Dmitri Mikhailov: “I don’t judge Trusova’s strong reaction. She used to say “I’ll do five quads and I’ll be the first.” Imagine what a disappointment comes when it turns out that this is not so.”
Interview with Dmitri Mikhailov, one of the leading coaches of the Plushenko’s Academy. Mikhailov told what was the problem in working with Alexandra Trusova, and shared his opinion about the results of the Beijing Olympics.
source: matchtv.ru dd. 18th March 2022 by Vlad Zhukov
When you and I agreed on an interview, you said that you had already started to detox from hate. When did you start facing it?
Dmitri Mikhailov: Well, literally after the very first interview (laughs). On the street, next to Megasport, at the stage of the Russian Cup, where Sasha Trusova skated. I remember being asked if we agreed with the scores. This was the first such experience. Unpleasant, but, you can get used to it.
Did they write something to you?
Dmitri Mikhailov: No. But everyone, I think, read comments about themselves. I also read a couple of pages and was like: oh, no, I’m not ready for this yet. So far, one page a day, perhaps (laughs).
A lot of inadequate people, unfortunately. There were also those who took my words fine – all the more there was nothing bad in them. I did not make any claims to the judges, but they: “Who is he, how dare he!” But, of course, there are adequate fans, there are many of them.
Do you remember any of the most outrageous comments?
Dmitri Mikhailov: Oh no, I’m bad at this. I can read and laugh in the moment. In general, there are different comments – both funny, and super-positive, and super-negative. You can read them if you know how to filter, and cheer yourself up. Sometimes there are really good jokes. In principle, I read the comments under various interviewers – with Ilia Averbukh, Tatiana Tarasova, and other significant people.
(At that moment, one of the skaters called Dmitrii, and he began to give her advice.)
It’s 21:51 and you’re still working?
Dmitri Mikhailov: Have to, they call. Sometimes athletes need support. Unfortunately, it is not always possible to go to the competitions with them, so you still need to say a few words. But listen, this is not the latest time I work.
What is the latest?
Dmitri Mikhailov: Well, after 11 p.m., I probably won’t be able to answer, because I need to sleep. Until then, I can. And get up at 5 am.
Dmitri Mikhailov: Simply gorgeous (laughs).
Another day at the office.
Dmitri Mikhailov: But in general, I do not regret, I really like coaching. And where is different? Do you have it differently? I have always been amazed with my dad in this regard, he is just a hero to me. When I was skating, he got up at 4 in the morning, the subway was just opening – and he went to work on the very first train. Somewhere around seven in the evening he used to came home, we had dinner, and at 9 he went to bed. Everything so that I can skate.
If I remember correctly, you started coaching at 16?
Dmitri Mikhailov: In fact, even earlier, I had my first lesson at 14. I remember it was “Mega”, my mother drove me there. I was paid 500 rubles – I bought ice cream for me and my mother, paid for her gasoline. That’s how I started.
And full-fledged coaching as a way to provide myself began somewhere at the age of 18-19. At 19, I already rented an apartment from the money earned on skating lessons. At seven in the morning I coached, then had my training, dined, then training in a gym and ice – and in the evening again coaching. And since the age of 21 I have been working with Evgeny Viktorovich (Plushenko).
Did you ever want to be a coach?
Dmitri Mikhailov: Well, you could say it was a spontaneous decision. At the age of 19-20 I finished my career and exhaled – finally! Sports are restrictions, lack of freedom. I was tired and wanted a slightly different life, there was no longer any motivation. I gave the sport more than I received from it, the efforts were not appreciated. For me it was very hard.
Moreover, at 19-20, a more or less serious, independent life begins, and sports limit you greatly in this regard. This is a regimen, payment for coaches, renting housing. Yes, and I already had a girlfriend at that time – I had to take her somewhere, fill the refrigerator with food … There was no internal satisfaction from the sport, there was no point in continuing fighting.
Although, maybe it was … After all Gleb Smolkin went to the Olympics – cool! And I’m really happy for them with Diana (Davis), I really like them. They are an example that everything is possible. I didn’t believe in myself (laughs). If they told me that I would have a chance to go to the Olympic Games, then I would have fought.
Why did I ask about 16. For a general person, it is unthinkable that at such a young age, athletes are already beginning to teach and coach. I remember when Sasha Trusova came to Angels of Plushenko, many people said about you, they say, he is only 22 years old, what can he teach her? Can you answer them?
Dmitri Mikhailov: So they are right. There is a good proverb: live a century – learn a century. Even being nearby, training Sasha, one might say, I was learning. But regarding what I can teach, I have been in this sport since the age of 4. By the time Sasha came to us, I had 18 years of figure skating experience, purposeful, I haven’t seen anything else but figure skating. Inna Germanovna Goncharenko gave me a super-correct technical base, gliding – from Irina Zhuk and Alexander Svinin, plus the experience of Ekaterina Rubleva and Ivan Shefer. In any case, I could give something to Sasha.
So, in general, these conversations probably took place, but if you look at them globally, then this is criticism for the sake of criticism. Nothing more. At that time I tried to develop Sasha in skating, to give her something in technique. I was learning to find an approach to her, and she was learning how to glide beautifully, look presentable on the ice. And tell me that while working with us, Sasha has not become more spectacular on the ice.
You focus so much on gliding, as if it was your fix idea in work with Sasha.
Dmitri Mikhailov: I’m just talking specifically about my work. It cannot be said that we and the head coach had some kind of super-task to develop Sasha in gliding. But nevertheless, we developed it, it turned out. It’s just that I was mainly engaged in gliding — I worked, refined, tried to make it better.
Do you think you were ready then to train an athlete like Sasha?
Dmitri Mikhailov: I joined this process quite actively. This was probably the first situation when I did not doubt myself. I knew that I was doing everything right, that I still could help her with something.
Let me ask you directly – how hard is it to train Trusova?
Dmitri Mikhailov: Oh … Sasha, forgive me (laughs). Not easy. Probably like many others. Of course, there are obedient athletes, but there are those people who can express their opinion. Right one, wrong one, but they have a right to have it. And our task as coaches is to make sure that they take the right position. Sasha really had a lot of her own opinion. I won’t go into details, but still. She knows what she wants, and we just saw the situation a little differently, that’s all.
And what is the main coolness of Sasha, in your opinion?
Dmitri Mikhailov: I really like that she always goes to the end. How many years is she going on her five quads? At the Olympics, she managed to do them, and I am very glad that she succeeded. Many in her place would start being rational … Would read the comments (laughs).
But she didn’t give up. Sasha has repeatedly said that her goal is precisely five quads. She didn’t give up and that’s really cool. Right now I even have goosebumps, to be honest, from the fact that she did not give up, she was unswerving. Everyone around saw another way, more rational, but she went her own way – and eventually achieved her goal.
Did you try to dissuade her from five quads at the academy?
Dmitri Mikhailov: When there was a need – yes. Wrong physical shape, no need, some jump is lost on the eve of the competitions – in these cases. We tell her, for example: let’s do four, well, five do not work out yet. And she: “No, I want five!” She was unwavering, like I said before.
By the way, about quads. I remember well the moment last season, at the Moscow stage of the Russian Cup, when I first saw Sasha’s clearly wrong edge on the flip. She had had problems with it before, but not that big. It turns out that you somehow corrected her technique?
Dmitri Mikhailov: In fact, from a flat edge to the wrong one – blink once. In my opinion, both are bad. Of course, we made some adjustments, changed entries, looked for where it would be more convenient to place the elements. Not only to hide the mistake, but also to make it visually look better.
Now they changed it. And what, did it get much better? Speaking about edge, it seems to me that training with us, Sasha did quadruple flip cleaner than now. And I’m not saying that we are so good. Just both options are not good.
Speaking in general, during our work we tried to make Sasha cleaner in everything – in skating, in spins, in jumps. Really wanted to fix this edge. But it happened the way it happened.
Was you surprised when Sasha decided to return to Eteri Georgievna?
Dmitri Mikhailov: Sure. Well, why should I hide it, I was upset. I was on good terms with Sasha, this is not a secret, I think. There was a very good contact, so her decision came as a surprise to me. But in no way am I judging her. This is her decision, she felt that it would be better for her.
In your opinion, what did you, as coaches, fail to do in working with Sasha? What could have been done better?
Dmitri Mikhailov: Prepare both programs faster.
Well well. What was the problem? The fans seem to like them very much.
Dmitri Mikhailov: It’s great that they liked! We worked on them a lot with Evgeni Viktorovich, with the choreographer on the floor. Sasha constantly worked in the gym to make the programs better, brought it all to perfection. A lot was changed after Rozanov finished choreographing them – in the short program, for example, these are two entries, the whole step sequence. There was a little left of his choreography.
We were constantly looking for some other moves in it. Literally every step. I came home and thought through the movements several times, visualized – and so with each transition before the jump. The next day I came to the rink and we tried it on ice. Then Sasha and I looked how it would look. If it looked good on Sasha, we showed Evgeni Viktorovich, if he liked it, we kept it. That’s how we worked. So it was really a big responsibility for me. And a great opportunity is to be Trusova’s coach.
Of course, I do not want to say that Serezha Rozanov did a bad job. I saw how he tried, and themes for the programs were not bad. Probably, it’s just that he did them at the training camp in Kislovodsk, and it is very difficult to make both programs from scratch and absolutely finished in such a period of time. After the training camp, the programs are being finalized and reworked during the season, and I had a whole season for this.
Do you have an explanation for what happened to Sasha at that World Championships in Stockholm? They sent me videos from her official trainings, and I was shocked – short with a triple axel, five quadruples in a free program.
Dmitri Mikhailov: It was a bomb, yes. The rocket has landed! (Laughs.)
And in the competitions…
Dmitri Mikhailov: Well, what happened happened… And before that, what happened?
Before that, five quads had never happened in official training.
Dmitri Mikhailov: It’s also true. Sasha really came in a very cool shape. It was her peak. And what happened … I think the failure of the combination in the short program affected. This is very “killing”, no one expected this.
Is this purely a psychological problem?
Dmitri Mikhailov: In Sasha’s case, I think so. Nerves. It knocked her out. I watched Sasha from home, I could not go with her to Stockholm. My wife took a photo of me at the TV – I sat on my knees and watched. And when she made a mistake on the combination, I grabbed my head and sat like that for a minute. I had only one thought in my head: “Well, what was that?” So no one understood what it was.
In general, such things happens, of course. Maybe for her it will be an additional experience. Yes, for us too. When a person skates with five quads and a triple axel in official training, and then over rotates a triple lutz and loses the combo … Well, this is one of the pity accidents.
I heard Sasha wanted you to go with her to the World Championships as a coach.
Dmitri Mikhailov: It’s true, but it was impossible. If you remember, due to covid restrictions, it was only possible for one coach to go with one athlete – and how you imagine it? Who would stand behind the board – me, Dima Mikhailov? It’s funny, agree. The scale of the person who are with you at the competitions is very important. Of course, Evgeni Viktorovich had to go, this is not even discussed.
Was there anything in the academy last season that somehow made you and your coaching staff nervous?
Dmitri Mikhailov: Difficult question. I will say this: working with Serezha Rozanov in the same team is a tension.
I heard he’s not an easy person.
Dmitri Mikhailov: Yes, difficult. Very ambitious… He does not understand that the same people as he are working around him, and therefore does not take into account the opinions of others. He does not accept that there is any other truth besides his. That there is a teaching technique different from the one he uses.
This is probably the only tense moment of the last season. And I’m not saying this because I have a bad attitude towards Sergei, it just happened that way. Perhaps it is easier for someone to work with Serezha – Daniil (Gleikhengauz) and Eteri Georgievna worked with him after all. But I was uncomfortable. But in ordinary life he is a nice person.
What about the hype around the Academy last season?
Dmitri Mikhailov: It was very … Cool. I don’t really like when everyone is watching you, but still, it’s nice when they talk about you, write about you, note you. This is flattering. Although it is understandable, of course, why they were talking about me, given how many fans Sasha has. On the other hand, you can see when people write from the heart.
But in general, I don’t like when they talk about me. I can still stand the observation, but when they discuss it … Although now it has already become less of it. Well, in general, I adapted to this.
Is it better now?
Dmitri Mikhailov: Certainly. I won’t even worry about what they will write now in the comments (laughs).
With the departure of Sasha and Alena Kostornaia, has the work somehow changed? Well, maybe it became a little easier due to the fact that the hype subsided.
Dmitri Mikhailov: As for Alena, I don’t know. In this regard, nothing has changed for me.
Well, she was one of the two stars of the Academy.
Dmitri Mikhailov: You said it right – was. But I didn’t notice her arrival, or departure, to be honest. But in general, nothing has changed much. In any case, it has not become calmer, because you still want a result and demand it from your athletes. It doesn’t matter if it’s Sasha Trusova or someone else.
Sometimes you look at a person and understand that he will never be an Olympic champion. This person is a personality, and he has his own maximum. And then I catch myself thinking: “Well, in that case, why should I ignore him?” We, as coaches, must help the guys regardless of their abilities. They came, they spend their time, money, and they deserve to be coached equally well. It seems to me that this is right.
Tell us, how did you manage to bring the guys in such a cool shape to the test skates this season?
Dmitri Mikhailov: Honestly, it’s a coincidence. We did a very good job, it’s true, our guys did great and withstood the stress. There is no secret. We shortened the rest a little and laid down a large amount of work in the summer – that’s all. I didn’t see any peak at the beginning of the season, but against the background of other groups, we looked decent. This also worth a lot.
Nastya Zinina did quads at the beginning of the season, Sofa Titova did a triple axel. Then, of course, there was a decline, especially before the Russian Junior championships… But Sonya Muraviova was at her peak at the senior Nationals, it’s true. Before junior she got sick, we only had a week to prepare. She did well, it was very hard for her. Her fall on the Lutz in Saransk is just an objective lack of physical shape and nothing more.
Kirill Sarnovski also approached the Russian Nationals at the peak. The guy skated great, did two clean programs, coped with excitement and did everything. It’s very cool for a debut at the Russian Nationals, Kirill gave the maximum.
It seems that Sonya Muraviova is becoming the leader of the group.
Dmitri Mikhailov: I think, if you take her results, it is absolutely fair. She is the leader based on the results of this season, and the last one too, if we take only juniors. We do not single out Sonya, but in general she is, of course, a leader. On the other hand, this does not affect the training process in any way, as well as in terms of our attitude towards her. Everyone is equal for us. Yesterday you were the champion, and today you have to go and prove again, and this applies to everyone.
What does Sonya lack in order to finally start jumping quads?
Dmitri Mikhailov: We are constantly moving from salchow to toe loop, from salchow to toe loop … We are looking for what will be easier. Probably, there is a small barrier in her head – Sonya started jumping a triple axel and began to think that ….
Dmitri Mikhailov: Yes. She lacks awareness so far. Sonya needs to come to the conclusion that she has excellent data for quadruples, she can do them. And most importantly – that it is necessary in the current realities. You need to jump at least one or two quadruples. Although she also has objective problems – sometimes her leg hurts. It’s already good that she has at least an axel. Sonya has always been a component skater. She lacks just a little…
Her free program is gorgeous this year.
Dmitri Mikhailov: It wasn’t appreciated, unfortunately. I really wanted to choreograph this program, and I have to say special thanks to Lena Sviridenko for bringing us this music. We thought through all the details – the translation of words, the idea, the picture. We tried to reveal the artistic image as much as possible. We thought that at the senior Russian Nationals there would be a slightly different reaction, but in the end this did not happen.
Probably, the point is in the choreographic step sequence – with its addition, the program became slightly longer, and the program became more tedious. The music is slow, the theme is lyrical, and if according to the timing everything is like in the “junior” version, then it looks good. And with the choreo, it turned out a little too long, so they didn’t appreciate it, most likely. Perhaps something should have been done with the music…
Speaking about Russian Nationals, how did you react to the situation with the delayed start deduction for Sonya in the short program?
Dmitri Mikhailov: Well … Well done, people have a good reaction. An input error – this, of course, sounds implausible, but just as they were able to deliver information and file a protest. On the other hand, there really was a deduction, so it doesn’t even make sense to argue. We talked to her, and she also responded very adequately. If this one point helped them, well, fine, this deduction did not affect us anyway.
At the same time, it seems to me that Sonya in the short program was better than Anya Shcherbakova. I think it’s objective. I don’t know what arguments can be against a clean skate with a triple axel. Well, the stronger we will be.
At the Junior World Championships, could have Sonya rock?
Dmitri Mikhailov: I guess so. She has been very stable throughout the season. Different assumptions can be made, but how it could have been in reality, we will not know. But I think she had every chance to perform cool. This is a junior “worlds”, she certainly understands all the responsibility.
Could she beat Sonya Akatieva?
Dmitri Mikhailov: It would have been very difficult. How can you win against two triple axels and three quads? With equal performances, this is objectively unrealistic, even if our Sonya wins in the components. Of course, Sonya Akatieva still needs to jump all this, and if there were mistakes, then everything is possible.
But, of course, Sonya Muraviova needs quads. Then it will be possible to talk about something in the context of an absolutely equal fight, without relying on anyone’s mistakes. I would like us to fight this way, because Sonya is more than capable of it.
Did you watch the Olympics?
Dmitri Mikhailov: Yes, at the rink, right during trainings. The whole group watched live.
What do you think about the results?
Dmitri Mikhailov: How to say … I cheered for Sasha and I am glad that she did not give up her plans for five quads. My opinion: five quads is more than a weighty argument against two.
And what about this situation with Kamila Valieva?
Dmitri Mikhailov: It’s a pity that this happened, really. I was very happy for Sasha, but at the same time I liked how Max Kovtun wrote – I can’t be happy because of great sympathy to Kamila. I feel sad about her, there was a lot of pressure on her all these days. Yes, and it’s still hard to skate four programs at the Olympics. We won’t go far – Mark Kondratiuk. He skated great at the Russian Nationals and European Championships. It seems that a person has consistency, good nerves, but the resource for four programs was not enough, and this is ok.
Did you see Sasha’s tantrum after the free program?
Dmitri Mikhailov: Sure.
What was it, in your opinion?
Dmitri Mikhailov: Just a strong reaction. But the events were appropriate – the Olympic Games after all. I don’t judge it. I was not there, I can’t judge from the inside, but even from the video you can see how much pain there was. Someone wrote that Sasha thought, if she do five quads she will be unreachable. And it’s true, she always talked about it. “I do five quads and I will be the first.”
Imagine what a disappointment comes when it turns out that this is not so. It’s even hard to find words here. Especially when you are there, in the moment. It is very difficult to assess everything rationally for yourself.
Well, let’s finish with a hate. I remember your interview after the 2020 Russian Nationals, when you said that you would like to see how different specialists work – and “even Eteri Tutberidze”. Can you explain what did you have in mind?
Dmitri Mikhailov: Well, smart people, I think, already understood how much tension between the coaching staffs was then. Someone was sensible about this, and someone … But it seems to me that this word “even” sounded, on the contrary, respectful. In any case, this is exactly the meaning I put into it – even despite that tough confrontation, it would be interesting for me to gain experience. I think everything is obvious here.
Veronika Zhilina “In Plushenko’s group If something hurts we reduce the load. In “Khrustalny”, if something hurts, you still have to jump.”