Alexei Zheleznyakov: “Many are already annoyed by the Russian dominance in ladies single skating. So the judges will try to give less points to our athletes”
Alexei Zheleznyakov about his vision of the battle between Anna Shcherbakova and Alexandra Trusova, work with Alena Kostornaia and told how Eteri Tutberidze’s group works in the absence of the boss.
source: sport-express.ru dd.21st March by Dmitri Kuznetsov
Alexei, are you now the main coach in “Chrustalny”? Once all three coaches left.
Alexei Zheleznyakov: No, I live in halls underground, such a basement dweller (laughs). There are guys on the ice, young coaches who are now full-fledged team members. This is Polina Tsurskaya, Artemy Punin, there is a whole team working there. I don’t understand technical nuances. And the same Polina trained with Eteri Georgievna, Artem is also our student. So together they’re the main coach on the ice.
Usually, when the boss leaves office, people relax. What about you?
Alexei Zheleznyakov: It’s a bit of a challenge for children, of course. They breathe out in a good sense of the word, but they work the same way as they did. Children respect Eteri and afraid a bit. She is an authoritative person for them, and this affects in terms of a sense of responsibility, they have different attitude to the process. When she and the main team of coaches leave, children relax a bit mentally.
Does Tsurskaya and Punin have a problem of lack of authority? Still they are very young. Eteri Georgievna doesn’t have to call?
Alexei Zheleznyakov: I don’t think she’s calling. The guys are athletes of a good level, they themselves went through this school, they teach what they got from Eteri, Sergei, Daniil, and in the same way as their older colleagues. I do not think that the process is declining – no, of course. Athletes are motivated, they need to work hard, the competition in groups is high, they will not give themself a slack without Eteri Georgievna’s close supervision. Laziness is never allowed here, with or without Eteri Tutberidze.
The main intrigue of the World Championships – Shcherbakova versus Trusova? Or is it a simplified picture?
Alexei Zheleznyakov: Of course, this is the main intrigue, and it’s a no brainer. Sasha is a tough quad player, a formidable opponent, it cannot be denied. Everything will be decided by the strength of character and the will of chance, luck. With 15 years of experience working with skaters, it’s almost impossible to predict. It happened that a person seemed to be in a great shape, prepared, but some kind of breakdown happened and everything fell apart.
A good example is Sasha Trusova at the Grand Prix in Russia.
Alexei Zheleznyakov: Yes, that’s what I’m talking about. Anything can happen, it is impossible to guess. Of course, I will be cheering for our athlete, Anya. It’s okay, she’s a kid from our team. But everything happens in this life. They are two of the strongest skaters, it will be very interesting.
Is the Russian podium real? Or they just won’t let us?
Alexei Zheleznyakov: Well, it’s all relative. If the girls skate clean and Liza Tuktamysheva makes her content along with triple axels, then ours will take the entire pedestal. It may well be. Of course, there are opposing camps, the same Rika Kihira with serious jumping content. But she also can screw up.
Like at the last championships in Japan.
Alexei Zheleznyakov: Yes, and then our three girls will be on the podium. It will be difficult, but it’s possible. But for this we need to show all our potential and we need our competitors to make mistakes. I avoid specific predictions and generally try to hide before the competitions, I don’t want to frighten off Mrs. Fortuna.
But don’t you consider the judging factor? Is there no feeling that scores of ours skaters will sharply drop from 250 – 260, which were at domestic competitions, even Shcherbakova, excuse me?
Alexei Zheleznyakov: As happens always and everywhere – in almost all countries the judges, including ours, Russian ones, try to give a little more at the domestic competitions. It is clear that this increases the athlete’s rating, competitiveness in the international arena, and makes a reserve for the future. The judgment at Worlds will be stricter, which can be understood. Many are already annoyed by the Russian dominance in ladies single skating and the difference with other countries. And the judges will try to give less points to our athletes. Unlike Russian judges.
But I think that the component scores that Shcherbakova or Valieva get at Russian competitions are quite fair. Kamila is generally a standard of skating in her balletic lines and positions. This is the ideal. Anya is a very component girl, they deservedly get their points. I am sure that they will be slightly underscored at international competitions, and I am not surprised.
Let me then ask about a technical score. Were there any strange things this season? For example, the lutz of many skaters at the Russian Championships do not seem ideal.
Alexei Zheleznyakov: Oh, at different competitions it happens differently. Something the judges may not notice, somewhere close their eyes for certain moments. But again, our domestic judging is more loyal to such things than international judging. We can take not only Shcherbakova, but also all our top athletes – judges forgive some small mistakes for many of them. At international competitions, this does not work, they will already directly follow all the underrotations and edges. Especially they will watch ours, realizing that we can win the whole pedestal again.
Are there any other intrigues at this championships for you besides ladies?
Alexei Zheleznyakov: Well, not really. The main one is probably our girls.
But what about Moris (Kvitelashvili, Georgian figure skater of the Tutberidze group. – ed)? Maybe he will suddenly fight for bronze!
Alexei Zheleznyakov: Moris is a very talented skater, he is super talented. But our dear Georgian is not consistent. He can show a cool skating, he is ready for this. But the psychological things remain. He pops one jump and the whole program fall apart. But he is already an adult, he’s maturing. The masculine character should be established. I hope he will show it in Stockholm.
As a choreographer, can you say that after switching to Plushenko, Trusova gained something in the second mark? Remained the same, became worse?
Alexei Zheleznyakov: The fact that she began to skate a little more feminine – I will not argue here. It’s noticeable. But I think that working at Chrustalny, the progress would also be inevitable. We pay great attention to choreography. A purely natural factor played, Sasha began to turn into a young woman. She becomes feminine in nature. Some lines start to appear. If earlier she made some gestures and movements completely unconsciously and it looked a little clumsy, now she is growing up. Some conscious choreography appears. Of course, this is striking, I see improvements in this regard. Not much, but there are improvements.
Whoever wins the World Championship will receive some kind of guarantee of participation in the Olympic Games, in your opinion?
Alexei Zheleznyakov: My dear man, just imagine how difficult our sport, figure skating, is in terms of injuries and all kinds of circumstances. Of course, victory is a good start for the Olympics, getting there. But next season there are a lot of competitions, you need to endure them all, not to get any injury, not to break down.
There are still a lot of people from your school moving to seniors.
Alexei Zheleznyakov: Of course. Moreover, there is such a fierce competition. Our young beauties are already stepping on the toes of the elders, pressing them. Also with quads, axels and stuff like that. And here different options are quite possible. Again, nature has not been canceled. Let’s say everything is fine, it goes like clockwork. Then the adolescent transition period – and the athlete gains weight. As they say, gains weight from water, even from the air (laughs). Hormonal disruptions begin, the girl gained weight. And in figure skating, plus 500 grams and you start fall apart, moreover if you have quads. How to predict?
Or like it happened with Zhenya Medvedeva and Alina Zagitova at the Olympics. Alina just showed up. And nobody expected. But Alina ended up with more complex jumping content. Both skated clean, and a young girl, whom no one really knew yet, wins. I mean, no one knew in comparison with how Medvedeva was well known over the world. And the young girl wins and takes the Olympics – because of the more complex content. And everything can change in just a month.
Did you manage to work with Alena Kostornaia? How is her health?
Alexei Zheleznyakov: Alena came to me several times before the trip to Novogorsk, had about four classes, we called her. She begins to get in shape to gradually, works in full force. I don’t think she has any serious injuries. She is on the ice, she also jumps, restores her level, performs all the tasks. If there were serious injuries, it would hardly be a serious training process. And so she is in the mix, she goes to all classes – to classical dance, and to jazz modern, and to general physical training, and ice. Like everyone else, with full dedication.
That is, as the fans of Tutberidze’s coaching staff would say, they did not have time to “spoil” her for half a season?
Alexei Zheleznyakov: I already said, I do not presume to blame the coaching staff of Evgeni Plushenko that they сould have spoiled here there. The athlete herself could stop working on herself seriously. I come back to the fact that when all the girls are talented and internal competition is high, you can’t relax – this is a powerful engine of progress. And there is such a coach as Tutberidze next to you. Children respect her and a bit afraid of her, they are afraid to be lazy and do not want to. They know it’s worth stopping for a while, and this train is gone.
And Alena got in a different environment, calmer, more relaxing. It could well happen that she stopped working the way she used to work. And then everything fell apart. It’s sport. Relaxed a little and the crowd of young people ran and trampled on you, not noticing. God blesses she will succeed. You can and should forgive, we all make mistakes. Especially young girls, teenagers. I remember myself at the age of 16-18, featherbrain (laughs). And then you gain life experience and you try to be on the safe side, you won’t allow some things. Daniil Gleikhengauz said correctly – the doors are open to everyone. The main thing is for a person to understand and realize for himself what he did wrong.