Alexei Urmanov: “Athlete musn’t find motivation. If athlete doesn’t have motivation, he should take a rope and hang himself on a chandelier. If you lose motivation, finish your career.”
Interview with Alexei Urmanov. The Olympic champion assess the prospects of our single skaters and explained why missing the third Games is not a tragedy for Tuktamysheva.
source: championat.com dd. 26th January 2021 by Ekaterina Avdonina
The Winter Olympics in Beijing will start very soon, and by tradition, the main medal hopes of the Russians are associated with figure skaters. Russian skaters have never left the Games without a medal, so there are only the most optimistic expectations from Russian skaters in Beijing.
On the eve of the Beijing Olympics, we spoke with the first Russian Olympic champion in men’s skating, Alexei Urmanov. The famous figure skater assessed the prospects of our single skaters and explained why missing the third Games for Elizaveta Tuktamysheva is not a tragedy.
He also told why there is nothing to do in sports without motivation.
Alexei, you became the first Olympic champion in the history of Russia in men’s single skating. You have a great sports career. What inspired you to become a coach?
Alexei Urmanov: You know, I have been training for so long – since 2000, that is, I have been working for almost 22 years. Not that something inspired me … I just understood that this is what I will do best. And I was not mistaken, because to this day I love my job, I know that I can do it. If went back in time, I would do the same.
Denis Vasiļjevs worked with you until the pre-Olympic season 2016/2017, and now he has become third at the European Championships. From a professional point of view, was it an accident or is Denis gradually progressing?
Alexei Urmanov: No, Denis’ case, this is a normal development as an athlete. You always want to move forward, and Denis did a great job in this regard. He pleases us with the results, with his sports shape, and new elements, pleases himself and moves forward, so this is just the normal course of things.
A very promising young generation has grown up in Russia. Do you think we will be able to regain leadership positions in men’s skating? And which of the current single skaters impresses you?
Alexei Urmanov: I will worry about all the guys who will go to the Olympics. We will all cheer for them. This season I really like Mark Kondratiuk. This kid went to Oberstdorf, won the third spot for our country, then he won the National Championships, then the European Championships. In my opinion, he did a great job, and I wish him only excellent results and all the best.
Of course, I like Mishka Kolyada, who sometimes upsets us with some performances, but in any case, we will keep our fingers crossed for him, cheer for him and also wish the best (the interview was done before the news about Mikhail Kolyada’s withdrawal from the Olympics). Well, and the rest of the guys – Andrei Mozalev and Zhenya Semenenko are also great fellows. They move forward by virtue of their talent, their capabilities, their potential. Will any of our athletes be able to compete in the near future? You have to believe and work on it. Of course they can, why not?
Talks about which of the men should perform in the team event do not stop. In your opinion, is it worth giving Kondratiuk a chance?
Alexei Urmanov: This moment is a bit slippery. I believe that this decision should be made by the federation, in consultation with the coaching council, with a personal coach. You need to see how they feel in training, and then make the only right decision. It would be wrong for me to think about this topic.
Mikhail Kolyada had a successful last season, but this season he gave in a little. What do you think is his problem?
Alexei Urmanov: It is best to ask this question to Mikhail Kolyada. Or his coach. The only thing I can say is that you need to calm down somehow, pull yourself together and get angry finally. Prove to yourself that everything is fine. And beating about the bush: “Oh, maybe these are some kind of psychological problems? ..” is useless. I think that first of all the athlete should understand himself. Find these forces in yourself to overcome this or that trouble.
So, must the athlete find motivation in himself?
Alexei Urmanov: He must not find motivation. If you don’t have motivation, take a rope, hang a noose where you had a chandelier, and hang yourself. Motivation should always be there, so it’s a little incomprehensible to me when one of the athletes says that he has lost motivation. If you lose motivation, finsh your career.
And if you go to a sports psychologist for help? Is this common in Russian figure skating?
Alexei Urmanov: I don’t know how common it is in our country, but the honorary president of the Russian Figure Skating Federation, Valentin Nikolayevich Piseev, said this: “The athlete went to a sports psychologist? Well, he can finish.” And I agree with him in a way. If we had talked about this topic 20 years ago, I most likely would not have understood this position, but now I have a good idea of how this is happening. If you yourself can not cope, then it is bad, very sad.
What do you think, how is Elizaveta Tuktamysheva doing in terms of motivation? She misses the third Olympics – is it a tragedy for her?
Alexei Urmanov: This is absolutely not a tragedy. In this life understanding comes through comparison. It is much more tragic for some athlete, who is the favorite to win the Olympic Games, to come there and perform disastrous, taking 10th place instead of first. This, in my opinion, is a greater tragedy than simply not going. Well, she did not go … But she did everything possible to get into the team. It happens.
Speaking of favorites, Kamila Valieva dominates among the girls this season. Is it really possible to fight her?
Alexei Urmanov: Nothing is impossible. You just have to do your job, give all the best and work.
That is, hypothetically, Trusova is able to beat Valieva? How do you assess Sasha’s strategy aimed at a huge number of quadruple jumps?
Alexei Urmanov: I don’t know how to feel about it. I always say: there is a coach, there is an athlete, coaching staff, choreographer, massage therapists, doctors and so on. But, I emphasize, there is an athlete, so what tactics he and his group will choose, we will see very soon. Whether it is correct, we will see very soon. Anything can happen – as you know, the ice is slippery.
What is your prediction: will our girls win the entire podium at the Olympics?
Alexei Urmanov: I don’t make predictions, only in narrow circles, or maybe I can joke a little with my athletes. And for the press – this is some kind of utopia. Anything can happen on ice. A few years ago, a Japanese figure skater, Nobunari Oda, skated. And one day we came to the World Championships, and he was the favorite at this event. He could fight not only for the top three, but in a good scenario even for the victory. So, he went on the short program in the strongest warm-up and skated without jumps – with three single jumps, and instead of the Axel, he did a waltz jump, that is, half a turn. Accordingly, he not only did not fight for medals, he did not get into the free program. What happened? On this day, his girlfriend called him and said that she is pregnant, and the boy was simply not ready for this, and under such stress he could not skate his program. So once again: anything can happen. Let’s not guess.
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