Artur Dmitriev: “If we raise the age for ladies to compete in seniors, the level of figure skating will plummet”
Interview with two-time Olympic champion and coach Artur Dmitriev. About calendar of competitions, possible change in the qualification age in ladies’ single skating and the obsession of skaters on a diet.
by Timur Ganeev for sport-express.ru dd. 21st October 2020
Does the fact that there may not be international competitions affect athletes’ motivation to train with full dedication?
Artur Dmitriev: Of course, the cancellation of the European and World Championships will disrupt the plans for the preparation of the national team’s figure skaters, but we understand that there’s a difficult situation in the whole world due to the pandemic. Therefore, it is necessary to perform where there is still possible. And try to show your maximum.
The next stage of the Russian Cup in Sochi will be held without audience. That’s the right decision?
Artur Dmitriev: The Federation is getting out as best it can. The number of people infected is growing, and the stage without audience is a necessary measure. Nevertheless, all the guys are preparing. Of course, there will be unexpected withdrawals, someone will end the season ahead of schedule, so the strongest will keep in line.
Very few pairs compete in the Russian Cup. Does this mean a crisis in pair skating?
Artur Dmitriev: We have enough worthy pairs, both in juniors and seniors. If we talk about the Cup, this happened because of the introduced restrictions. The result is a mess of who is going where, who is training and who is not. Now there are restrictions in Moscow for the training of athletes who are not in the Russian national team and the Moscow team. For example, I have three junior pairs that cannot train. They are not even allowed to the skating rink. And it is unclear how long it will last. This concerns not only my pairs, this is how it is all over the Moscow. The same goes for singles and ice dancers.
Alexandra Trusova won by Alexandra Trusova. Many believe that she has improved in artistry and transitions after the change of coach. Can we agree with this?
Artur Dmitriev: Unfortunately, I have not seen her skates in Moscow. I saw Sasha in training. And at the beginning of the season, I can say that everyone is not in the most optimal shape, not only Trusova. It’s too early to say that after switching to Plushenko, something magical happened to her. Or, on the contrary, that she began to skate worse. We need to be patient and draw conclusions only at the end of the season.
How did you feel about the idea of introducing personal contracts between an athlete and a coach?
Artur Dmitriev: It’s a difficult question. We have tried many times to put into practice this idea, but every time something got in the way. In figure skating, there are contracts that an athlete signs with a sports school for the season. But, of course, this does not fully protect the interests of the coaches. Off-season transitions are common.
Perhaps it makes sense to make personal contracts between skaters and a coaches for four years, one Olympic cycle?
Artur Dmitriev: Even in game sports – football or hockey – players have a long-term contracts, but change teams before they expire. You see, if there is conflict within the team, misunderstanding, then you cannot keep a person with a contract. More precisely, this can be done, but what is the point? Probably, this is the way to go, but it seems to me that we should not talk about personal contracts between the skater and the coach. The personal ambition of a coach is good, but basically all high-level specialists work in state schools. Therefore, it would be logical if the athlete sign a long-term contract with the organization. And in case, for example, of a violation of discipline, the state school or the federation may not allow him to compete. It is clear that there are private schools, but they still apply through the Moscow Federation, federations of other subjects, through the FFKKR.
Ilia Averbukh believes that the personal contract should include the amount of the penalty, this paragraph will protect the interests of the coaches …
Artur Dmitriev: Let’s take a simple example from life. When people get divorced, they start dividing property. Does it always go smoothly? More often it doesn’t. The same will happen in figure skating. Lawyers, courts. Given that the age of an athlete in sports is very short, does this all make sense? It seems to me that these relations should be regulated by regional federations and the Russian figure skating federation. It is the federations that decide who is allowed to competitions, who is not, who should be listed for international competitions. Making the skater a slave to the coach is bad, and vice versa. It is important that both parties understand why they are signing any additional agreements.
You have touched upon the theme of private schools. What do you think about Evgeni Plushenko’s decision to bet on star coaches and star skaters?
Artur Dmitriev: Top coaches do not raise athletes from a young age. This is a very rare exception. Name me at least one specialist who brings an athlete to the highest level from childhood. It is clear that a primary school teacher can work with tenth grades, but this usually does not happen. There is a gradation: primary school, middle, senior grades. Figure skating has a similar principle. And as for the fact that Evgeni immediately takes well-known coaches, is it not prohibited by law isn’t it? And what is not prohibited is permitted. So there can be no questions to Plushenko.
What do you think about the possible raising of the age in ladies single skating from 15 to 17 years old?
Artur Dmitriev: I am against it for several reasons. If these restrictions had already been in effect for several years, then we would not have seen the victory of 16-year-old Alina Zagitova at the 2018 Olympic Games. Is it good or bad? Therefore, if this issue is raised, then we will lose some of the athletes who could reveal themselves to the maximum. Many will simply end their careers before age 17. It is clear that the ISU will decide everything, I can only speculate on this topic.
One of the reasons for discussing this issue at the ISU Congress was the death of Ekaterina Aleksandrovskaya. They say that skaters at such an early age cannot withstand such colossal stress …
Artur Dmitriev: It seems to me that Aleksandrovskaya has nothing to do with it. Firstly, she performed in pair skating. Secondly, she wasn’t 15 years when she died (she died at the age of 20. – ed). Of course, this is a tragedy, horror, but it’s not logical to connect it with the age for performing in seniors for the single ladies. The only question is that from 14 to 17 years old, girls begin to grow, gain weight. Because of this, the complexity of the elements is lost. This is a given. But I don’t understand what we will win if we cut off 15 and 16-year-old girls from the competition? Do we want the level of figure skating to plummet? If there is such a goal, then let’s raise the age for senior competitions to 21 years. You can buy alcohol at this age. So you can get to the point of absurdity.
Don’t you think that all the skaters are now very obsessed with losing weight?
Artur Dmitriev: It has always been that way. There are similar problems in ballet, rhythmic gymnastics, acrobatics, and artistic gymnastics. In those disciplines where it is needed to work with the weight of a partner or perform complex tricks. This requires certain physical conditions. The question is different. You need to approach your diet wisely, like any business in life. But professional sport imposes some restrictions on food. Some football teams can fine if the player comes to training camp with extra weight. For every 100 extra grams – a fine. They didn’t take it out of blue. If a forward gains 5-6 extra pounds per vacation, then he will not be as sharp and fast. The same in figure skating.
Do you advise your skaters to keep a certain weight?
Artur Dmitriev: The girls in pair skating have a very narrow corridor in weight. Plus two kilograms from an optimal weight is a lot. As well as minus two kilograms. There will simply be no strength. Therefore, the optimal weight should not fluctuate more than +/- one kilogram. It also emphasizes that the sport of high achievement is a difficult thing. From the outside it seems that winning a medal at Worlds or Europeans is easy, but many factors need to coincide for this. In addition to talent, an athlete must be in excellent physical condition and health. It is not for nothing they undergo medical examination twice a year. If a person is sick, then bringing him to peak loads is the height of stupidity.