Daria Panenkova: “Tutberidze’s jokes were offensive to me. Now I’m more mature and, if she joked the same way, I would just laugh”
Interview with Daria Panenkova. About training in the group of Tutberidze, coaching and loud transfers of the season.
by Dmitri Kuznetsov for sport-express.ru
One of the last Russian figure skaters to officially end their careers was 17-year-old Daria Panenkova. On September 2, she announced her retirement from sports and the transition to coaching. At one time, Daria was considered one of the most talented single skaters and the hope of the national team. But prolonged puberty, weight problems and misunderstanding with Eteri Tutberidze, which ended with an early departure from the preseason training camp prevented Daria from realization her potential.
Daria, nothing has been heard about you for the last season and a half. Have you trained, wanted to continue a career?
Daria Panenkova: The last time I’ve been on the ice as an athlete was the free program at the Russian Nationals in December 2018. After that, I didn’t compete or train. Yes, it happened that I skated, tried something from the technique, but I didn’t prepare for competitions. After that skate in Saransk, all the coaches said – everything is clear, don’t touch her. They saw that I was mentally and physically tired. That season I came home from training and cried, thought: “Lord, when will they leave me alone?” I was on the edge.
So we came from the championship, and neither I wrote to the coaches, nor they wrote anything me. In May I came and presented flowers to Anna Tsareva. Then I also had a severe leg fracture in two places, after which I realized that I would not continue. That’s how I jumped double axel at home, damn it.
Do you feel better after finishing your career?
Daria Panenkova: Mentally – much more. Physically, I get tired in training as before, but now as a coach. But I definitely feel relief. In the last period of my career, I just wanted everyone to leave me alone. I understand that the coach does the job and sometimes yells and makes me do it. But now I’m comfortable with everything. If I want to I can go and draw, whatever. And figure skating jammed, even in communication.
Is this because of the tough coaching style that is usual for our specialists and Eteri Tutberidze in particular? Or am I thinking in stereotypes?
Daria Panenkova: I would say that it is usual for everyone. 50 to 50, and Eteri Georgievna also, she speaks calmly with a person. And in general, she is a wise coach. I just burned out due to fatigue. Injuries, everything came together … I also had big problems with weight. And when I left trainings and my fridge opened … (laughs) My mother also controlled me, weighted me every day, plus one hundred grams – shouts. Boiled chicken every day, no pasta, nothing sweet. Sees me with a chocolate bar – an hour of running, in a film, and this is a load on the heart! It seems to me that it was wrong.
Can you eat everything you want now?
Daria Panenkova: Yes, but I try to eat right. When I just finished, I put on five kilograms. I was full. Now I watch my diet – not because they demand to keep weight, I just want to look good. I can go to a pizzeria.
There are a lot of talks about nutrition in figure skating and legends how skaters are forced to keep it. How was it with you? Indeed, the topic of weight was probably frequently mentioned in conversations with the coach.
Daria Panenkova: In Eteri Georgievna’s group they keep weight very simple: you’re told to lose weight – and you lose weight. They said to lose a kilogram – you must do it. It doesn’t matter how.
What about the deadline? It is impossible to lose it in an hour.
Daria Panenkova: She does not say: “Tomorrow you must come without this kilogram.” Only that you have problems with weight, so much extra, you need to lose it. The scales are in the locker room. We had a weigh-in every day. If she sees – minus one, two hundred grams, then you are already working on yourself. She wasn’t happy with a kilo lost in one day. She understood that this is not very good for the body.
It turns out, if you seriously engage in figure skating, you need to make sacrifices? In food, for sure.
Daria Panenkova: Not everyone has to, some have better metabolism. I tell a girl I work with: “If you want a chocolate, eat it. But a few slices. You don’t have to forcibly refuse anything, it will only make you worse.” There is no need to limit the body, especially during adolescence. I’ve learned from my experience.
What do you think about Evgenia Medvedeva’s return?
Daria Panenkova: I was very surprised. I don’t know where it will lead, but I think this is a good decision.
You trained with Alina Zagitova and Zhenya. Can you tell if there was a conflict between them? Now even raising the flag in “Sambo-70” turns into finding out who should do it.
Daria Panenkova: In terms of communication, everything was fine between them, they talked. But when they were on the ice, they fought against each other, tried to make the elements better than the other. This is ok. But I didn’t notice that they had a bad relationship.
It just becomes anxious about how they get along together on the rink, if there is such a background around. If Alina trains, of course.
Daria Panenkova: As far as I know, Alina is training. When she has time between shooting and classes.
Daniil Gleichengauz says that she trains less than in the Olympic season.
Daria Panenkova: Then she had five or six training hours six days a week. Perhaps she comes to the morning ice, then runs away. I don’t exclude it.
Now you are the coach yourself. Do you like it?
Daria Panenkova: Yes, I train next to “Сhrustalny” skating rink. And I really like it. Even many mothers tell me that I have something from Eteri Georgievna, something in my eyes. Some abilities were passed on to me from her. (laughs) I have perfectionism – the leg must be extended, every glance during performance is important. Not only jumps decide! Choreography is also important. And landing position, as Eteri Georgievna said, should be kept for three seconds. So I work with everyone on landing position and, they say, it turns out well.
Do you see your career in coaching, do you strive to become a coach in a top school?
Daria Panenkova: I really want to become a great coach, this is my dream since childhood. Honestly, I didn’t need this Olympic medal, as everyone says. “I want to be an Olympic champion,” that’s all. I wanted to perform in the arena in front of a large audience, and that was enough. I love being on the ice, I choreographed the program – it’s such a cool feeling!
How did you survive in quarantine?
Daria Panenkova: We carried out general physical training at one girl’s country house. And it paid off on the ice, by the way. And more recently, I gave on ice lesson via video call. I will look for options. The main thing is to like it. Plus, now many parents complain that it has turned into commerce, the coaches do not work out their money. So, I want to work with dignity, and whether I will bring up champions or not.
When I competed, until the last season I really liked training. But 2018 … I felt that I was trying to be strong, but a fragile person was breaking inside me. It felt like everything was falling apart.
Do you think it happens with many skaters? Other skaters are also under constant pressure. In the same “Chrustalny” there is still the strongest internal competition.
Daria Panenkova: Everyone reacts differently. When the coach shouted, it hurt me a lot. I am generally a touchy girl, and this is my main disadvantage in sports. And Eteri Georgievna jokes well, funny. Can you imagine what it was like for me? And her jokes were offensive to me. Now I am more mature and, if she joked the same way, I would just laugh. But then I was little, even complained to my mother.
But she also jokes about Medvedeva and Zagitova.
Daria Panenkova: They have a different character. They also take offense, but deep down. And all the anger spills out onto the rink. And I have the opposite. I told my mother: “I’m scared to go on the ice.” And I skated near the boards so that she would not see me and would not tease me. In the group, everyone was thin, flat – I was the only girl who formed quite early. I tried to hide my body so that nothing could be seen. And once, after some sharp joke, I broke and started to cry. Daniil Gleikhengauz even reassured me – Eteri Georgievna just wants you to be better.
Daniil Gleikhengauz and Sergei Dudakov – are they like good cops?
Daria Panenkova: Yes, they are kind. But if you start to being lazy, they will see and can also scold. (laughs) At the same time, I absolutely understand Eteri Georgievna – I had a weight of 44-45 kilograms. If the jumps didn’t go well, she would send me to the scales. And there +500 grams. She said – that’s your mistake. And I absolutely understand her.
You at one time unexpectedly left the group, this offseason also happened a lot of transfers, Alexandra Trusova and Alena Kostornaia left Chrustalny. Do you admit that these are the consequences of pressure?
Daria Panenkova: Of course there is pressure. Even when she looks into your eyes, you feel as if she is eating you. On the other hand, I think it’s all for the good. But for 15-16-year-old girls, maybe something else is needed … I don’t know, one way or another, the girls leave. And this is normal, there is nothing criminal about transfers, I am against their restriction. In Plushenko’s group, the girls are more comfortable, calmer. That’s possible.
Remember lists of non grata?
Daria Panenkova: No, there wasn’t such in the group. Not even close. We were all friends there, to be honest. Sasha Trusova gave me advice, after one of the workouts she told me not to regret what I was doing, but to do everything for myself. I remember this for a long time.
I can say that in my last season Eteri Georgievna punished me and sent me to skate in the younger group with Seva Knyazev, Arseny Fedotov, she said – come back when you restore triples. That is, usually the older ones do not skate with the younger ones. And I agree with Alena, who said that it’s uncomfortable – you skate and the little ones get under your feet.
But how could it happen?
Daria Panenkova: It could be so – earlier Eteri Georgievna, if you skated the program badly on your ice, sent you to the younger ice to reskate the program. Anyone, including Alena, could have been punished and sent to the younger group to reskate. There are no favorites in the group. Someone will simply be prompted more, someone needs more support.
If you were given a program, could you say that you don’t like the music and refuse?
Daria Panenkova: I had two such cases. I didn’t like the music Ne me quitte pas (Free program of the season-2017/18. – ed.) But then, when we started working on the program, I realized that it was mine. And the same about Christina Aguilera, when I first came to “Chrustalny”. Eteri Georgievna did it for me. At first, I didn’t like the music, we tried another. We did not come to any opinion, but the competition was coming soon, and they tell me: “Let’s skate to Aguilera, we think that it will suit you.” And it suited so much! I adore watching it ever since. That is, Eteri Georgievna will not refuse, she will listen to the opinion. But sometimes you just need to listen closer to the music. Like to take a closer look at a person.
You said that everyone was friends. But Eteri Georgievna hinted that Medvedeva asked to hold Zagitova in juniors. And in her post about Alena also mentions them.
Daria Panenkova: Perhaps there was such a phrase, I do not give a 100% and I cannot answer for other people’s words. But Alina had a unique chance – because the Olympics fell on her first senior season. And it was impossible to deprive her of this chance, it is wrong. I didn’t have it. Now in figure skating, age decides a lot. I was born in the second half of the year, so I couldn’t compete among senior – although I had a great Olympic season. I had a chance to be on the podium. But … I later told my mother: “Couldn’t you have given me birth earlier?” (laughs)
Can you call any of the group your friends?
Daria Panenkova: I still communicate with many people from figure skating. Friends? Alena Kostornaia, Alina Zagitova. We came with her on the same day, made friends. But we talked without touching on the topic of figure skating. We discussed some elements, but I can’t say that we helped each other with something.
The general opinion is that she is a closed person. But I remember her broadcasts four years ago, there are a lot of jokes and emotions. Did “Chrustalny” change her that way?
Daria Panenkova: To some extent, yes, to some extent not. She has always been a closed girl. But yes, she liked the video gags. And then she began to grow, her outlook changed, she realized that many were looking at her. That is, she remained as closed as she was, but the jokes remained in childhood.
Does Eteri Georgievna follow social networks? To what extent are the trainers involved in this?
Daria Panenkova: Once I posted a photo, she said – well, not really good one. She could say that. Or once I misspelled a sentence, made a spelling mistake, and Daniil Gleikhengauz corrected it. Eteri Georgievna also sometimes advised how to write better. I can say that I was advised not to talk a lot about injuries.
Speaking of Alina, in one interview you spoke about her wrong lutz. And after that it was like a bomb exploded.
Daria Panenkova: They made a mountain out of a molehill! Like, Alina can’t do anything … And we stopped communicating for a while, she felt hurt. Then we made up, now everything is fine. I had problems with the flip, this is ok, entries were fixed. This is nothing special, this is life. People produce hate… Apparently, they lack attention. I answered one such woman who wrote to me in “direct”. Turned out she was saleswoman in the bakery. She kept repeating to me: “You have not achieved anything, you are sitting below and Alina is on the throne.” I could not resist: “And what have you achieved?” It is strange for me to see these messages. At school I was then also lectured … And then they turned on the interview right there, watched it – I didn’t say anything there. People don’t look at the point, they react to the headlines.
Have you faced any spoiled boots or footpegs before a warm-up in your career?
Daria Panenkova: Thank God, no. Although probably there were some enemies. I just tried to carry everything with me.(laughs)
Finally, about the upcoming season. What do you expect from it? There was a lot of skepticism about the skaters who had switched to another coach, they say, they will fall apart.
Daria Panenkova: I watched test skates, and I really liked Alena’s short program, it’s cool. Although there were many strong short programs – both Sasha Trusova’s and Kamila’s. Anya has two good programs. About falling apart … The season will show. I don’t think they will fall apart. The only thing that can get in the way is age. Puberty – when your legs go in different directions, and you try to collect them. You can see that girls are growing, and since this happens together with the transfer, everyone will say that these are the consequences of switching coaches. There is a risk in this.