Alexander Zhulin: “Decent prize money at domestic competitions is the only way to exist while everyone in the world considers us damned Russians.”
Alexander Zhulin told in the interview whether Sinitsina/Katsalapov will continue their career, new pair in his group, and also about sanctions against Russia.
source: matchtv.ru dd. 6th April 2022 by Vlad Zhukov
You have repeatedly said that you do not watch the World Championships. Why? After all it’s an indicator of the level of competition and so on.
Alexander Zhulin: Now such a situation has developed that all Russians are outcasts. I have completely lost interest in women’s single skating. In ice dance, I know how everyone skates. I do not argue, Papadakis and Cizeron are very strong. In pairs without our skaters, there is nothing to do either. Therefore, this was a World Championships, well, let’s say, with great reserve. What was there for me to watch?
Plus, we’re in limbo. The decision of the International Skating Union (ISU) has not been made yet, we may be excommunicated from world figure skating for an indefinite period. Will our federation remain a member of the ISU… Today, the most stupid thing is to make any predictions and dream about something like that. So I just go to work, do programs with the guys that I have. We try to keep ourselves in a good mood. But in general, we are waiting for news from the fields how this military operation will end. I would not draw any far-reaching conclusions now.
Is it possible to somehow compensate for the lack of international competitions with domestic competitions?
Alexander Zhulin: Only if there are decent prize money to motivate people somehow. If you are preparing for something – for example, for the Russian Cup – and they will hand you a diploma and a pennant there, this is one story. Then it is almost impossible to find motivation. And with prize money, people will strive to earn, as it happens, for example, in professional football. I think this is the only way to exist while everyone in the world considers us damned Russians.
As for switching to another country, I don’t see the point and I’ll explain why. Everyone knows that we are Russians. And even after changing the flag, you remain Russian, and the world is aware of this. And you will not have any support from the audience and judges.
But the Georgian national team at the World Championships consisted entirely of those who had previously skated for Russia.
Alexander Zhulin: Perhaps … But I just read that if a person represents another country, he will no longer be able to enter Russia. Therefore, these things must be settle down first. Of course, it is a pity for people who will skate just like that, having spent 15-17 years of their lives. This is a difficult question, ambiguous. We should wait what will happen next, how the operation will develop and the situation with sanctions.
The world community, whether we like it or not, still exists, and issues must be resolved by some diplomatic means. Because I would not want the fate of North Korea for our country. I don’t think it will come to that, but the Western world wants the Russians to not exist. I do not want it. Therefore, I will strive to be Russian and exist.
Won’t the isolation of Russia cause a massive retirement in our figure skating? For example, why should Anna Shcherbakova continue to skate, for what?
Alexander Zhulin: I can’t get into the guys’ heads, but motivation is a really difficult moment. If you have two serious competitions a year – the Russian Nationals and the Russian Cup Final – it’s hard. We have never been in such a situation before. This is the first time in my life when we have such an operation. Therefore, we are all being kept in the dark.
Do you believe that it will be possible to create an analogue of the Grand Prix in Russia?
Alexander Zhulin: Depends on whether ISU will allow us to do this. Still now we do everything under their auspices. And since the ISU, WADA and IOC are tarred with the same brush, it will be very difficult for us.
That is, you adhere to a pessimistic position?
Alexander Zhulin: I have a normal position. Still I have some life experience and understand that it won’t be easy for us. I can’t imagine that now everyone will turn around and say: “Oh, Russians are so cool.” I don’t believe in it. Therefore, we will have to stay in an incomprehensible situation.
How to find motivation? Athletes at least have shows. But what about coaches?
Alexander Zhulin: Well, it gives me great pleasure to create programs, to refine them. In any case, I will strive to ensure that our athletes are among the best, if not the best.
You said that I am a pessimist. But, it seems to me, on the contrary, I am optimist. I believe in the best – I do not know how it will look, but still. Our country is big, and if we are all motivated to do the best – the best programs, the best cars, the best planes – then this will be the beginning of a new era in Russia.
Even before the Olympics you said that you plan to stop active coaching after Beijing, when Vika Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov will end their careers. I remember your words: “I will go to the USA and fish there.”
Alexander Zhulin: (Laughs.) You know, there were such conversations. But given the way they treat us, we don’t even want to fish anymore. I think it will be poisoned there (laughs). So I changed my mind – patriotism is growing very fast. And it has nothing to do with Ukraine, no. I just see that the Western world wants to take us off the planet Earth. And I believe that the Russian people will save the world. Because they are, firstly, Orthodox. Secondly, kind. And it is better not to touch such nations, I think.
And fish … I really hope that it will be sold in stores. And I will just eat it.
That is, plans to move away from a coaching career …
Alexander Zhulin: There are no such plans. I was flirting (laughs).
And yet Vika and Nikita’s career is coming to an end. Do you think they haven’t reached their maximum? Or have they already peaked?
Alexander Zhulin: They can skate for another 128 years. Another thing is whether they are tired of all this. Being on the ice every day, through pain, through the backs and knees is a huge job. Let’s see what they will do. But if they come to me and say “Alexander Vyacheslavovich, let’s skate” of course I will support them. Even if they just want to stay for another season – great! If not, well, they’ve already done everything.
Nikita is already twice Olympic champion, Vika is now also an Olympic champion. I love my champions very much and I am ready to work with them even until they are 60.
Does that mean they haven’t made a decision yet? It’s April, it’s time to work on new programs.
Alexander Zhulin: Well, we usually start working on programs in May anyway. And now, taking into account the Olympics, everything can be delayed. The guys are devastated, plus the situation in the world is not conducive to joy. I will look at them, observe. They were on the ice today, skating, smiling. Of course, without loads, but still. The guys keep in shape, and they will make a decision, I think, somewhere in July. It seems to me that they will go to the skating rink, then I will make them something like a layout of the program, and we will see if they want to skate it.
Have you got any new pairs? Fans have some rumors about Davis / Smolkin.
Alexander Zhulin: Listen, right now it’s not clear what’s going on. Davis/Smolkin, I think, will also think about where to skate. They train in America, but they are Russian people. They can perform quite calmly, for example … In general, I don’t know. I think they and Eteri Georgievna will decide for themselves what country will they represent.
And I have a very good new pair – Shanaeva / Drozd. Liza came to me, she has been skating in my group for three weeks now, they look great together. She didn’t skate for two weeks for some reason, so she came not in a very good shape. But now we all like it more and more. There are still some outlines, but it has not work out yet. When it happens – I’ll tell you with pleasure.
So there is someone to work with and for whom to create programs. This is a very interesting, important process, both for them and for me. Because just lying on your back and talking about what is happening – it is not about us. We still try, go to work, rejoice and hope that the government will support the coaches.
How much do you think ice dance will change next season? People talk more about women’s single skating, but it seems that in ice dances the changes will be the most global – so many pairs will leave.
Alexander Zhulin: We will see. Of course, I would like the Russians to participate in international competitions, because we have always given color. I don’t want to think of anything yet, because I don’t know who will stay and who will retire. And with the current situation, it is not particularly clear how it will all end. One thing I can say for sure is that everyone will dance (laughs).