Brian Orser: Personally I prefer mature skating
Elena Vaitsekhovskaya’s interview with Brian Orser about Evgenia Medvedeva.
I suppose my call from Russia wasn’t the first?
– The second. I just spoke very briefly with Tatiana Tarasova, and I had a feeling that she supports Medvedeva’s decision, although she did not say it directly. I really hope that this is really so. I would like to have the opportunity, at least sometimes, to ask Tarasova’s advice. She is absolutely incredible and very wise specialist.
I read your words about how much you were amazed by Medvedeva’s request to take her to your group. How much time did it take to say “yes”?
– When I received a message from Zhenya early in April, she asked me to find an opportunity to meet with her in Korea, where she was doing shows, I replied that there is such a possibility, but I needed some time. I needed this time to talk first with Tracy Wilson, as we work in one team, and then with the rest of our team, including the choreographer David Wilson. It was necessary to understand how realistic is it to fit Medvedeva into the team. To see the whole picture: who continues to skate, who is going to leave, how busy this or that specialist is, whether I myself can give the athlete as much time as she needs and so on. As soon as we all realized that the task was real, a decision was made.
Could you tell us more how the work is organized in your club? How many hours of ice, for example, is given to a skater of elite level, how long does the training day last?
– To some extent our club is unique in the sense that each skater works by an individual training program, created specifically for him. If to generalize, it’s about three hours of ice and the rest of the work. Of course, it will take some time to understand exactly how to deal with Medvedeva, what to focus on. Perhaps it won’t be jumps, but some other things, such as work on skating skills, this always takes a lot more time than jumping. To speak more specifically, we need to wait until Zhenya arrives in Canada, come to the rink and I’ll see her on the ice. The most important thing at this stage is to prepare the body. This means a large number of diverse special work outside the ice to eliminate the consequences of those injuries that she has now, as well as problems with the back. To move forward, the athlete must be really strong.
Have you already dealt with the consequences of stress fractures?
– Of course, although I can not say that such fractures are a common thing. When Yuna Kim came to my group for the first time, she had a huge amount of various injuries. Mainly joints and vertebral disсs. Less serious were problems with the ankles and the upper part of the feet. We have been dealing only with solving all these problems for a long time. Yuna went to the procedures, she got an individual set of special exercises, thanks to which she recovered so well that the pain during skating had completely gone. The last two years of her career, she did not have any serious injuries at all, but if you remember the first two years, she was a walking injury – so much Yuna was troubled by pains in her back, legs and hips. So now I can hardly be surprised or frightened. Just for a while, we all will have to be very, very patient. Fortunately, we have enough specialists who can help skaters to cope with problems of any complexity.
Medvedeva won two world championships in a row. What exactly, in your opinion, can make her stronger, give an opportunity to take one more step forward?
– First of all, this is her body. The body is the main tool of any athlete. It must be strong and well prepared. Do you know what is important? That Zhenya is a very young sportswoman, she is only 18 years old. But this is the age when an athlete should have the right to have his own opinion, he must understand that he is as full a member of the team as any of the specialists who works with him. I know Medvedeva’s goal – to win the next Olympic Games. On the way to these Games we will have three world championships. Will she win all three? I do not know. I do not have a crystal ball. I only know that Medvedeva is at a crossroads now, and our team will do everything possible to help Zhenya successfully overcome this period.
She is perfectly taught many things, especially jumping. She has a magnificent head, you can call it a psychological “thick-skinned”. Plus, Zhenya knows how and loves to compete. Such a rival is not a gift for the rest. In this respect, Medvedeva reminds me very much of Yuna Kim.
At the same time, I see quite a lot of space in order to make some of Zhenya’s skating sides even more powerful. Yes, it will take time, strength, and brains, but it pleases that Zhenya herself is internally ready for such an adventure. She wants, and for the athlete this is the most important thing.
Tatiana Tarasova in her years of active work once said that she never takes an athlete without having found out why he left the previous coach. Did you ask Medvedev questions about this?
– No. Zhenya spoke very highly of her former coaching staff and immediately made it clear that she did not intend to give any negative assessment to the past work. This is logical, I think. If the skater twice becomes the strongest in the world, then his training was generally correct, right? I do not think that I will be mistaken if I say that all the coaches of the world would like to understand how Eteri Tutberidze continues to supply more and more new sportswomen of this level. How does she manage it? What is she doing in her training?
Nevertheless, you are not too optimistic about the current world junior champion Alexandra Trusova, calling her (and this with two quads!) not a long-term project.
– It was not quite like that. The conversation was about a possible increase of the age limit in women’s skating. I talked that girls and adult girls, such as Carolina Kostner, Yuna Kim are two completely different categories of figure skaters. I have nothing against thirteen-year-old female athletes, who jump quads. Remember, you asked me at the World Championships in Milan, whether I would like the International Speed Skating Union (ISU) to raise the age limit, and I answered: “No”? I can only repeat it once more. I have a thirteen-year-old guy who jumps quads. All the quads. For every athlete long life in sports is always an extremely individual matter. Some mature and develop later, some earlier. Personally I prefer mature skating, but I’m not ready to say that quadruple jumps of 13 or 14 years-old, no matter if it’s boys or girls, it’s something terrible. Another question is that we, coaches, should be careful with the body of the athlete when he grows and the joints still continue to develop.
The question is different: do you in principle consider quadruple jumps at the level of mature female skating possible? And is there any sense to strive for this?
– I don’t have an answer to this question. And as I said I don’t have a crystal ball also. Perhaps, fortunately. So we all have to wait and see in what way the further development of women’s skating will go and whether it will repeat the trends that we see in men’s skating. The only thing I can say with certainty is that the female body is still different from the male. Therefore, the complication is not going so fast. Whether there is such purpose – I can not answer clearly too. I see my coaching mission, first of all, in the development of women’s skating. I think the best examples in this respect are Kaetlyn Osmond, Gabby Daleman, Carolina Kostner, Kim Yuna. These are the names that remain in history.
Does Medvedeva’s transition to your group mean that David Wilson will now be the choreographer of all her programs?
– We in Toronto are inexpressibly lucky that we have several quite outstanding choreographers working in completely different style. Surely there are masters of this level and class in Europe, Japan and Russia, which is not always easy to get from Canada, but it’s not necessary: we have Wilson, Shae-Lynn Bourne, Lori Nichol, Jeffrey Battle. Yuzuru works mostly with Shae-Lynn and Jeff, Javi only with David, as did Yuna Kim before him, and at this stage I would like to try to use the same choreographic workings, that were successfully tried with Kim.
How does it usually look like – do you give any specific recommendations to an athlete, or are you waiting for the skater to decide which choreographer he wants to work with?
– In each case it depends on the situation. When we first started working with Hanuy, all of his program were made by David. It took some time for Yuzuru to understand that he wanted to try something new in choreography. That’s how appeared Shae-Lynn, and it worked – between them immediately appeared tremendous creative chemistry. Javi has great chemistry with David Wilson, they always managed to find some really wonderful things. At the same time, I always actively participate in the process: I help with the choice of music, I am engaged in the design of costumes, I work with a choreographer, controlling the steps, transitions, explaining the specifics of jumps. You can not do the program, not knowing what kind of entry allows you to fit the axel or lutz into the program better.
I apologize in advance if the question is incorrect, but could you explain how the financial side of the relationship is structured? Is the figure skater paying you for the whole range of services, or does he pay the work of each specialist separately?
– At our club it is customary to charge for an hour of work. It is, rather, not the Canadian, but the North American style. I have my own rate, Tracy has her, just like David Wilson. Relatively speaking, everyone knows perfectly well how much short or free program costs. In this case, the ice for the athletes of our club is unlimited – if necessary, the skater can skate even eight hours a day. This is important because many children go to school and they need to be able to vary the time of training: someone prefers to skate early in the morning, someone in the afternoon, someone in the evening.
Who creates costumes for your athletes’ programs?
– Good question. I do not know. I know that the David has his contacts, and when he makes the programs, he himself can explain to the designer how he sees the image. Some skaters have their own contracts, not necessary Canadian. The main thing is that everyone should feel comfortable. First of all – the athlete himself.
Have you already thought at which competitions you would like to see Medvedeva?
– I will not say that my ideas are very different in this respect from the generally accepted ones. The first thing we need to see is how the summer will go, depending on which we will make a decision. I would like Zhenya to perform in the early autumn at one of the B series tournaments – maybe it will be Autumn Classic, Finlandia Open or something else. Then we plan two stages of the Grand Prix, and of course the Russian Championships. In a word, everything, as it was for Medvedeva in previous years. The only difference is that I will stand behind the board.
Do you plan to travel with Zhenya to Russia?
– Of course. I understand that we do not live in an ideal world, because there are other figure skaters and their competitions can coincide in time, then Tracy and David will have to plan their own movements, but ideally, I would like to do it personally.
I forgot to ask: is Zhenya’s mom going to Canada?
– I’m counting on it, I’ll tell you honestly. It’s important for me. As far as I could understand, Zhenya and her mother are very close, hardly anyone knows her better than Zhanna. She, as they say, is the number one mother. For the coach this is a huge help. It seems to me that we will succeed.
by Elena Vaitsekhovskaya for rsport.ria.ru