“Early retirment is inevitable, not Tutberidze’s problem.” CSKA coach Sergei Davydov’s opinion
Interview with coach Sergei Davidov. About coaching style, PR on Instagram and complication of the jumping content of his skaters.
by Dmitry Kuznetsov for sport-express.ru dd. 15th October 2020
Sergei, congratulations on Liza Berestovskaya victory. Are you satisfied with her performance?
Sergei Davidov: With quads it is difficult to skate the program further, but I’m glad that she generally coped, although there were mistakes. At the training session before the competitions, she did two quads, during the performance they also turned out, but something else did not.
You’ve probably heard skepticism about her quadruple, they say, it is either under-rotated or lowered to a triple …
Sergei Davidov: This is such a delicate matter! If you watch current video replays, which show jumps very well from different angles, then you can find fault with almost any landing. The majority get at least q (under-rotation exactly on a a quarter – ed.), there are few clear ones. Here is a question to the judges, how they see it.
Are you keeping the Kalinka-Malinka program for this season?
Sergei Davidov: At the stage in Moscow, she skated Kalinka, but we will finish two stages, and then we will think about changing it. The main task, of course, is to qualify for the Junior Nationals. Of course, she grew out of this program. In principle, we started to change it, we even found the music and started to work on the new program, but then we thought that there was too much skipping of competitions. There is no time to prepare the program well. We decided to change only the short one. And if everything goes well with the results, in the middle of the year we will do a new free program. She will have a sufficient break before the nationals.
That is, “Kalinka” is still a little childish?
Sergei Davidov: I agree, it is childish, but it depends on how to skate it. If you skate it well and strong, then this feeling will go away. “Polyushko” is also a folk song, but they skate to it, and it’s ok.
Anna Frolova is the formal leader of the Russian Cup now. Is it necessary to strengthen her content for the Russian Nationals?
Sergei Davidov: We are working a quadruple now, a lot. While we were preparing for two stages, of course, we put the quad aside. It was necessary to polish the program. Now she has completed the task, and we will focus on the quad.
You have two rising stars in juniors, Samodelkina and Berestovskaya, Frolova is also progressing. Have you already faced internal competition, which is actively discussed in relation to other schools?
Sergei Davidov: We are always support competition. This is the engine of development, you just need to keep it healthy. Girls have to fight with each other on the ice, but not outside it. We always try to explain this. For now, fingers crossed, everything is peaceful. Of course, they look at each other. Someone did more quads, the other says: “I want more.” And this is good.
Do you position yourself as a tough coach or liberal?
Sergei Davidov: For some reason, many say that I am a tough coach. But I, of course, do not consider myself as such. Strict – yes. In today’s sport and especially figure skating, it’s impossible to do without rigour. Athletes must clearly fulfill all tasks, which is achieved only through rigor. This is an adequate position of the coach; he simply demands a result from the athlete. We never use obscene language in training, not a word, no one calls names, no insulting jokes. Of course, the tone sometimes rises, but within the bounds of decency.
If you see a skater with a chocolate, what will you do?
Sergei Davidov: It depends on which skater. And depending on what kind of chocolate. There is black, bitter chocolate, which is healthy but not tasty. The same Liza can eat a piece. They have a day off when they are free to do whatever they want. The main thing is to keep everything in normal proportions, so it does not harm the work process.
Is a diet necessary for everyone?
Sergei Davidov: Yes. Even the one who is thin should eat right. He or she must choose the right diet, not like everyone else have, but which is right for them as athletes. It is very important.
Now they talk a lot about PR. Eteri Tutberidze presented her new agent on Monday, Evgeni Plushenko is obviously promoting his academy by all means. Are you for PR or a coach – is only about sport?
Sergei Davidov: Of course, at the present time you need to think about promotion.
You had a story with Maxim Belyavsky’s jump in five turns, which “went well in media”.
Sergei Davidov: We did not want to make PR on it, it was just a coincidence. There was no goal to create fuss, especially jumping it with harness – still there was a safety net. And we never counted on such a reaction. Correspondents called every day. At some point I said: “Maxim, it’s enough.” You don’t need this PR to overflow.
Are Instagram posts with picking not your style?
Sergei Davidov: In general, we never tease anyone, we do not swear with anyone, we do our job. We post only our work and do not talk about someone else’s activities. We have no purpose to say where’s bad, where’s good, we say about ourselves. From the very beginning, we chose this position, and in principle I do not see another one. You have your own business – discuss them. For everything else, there are judges.
How do you like judging in Moscow? Let’s follow your logic – could Frolova have scores more?
Sergei Davidov: If she had skated better. Anya made her mistakes, she knows about them. In the short program, she confused the side going on one of the jumps, got scared. The consequences of anxiety that disorients a person. With experience, she will begin to find landmarks on the boards and everything will be fine. Also she didn’t finish the spin. There are a lot of little things that make up the score. We talk a lot about this. She performs the basic level, lands the jumps, but everything else needs to be done now on a big pluses. We often explain this.
Is there “mushrooms” (undeserved markups from judges – ed.) in Russian figure skating?
Sergei Davidov: I don’t think there are “mushrooms”. But there is a rating policy, some skaters have earned a certain rating, reputation, but they did it with their own labor. Therefore, they get a little more than the others, performing the element in about the same level.
Have you ever heard whistling at a competition?
Sergei Davidov: Well, even here I didn’t really hear it… True, I just watched the broadcast. But still there was no whistle like in football or hockey. So I cannot comment.
Until recently, you were almost the only competitor of Tutberidze in quads. Then Elizaveta Tuktamysheva made it, but now another school has appeared, which is clearly competitive. Wouldn’t it be difficult for CSKA to survive in conditions when the financial and infrastructural capabilities of rivals are stronger?
Sergei Davidov: You know, this is closely related to the topic of children’s transfers. You can’t force someone to like you. If a person wants to go to a place where there is more finance, as Trusova and Kostornaia did, they will go, and you cannot hold them back. I’ll make a reservation that I don’t know the whole background, but it looks like they were offered more favorable terms. In this case, everything is inside the athlete, he didn’t like something – he turns around and leaves. There is nothing we can do.
Did anyone offer you to switch clubs?
Sergei Davidov: No. (Smiles.) Everything suits me in my current school, it creates all the conditions for me. I’m not interested.
But your skaters definitely got such offers. From more than one school, as far as I know.
Sergei Davidov: Yes. But … We’re holding on for now. And we will hold on, I think.
On the strong-will forces?
Sergei Davidov: Why strong-willed? You just have to come and do the work. If a person is interested, wants to achieve something, he does not think about anything else. Where do these thoughts come from? When problems start. We also talk a lot about this. Yes, it can be hard. But you have to endure, and it is easier to endure together.
Were there cases when a person came and said: “That’s all, I’m leaving, and you discouraged them?
Sergei Davidov: Yes. Anya Tarusina left last year, however, she didn’t go to another coach, she left figure skating. She come and said: “I can’t take it anymore.” We talked that we should go through this difficult time, everyone has it, and everything will fall into place. She hesitated for two weeks, but then said – I quit. I remember, they wrote a lot in the press that we couldn’t make her stay. But what can we do? Should we keep her by force? The person made a decision.
Well, yes, there is also life besides of figure skating. Do we overestimate its role? Sometimes it seems that children are kept in it artificially.
Sergei Davidov: I don’t know, we have a group of children born in 2013-2014, I look at them – most children want to do figure skating themselves. They come with such a desire! I see that parents are almost not involved in the process. Parents are not allowed to the skating rinks noe. That is, they brought children to the door – that’s all, then the person continues to live his life. And here their individual qualities show up, and not the desire of their parents, when they brought them by the hand, put on the skates, stroked the head after training, gave a sandwich. No, here they are on their own. They are already doing laces themselves. And what is wrong – you know how to lace sneakers, but not skates? If you lace them poorly four times, for the fifth time it will work.
I have read on the Internet that you allegedly do not really recognize psychologists. True?
Sergei Davidov: No. I recognize psychologists, they can correct some nuances, they need to be trusted. But I am against the globalization of their role. If a person is nervous at the competitions, it is very difficult to overcome. I had acquaintances – training champions, worked with three psychologists, then come to competitions – and everything was useless. It shouldn’t be so that go to a psychologist – and he will teach you how to perform.
Probably this question was asked so many times, but maybe something has changed. What is the key to the success of quads?
Sergei Davidov: Everything is standard – the number of attempts, preparatory exercises. But it is not enough to learn it, it requires constant support. The musculoskeletal system works at such a limit that it is necessary to constantly keep it on weight. This is more important than just being able to jump. Many people know how now. But when the jump leaves – you have to start all over again.
Until now, the coach who taught quads, Eteri Tutberidze, had people leaving early. Would you be offended if your students retire at 17?
Sergei Davidov: See, this is inevitable, and not a question of Tutberidze or someone else. If we talk about girls, they start to grow up, get heavy and become slow. And what is a quadruple? It is maximum speed and lightness. A little heavier – everything goes away. Then you lose. It’s very hard to endure failures. There are few people who continues to skate taking 10-12 places after being champions. Tuktamysheva, Leonova come to mind.
But Elizaveta has endured, now she is again in the fight for the national team.
Sergei Davidov: Honor and praise to her. I only admire such athletes who can tolerate the flow of a known substance on the Internet. Not everyone is ready for this, but you become unnecessary, because young people come and beat you. We tried to explain Anya that no one throws her out because something is not working out now.
That is, you admit that the same Samodelkina has four years left in sports?
Sergei Davidov: They all have the same problems, gained a little weight – it becomes difficult. We sit down and talk. There will be problems, everything can’t be always good. For some, performances depend on the season. So everything is aimed at showing that patience is the main thing in sports. In general, we talk a lot, but we try not to overload the brain. (Smiling.) Those who are older, probably, it’s possible to lay off a little bit sometimes. But all the same, everyone must do a certain amount of work, this is our rule.
The main event of the last stage of the Russian Cup was the battle between Trusova and Valieva. It seemed that Kamila was affected by the pressure of senior competitions, to which she was not used.
Sergei Davidov: I just think that Kamila began to grow up. Yes, 14 years old, but all children grow up differently. This is not a question of psychology, Kamila is a staunch athlete. In general, all the girls were great, they do complex elements after such a pause. We forget about it, many say – well, it was already long ago. But it is still reflected. You have to catch up on such a vacation as long as it lasted.
Podium: Trusova – Valieva – Usacheva – fair?
Sergei Davidov: For me, the first two – fair. We say that these girls tried quads, triple axels and did generally a different-level program. And the difference is minimal. In my understanding, there were two people of about the same level, and Daria did well, she skated great, there are no questions. But without ultra-c.
It turns out that technique comes first for you?
Sergei Davidov: In today’s figure skating, everything is important, from the quad to the step sequence. If you begin to lack at least something, you will lose victories.