Alexander Zhulin: Doing choreo online is akin to non-alcoholic beer
Elena Vaitsekhovskaya’s interview with Alexander Zhulin. Zhulin told about Sinitsina – Katsalapov, explained why he prefers to work in Moscow, and doubted that the new scoring of jumps is fair.
by Elena Vaitsekhovskaya for russian.rt.com dd. 2d June 2020
You had the opportunity to take your athletes to Novogorsk, you refused. Why?
Alexander Zhulin: Honestly? I was afraid to go with the guys to such a large crowd. After all, almost all national teams went to Novogorsk at the first opportunity. And the second thing that I really didn’t like, all those who came would have to be completely isolated from the outside world for a month. If you arrived, they would shut you down for a month and you won’t get anywhere. And I have two small kids, my second daughter was born in April. I’m just not ready to leave my wife alone.
Does it mean that you will not see the ice for quite some time?
Alexander Zhulin: There is ice on Moskvich, where we have already agreed on training. On Monday, we were tested, if the results are fine, we’ll start skating. It’s clear that there will be some restrictions, but we are ready for them.
Limit on the number of people on the ice?
Alexander Zhulin: Not only. Also on age. Only those athletes who are over 18 years old will be allowed to train.
What’s the point?
Alexander Zhulin: Well, I’m not the person to ask that. There’s also not much sense in what is happening in Moscow now. The subway works, there are a lot of people there, but at the same time you need to walk on the streets on a schedule.
How did you keep in touch with the athletes during the pandemic?
Alexander Zhulin: Vika and Nikita (Sinitsina and Katsalapov. – ed) ran a lot, at home they have a treadmill, worked on stretching, they are in usual working shape. Previously, we usually skated until May 25, and began to prepare for the new season in Moscow on June 15-20. We plan to start working at about the same time, and now the main thing is to restore the condition on ice quickly. It’s a shame, of course, that most likely we will be left without Grand Prix: everything goes to the point that they will be canceled.
Though do not change the programs …
Alexander Zhulin: We are not going to change the short dance. I think, will make a new free dance. Still, we managed to skate this program six times last season. And since the new season is pre-Olympic, I want something new, to try some other style.
Any ideas on this?
Alexander Zhulin: Lots of ideas, the main thing is to have an opportunity to realize them.
In previous years, you went to other cities for summer training camps, and now, most likely, you will remain in Moscow.
Alexander Zhulin: We didn’t go somewhere so much, by the way. More often we sat in Novogorsk. And in general, it seems to me that for two months the athletes missed skating so much that there is no difference where exactly to skate. The main thing is to enter the season gradually, without forcing training and injuries.
In your opinion, for who it is more difficult to enter the season after a long break? For dancers or single skaters?
Alexander Zhulin: Definitely for those who jump. It’s much more difficult to restore quadruple jumps than сhoctaws and the mohawks. I have seen this process many times and I know that even such masters as Daisuke Takahashi had no jumps at the beginning of the season. Everything has to be developed from scratch, and this is a very difficult coordination. In order to jump on the ice, the exercises that can be done on the floor are not enough.
Many athletes admit that after the first month of self-isolation they found it difficult to maintain good mood and continue to work, not understanding why they are doing this. Have you been depressed?
Alexander Zhulin: On the one hand, for me personally, two months passed quickly enough, but I can’t say that I have rested. I constantly felt some tension, the monotony of what was happening was killing me. I didn’t notice that Vika and Nikita blown away. The main thing was not to get sick, to preserve the lungs. And most importantly, we succeeded, although I was very afraid. You yourself know, when an athlete gains a high shape, his immunity is greatly weakened and a person becomes susceptible to any infections.
Did Sinitsina and Katsalapov worked all this time according to their own plans, or did you correct these trainings somehow?
Alexander Zhulin: I did not have to control the process much, in terms of work, the guys are great professionals. I know that they did a very large amount of running, ran much more than in previous seasons, and I hope, gained very decent functional conditions. Now a lot will depend not on Vika and Nikita, but on us, coaches: what lifts we will come up with, step sequences, how effective the program will be.
I know that American skaters actively used the time of self-isolation for their own development: they attended online dance courses, for example.
Alexander Zhulin: When a dancer does not have the opportunity to skate, in my opinion, it is more useful for him to run, than to dance. Because the main problem at the beginning of the season is not to do some kind of lift or other element, but to skate the four-minute program to the end. It has always been like this, even back in the days when I skate myself. And this is a functional preparation. Fortunately, this season we were not affected by changes in the rules, they affected only jumps.
Judging by the intonation, you are very skeptical about this.
Alexander Zhulin: And how else can you feel about the fact that lutz and loop are equalized in value?
In my opinion, this is understandable, since many skaters jump lutz in such a way that it becomes almost indistinguishable from the loop.
Alexander Zhulin: You could say that. But still, lutz is a different speed, it is the need to keep the outside edge to the very end, it is a counter-jump based on counter-movement. Loop does not create such sensations. Ask any skater which jump is harder. Almost all, I am sure, will say lutz. Well, the fact that an athlete knows how to “cheat” entering a jump is an indicator of professionalism.
Did you seriously say that now?
Alexander Zhulin: Why not? When I see underrotated jumps, I always perceive this as a technical mistake, a lack of execution. Still, the jumps must be fully rotated. If the skater “stole” some part of the jump at the very beginning, you can only admire his ability to gain an advantage without breaking the rules. You should be smart enough to do that, to find this loophole.
In the autobiographical book you started to write, you recall that many of the exercises that you use in your workouts were taken from Stanislav Zhuk and Sergei Chetverukhin. Why did you suddenly decide to take up memoirs?
Alexander Zhulin: It seemed that such a book could be interesting. Everything went very well, but as soon as the restrictions began to be ease and I felt that it would be possible to start training soon, my literary fire began to fade. Although I really hope that I will return to this again. I just need to find free time.
Did any of the skaters contact you asking to choreograph a program?
Alexander Zhulin: Yes, but I had to refuse because of the inability to violate self-isolation.
Maybe you could try to do it online?
Alexander Zhulin: I wouldn’t even try. In my opinion, it is akin to rubber women and non-alcoholic beer. I can’t even imagine how a choreographer can work without feeling a person. I don’t even want to think that such a need may come in our sport.
What did you suffer most from during the pandemic?
Alexander Zhulin: From the inability to play football with friends. At home I tried to move, but I realized that every day laziness gets into the body more and more. Fortunately, I did not gain weight, but, on the contrary, lost 3 kg. I read an article by a Japanese Nobel laureate that a person should eat once a day, taking daily breaks between meals, and decided to try this method. I liked the result. So the pandemic has passed under the sign of a healthy lifestyle for me.
Alexandra Trusova: I couldn’t cope with the excitement at those competitions where I failed jumps