our television. Look at where you, people of your profession, are leading.

What’s the alternative? Ban the internet?

Nina Mozer: Did I say that? You asked me why this is happening, and I’m explaining that we ourselves have an understanding that the environment is leading to disturbances in teenagers’ minds.

Everyone agrees with that. The question is about the approach.

Nina Mozer: Is figure skating somehow different? And children-athletes are constantly under immense pressure, on diets, they have heightened emotional experiences. This is not the child who sits next to their parents all the time, being spoon-fed and led by the hand. They step over the boards and they learn to be leaders, control their nerves, and skate for three minutes. They develop a different psychology; they are different from other children.

No one thinks about the coach’s feelings at the boards. I remember myself at major tournaments – I didn’t care about what was happening around me. The main thing was that the person would come out at the right moment and skate what we had been practicing every day.

The President of the Moscow Federation, Anton Abdurakhmanov, is not against creating an analogue of SafeSport to help children. Is this the right initiative?

Nina Mozer: I can only tell you this: I know how many people involved in SafeSport have taken their own lives, starting with John Coughlin, who fell victim and ended his life. And then it turned out that much of what was said about him was untrue. Every stick has two ends, and there’s also a third way out. Looking for it in SafeSport is a tragedy. A tra-ge-dy! It’s not an organization for solving problems at all! I had one athlete because of whom I received calls from SafeSport more than once. They have people there who want to show active involvement. And in the end, they deceive people into such hopeless situations through deceit. They cross all lines.

It sounds like a doom. So, this is life, and it should be this way?

Nina Mozer: By the logic of things, it shouldn’t be this way. How can we fix the situation? If I had something magical, a wand or…

A pill, Meagan Duhamel would say.

Nina Mozer: Look at you! I knew you were a provocateur.

I’m not a provocateur, just questions about puppies and how everything is nice and boring.

Nina Mozer: It’s very hard to say what’s boring and normal, and what’s not. Everyone has their own story.

Can I ask one more global question in conclusion? When you decided to become an official, how did you formulate your mission for yourself? After all, it’s not an obvious choice.

Nina Mozer: I currently combine coaching with the position of General Director of the Moscow Federation. Why did I take on this role? Because I saw that there was no help. The Federation in recent years has been all about commercial tournaments for children, and that’s it. One coach said to me when I took on this position, “I didn’t even know we had a Moscow Federation.”

We don’t take on the functions of the Russian national team. Leading athletes should be taken care of by the Russian Figure Skating Federation and the Ministry of Sports. Our task is to popularize figure skating in all possible dimensions. We’ve increased the amount of competitions — made significant competitions for Masters of sports, Candidates, and those with the first rank this season. My athletes formed pairs and were able to compete only four times in a year. This is nonsense, it’s nothing. To train an athlete to be a real athlete, you need 8-10 competitions in a season. We’re addressing this issue by introducing 12 senior tournaments. People need these competitions! I even convinced everyone at the presidium of their importance as a coach. You can’t go to the Grand Prix and try new elements, rework a program without a warm-up. At the end of the season, we organize tournaments so that people can try new programs for the next season. On November 7th, we’re holding a big forum to showcase the diversity of figure skating in Moscow. We’re bringing universities in. People spent 10 years for their child to become an Olympic champion. Now they don’t have that chance. We’ll show that there are other directions. There are interesting ideas for ice ballet.

So, leave me alone! (Laughs.) I’m doing everything within my strength and capabilities to develop and popularize figure skating.


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