“After a month with Tutberidze, I was able to perform all the programs clean, execute triple-triple-triple jump combinations.” Interview with Tutberidze’s former student who had to switch to ice dance due to stress fracture
Interview with a former student from Tutberidze’s group. About training at “Khrustalny”, her thoughts on raising the age limit, and why she doesn’t want to become a judge.
source: Championat dd. 17th July 2023 by Daria Kirukhina
Diana Guseva is only 19 years old, but her figure skating career is already over. If it weren’t for a cruel injury, she might have competed alongside Alexandra Trusova and Anna Shcherbakova at the Olympics in Beijing, like during her training days at “Khrustalny”. Diana witnessed the emergence of quadruple jumps and how fantastic their first attempts seemed. Following Tutberidze’s advice, she switched to ice dance and prepared to compete for Belgium. Unfortunately, the quarantine due to the coronavirus thwarted her new phase in the sport.
In an exclusive interview with “Championat”, Diana talked about her training at “Khrustalny”, her thoughts on raising the age limit, and why she doesn’t want to become a judge.
Diana, how did you get into figure skating? Whose desire was it, who brought you to the rink?
Diana Guseva: Initially, it was my parents’ desire. The CSKA stadium was located close to our home. In the past, my mom was involved in figure skating, and my sister also skated, so there weren’t many other options. They took me to the rink when I was four years old, and I began my career at CSKA. From four to ten years old, I trained with Svetlana Sergeevna Bukaryova and Maxim Zavozin. Then, from ages 10 to 12, I skated under Inna Germanovna Goncharenko, and at 12, I switched to “Khrustalny” to train with Eteri Georgievna Tutberidze.
How did you end up with Tutberidze?
Diana Guseva: I wanted a change, I wanted to skate with athletes of my age. At that time, I mainly competed against Anna Shcherbakova and Alexandra Trusova. My mom and I decided to make a change and move to Eteri Georgievna Tutberidze.
During one training session, they watched me and said, “Let’s give it a try. The first month will be a probationary period.” And after a month, they told me that I was accepted into the group.
What happens during this probationary period?
Diana Guseva: They simply observe how you train, how you handle the workload, the emotional pressure.
What were your first impressions of training at “Khrustalny”?
Diana Guseva: They were so powerful, and we worked so hard! I remember, before that, I couldn’t even dream of performing a clean free skate or executing triple-triple jump combinations. But after a month with Eteri Georgievna, I was able to perform all the programs clean, execute triple-triple-triple jump combinations. The emotions were great because everything was working out for me at that time, and everything was fantastic.
Were you well-received in the new team?
Diana Guseva: Yes, everything was great. I immediately found a common language with everyone. All the girls there were wonderful, very well-mannered. We never argued or had any conflicts. The group was fantastic.
Did you have a chance to interact with Evgenia Medvedeva and Alina Zagitova?
Diana Guseva: Yes. I didn’t interact much with Evgenia Medvedeva because she was much older than me. But I talked more with Alina because she sometimes stayed for the second ice session where I skated. When we were in the dressing room, she used to tell me about her Junior World Championships, what she received as gifts, and what she brought back. It was very pleasant to talk to her!
Did you communicate with Anna Shcherbakova, Alexandra Trusova, and Alena Kostornaia?
Diana Guseva: Yes, we were in the same group and competed in the same competitions.
Do you remember how the story of quadruple jumps in your group began?
Diana Guseva: I remember it well because I witnessed it. Anna Shcherbakova was the first to attempt a quadruple toe loop. Then, in the next training session the following day, Sasha landed a quadruple salchow. Later, Anna broke her leg, and after our training camp, Sasha landed a quadruple lutz. It was something fantastic! In one day, she tried it on a harness, then in the next training session, she fell from the fully rotated lutz without a harness. And in the next training session, she cleanly landed a quadruple. It was something fantastic!
Did you personally try quadruple jumps or triple axel?
Diana Guseva: No, quadruple jumps never reached me. I switched to ice dance when Anna and Sasha started attempting them.
What happened? Why did you switch to ice dance?
Diana Guseva: At the same time with Anna, I also had an injury, a stress fracture, which was very unpleasant. I had a long recovery period, and when I returned to the ice, I couldn’t train as before. The intensity of my training was greatly reduced, and I couldn’t fully recover. That’s when Eteri Georgievna advised me to try ice dance, and I continued to skate in that discipline.
Why do you think she directed you specifically to ice dance?
Diana Guseva: She realized that I wouldn’t be able to jump and skate the way I used to. At that time, I was growing: my height and weight were changing slightly. Anna and Sasha, for example, had a physique that allowed them to stay small and thin for a long time. But in my case, these changes were happening faster. Eteri Georgievna understood that it would be better not to push me further. I had good skating skills, so she recommended that I try ice dance.
So, did puberty also play a role?
Diana Guseva: Yes, puberty came. At that moment, I was 15-16 years old, which is a challenging period for all girls, of course.
Did you try to fight against it?
Diana Guseva: I couldn’t fully dedicate myself to figure skating. I didn’t have the strong desire to do so because I realized that after the injury, I wouldn’t be able to jump hundreds of jumps during a training session. My performance declined, and I couldn’t recover as expected.
What was the most challenging jump element you performed, even if not an ultra-c?
Diana Guseva: In terms of jump combinations, it was a flip-loop. And in terms of jump combinations, it was lutz-toe loop-toe loop-toe loop.
Which program was your favorite in figure skating?
Diana Guseva: I had many programs, and they were all beautiful. Elena Maslennikova, who currently works in different shows and “Ice Age,” choreographed them for me. The most beautiful programs she created for me were “Bolero,” “Chopin,” and “Alice in Wonderland.”
In Eteri Tutberidze’s group, I skated “Anaconda,” portraying a snake. I loved the music and the costume. At that time, I had a solid set of jumps, and I almost always skated clean. Overall, all the programs were my favorites.
Did Daniil Gleikhengauz choreograph “Anaconda” or someone else?
Diana Guseva: Elena Maslennikova also choreographed “Anaconda” for me. And in Eteri Georgievna’s group, they made some changes and improvements to it.
For my new programs, Daniil Gleikhengauz brought in a choreographer who had previously worked with me in the group of Inna Goncharenko. Daniil was focused on the Olympic season and working with Alina and Evgenia, so he had less time for me.
Can you describe Eteri Tutberidze in three words?
Diana Guseva: It’s difficult to describe her in just three words. She deserves many more words, but I’ll try to summarize it. She is very demanding, hardworking, fully dedicated to her work, and in certain moments, she is caring because she devotes herself to each child, finding different approaches for everyone. And she helps not only in sports but also in personal life.
Did she give you any valuable advice?
Diana Guseva: That’s confidential information. She always gives personalized advice to each individual. But generally, it includes guidance for life, very insightful things. Her advice specifically for personal life remains a secret.
How do you remember Sergei Dudakov?
Diana Guseva: Sergei Dudakov is very wise. He gave me a lot of technical knowledge, teaching me how to jump correctly and perform exercises properly. He is very intelligent and demanding. He provided me with a lot of guidance, and I’m very grateful to him for that.
Was it difficult to adapt to a different discipline when you switched to ice dance?
Diana Guseva: Yes, I started with Anjelika Krylova. I had skates for single skating, but I needed completely different blades and boots. I couldn’t lean on the edges the way dancers did, and I couldn’t find the rhythm at first. I quickly learned the basic dances, but it was quite challenging with a partner. However, after about six months, maybe a little less, I was able to do all the lifts and perform the programs. So, I adapted. It was difficult, but it worked out.
Who was your partner?
Diana Guseva: I had about three main partners. The last one was from Belgium and didn’t even speak Russian – he was French. We planned to compete for Belgium, change passports, but then the year 2020 came, and the quarantine happened. My partner went home, and after that, we stopped skating together.
What prompted the change in sporting citizenship?
Diana Guseva: It was simply very difficult to compete. In Russia, naturally, there is fierce competition. To have the opportunity to participate in World Championships, Grand Prix events, and so on, my coaches and I decided it would be better to find a partner from another country, change citizenship, and compete under a different flag at higher-level competitions.
Did the Russian Figure Skating Federation pose any obstacles to the transfer? Did they allow it calmly?
Diana Guseva: It was challenging, but the coaches managed everything. I didn’t get involved because I was still young. We almost made it to the end, but then everyone dispersed due to the quarantine.
Did you look for a new partner?
Diana Guseva: After the quarantine, I realized that it was over. I already knew that he would be my last partner, and if he left, I wouldn’t continue.
Why? Did other plans arise?
Diana Guseva: The desire disappeared. I felt that it was unlikely anything would happen. It requires too many nerves, and nerve cells don’t regenerate (laughs).
So, ending your career wasn’t difficult?
Diana Guseva: I cried one day. After all, I dedicated 12 years to figure skating, so it was difficult to finish. But I tried to let go of the situation because I understood that it had to be that way. And that was it. The next day, I went to school, started preparing for the final exams. They were also canceled, and then at 16 years old, I started working as a coach.
Do you follow tournaments now?
Diana Guseva: I follow some major competitions. As for smaller ones where very young athletes compete, not so much because I didn’t compete with them, and it’s not very interesting to me. Mostly, I follow from Sonya Akatieva’s age group up to when Anna Shcherbakova was still competing. But now our skaters are barred from international events, so I think there will be fewer competitions.
Do you watch international competitions?
Diana Guseva: Where are our skaters not performing now? I don’t watch them.
But you did watch the Olympics in Beijing?
Diana Guseva: Of course! I woke up at 4 am to watch it! Even my teachers said, “You can come later; the main thing is to watch the Olympics.”
Did it feel strange that girls who used to skate with you were competing in Beijing?
Diana Guseva: That feeling was present, but I understood and faced the truth: those girls worked much harder, skated much more. I had no one to blame but myself. I was happy for them because I saw how hard they worked. There was no resentment; I knew I didn’t gave my maximum on the training sessions. Deep down, of course, there was a feeling that if I had continued, I could have been at the Olympics with them. But that happens to everyone. I’m not the only one.
What do you think about the age minimum in figure skating?
Diana Guseva: I think it’s a good thing. Now we have ten-year-olds doing quadruple jumps, which is amazing. But everyone wants to see the adults skate a bit and showcase their programs in competitions. It’s not as interesting to watch only the little ones.
Would you like to have a long career like Elizaveta Tuktamysheva?
Diana Guseva: Honestly, no (laughs). I admire her a lot, and I don’t understand how she’s still skating! It takes so much strength, energy, and motivation! She’s amazing, but I couldn’t do it, so I wouldn’t want to.
Do you skate in your free time, just for yourself?
Diana Guseva: Yes, I love getting on the ice, stretching my legs, wearing skates. Going skating on the rink during the New Year is a must. But in general, I skate less now, and I don’t have a strong desire to get on the ice and jump.
Do you still do any jumps?
Diana Guseva: The last time I jumped was before I switched to ice dance. I got used to dance blades, and jumps are difficult for me now. I’ve somewhat forgotten the feeling of how to rotate in the jump, and my vestibular system doesn’t work the same way. I probably remember some things, but I’ve forgotten parts of it.
Don’t you need to jump yourself in order to train children?
Diana Guseva: It’s important to skate well to show things with full power. But jumping doubles and triples is not necessary. It’s enough to show them imitation, to show it on a child, to hold them, lift them, spin them on the harness. No coach ever jumped triples in front of me.
What do you think about a career in judging? Would you like to try it?
Diana Guseva: No. We actually study that at the Russian State University of Physical Education, Sport, Youth and Tourism. It’s very challenging; you have to pay close attention and learn a lot. And I don’t have the desire to sit at the rink from eight in the morning until eight in the evening to assign scores. Besides, I would start feeling sorry for everyone. I would hesitate to give a negative mark and would always tend to give higher scores, just in case.
I have classmates who have already passed the judging exams and can now judge figure skating, but I don’t have any desire for that at all.
Would you enroll your own children in figure skating?
Diana Guseva: If I see any desire in them. And it should definitely be their own desire. If it’s a girl, she can try. Although there are other sports that I really enjoy, like volleyball – I love playing it, and it’s always available at our university; rhythmic gymnastics as well. However, with rhythmic gymnastics being such an aesthetic and beautiful sport, I would envy my child!
And what if it’s a boy?
Diana Guseva: If it’s a boy, then figure skating is unlikely. I don’t understand why anyone would put a boy in figure skating. I understand they are needed there, but I wouldn’t do it with my own child. But I would definitely involve them in sports. They won’t grow properly without sports.
Can you imagine what you would do if the suspension of our skaters from international competitions had happened during your career?
Diana Guseva: It’s very difficult to find motivation without competitions, but you still have to think that you skate for yourself. You have to go to training sessions for yourself, not necessarily for competitions, maintain your form, and keep hope. Russia can come up with many of its own competitions, so we won’t be left without tournaments. But in any case, finding motivation in such a situation is difficult.
I have always trained not for competitions. I never liked them; they were stressful for me. I trained simply because I had to go to training every day, perform my programs, and I didn’t think about competitions. I always had the desire to go on the ice and skate.
For you, the process and discipline were more important than the results?
Diana Guseva: The process, discipline, and routine. Results were not as important to me.
Do you regret dedicating such a significant chapter of your life to figure skating? What has it given you?
Diana Guseva: I have no regrets; it’s an immense experience that instilled discipline in me for life. If I hadn’t pursued it, I would be a completely different person. Figure skating has given me a lot. Surprisingly, it gave me good mental health. It improved my reaction time: I can react very quickly to any event. If something falls, I catch it immediately! My reaction is very sharp, and I understand it’s because of figure skating.
Additionally, I see how young people who haven’t engaged in sports tend to be somewhat scattered and irresponsible. In my case, everything has always been strictly scheduled, both in terms of training and in life in general.