“A lot of dirt is poured against our team. It is not easy to create masterpieces in such an environment.” Interview with Eteri Tutberidze
Interview with Eteri Tutberidze. About this season, state of the athletes in her group and work with the Italian Daniel Grassl.
Eteri Georgievna, the season is almost over. Was it psychologically difficult to change to a format without international competitions?
Eteri Tutberidze: We, coaches-teachers, understand that our athletes look up to us. It’s like in a family: if something happens suddenly, the child always looks at the parent’s reaction to understand how scary it is. Of course, with our attitude toward work, we try to maintain the level of motivation, not to show that we are deprived of something, and continue to work.
Now they talk a lot about the problems of motivation among athletes, but it’s not easy for coaches either. It doesn’t add joy and subjective things, psychological pressure—a lot of dirt is poured against our team. It is not easy to create masterpieces in such an environment. But we are like a family; we experience it together, take responsibility together, and help an athlete if they have a desire to be in sports. We didn’t leave anyone.
Perhaps it’s a little easier for young athletes in this regard?
Eteri Tutberidze: Sonya Akatieva and Adelia Petrosyan are not yet spoiled by international competitions; each of them only had two stages of the Grand Prix. But with Kamila Valieva, it is a completely different story. When you go to international competitions over and over again—Grand Prix stages, European Championships, the Olympics—the attitude toward domestic competitions is slightly different. Only with the Russian Nationals is it different because these are qualifying competitions.
This season was incredibly hard for Kamila.
Eteri Tutberidze: All things considered, yes. And none of us knows what will happen next. Maybe it will be even harder. But we were able to keep her at the proper level; we kept the elements of ultra-c and she showed her quad toe loops in the best possible way at the Russian Grand Prix Final. She went to all competitions and became the first in the rating. God bless.
After the performance in St. Petersburg, she said that it was very difficult for her to skate. That the memories of the pre-Olympic championship were a lump in the throat. Well, it was visible after the free program.
Eteri Tutberidze: After a short six-minute warm-up, something washed over her. She came off the ice and cried, “I can’t skate here.” We tried our best to set her mind. In general, she was much better prepared than we were able to show in the end. Well, who, if not me, knows that constant pressure cannot become part of a habit? And let’s not talk about it anymore.
Then let’s move on to the results of the Grand Prix Final. What tasks did you set for the Russian champion, Sofya Akatieva, and the winner of the Grand Prix, Adelia Petrosyan?
Eteri Tutberidze: They had a task to try to skate with new, complicated content. We put two triple axels in the first half for Sonya and advanced the second quadruple toe loop to the second half. But she began to grow a little, and when this happens, the functional goes to zero, the body and muscles do not have time, and the lungs and heart are still small. We thought to make the programs a little bit easier, but psychologically it would be a step backwards.
How did Sonya overcome fourth place?
Eteri Tutberidze: In a quiet working mode, there were a lot of mistakes. But in general, I want to say that I don’t see the point in moaning over the results from competition to competition. I was not in Perm, but I heard, for example, about dissatisfaction: Sofia Muravieva had to win against Elizaveta Tuktamysheva. These athletes have the same content, but Liza, for so many years, is, of course, more component, which means that you can beat her only with more difficult content.
And so scandal after scandal: judged unfairly here, underscored there. This was very annoying during the season and distracted from the competitive mood. We also had enough of judging injustice at times, but our team never allowed itself to discuss the results of the competitions. I think it’s a matter of upbringing and permissiveness.
Then I will not ask you to comment on the scores of your athletes and return to the results of the Grand Prix. At a press conference after the victory, 15-year-old Adelia Petrosian said the phrase, “I went to it for a very long time,” which caused some to smile.
Eteri Tutberidze: But it’s true. She was somehow underestimated in the components because she was small. Not by age, but by height, she’s petit. For the Grand Prix Final, we set the task for Adelia to make a flip and an axel in the second half.
Her short program is very successful. I thought at the beginning of the season that she deserved higher scores. Everything coincided: Adelia herself, the costumes, and the skating. I know that if she skates well, she will gradually earn her components. Skate beautifully, jump better and more consistent. And in training, show that you deserve high scores.
And emotional. Is this an advantage or disadvantage for progress?
Eteri Tutberidze: So far, it hasn’t helped.
Have you already discussed the programs for the next season?
Eteri Tutberidze: While she wants “samba and mamba”, “something fun.” Let’s see. She is very talented, but emotions really do not yet allow her to deliver the content that she could. For now, we are waiting to fully collect what we have. She collects all quads separately.
Nothing was heard about Dasha Usacheva for a long time.
Eteri Tutberidze: We tried to restore Dasha for a very long time, but she began to jump, and the pain returned. Perhaps this is a psychological moment, phantom pains. Each time I sent her back to the FMBA for consultations and examinations. She was with a variety of specialists, including Christian Schneider in Germany. It got to the point where the doctors no longer saw the reasons for the problems, but she still felt pain. I’m not a doctor, so it’s hard for me to say what it is. But she can’t jump.
According to her content during the two pre-Olympic seasons, there is a feeling that there was a problem for more than one year. Perhaps I am wrong.
Eteri Tutberidze: In fact, Dasha has already come to us with this problem. For the last two or three years, as soon as she came to the training camp in Novogorsk and the loads began after the break, chronic pain appeared. We began to treat her, reduced the load, and so, gradually and very carefully, we entered from season to season. Therefore, we simply did not have time to work on ultra-c elements, and we were afraid that this would exacerbate her problem. Of course, we always took care of her; Dasha was under the control of doctors. Well, the last season traditionally started the same way, but usually the pain went away by the beginning of the season. This time, the pain in her hip continued to bother her.
So maybe she shouldn’t have gone to Japan for that ill-fated Grand Prix? Although, as I remember, Sasha Trusova withdrew from it then, and this to some extent increased Daria’s chances?
Eteri Tutberidze: Of course, it was the Olympic season, and Dasha really wanted to use her chance. Two days before the departure, we had a conversation in which Daria’s mother, the athlete, and doctors were present. I was categorically against the trip to this competition because it seemed to me visually through her movements that the pain intensified. In this conversation, Dasha’s mother insisted on her participation, and Daria herself cried and asked to give her a chance and not withdraw from competitions. Her main argument was that the doctors would be there and that she would try to take care of herself. She didn’t even train until that first six-minute warm-up. Everyone saw how it ended. For our part, we always try to give the athlete the maximum chance, but this time I myself regretted that I had not insisted on a complete withdrawal.
Only recently, in a casual conversation, the doctors learned that her older sister, who was also involved in figure skating, retired exactly because of the same injury. Perhaps if we had known about this earlier, we could have dealt with this problem differently. But we already can’t change anything here.
There was information that she wanted to try ice dance.
Eteri Tutberidze: She had a try-out with Dario Cirisano, but she needs to look for someone with whom she can learn. And Dario needs a partner, with whom he can already compete. Dasha believes that she will succeed in dancing. She must try to move on.
And Maiia Khromykh? It seems that she has recovered and then disappeared from sight again.
Eteri Tutberidze: We restored shape, a quadruple jump, and then a terrible arm injury. From the initial position of the short program, she made one push, stumbled, caught the toe picks with her left hand, missed the ice, and the toe picks hit her arm. It ended very badly; there was a big loss of blood and convulsions. She was taken away by ambulance, and then there was surgery. And not immediately; the doctors postponed it for a day to invite a special neurosurgeon, so complicated this injury was.
It took us a very long time to return after all this—it took a long time to remove the cast, it took a long time to develop the arm, and Maiia could not lift it even 45 degrees from the hip. During this time, unfortunately, she gained weight. But she returned to the ice and started to skate. It is impossible to fight both loads and weight at the same time; it is dangerous for the back. Now she does not jump yet; she skates wearing a corset now because of a back problem. It so happens that Maiia has test after test.
Dani Samsonov’s path in sports is not easy either. Everyone remembers him as a child, who was barely visible from behind the board, and now he is already 17 years old.
Eteri Tutberidze: He had a hard time recovering from surgery on one of his knees. But as soon as he returned to competitions, the other knee began to bother him. It was also operated. Danya’s rehabilitation process has already passed, and now he is recovering. We have already returned all triples, and I really hope that we will be able to perform a miracle with him and reach a worthy competitive level.
The high-profile theme of the season was the arrival of the Italian Daniel Grassl to the Khrustalny.
Eteri Tutberidze: He has been contacting us for a long time. About two years ago, he wanted to come here with a coach, but I was not ready to share my experience with another specialist. Then we met with him again, this time in Boston, where he trained. He is a good guy; he is in search, and to his credit, it was quite hard for him to come here, to another country. We try to help him as much as we can.
It was not easy for him at the European Championships because of the increased attention.
Eteri Tutberidze: I would even say “anti-attention”. Daniel, at some point, really fell into depression from endless criticism.
Will Grassl stay with you for a long time?
Eteri Tutberidze: While I cannot make predictions, we did not make long-term plans. He trains, works, and prepares for the World Championships.
You did not want to share your experience with Daniel’s coach, but at the same time, many athletes from abroad have trained and train with your team.
Eteri Tutberidze: I have always been very closed in terms of sharing experience with other specialists. This only happened a few times. When I took Sergei Viktorovich Dudakov to the team and when Daniil Markovich Gleikhengauz came to us. And we became one team. Yes, I am jealous about sharing my experience with other professionals. But we really coached and are coaching, including athletes who compete for other countries. Liza Tursinbaeva competed for Kazakhstan, but she was as dear to us as everyone else. Morisi Kvitelashvili and Nika Egadze have been skating with us all their lives.
Just a couple of days ago, information about a new project appeared on the Web: a series of master classes abroad with your participation. The news caused different opinions.
Eteri Tutberidze: This is what we are talking about now. We are artificially deprived of the opportunity to work at the international level, and suddenly there is a chance to do something new. Let it be through master classes, why not? I think it’s time for that.
As far as I know, the idea belongs to Alexander Rafailovich Lakernik (former vice president of the International Skating Union; TASS note), and this is a private project with private funds. Our team was entrusted with conducting the first series of master classes; the next ones will be conducted by other specialists. I think that this is to some extent a way out, not only for Russian figure skating but for all figure skating. We must try to move forward in any situation.
Related topics: Adeliia Petrosian, Daniel Grassl, Daria Usacheva, Eteri Tutberidze, Kamila Valieva, Maiia Khromykh, Sofia Akatieva
Elizaveta Tuktamysheva: “The advice to love yourself is trite, but it’s easier for you to live with the person you love than with the person you don’t accept.”
In Kamila’s case, some part were ET’s and DG’s fault. It was OK to make such statement at test skate. Cool, I get it. But making Kamila skate that FP for the whole season, is just cruel. Obvious why she couldn’t land quads with chaotic feelings. In the final, she crumbled on triples shows exactly how she was hurting.
Kamila trust them so much, she keep defending them on the program choice. The results were clear, she couldn’t cope with it.
Maybe she is Eteritron? She executes everything based on data and empirical observation. For example, Anna request program change in Olympic season, Anna gets it.
You can like or dislike her but I feel she is very well spoken and her athletes are important to her
sorry but NO
maybe the Russian national events are ‘qualifier’ as name but in women part of figure skating Russian title is similar to olympic or world medal
look how the ” international ” women level is bad and low level for various reason from 2020 we can see all event without Russian girl the title and medals are not desserved because of lack of level athletes know it
in junior level and senior women medals got bad taste
without best athlete the international events dont got value