Elena Buyanova: “Kostornaia came to me even more psychologically vulnerable, with a fear of jumps. She was afraid to land and break her arm again.”
Coach Elena Buyanova told in the big interview how Alena Kostornaia could come to her earlier, why skaters return to Eteri Tutberidze, why ordinary people will not understand Evgenia Medvedeva, and commented on Artur Danielian moving to Evgeni Rukavitsin’s group.
source: rsport.ria.ru dd. 5th September 2022 by Anatoli Samokhvalov
When a skater leaves you, does it feel like you’ve been robbed?
Elena Buyanova: Absolutely not. I have always said and will continue to say that an athlete has the right to his choice. He has the right to change his life as he sees fit. Of course, we (coaches) are offended, because a whole staff worked for him (Danielian, who had moved to Rukavitsin). It is not clear why it happened in August-September, when all the programs were choreographed.
I understand why they go to Tutberidze – for victories, it is clear why they go to Plushenko – for fame and, probably, money. But why go to Rukavitsin?
Elena Buyanova: I don’t consider it’s right to discuss colleagues, so this question is closed for me, despite the unethical public statements of Athur’s new coaching staff saying that he has zero shape and came with triples. Danielian is a talented athlete, he has both a quad lutz and a loop. He has a whole set of quads, the problem was that he could not work because his legs hurt. We waited three years for him to recover. Maybe in the new coaching staff he will miraculously recover, well we will only be happy for him.
Rukavitsin said that “he does not need medical actions right now, rather, he needs medical control.” What is the difference?
Elena Buyanova: Arthur always had medical control, our doctors are wizards who performed magic over him every day.
I understood these words in such a way that Danielian is healthy.
Elena Buyanova: The week before last, he could not stand on his foot, and now in another city he was healed by another coach?
If you put yourself in Danielian’s shoes, what argument for leaving comes to mind?
Elena Buyanova: Artur grew up before our eyes, and we understand certain reasons, but I don’t think he can say that we didn’t do something for him. Both we and the federation did everything for him.
The first thought in favor of the transition is sparring. Aliev, Ignatov in Rukavitsin’s group, Kondratiuk and Samarin in Sokolovskaya’s group. Fun and productive.
Elena Buyanova: But only Kondratiuk has the result. Having fun training is one thing, sparring is another. Sparring should give results. Naturally, he lacked something, since he left, but usually an athlete understands that he lacks something in the process of work, and we haven’t had a work process as such for three years.
If you change a group for the sake of a cheerful company, why go to St. Petersburg? Kondratiuk and Samarin are next to you.
Elena Buyanova: Also an incomprehensible story of how he ended up in St. Petersburg. In Moscow it would be much easier for him.
And if he went to Sokolovskaya, would there be a conflict inside CSKA?
Elena Buyanova: I became thick-skinned, so I react quite calmly to this.
And when did your become thick-skinned?
Elena Buyanova: I have been participating in the European and World Championships since the age of eleven.
You were the youngest in the Olympic team, everyone loved you.
Elena Buyanova: Of course, they loved, but sport tempers. I look now at my eleven-year-olds, they are not ready for big competitions, and already at their age I “grew up” my skin.
Then I’ll ask this way: whose departure was painful for you?
Elena Buyanova: Artem Borodulin.
That was a long time ago.
Elena Buyanova: Yes, I was young, I had painful emotions, but now I am wiser and calmer. The coach anticipates the departure of the athlete. Six months ago, I told our coaching staff that Danielian could leave. Nobody believed me.
How did you understand that?
Elena Buyanova: Experience. An athlete at such moments changes his behavior, perceives training in a different way. He himself may not notice his changes, but I see everything.
Elena Buyanova: Well, it would have been better if he snapped. It would be easier for him. He keeps everything to himself.
Are you looking inside yourself? What didn’t you give to an athlete?
Elena Buyanova: I do, but I come to objective conclusions. You see, an athlete is always fighting for survival, his parents are fighting with him. They all hurt, children skate with injuries, because there is no athlete without injuries. I myself went through all this, skated with pain, and now I always take care of this. Sometimes too much.
In Tutberidze’s group they have such a profession as “figure skater’s mother”, who should take care.
Elena Buyanova: I have it at the choice of the parents themselves. There are different mothers, someone knows best what music to choose, and someone just gives us a child and “do what you want with him.” Elena Radionova has an ideal mother, Artur’s mother Armine, by the way, is a very grateful and reasonable person. But the son grew up, she will not be his enemy. She must support him. The global problem is that, in fact, there are few mothers who can a shoulder to cry on. I force a child at the skating rink, mother forces at home, it often turns out that a child has no way out. And then, at the age of 15-16, a generational conflict begins, when a person lacks his “I” and begins to push his parents away. And that’s okay too.
Who has the most pronounced ego?
Elena Buyanova: Masha Sotskova, for example. She did not come with phenomenal data. She was a pretty girl who combined femininity, great desire and hard work. Once she had an inflammation of her ankle, a bump was on the arch of the foot the size of a fist. And this leg had to be pushed into the boot. “Masha,” I say. “Let’s not go.” “No, – she says. – I have been going to this goal.”
Then she began to gain weight. She is tall and all her objective disadvantages showed up, under-rotations appeared. Masha ate very healthy, but she was in that age period of a girl when you gain from the air. One day, one coach told me about her skater: it didn’t work out, okay, what can we do with this weight? I didn’t agree. For me, it’s coaching tragedy when an athlete does not fulfill himself.
You asked if I look inside myself. I still torment myself with the question: maybe my problem is in my principle of “tough but honest”? I always say directly what is really happening, and it is difficult for an athlete to hear this ugly truth. The conflict grows, and the skater goes from reality to offence, begins to feel like a victim. I can’t explain softly, that’s my problem, but I still think it’s better to be tougher, but more honest. But at such moments there are always people who are ready to stroke and reassure.
Masha persisted in her ego, which, in my opinion, had such a bad effect of her career. No one believed in her, except for herself, and she went to drastic measures.
Elena Buyanova: Went down the easy path.
Elena Buyanova: The coach is not able to control this situation, but I always explain to the athletes: do not look for easy ways, everything that is easy will then return with a new burden.
Who did not understand your rigidity?
Elena Buyanova: Well, don’t make a monster out of me. In some moments I am generally weaker than anyone.
What did you mean?
Elena Buyanova: For example, instead of pulling out on the ice, I give time to have treatment. Many coaches do not pay attention to this.
So Danielian should be kicked out on the ice more often?
Elena Buyanova: What does Danielyan have to do with it! Everyone goes to have treatment…
Have you ever blamed yourself?
Elena Buyanova: Sure. I am not a god or a king, I know my mistakes. It happened that I pressured an athlete too much. I felt that he could, but he pitied himself. Someone was jealous, and I did not pay attention to it. But if I put everything back, I would still make the same mistakes.
Was it necessary to be tougher with Kostornaia at some point?
Elena Buyanova: I just stopped her in the training process, because I don’t want to see her fractures. I made her do an MRI to understand what problem she has with her hip, what loads we can do. As a result, the MRI showed that she needed surgery.
Did she want to do an MRI?
Elena Buyanova: No. “I’m used to it,” she replied. But then she agreed with me. I am a reinsurer.
Was she offended at you?
Elena Buyanova: Why? Maybe I saved her from a fracture?
No, but in general during these months, when you were just trying to start working together?
Elena Buyanova: We worked, in fact, for a month, during which we choreographed two programs, which she practically prepared, maybe only without one spiral. I have no complaints about her work.
Does this mean that she works hard in training when she is healthy?
Elena Buyanova: Works as much as needed. But while we are talking about a month of work. We’ll draw some conclusions when we’ll have at least six month of joint work. The first year is the luggage of the previous coaching staff. It’s always so.
In my opinion, she had a peak at the 2020 European Championships, and since then she has not improved in anything.
Elena Buyanova: Well, we won’t kill her for this. I can only sympathize the coaching staff of Eteri Tutberidze that all their four leading girls were born almost in the same year. They, in theory, should be each for their own era, but they were born at the same time and knock each other out in competitions. Trusova, Shcherbakova, Valieva and Kostornaia are outstanding figure skaters.
As for Kostornaia. Tutberidze’s coaching staff – what are they good at?
Elena Buyanova: They raised an outstanding athlete. Taking such a girl, I place a huge responsibility on myself. I understand how much hate I will face if she is not ready.
And what is your responsibility has to do here? Look, yes, they made her the European champion, she went to Plushenko, who, as I understand it, created all the conditions for her that she did not take advantage of, all this was aggravated by the coronavirus, she returned to Tutberidze, there again they could not raise her. And now you have her in a condition far from European champion condition. If she came to you in February 2020, I would not ask this question. But now what responsibility are we talking about?
Elena Buyanova: I think that I am still responsible for her and her health, knowing that she came to me not in the best condition, not even with regard to her professional data, namely her health. Therefore, we agreed with her – let’s just try.
So that both of us could understand how she can work after two fractures in a row, which also happened for a reason. She came to me even more psychologically vulnerable, with a fear of jumps.
She was afraid to land and break her arm again. There are many risks, but when you have such a talent as Kostornaia, she needs to be given the opportunity to reboot. If a person has such a desire, of course. And she has it, she is very dashing, curious – even too much. We have not yet been able to try for real, but I cannot leave her in the current situation. I got attached to her already.
You started to work, but haven’t understood yet how compatible you are with each other?
Elena Buyanova: No, I’m not talking about compatibility, but about health. It turned out to be even worse than I expected. Compatibility, it seems to me, is good, we can talk on adult topics.
You also has such a spirit, like her, like Adelina, like Lena Radionova, probably. Probbaly you could have been in one company if you were the same age.
Elena Buyanova: I never bring athletes closer … Only Adelina, we were really close in everything.
Of course, she brought you an Olympic medal.
Elena Buyanova: I did it before Sochi. She trusted me endlessly. We have been with her since the age of eight, I spent more time with her than her parents. When it was announced that the Olympics would be held in Sochi, Sotnikova told me: “I will be an Olympic champion there.”
And a year before the Olympics, she could end her career. There was a period when nothing worked out. She was perfect at training, at the competitions – without six elements. I was so angry. But Adeline had such a psyche.
Sotnikova calls you the second mother. But if she needed a second mother, then Kostornaia is unlikely to need her, because Alena is already an adult.
Elena Buyanova: And I won’t be any second mother to her, she is completely different, and you can’t compare her with anyone. I accepted her for who she is, I’m not going to educate her. And this is how I will train her.
Does she follow you as a coach or does she understand what she needs?
Elena Buyanova: There’re people executors. Like Adelina. She could do whatever I asked her to do. But I remind you that I have been training her since she was eight years old. Peter Tchernyshev, I remember, came to work on programs for her and was amazed that she could do everything. Tarasova was also surprised. After all, Tatiana always gives difficult tasks in order to see the possibilities of a skater in an uncomfortable situation, but everything was convenient for Adelina. She did, and there was no doubt in her eyes. Executor. And Kostornaia is not an executor – she is a co-author. She can offer ideas for programs, and not every athlete is ready for this.
What did Tarasova say about Kostornaia’s transfer?
Elena Buyanova: She was not happy. The first times she came and was not satisfied. I explained to her that Alena had not skated for six months, but this did not convince her. And when we showed her the programs a month later, she liked everything very much. True, she added: “You need to work harder.”
It seems to me that if you take off your rose-colored glasses, then reason and experience suggest: Kostornaia will not have any competitions, she aims at the show. Is there anything true in my ingratitude towards Alena?
Elena Buyanova: Is it true that she would act like this? I can see this happens. We do not know how the surgery will go, how she will recover after it. She probably also has fears about this. But: I have no right to claim it and be offended. Alena is an athlete who realizes that even if she performs only in shows, she will be the best there. And now she didn’t let me down, it’s not her fault that she has such a disease of the joint.
But at the same time, as Irina Viner, likes to repeat at important events, you need an athlete for competitions.
Elena Buyanova: Sure, I’m preparing people not for the show. If an athlete tells me that he wants to compete, then we need to prepare for competitions. You can not sit on two chairs – to compete and earn money in the show.
Did you discuss Alena’s first hand injury?
Elena Buyanova: Of course, I know what was before me, but it is no longer interesting to me. This is not my story.
She was injured, withdrew from the main Russian Nationals in her career, thanks to which she could go to the Olympic Games. Tutberidze said that she could have competed with this injury, Alena said that she could not. Your opinion?
Elena Buyanova: I don’t know for sure whose decision it was to withdraw her from the Russian Nationals. I don’t want to dig into it.
You once told me that Sergei Rozanov, who at that time was Kostornaia’s coach at the Plushenko Academy, was trying to get a job with you. He wanted to go to you with Alena?
Elena Buyanova: Yes. It was right after the Russian Nationals.
You refused Rozanov. And if Alena had asked to join your group alone?
Elena Buyanova: I would have taken her.
Have you thought of that moment?
Elena Buyanova: Why?
To regret. She was younger, and the Olympics were ahead.
Elena Buyanova: This is their life, athletes’, why should I feel sorry for them! She didn’t discuss it with me either. Moreover, she said in an interview that she does not regret her actions.
Do you think these words are sincere? If you didn’t make it to the Olympics with such talent, you can’t help but regret.
Elena Buyanova: Maybe she regrets it, but she can’t admit it. Talented people are more difficult in work, because a lot of things come easy to them. Naturally, it is easier to work with a person like Adelina, who achieves the maximum result due to day-to-day work and the data that she has. Kostornaia is a spark. Such people can not stand monotony. They tolerate it in childhood, but then this genie of talent comes out and goes “yahoo-oo-oo-oo.” And even the best coach will not always cope.
Medvedeva. Were you close to becoming her coach?
Elena Buyanova: No. Zhenya immediately explained her move. She asked to join us because she cannot travel to Canada due to covid restrictions, and Orser will conduct all training online. In general, we have never discussed a full-fledged joint work with her.
When you saw the full picture of her health, including the condition of her back, did not you say: “Zhenya, why do you need all this?”
Elena Buyanova: There were quite a lot of such conversations, but it is very difficult for an ordinary person to understand Medvedeva. Such people are fans since childhood, and Zhenya is also a leader. After Pyeongchang, she lived with a “splinter” and strived for a better result. She even told me once: “Even if my back gathers in one big lump, I will still train.” I have only respect for such a person. And how difficult it was for her, I saw it with my own eyes. But the support of her mother, Zhenya’s self-confidence made her live in hope.
As a result, by training, she only exacerbated her problem, but the result did not work out.
Elena Buyanova: I think that she did the right thing by returning to Tutberidze. All the hatred magically disappeared from her in an instant.
But were you surprised by the news of her return to Eteri?
Elena Buyanova: Hm. Surprised, of course, but the first thing I thought about was the hate addressed to her.
Why do they all come back? Trusova, Kostornaia, Medvedeva.
Elena Buyanova: They return to the coach with whom they had a result. Therefore, those who did not decide to finish completely, come back. I noticed that if you brought up an athlete from childhood, he is still somewhere nearby. He trains with another, and consults with you.
Tutberidze has an authoritarian style of management, from which they are all leaving. Medvedeva found a new home with Orser and shared how she was loved, how they gave her a new life, gave her the right to an opinion, and finally freedom. And then she goes back to the same people who have not changed in a couple of years.
Elena Buyanova: That’s a question to her. Even If I know something, I have no right to talk about it.
But why are they so dependent on that coaching staff?
Elena Buyanova: I will say this: a very competent and comprehensive organization of the process. Athletes, I tell you, are sometimes much smarter than us coaches. Well, everyone started loving Zhenya again in a moment after her return. By the way, I am happy that Alena has cool fans. What a great support! But our fans are not very fond of our other skaters. They choose one, but they don’t see anyone else. They do not know how to appreciate and respect other people’s victories. In your country, you need to love athletes, and not spread rot on them.
Your wishes are in the past. Get used to it.
Elena Buyanova: I’m a normal person and I don’t care. I am thick-skinned and do not live on the Internet. I don’t run social networks, I don’t post a cup of coffee and a new hairstyle there.
But in vain. Now we have to sell ourselves, show our coaching staff, our work…
Elena Buyanova: I don’t suffer from a lack of self-promotion. For me, PR in social networks, these quads in training, quintuples on harness – it’s like network marketing. There is movement, but the result does not improve. The coach’s face is the result.
But without social networks, soon, maybe no one will remember you.
Elena Buyanova: Do I work for the sake of someone remembering me? Our team works professionally, and sooner or later there will be results. I believe in professionalism, not in talks and show off. I won’t accept them. Life still puts everything in its place. Skaters will still come to me. It is a pity that adults come in such a state in which they practically cannot continue their work.
Did your coaching ambitions go away in 2014?
Elena Buyanova: Why? How else to charge athletes without ambition? I don’t understand coaches who work only for money.
So you don’t miss the Olympic Games?
Elena Buyanova: How many of them I had!
Elena Buyanova: No. How to explain… I am very happy with the current period in my life, I work with 12-year-old children, even learn from them, restore skills that are lost when working exclusively with seniors. I have a break in the endless responsibility in the fight for the Olympics. In addition, I have a family that is no less important than the Olympics.
This is what I meant, for you, missing the Olympic Games is not a tragedy, unlike, say, for Mishin or Moskvina.
Elena Buyanova: I admire them. But I have my own understanding of the Olympic theme. If I have a great athlete that I didn’t bring to the Olympics or didn’t give him a chance to made it to the Olympics, then I’ll be very upset. I will recall Sotskova, who won the battle for participation in the Olympics. Due to her character.
I bowed before her. We prepared her for the war she won. If Masha had not got to the Pyeongchang then, it would have been a defeat for me too. For her, only getting there was a triumph, and for us – pride with tears near the locker room. But Radionova not getting to the Games is a tragedy and pain for our entire coaching staff. Because we did not bring her to them, although she was worthy of them. And participation in all the Olympics is not an end in itself for me.