Dmitri Soloviev: Someone thinks, it’s very cool when champions change so quickly that you don’t even have time to get used to them, but not me
Interview with Dmitri Soloviev. About finishing his career, coaching, age limits and contracts in figure skating.
by Elena Vaitsekhovskaya for russiam.rt.com dd.5th September 2020
After winning the team silver at the Olympic Games in Pyeongchang with his partner Ekaterina Bobrova, Dmitri Soloviev twice unsuccessfully tried to return to the sport with another partner, Elena Ilinykh. And only this summer, having agreed to take part in the television show “Ice Age”, he actually admitted that his career was finally over.
When we talked with you a year ago, you agreed that you need to get over sports, deal with the thought that your career has come to the finish line. Have you got over sports?
Dmitri Soloviev: I would say that an occupation has appeared that engages me in work and distracts from such thoughts.
You intended to make the second attempt to pair up with Elena Ilinykh after her son was born.
Dmitri Soloviev: Lena and I did not talk about returning to the sport as such. We just wanted to try to go on the ice, do some elements and see what happens. But almost immediately questions began to arise. With whom to leave the son? How to go to training camps, competitions and combine all this with raising a baby? Lena’s mother works, for her grandmother it’s already hard to sit with the child, Seryozha (dancer Sergei Polunin – ed) is constantly on the road. And it turned out that is actually unrealistic to organize a serious training process.
But did you continue to hope that Elena would agree?
Dmitri Soloviev: Well no. Rather, we both were deceiving ourselves in a certain way. Feelings continued to remain in sports, but brains understood that, probably, our time had already ended and it was time to move on. Moreover, many other opportunities, other doors are opening. For example, the “Ice Age”.
Over the entire period of its existence, have you at least once had a desire to be among the participants?
Dmitri Soloviev: To be honest, I was so in sports that at first I perceived “Ice Age” as some kind of game for those who finished professional sports long ago. I was sure that this definitely wouldn’t touch me, and certainly not the kind of activity that I would like to strive for. But my career flew by so quickly … A year or two before the Olympics in Korea, I suddenly caught myself thinking that it was becoming interesting for me to watch television broadcasts in recording, to notice some things.
Did you also look for a potential partner?
Dmitri Soloviev: No never. Although I thought it would be interesting to work with a professional actress.
You actually spent more than two months as a playing coach. Have you started thinking towards serious coaching work in the future?
Dmitri Soloviev: I know that I can teach a lot, but I don’t see myself as a coach yet. Moreover, I imagine such work a little differently than it is happening now.
What do you mean?
Dmitri Soloviev: I would say that in figure skating world, the free style is in trend now, even abstract. There is no rigid choreographic plot: everything comes from the natural movements of the human body combining with the music.
But many coaches and choreographers work in a similar way now. Why do you consider this a different view on the profession?
Dmitri Soloviev: In Russia it’s less common. Let’s say there is Alexander Zhulin, who, in his work with Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov, is now striving for this direction. But for me and Katya, he always put programs on a certain plot. Plus we had a choreographer Sergei Petukhov, who told a story for each program to make it easier to turn four minutes of skating into a mini-performance. It is clear that in one way or another choreography always comes from one’s own perception of music, perception of a particular movement. But sometimes it is noticeable that people seem to skate perfectly, and do everything exactly how the coach told them, but they are uncomfortable in their bodies and artistic images. It seems to me that it should not be so. Children should be taught to understand movements already at the age of seven or eight. Understand what and why they are doing on the ice.
Why don’t you go to work as an assistant to Zhulin?
Dmitri Soloviev: I don’t think it’s possible. In order to work with high-class athletes, an equally high-class coaching staff is needed. I often cite the example of the Munich Medical Center, where I once treated the knee after surgery. There, each doctor is responsible for his own very narrow topic: someone for the knee ligament, someone for the left meniscus, someone for the right. So it is here: there is a large and very well-coordinated mechanism that works for the result. Let’s say I come. But wouldn’t I be superfluous there with my point of view? Although I would be interested in collaborating with ice dancers.
You already had the experience of independent choreographer work with Sergei Voronov. Didn’t it disappoint?
Dmitri Soloviev: On the contrary, it turned out to be very interesting. Sergei is such a smart athlete that in the process we were constantly moving towards something new – a kind of continuous dialogue where we both understood each other perfectly. I will not name names, but when I see that an athlete from year to year skates, in fact, the same program, only to a different music, I get bored.
But when a skater takes different music, leaving the lay out of the elements practically unchanged, it gives him much more reliability, stability and, accordingly, confidence. Moreover, there is a trick: if certain elements and transitions have already been highly scored by the judges, then the judges will not risk putting lower points in another, and in fact, the same program.
Dmitri Soloviev: I agree with that. Yes, the current rules and all the prescribed requirements to some extent limit the skater’s creativity. But there are transitions between elements, spins where you can fantasize, come up with non-standard solutions. Otherwise, it turns out like in bad melodramas, where the plot is by and large the same: family, love, prosperity, then one day it collapses, the hero loses his job, his friends turn away from him, and he ends up in prison or psychiatric hospital. It is clear that sport is not cinema, but it seems to me that the viewer should not have the feeling that he has already seen all this many times.
The Frenchman Philippe Candeloro used the theme of The Godfather for several years in a row. Two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu has skated the same Chopin concert in the short program for four seasons, and in the free program he has already returned to the Seimei three times.
Dmitri Soloviev: I wouldn’t compare Yuzuru with anyone. His sense of movement is captivating to such an extent that I am ready to watch him endlessly, no matter what he skates. In this, in fact, he differs from those who go on the ice just to do work: here is the hand, here is the head.
If you had a chance to take part in voting for age criteria, in favor of which decision would you vote?
Dmitri Soloviev: Let’s start with the fact that I will hardly ever solve such serious issues.
But deep down, you know your answer?
Dmitri Soloviev: No. Honestly, I do not know what is right and what is wrong here. I fully admit that, in someone’s opinion, it’s very cool when champions change so quickly that you don’t even have time to get used to them. But personally, I am much more interested in a skater who does not give up, fights, overcomes himself. I am sure that this is real sport. When you prove, prove, prove, prove … You experience the moment of growing up, break yourself, learn to win again.
In figure skating, an athlete has a responsibility from an early age. But at 15 you don’t understand this, you just get tremendous pleasure from skating and jumping. Therefore, the girls’ eyes are different – gambling, funny. And very little time passes, and only fear and the burden of responsibility remain there. Why is this happening? I do not know. But overcoming all this is the most difficult thing that happens in sports.
In connection with the recent high-profile transfers of skaters from Eteri Tutberidze to Evgeni Plushenko, your former coach said that the amount of compensation in such a situation should be stated in the contract and amount to € 20-30 thousand. Do you agree with this?
Dmitri Soloviev: When Katya and I switched to Zhulin from Elena Kustarova and Svetlana Alekseeva, we did not have any obligations at all. True, then there were no big titles, no money. This topic was never discussed with Sasha either. There were other agreements that we followed. For example, for some time after completing a competitive career, we give the coaches a percentage of the money we earn. But this was our joint decision. I think this is right. He gave us a lot.
How exactly is the amount of contribution determined in figure skating? Are there any unwritten rules on this subject?
Dmitri Soloviev: Something like that. There is a certain percentage that everyone adheres to.
Relatively speaking, you won the competition and put money in an envelope. At this moment, the thought does not arise: “Maybe I put there a little?”
Dmitri Soloviev: We have always shared everything equally. 50 to 50. That’s usual for a pair.
If in the foreseeable future the question of regulating the relationship between the coach and the athletes by means of a contract does arise, what points would you consider necessary to include there?
Dmitri Soloviev: Complex issue. When an employer puts a contract in front of you, he first of all draws it up for himself. This is always so, in any business. On the other hand, there should be a certain balance.
For example, the condition not to take direct competitors, as it happened twice in Zhulin’s group during the period of your work with him?
Dmitri Soloviev: The paradox is that for me and Katya only benefited from direct competition. Although at first there was a shock. How so? How could he? And then we started to work very hard not looking at anything around. And it turned out that the decision was right. Sasha, I know, was very afraid of our reaction, although in his group we never felt that we were deprived of something. Many transfers are made not because of rivalry, but because people simply lack coaching attention.
Related topics: Ekaterina Bobrova Dmitri Soloviev