Elena Buyanova: Radionova can no longer endure pain, it’s very hard for her now
Interview with Elena Buyanova. About Elena Radionova, Polina Tsurskaya, Maria Sotskova, Anastasiya Gubanova and Maxim Kovtun.
by Anatoli Samokhvalov for rsport.ria.ru
Looking at today’s Maxim Kovtun, aren’t there regrets that a lot of time has been lost?
– We can talk endlessly about that. Everything what happened is on his conscience. These are his years. We warn everyone not to make mistakes. As parents warn their children. But they still make mistakes to get a bump on forehead. This is typical of all young people, not just Kovtun. Someone just quickly makes conclusions, but for him it took a long.
Has he changed a lot?
– He realized some principal things. When a person gets into difficult situations, he learns to appreciate what he has. The first condition I set for Kovtun after his return is to lose weight. And I gave him a short time. I wondered whether he can. It turned out that he lost 13 kilos. Got himself in shape from scratch. He pleasantly surprised me, and I understood the seriousness of his intentions.
After so many years of work and torments with him, can you be satisfied in principle?
– In trainings I have no complaints at the moment. There is nothing to be pleased with, we are just starting. This is not even training, but some kind of hard work. Max has never had such a thing. Alexander Uspensky (coach), who is engaged in general physical training helps me a lot with Kovtun also on the ice. This man is the most balanced in our trio. Max and I, let’s say, we are emotional.
Did you “let go of the situation” training him?
– What do you mean?
Well, before, the bet was on him, now it is not.
– What do you mean, it’s not? I don’t take an athlete, just to have him in my group. There’s a bet on everyone who is under my responsibility.
I will ask in another way. Do you spend less nerves on Kovtun now?
– The thing is that he skates with a different attitude than before. I don’t need to force him now. I hope that he began to enjoy his work.
Good. Today, figure skaters divided into two camps: those who adapt to new rules, like Dima Aliev or Mikhail Kolyada, who refuse of what they can do, and those who are holding their line, like Yuzuru Hanyu, Shoma Uno, Alexander Samarin.
– I think that Aliev and Kolyada do not refuse of what they can, they simply do what is more reliable for them now. Coaches always know better what their students are ready to do right now. Everything is much easier than you think. I remember how Kovtun and I collected three quads in one program, then such content was a real breakthrough. He had to go on these three jumps at every competitions, and we prepared him so that he would learn to combine these elements. It is extremely difficult for an athlete to withstand such moments because of extreme concentration. But it’s possible, as practice has shown. If Nathan Chen and Sasha Samarin are technically more perfect, they bet on their strengths, and Kolyada has swag, spins and skating skills. The same is about Aliev.
But it isn’t solid for a man to skate without a lutz now.
– What does it mean “without lutz”? It’s not solid to skate without quad, of course. But I’m always for harmony. A person should jump and skate, and not to choose what is better.
At the end of the training session, you stayed with Anastasia Gubanova. A couple of times it seemed to me that on the ice was not Anastasiya, but Adelina Sotnikova.
– Peter Tchernyshev also told me this when he worked with Nastya on the program. She and Adelina have something in common – speed, lightness. But Nastya has her own personality. They are completely different with Adelina in character. Gubanova is unusual, fast, has sharp movements. But she also needs time to become better.
Is Nastya modest?
– She’s a real athlete. The one with whom you can communicate, she has her own opinion and I like that. She is able to explain her mistakes, which make the work of the coach easier. She can take a punch. It happens that a figure skater just listens to your monologue, but with Gubanova we always have a dialogue.
It seems that this skater has it all, but there’s a feeling that she is skating for herself. She doesn’t open to the public.
– Nothing just happens, If she hasn’t learned this, we must teach her. This comes with experience and with the number of competitions, she is just starting her sports life at senior level, and she has a lot of potential. If you take the top ten girls at the Russian Nationals, they all do almost the same thing, only someone is first and someone is tenth. That’s the skill of a coach. But provided that the athlete himself wants to be the first, not just to be.
Do you have those who just want to be?
– What does she have to do with it? No need to guess. There are such and I have nothing to add.
What can you say about Elena?
– She has a health problem since childhood that is not related to sports. Always, when she skated, she constantly fighted with it. She lived with this problem. Smiled, but constantly felt pain. But a moment has come when she doesn’t have strength to endure it and she doesn’t want to anymore. This situation reminds me when an athlete cannot get himself together. It happens very often in sports. But we have to give her that. Knowing about her problem, Lena was constantly treated, three times a week by the doctors, who continuously helped her to restore. She’s been showing herself as a fighter for all these years, she performed and always lit up everyone with her smile. I am the first to announce this problem, which in fact she has always had. The moment has come when she can no longer endure. It’s very hard.
– Mostly yes, but there’re other difficulties which go from the back. Therefore, we understand Elena and admire her fighting qualities.
Tatiana Tarasova, who cares about Radionova, told me that problems are from the lack of self-discipline, related to nutrition.
– Of course. We used to the fact that an athlete shouldn’t be an ordinary person. But there comes a time when he shows ordinary human weakness. You talk to him, he understands everything, but he cannot do anything. Lena had the same situation, she understands many things, but cannot cope with herself. When she was small, everything worked out quickly and easily, but now she’s grown up and it doesn’t work the way she wants.
Are there any recovery times?
– No. No one can predict. She goes to practices, skates, but in a minimum amount and without loads.
Is this season over for her over?
– I can’t say anything, because I don’t know how the recovery will go. Doctors don’t guarantee a speedy recovery.
But isn’t it better for you to withdraw the athlete from the current season’s competitions and let her to recover?
– I don’t force her to perform if she cannot. And what will happen next month, I don’t know. Nobody is going to write her off. She deserved it with her career and we must do everything for her to make it to the end.
When you form a group, do you calculate risks?
– Of course! When you take a senior athlete, it is always a risk. And if she is a top athlete, then everyone remembers only her best time and no one pays attention that she is becoming older, but the old problems do not disappear. I always ask myself the question: what do I want from this athlete? But you can’t calculate how it works out. There many secondary factors that may affect. Junior figure skater and senior figure skater are two different people. And you can’t cling to the junior results entering senior sport. These are two different lives. There’re more overcomes, more disappointments and they are perceived more strongly. Being a junior, an athlete works with enthusiasm, but then she grows up and learns to sacrifice. And the strongest survives in such cases. For example, I took a little girl who was capable of lot, but she turned out to be cowardly. But this does not mean that I had to break her psyche and knock out from her things that she wasn’t ready to do. But I always admit my mistakes.
But when Radionova comes to you – this is..
– … of course, this is risk. Big risk. But this doesn’t mean that the previous coach was bad, and I’m good, or vice versa. When an athlete leaves, it means he feels discomfort. For example, we have done a great job with Lena. But sometimes it happens that some stereotypes are imposed on the athlete. Lena herself told me that we did more with her than she has done during the two previous years. But it still didn’t work out. She really wanted to get to the Olympics. Maybe only because of this she changed the coach. Last season, she was very well prepared, she had the minimum weight. But we both underperformed somewhere. It was a huge disappointment that she didn’t make it to the Olympics. Disappointment not in each other, but in a result. Maybe in my group she was too calm. Calmer than it was necessary. But we got along with her, although she is very complicated person, and I loved her.
At the start of the season, Radionova is out of the game, Polina Tsurskaya ia without a proper result, Artur Danielyan did not make it to the Junior Grand Prix Final, Masha Sotskova unsuccessfully started at NHK Trophy. Is it a damage of your reputation?
– No. As a coach, I never think about my reputation. I think only about the result of the athlete. If I, the coach who prepared the Olympic champion, have faced some kind of setbacks and now I will think about my reputation … It’s not even interesting for me. During my career I saw a lot of coaches having their ups and downs. Who knew that Artur (Danielyan) on the background of physical growth will start to have problems. He is a great talent, we just need to go through this period, for boys it lasts about two years. Yes, somewhere he didn’t show character, but what to do now? Believe me, this doesn’t affect my reputation, I don’t have such a vanity to think about what they think of me.
Did you find out why Tsurskaya gets low scores at competitions?
– Last year there were nuances, but they were always counted in favor of the athlete. Now she is judged strictly. But she goes to the ice with a backache, leg pain. 16-18-year-old girls come to us with the same problems that they had. Polina wants to skate, and my task is to help her.
Did the strictness of judging became a surprise for you this season?
– Yes, and I believe that today skaters are being punished not for what they need to be. For example, a quadruple lutz, and when I see that they count it under rotated I become indignant. Because, as a specialist, I see that an athlete makes the minimum possible mistake, and in general, he performs this most difficult jump qualitatively. This is some kind of manic. The judges pay attention not to what develops figure skating, but to the little things. Skater performs step sequence amazingly and he doesn’t get the proper marks for it. For me, this is a big nonsense. But this year, alas, will be like this. At the same time, some judges will give scores in accordance with the paper. But I think the professionals are those judges who analyze. You shouldn’t infringe figure skaters who are not afraid to take risks. And it’s absurd to punish such people for some small mistakes.
Is Elizaveta Tuktamysheva able to compete on equal with Alina Zagitova and Evgenia Medvedeva?
– Taking into account what she showed at the two Grand Prix, of course, she can and should. But Zagitova and Medvedeva still set the tone in women’s single skating. Liza is a wonderful technician who jumps great, but Zagitova and Medvedeva are remarkable because they progress from year to year and every year they are in the top. There are two skaters who dictate fashion in figure skating, but the Japanese are catching up, and they use the same methods as ours, ultra-c elements. But for now everyone is just trying to reach the level of Zagitova and Medvedeva.
You see, we have a lot of talented girls, but only a few of them are bright ones. Those who can win. It seems that there are a lot of them. But not so much after moving to seniors. It’s great that Zagitova found the motivation to continue after the successful Olympic Games. I know how difficult it is. I respect her and her coaches for this. Zhenya Medvedeva has more motivation to skate – she needs to prove that she is one of the best in the world.
Were there any precedents like Zagitova, when a person wins at the Olympics, grows up physically and does not slow down in the level of skating?
– Well, in fact Alina hasn’t start to grow yet. Everything is still ahead for her. But this does not detract from her merits, she performs well. In my opinion, there is even more merit of coaches.
Why Masha Sotskova’s first competitions was Grand Prix?
– The beginning of the post-Olympic season goes not as usual for her. Preparation for exams in GITIS, the study itself. I think that a professional athlete should devote himself to training completely. In addition, after the test skates, she wasn’t careful her feet and rub them with her boots. Therefore, we did not perform at scheduled starts. Everything is banal.
How can Masha add lightness to skating?
– Masha is Masha. Polina has natural power, Masha has more grace. Masha is working very hard to improve all the qualities, she works a lot on skating skills with Maxim Zavozin, like all of our skaters, and with the choreographer Irina Tagaeva she works on programs every day.
Aren’t Tsurskaya’s programs too minor key?
– Look at all her children’s programs, she was never a “jolly”. The emphasis has always been placed on her athleticism, and I believe that this is correct, this is advantageous. Not everyone can show powerful jump and be fun on the ice. While she can’t express emotions. She has jumps, but she absolutely don’t understand the emotions. Tatiana Tarasova together with Irina Tagaeva are trying to develop this in Tsurskaya. In the short program Tarasova gave her a waltz, so that she looked a little more feminine, because you have to start small, so that the person would develop. It is impossible to change her in the free program immediately. You know, sometimes a skater comes and can’t do a jump from new entry. He’s been skating like this for ten years, most likely, he will continue so. Because he doesn’t know how to develop.
What is the role of Tarasova as Tsurskaya’s coach?
– I myself asked her to help because we didn’t have much time to do the programs for Polina. She, together with Nikita Mikhailov did programs in a short time, for which many thanks to them. Tatiana Anatolievna works in our group with all the guys, but especially with Polina, because they improve the program, and also Tarasova helps her to cope with anxiety. Polina has a lack of self-confidence. That’s weird after all, right? She’s a powerful figure skater, but there is no confidence. Human confidence. And Tatiana Anatolievna perfectly knows how make an athlete believe in himself. And it seems to me that Tarasova believes in Polina.
It is strange to hear that Tsurskaya doesn’t have confidence. When she won the Grand Prix Finals at the junior level, she confidently told me that she did not need any advice.
– You noted correctly – at the junior level. Now she’s completely different. Today everything is much more difficult for her. But I wish her, as I wish all our athletes, to achieve as much as possible in sports, because, alas, the career of a figure skater does not last long.