Dmitri Mikhailov: “Sasha did not lose the Russian Nationals. The man lost when he gave up, and this is definitely not about Sasha Trusova.”
Interview with Dmitri Mikhailov. About coaching Alexandta Truova and results of the Russian Nationals 2021.
source: Dmitri Kuznetsov for sport-express.ru dd. 29th December 2020
22 year old Dmitri Mikhailov is a fresh face for Russian figure skating. In the early 2010s, he took medals of the junior Russian championships as a single skater, but then he switched to ice dance and performed quite successfully. But last year Mikhailov decided to end his sports career. Now he is known as the person who leads Alexandra Trusova to the main competitions of the season.
Dmitri, are you satisfied with the performance of Alexandra Trusova at the Russian Nationals?
Dmitri Mikhailov: We are very happy. At this championships, everything that she could at the moment turned out. There were difficulties in preparation, but she showed two chic clean skates. I will not comment on the scores, this is unnecessary. The most important thing is that we showed a huge improvement, progress in everything: in spins, step sequences, skating, musicality. It was Sasha, who again took a step forward.
Right before the Nationals, where were the best skates of the season, according to the opinion of many, there was the Grand prix with the the worst skating. Do you have an explanation of what happened there?
Dmitri Mikhailov: Now I can name dozens of reasons, there were also quite objective ones, but who cares? I would concentrate on what conclusions have been drawn. That’s the main thing. We have made adjustments to the training process, it’s true. And the result is obvious. This means that we are working in the right direction.
With two quads, Trusova still loses to her competitors. Does this mean that easier content is not an option and she still needs to jump four quads?
Dmitri Mikhailov: Sasha did not lose the Russian Nationals, I don’t take it that way – as a loss. Don’t jump to conclusions, it doesn’t mean anything. The man lost when he gave up, and this is definitely not about Sasha Trusova. Sasha, by the way, had the most difficult technical content here, too – with only two quads (In fact, the second after Anna Shcherbakova, but if we talk about two quads, they were more difficult. – ed.). We have a reserve. But you should understand: when I talk about gorgeous performances, this does not mean that we have nothing to work on. Of course, we want to improve and we will do it, we will continue to work on ourselves.
What is important – Sasha has been called the queen of quads for a long time, and this title is with her. But she became much better at mastering the skating, began to feel the music. She is not just a “jumper”, as someone thinks. She jumps well, but she is different now, a big step forward has been made in the presentation of programs. It is impossible not to see it.
Dmitri, let’s talk about you. You are a young coach. When did you switch to this field?
Dmitri Mikhailov: I started to train when I was still in sports, at about 16 years old. All athletes are trying to make a living, sooner or later they have to start giving lessons. At first with the little ones, then I worked with the guys from the group at Sokolniki. After retiring from the sport, a friend invited me to the “Angels of Plushenko” for a try out. Evgeni Viktorovich was not there then, he said – now I can’t, but later we will train together and we’ll see. I started without him, then we worked together for a couple of weeks, he decided to take a group. And he says: “Let’s coach together.” Of course, I didn’t think for a long time. For me it was very cool to work with Plushenko, I was so overwhelmed. I still think I was lucky that time. Now I prove with my work that it was not in vain.
You are a dancer, but before that you were a single skater. Do you primarily work on skating skills or jumps technique?
Dmitri Mikhailov: I have a good technical base of a single skater, it was laid by the amazing coach Inna Germanovna Goncharenko. Therefore, I work on a harness with Sasha Trusova and other athletes. Yes, I was in ice dance for four years, but 12 years before that I was engaged in single skating with literate people. Sorry if this sounds immodest. Of course, I also gained a lot of experience from Plushenko. So yeah, I teach jumps.
So the quadruple loop is your job?
Dmitri Mikhailov: I participated, but the whole staff worked on it.
Can you jump quad yourself now?
Dmitri Mikhailov: Probably I can, but at the cost of my health. (Laughs.) At the winter show, I got all the triplets. At the first training camp after the quarantine, I was so overwhelmed, the guys started to jump, and I wondered what I could do after such a break. I tried triple axel and fell, but did it from the second attempt.
Maybe you should go back to single skating?
Dmitri Mikhailov: No thanks! I already have a coaching career. And the knees are unlikely to allow this.
I heard that there are jumping competitions in Chrustalny. Do you have something like that?
Dmitri Mikhailov: Sometimes Evgeni Viktorovich arranges checks without a warm-up. Athletes go on the ice, take off their jackets and begin to perform jumping tasks. Someone jumps triple axel, someone – a combination. But the main thing is that it happens unexpectedly. In this way, we prepare athletes to get ready when it’s necessary
To avoid misinterpretations, with whom do you work now?
Dmitri Mikhailov: I won’t list them all, there are a lot of people. Sasha Trusova, Sonya Muraviova, Kirill Sarnovski, Sofia Titova, Maxim Avtushenko, Valeria Shulskaya.
How did you start working with Trusova, what was your first impression?
Dmitri Mikhailov: She’s an incredible hard worker, of course. I am, as you said, a young coach, but this is the first time I see a person with such a desire to work. 24 hours a day. She has tens, if not hundreds, of jumps per workout. But she works hard everywhere: at the warm-up, general physical training, on spins and step sequences. Sasha is synonymous of a hard worker. She sees the goal, not the obstacles.
Well, it seems to me that everything worked out for us at once, hope I won’t jinx it. Why? I just made a couple of comments, she asked a couple of times – the advice worked. I usually hold warm ups in full force. And she probably thought, “Not a bad coach, he knows something!” (Laughs.)
But you have a working relationship, you do not ahve conversations on neutral topics right?
Dmitri Mikhailov: We can. I am open to all the guys and I can talk not only about figure skating, but on other topics. Because such communication provides a much-needed trusting contact with an athlete, without dialogue you will not feel it. So there are no taboo topics.
Evgeni Plushenko spoke about the division in the academy into groups, Trusova and Kostornaia do not skate together. Are you comfortable to work in such a format?
Dmitri Mikhailov: Yes, absolutely. I think only about my athletes, unnecessary thoughts never enter my head. I concentrate only on making my guys stronger in every workout.
And how does you working day look like?
Dmitri Mikhailov: At six in the morning I get up, return home at six or seven in the evening. There is lunch, but sometimes I go to additional ice practices to finish the programs. A bit like Groundhog Day, because while in the evening I drove to the store, walked with the dogs, did some housework, had dinner with my girlfriend – it’s already time to sleep. Routine.
Sounds a bit sad.
Dmitri Mikhailov: It’s not sad, no. Now I began to get great pleasure from work and am ready to give my best on it. Because it is very pleasant to work with everyone. After all, the skaters are children, and this is an emotional recharge thanks to the much-needed friendship contact. That is, I do not have this: “Damn, tomorrow I must be back to work.” Rather, on the contrary – I want tomorrow come faster, I want to implement my ideas.
Can Sasha complicate her content? She was bothered with a question about loop, or maybe you also had a question about quadruple axel in training?
Dmitri Mikhailov: Well, now’s not the time. Before the Nationals, Sasha did 50 percent of what she could do – sometimes something didn’t work out, sometimes her physical condition affected. In training, she skated the step sequences stronger, and the jumps turned out better. But who needs it in training? The main thing is to show everything at main competitions, where the main battle is taking place. We have practically assembled the whole puzzle for the Nationals. We’ll work further. Either one detail doesn’t fit, then another, then not everything is possible due to health. We need stability, quality of movements. We really want all the details to come together at the right time.
What is your relationship with the parents of the skaters? Can they come and say, for example, why is my daughter not winning?
Dmitri Mikhailov: There are all sorts of situations, this also happens. We try to talk, explain why there is such a situation now or why their point of view is not entirely right. A parent is a fanatic in his own way and has a right to it. The main thing is that we always have a dialogue.
Are you a liberal person or rather a strict one?
Dmitri Mikhailov: The word “liberal” is generally ambiguous … Let’s go and read the definition. (Opens the Wikipedia article.) That’s not it … But I’m definitely not strict. This is a very conditional division. I am different. If you feel that strictness will give results and increase efficiency, then you turn it on. Someone needs it to understands the seriousness of what is happening. Because sometimes children have their heads in the clouds … among the unicorns. And you need to make it clear that the person is engaged in professional figure skating. And with someone you need to be kinder. You shout and he will close. I combine different styles. But I’m definitely a kind person. And for justice throughout the world. (Laughs.)
Is Plushenko kind?
Dmitri Mikhailov: Yes, I think so. He charges with energy! We have glass doors on the rink, and I, standing near the ice, sometimes see him come in. And everyone feels the energy that charges not only the athletes, but also the coaching staff. He’s a positive person, this can be seen from afar, smiles a lot. Go to the Academy’s Instagram account, look at the emotions of the children, how he leads the warm ups, how he dances with them. Everyone works with the mood. I don’t think these feelings can be played. He is not afraid of, but respected. It is impossible to love someone who is constantly pressing.
I thought it’s very popular in our coaching culture.
Dmitri Mikhailov: Well … It’s artificial love. A person should be endearing, which means that he has some other positive qualities. Or you are not entirely honest with yourself at this moment.
Some gets abstracted from the routine through Instagram. Do you follow battles on social networks or do you have no desire to get involved in this topic?
Dmitri Mikhailov: I definitely don’t interfere, although sometimes I really want to. This does not necessarily apply to the academy, you just go into comments of many famous personalities and you see everything. And you think ” Why are they writing this?” I rarely write comments. When there is interesting content – ok, I’ll take a look. If I don’t like it, I just move on. There is enough delusion, of course. But okay, that’s everyone’s right. I’ve just recently left the sport, so there are emotions. Hopefully it will pass soon.
Do you want to be a coach for a long time?
Dmitri Mikhailov: It’s very difficult for me to make predictions. I can’t even answer my friends if we can go somewhere on Saturday. I answer: “Let’s discuss it on Friday.” Maybe it’s wrong to live like that, but yes, I can’t plan yet, and I just don’t want to make promises. It’s great that my girlfriend treats it with great understanding, she is an athlete herself. I don’t have enough personal time, yes. But I chose this path, and she chose me.
But, being a coach, can you support yourself? These are not extra lessons you started with.
Dmitri Mikhailov: It works for me. But now the prices for extra lessons are crazy. Many, on the contrary, do not want to become coaches, because they will not earn as much as in five hours of giving extra lessons, if you are, so to speak, a strong average.
And no responsibility.
Dmitri Mikhailov: This also. I don’t have any extra lessons now, only with the guys from the academy. And if they come, then they want help. Moreover, they pay money for it. For example, we came to a cafe with you, and we want a good service. Here is the same, you have to work well. And some like just to stand at the boards, I must admit.
Do you have an ideal of a coach? But let’s not name Plushenko.
Dmitri Mikhailov: There is no ideal, I just would like to see the work of such great specialists as Brian Orser, Rafael Arutyunyan, Alexei Mishin, and even Tutberidze’s team – you might be surprised by this answer. Why not? You can learn something from everyone. For my personal development, it would be interesting for me to see the systems of all the coaches who objectively left their mark on figure skating. And then build yourself. And so, of course, Evgeni Plushenko. (Laughs.)