Anna Pogorilaya: “At trainings with Turberidze’s group I felt like like I was among the sharks. It’s like being thrown into the sea. You are afraid to do something wrong.”
Anna Pogorilaya about the price of victories, nuances of judging, injuries and long careers in figure skating.
source: sport-express.ru dd. 17th November, 2021 by Dmitri Kuznetsov
Anna, those who don’t follow you on Instagram, probably, have not heard anything about you for a long time. How are you doing? Do you coach or does the baby take all your time?
Anna Pogorilaya: I have time for both, I coach children and sometimes I skate myself. Grandparents help to combine. I had no experience working with adults, but we have a children group, and I really like it. It’s so nice to see the results when you have put your soul into it.
Are you more of a liberal coach or an authoritarian one?
Anna Pogorilaya: Here I also combine – a stick and a carrot.
Do you have time to follow the season? Have anyone impressed you by the results of these two months?
Anna Pogorilaya: Of course, I follow, figure skating is my life. I like the men’s skating more, especially Vincent Zhou and Yuma Kagiyama. We haven’t seen Hanyu yet, Chen also showed himself well, but my favorites this season are Zhou and Kagiyama.
And what about your discipline?
Anna Pogorilaya: I really liked Carolina Kostner. I understand that now the level of complexity is increasing, but in addition to strong technique, I really want to see beautiful presentation and interpretation on the ice. For me, Kamila Valieva and Anya Shcherbakova seem to be the most balanced.
What do you think can be done to achieve this balance?
Anna Pogorilaya: They talk about raising age minimum for a long time, but I think nothing can be done about it. This is normal – the young crowd out the older generation and move the sport forward.
But what about Liza Tuktamysheva? Does she show something close to Kostner?
Anna Pogorilaya: I can’t name anyone close to Kostner. Liza is certainly a great skater, she has her own strengths.
But you do not like her skating?
Anna Pogorilaya: She’s just completely different.
It turns out that we are doomed to live in a system where girls will change each other every two years? It’s kind of sad.
Anna Pogorilaya: Why sad? These are new names, records! But yes, unfortunately, this is sport. Not like before – when Ira Slutskaya performed for years. True, what a failure was after her. Only Adelina Sotnikova later managed to win at the Olympics. We should be glad that now we have strong girls and a national team, and we should treat the competition as something normal.
If we are talking about Adelina, what do you think about her victory in Sochi? Was there a home judging factor?
Anna Pogorilaya: I’ll give you an example from my own life. At the 2016 World Championships in Boston, with two clean programs, I still finished third.
It is clear that in the USA they are supporting their own, in Japan – Japanese women. In Russia, they help Russians. It is clear that our athletes got some help in Sochi. But if Adelina had not skated her program clean, no one would have placed her first. I have a lot of respect for Yuna Kim, she went through two Olympics, I can imagine how upset she was with two perfect skates, excellent skating and great programs. She also could not skate in full force there, her back hurted. But the scales turned in favor of Adelina, thanks to the lutz + loop combination as well. So this is her gold, no matter what they say.
Is it a shame that skaters have only one chance for gold at the Olympics? Few now have two. And skiers and biathletes have six.
Anna Pogorilaya: The rhythmic gymnasts also have one. What happened to the Averins sisters in Tokyo is much harsher. It’s just a complete collapse, something impossible. Political decision due to the hegemony of Russian women. Adelina and Yuna Kim it was the small stuff compared to this.
But now everyone is so interested.
Anna Pogorilaya: Gymnastics was always popular. Yes, intrigues spark interest. But it would be much better if they won. The interest would be the same.
Are there any fears that the same will happen in women’s single skating?
Anna Pogorilaya: That is why girls try to be a cut above, make programs and elements much stronger in order to prevent this from happening. In this sense, it is good that now we don’t have a 6.0 system, everything is more objective. But the human factor is always present, no matter what they say. I attended judging seminars, they say: “A judge should be impartial, it doesn’t matter whether the athlete will like it or not!” But this cannot be ruled out in any way. Therefore, one must strive to be far from the reach.
Averins also seemed out of reach.
Anna Pogorilaya: I am not that versed in the rules of rhythmic gymnastics, but in figure skating our girls can lose only if they make mistakes. But subjective fault-finding also happens, of course.
Did you a take a judges exam?
Anna Pogorilaya: No, my husband did (also a former figure skater, Andrei Nevskii), I still have enough work to do. (Laughs.) First, I need to complete my master’s degree at the Russian State University of Physical Culture, which I entered this year. Having become a coach, I rethought a lot. If I had known in advance, I would have trained differently. Only now are you starting to appreciate what was invested in you. I’ve experienced it firsthand, so to speak.
Now a very important topic is the price of that competition. Our girls, and not only them, are getting injured during the Olympic season. Where is the line where you can say – that’s it, I won’t go to training today, I’ll take care of myself?
Anna Pogorilaya: This should be determined by the coach. I didn’t want to study for a master’s degree right away, but I understand how much it will give me. Now we are studying the moments with fatigue fractures, how to see that an athlete is already on the verge of injury, and how to prevent it. So it’s necessary to study. Unfortunately, the larger the group, the more difficult it is. Everyone talks about an individual approach, but not always you can keep track of everything. It is clear that it is necessary to give different load, to control the process.
Logically speaking: does it mean that an athlete’s injury is a coach’s mistake? A person comes, breaks down during a warm-up – is the coach’s fault?
Anna Pogorilaya: It’s a common work after all. Maybe the athlete did something outside of training. Accidents also happen. And some skaters do not talk about their pains and continue to work. Or, on the contrary, don’t work enough. We cannot know for sure, no one will tell you. We can just guess.
Have you ever kept silent about your injuries?
Anna Pogorilaya: Yes I have. I struggled with my knees for a very long time. And almost never told the coach. In four years I’ve said about it only once. When I could no longer bend. And they let me go from training. And so I walked on straight legs, went down the stairs, like a tin soldier. It was not so critical – you know that there are exacerbations and periods when it is easier. I talked with my mother, doctors, monitored. But if I were constantly saying: “Oh, it hurts, I can’t skate,” I would not be seen at the World and European Championships. It’s a fine line, I agree. Even a lottery.
I wonder what parents think in such situations. Daria Usacheva went to Japan with an injury. Is it realistic for parent to influence the situation when it comes to the health of the child?
Anna Pogorilaya: Everything is individual. And we do not know when this injury happened.
To summarize, you wouldn’t blame Tutberidze and the coaching staff for the injuries of Usacheva, Trusova and others, right?
Anna Pogorilaya: It’s sport. It can’t be without injuries. Blame someone? Eteri Tutberidze does her job, the athlete does his. Nobody is safe from such situations. And big sport is not about health at all, everyone understands this.
I read the forums from five years ago and met the opinion that Anna should have taken care of herself, but Tsareva said that you were lazy and made you work.
Anna Pogorilaya: Incidents “coach – athlete” happen in all groups. But I don’t remember anyone telling me directly that I’m lazy and do not train. Maybe my memory works in such a way that I remember how she often praised me. (Laughs.) There were moments when she forced me, of course. I had low blood pressure in the morning, it was hard to skate. And so that there were results, Tsareva stirred me up. But I’m grateful to her for that. We have reached the world level.
Daniil Gleikhengauz has recently also stirred up Alena Kostornaia – he said that the coaching staff doesn’t need gratitude from her, that she doesn’t come to all trainings. Is it appropriate? Maybe Alena wants to take care of herself.
Anna Pogorilaya: Better save than sorry, yes. But Alena, unfortunately, does not have much time to take care of herself. All major competitions are coming soon. And what to say, everyone decides for himself. I also tell the athletes: I don’t need gifts from you, the best gift is your results. Therefore, I even agree with Daniil.
Do you believe that someone from the “Khrustalny” six will be able to extend their careers to 25, 30 years?
Anna Pogorilaya: You named a lot.
Okay, but after Beijing? Will everyone leave?
Anna Pogorilaya: I look at the past Olympics, and, unfortunately, usually the majority have only one Games. This is why I have so much respect for Yuna Kim and Carolina Kostner. I really hope that the athletes will compete longer.
The backstage story with Kostner, when you were left without a medal at the 2014 Worlds, was it the only one?
Anna Pogorilaya: This happened to me a couple of times, and the second – just at the World Championships in Boston. Usually, in the course of a career, whoever trained more, skated better, won.
An eternal, almost rhetorical question. Why our girls can, but guys can’t? Is it in the head, in physiology?
Anna Pogorilaya: Is this psychology? True. Are boys different? Also true. Pressure doesn’t work on boys the way it works on girls. Girls can be tightly restrained. But at the same time, boys can skate longer, although they do not show such high results. But I believe that the guys will also have it.
Which option is closer to you – a long career without a guarantee of victories or a medal with squeezing everything of yourself?
Anna Pogorilaya: The golden mean. Long-lasting and effective. I think you can learn how to combine it. It used to be the same. But now the level has risen a lot. Previously, Hanyu won the Olympics with a toe loop, salchow and triple axel. Now he is also able to do this, using gliding, spins. Many are chasing jumps, forgetting about the components, levels, GOE, which took off. Not for nothing the GOE scale was made from -5 to +5. So that people who do not jump the most difficult elements can win with other elements.
Now consistency greatly influences the scores. Inconsistent athlete will be judged differently. For example Zhenya Medvedeva got more and more with each competition, because she kept the level. The hardest thing is to be consistent.
It sounds good about long and successful careers, but I remember when Shoma Uno came to Tutberidze, he quickly realized that he wasn’t coping. Is it possible in our realities to extend careers, especially at Khrustalny?
Anna Pogorilaya: Again, everything is individual. Some people find it easier to be the only one in a group. I was the only one and pulled the rest with me. Tsareva always told me: “You set an example for them!” Or it’s like in Eteri Georgievna’s group. When I was on the ice with her – fortunately, I had such trainings – I felt like I was among the sharks. It’s like being thrown into the sea. You are afraid to do something wrong. For some, this suits, they need a constant race, while others are better at motivating themselves.
But could you come up to her to talk, was there a dialogue?
Anna Pogorilaya: No, no, I didn’t talk to Eteri Georgievna. My coach was on the ice for me.
Don’t you miss figure skating? Haven’t you thought to come back?
Anna Pogorilaya: Of course, now I’ll give up everything and will start prepare! It takes a very long time to recover. If I come back right off the bat, then I’ll finish right away. I continue to train, both at home and on the ice. Restored some triples. But it’s unlikely for me to return. I have a family life, a group. I train for myself, for pleasure, to show that I still can.
You could easily qualify for the Russian Nationals.
Anna Pogorilaya: Yes, I see that there are free spots at the Grand Prix, (Laughs) But I don’t want to embarrass myself. There are a lot of factors – I live far from the rink, the coach [Anna Tsareva] has moved to another rink. Many moved closer to “Khrustalny”, and I lived nearby, and now it is difficult to spend one and a half or two hours on the road. And it’s not easy to train without a coach.
But you are thinking like a person who does not abandon the idea of returning.
Anna Pogorilaya: Many athletes will continue to think and dream about it. But it’s necessary to end your career with dignity.
Then do you like the idea of competitions like professional skating – where would your generation be involved: Sotnikova, Lipnitskaia, Radionova, Zagitova, Medvedeva?
Anna Pogorilaya: And you suggest! We will think about it. (Laughs.) In general, it would be interesting to do this – in a light mode, one short program, for example. But all the same, there will be adults and young people, those who have finished recently. There were also professional skating events in America.
Have you been invited to the Ice Age?
Anna Pogorilaya: Not yet. But I myself didn’t want to. Maybe I’ll make it to some shows in the winter.
Elizaveta Nugumanova: “It’s a shame that I was third among the senior girls at the Russian Nationals but didn’t go to Worlds because of the federation.”