Alexander Lakernik: If the pandemic subsides, then we can discuss whether we can hold the World Championships or not
Interview with vice President of International Skating Union Alexander Lakernik. About cancelation of the World Championships, complexity of the age eligibility issue and ISU congress.
by Anatoli Samokhvalov for rsport.ria.ru dd. 30th March 2020
– I would start the conversation by saying that there actually cannot be any results of the season, because they had to be summed up at the World Championships. The season was cut off. Everyone was preparing for the Worlds, and everything before was of an intermediate nature. Now we can talk only about trends that have appeared during the season. This is an increase in complexity of programs, especially in competitions among ladies, where the triple axel and quadruple jumps are growing in popularity – first of all, this concerns Russian athletes, but, in general, not only them. There are promising Japanese ladies – Rika Kihira is already performing a triple axel and a quadruple jump, her compatriots are also trying to do it, there is an American Alysa Liu and other promising figure skaters from the USA. People saw this path which they will try to go forward. And all this would be interesting to see at the World Championships, where we could have seen clean performances with quads.
Will the success of young Russian girls affect the talks about raising the age of eligibility?
– Now everything can be affected not by these things, but by the coronavirus. It makes no sense to talk about age and generally about the ISU congress, which is planned for the summer.
Journalist Philip Hersh, citing you, said that the congress will most likely not take place.
– I can confirm that. In the current environment, when you can’t get anywhere, it’s difficult to plan something. It is clear that by the beginning of June the situation is unlikely to change dramatically. God blesses, this will happen, but to expect that the situation will normalize in such a short time is probably unrealistic. I think the final decision on the congress will be made in early April.
If the congress does not take place, will all revolutionary proposals be frozen?Sure.
– Such proposals cannot be accepted or not accepted without discussion at the congress.
What was the moods on the sidelines of ISU regarding age eligibility at the end of the season after the European Championship?
– No one has addressed this topic to me; there is a congress for this reasoning.
Has anybody told you something like “Russian skaters show mature skating, or show a tendency to mature skating, so the topic becomes less relevant”?
– By virtue of my position, I do not want to express private opinions, which can be perceived as the opinion of the ISU. I just want to say that the question of age is very complex. It has many sides that touch not only Russia’s successes, other countries will follow Russia, but also touch upon issues of popularity and watchability on television and in the arena. But will such competitions be interesting if people who can perform complex things on ice do not participate in them? There are many aspects, there is no direct answer “Yes” or “No”. It is necessary to analyze the dangers of taking and not taking such decision. Congress was needed for a collective opinion, it was necessary to hear different arguments. Because at such events people sometimes come up with completely unexpected, but correct point of views.
In your opinion, has ladies’ single skating this season taken a step forward not in terms of technical complexity, but in the balance of figure skating itself, which are you striving for?
– It was interesting for me to watch competitions. Figure skating is a sport. You see, in my opinion, the current judging system allows you to evaluate the performance correctly. If there is complexity in the program – this is one thing, if there is an idea – this is another. If the program is done correctly, then the one with the greatest complexity and good artistic aspects of skating will win. One mark is not a consequence of another. With the right judging, personally I am not afraid of this complexity. In addition, do not forget that these changes were still proposed to be implemented after the Olympics.
Yes, but the next two seasons will affect these initiatives.
– So the congress may be held next year, but may not be held at all.
There were scandals in judging at the beginning of the season, but after a letter from the Russian Figure Skating Federation to ISU, everything seemed to quiet down?
– It’s necessary just to judge correctly, you don’t have to come up with something. The task of the ISU is to ensure that the level of judging at different competitions is the same. There were problems and they will always be. But this season they were solved. By the way, at the congress it was planned to discuss a couple of interesting initiatives to improve the quality of the work judging, but now I would not want to speak about them.
About men’s skating
– There is a clear leader in American men’s single skating, Nathan Chen, but the Japanese Yuzuru Hanyu is trying to fight him – change programs, return to the old ones, look for his own path that will allow him to compete with Nathan. It would have been very interesting to watch this competition at the World Championships.
But there are almost no worthy competitors behind Chen and Hanyu.
– Why do you think so?
I look at the class of the rest.
– Take Shoma Uno, or Dmitri Aliev, who won the European Championships. If he makes a quadruple lutz and two quadruple toe loops, how will his program be uncompetitive? The question is not only how many quadruples a person jumps, but how cleanly he can skate.
That’s how the class of Chen and Hanyu shows up.
In training, almost everyone tries quad loop.
– Don’t say so. Very few people jump quad loop.
They said Alexander Samarin also mastered it.
– I have not seen this yet. I saw Hanyu jumping it, today Daniel Grassl jumps it, I also saw this, but there’s always a question of under rotation.
At the same time Grassl does not get on the podium even at the Junior Worlds.
– This shows that figure skating does not consist only of jumps, which should also be well performed. Grassl has other problems.
That is, there are other watchable skaters with complex programs in addition to Chen and Hanyu?
– I think yes. There are two clear leaders, but this does not mean that there is an abyss behind them. Chen and Hanyu also can make mistakes.
About pair skating and ice dance
– The situation in ice dances became very interesting after the European Championships, where Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov beat the French pair Gabriella Papadakis / Guillaume Cizeron. And there are also strong American pairs (Madison Chock / Evan Bates, Madison Hubbell / Zachary Donohue), Canadian (Piper Gilles / Paul Poirier), so the world championship would have been a very interesting event.
In pair skating, world champions from China Sui Wenjing / Cong Han are, on the one hand, the leaders of the season, but, on the other, their leadership is not certain. They are also not perfect, and the World Championships could have revealed a clear leader of the season. But that did not happen. It is still unclear whether Evgenia Tarasova / Vladimir Morozov will achieve clean jumps, how much the Russian and European champions Aleksandra Boikova / Dmitrii Kozlovskii will be able to compete successfully with all world leaders. The season did not give a complete answer to these questions.
In pair skating, we still have the problem of competition.
– There has been less competition, but I think that the situation will change for the Olympics, because other pairs will catch up. But this season there were really few couples who are able to fight for the podium. Two Chinese, two Russian pairs and I don’t know whom else to name.
Do we have promising junior pairs?
– We need to look at their further development, because junior pairs do not “survive” so often. They happen to continue with other partners because of various reasons. If you look at the junior “world”, then there were only four pairs who fought for the podium. The rest were quite weak, which is alarming.
This season there has been a series of scandals regarding Safesport issues.
– I’m not going to start a fight with Safesport, these are American business.
French pair Vanessa James / Morgan Cipres are potential contenders for Olympic medals. However, the partner was having trouble with Safesport. Do you follow the situation?
– I heard about it, but there was no official confirmation. They say that next year they are going to perform at competitions, but so far this are just talks.
Without them pair skating will lose even more.
– I agree. But, maybe, the Canadian leaders Kirsten Moore Towers / Michael Marinaro will compete with the leaders.
How likely is it that the World Championships in Montreal will be completely canceled?
– I understand the situation, but I do not want to discuss it, because it is very dependent on the situation with the coronavirus. If the pandemic subsides, then we can discuss whether we can hold the World Championships or not. And at what cost. It’s too early to talk about it now.
I spoke with different people, and they all talk about huge problems in case the competitions are postponed to the fall, speaking for a complete cancellation.
– That’s right, you spoke with people from Russia. They are against, like some other powerful figure skating countries. But there is also another point of view.
Alexander Lakernik’s answers were so vague. He really didn’t answer most of the questions. The ISU Congress could do a video conference like most universities and corporations have. They more than likely know what they are going to approve or disapprove regarding changes in regulations before they meet. Now they have a pandemic to use as an excuse.
Folks would have liked Mr. Laternik to respond to the question why can’t the 2020 Congress be held via online live ISU Member subscription only video forum. They have the money and means to set it up and arrange it.