Elizabet Tursynbayeva: “Probably I lacked a “kick” from Eteri Tutberidze to jump a quad”
Interview with Elizabet Tursynbayeva, 2019 World silver medalist and the first female skater to land a quadruple jump in senior competition. About her career, training in Russia and Canada, and recovering from the injury.
source: the-steppe.com dd. 7th September 2021
Tell us more about your experience of training in Moscow.
Elizabet Tursynbayeva: I was born in Moscow and have lived most of my life here. This is my hometown. I started skating and took my first steps on the ice in a Russian school “Moskvich”. At first they didn’t want to take me, there was a very tough selection, but they still took, since my brother had already trained there.
I really love my first coach – Irina Strakhova. She is a real professional, very open: she always speaks the truth to your face. She gave me a good base. The last time I saw her was in 2018. I hope she’s doing well.
After “Moskvich” for some time I trained at CSKA with Svetlana Sokolovskaya, I also love her very much. When we meet at competitions, we communicated well.
After CSKA I moved to Khrustalny to Eteri Georgievna. It was scary before the first training session, but they took me right away. For a long time I had a cold feeling in my stomach when I saw her, although I still have.
The first time it was hard in training and unusual because of such a heavy loads. But in less than a year, I learned all the triples and combinations and worked on triple axel with might and main. Eteri Georgievna gave me very cool programs that season, I still adore the short program to Edvard Grieg “In the Cave of the Mountain King” and the free program to the music from the TV series “The Magnificent Age”.
How hard was it to leave Eteri Georgievna Tutberidze after a year and a half of joint work?
Elizabet Tursynbayeva: When I came to Eteri Georgievna in 2012, she did not coach foreigners, and I represented Kazakhstan. Eteri Georgievna offered me to represent Russia, as she probably saw potential in me.
I’ve trained with her for a year and a half, and during this time I learned a lot: I won the Moscow championship, entered the top five at the Russian junior championships, and got into the Moscow and Russian national teams.
When I approached the age when it was necessary to go to the main international competitions (grand prix, junior world championship), at the family council it was decided that I would represent Kazakhstan on the world stage. I could skate for Russia, because I had all the chances: at that time no one had tried ultra-c there, but I was practicing. I was very small, which was perfect for multi-rotational jumps. I think Eteri Georgievna understood this, therefore she offered me to work on them and believed in me.
When I came for a month in 2017 to the Tutberidze group, I already jumped quadruple, although the girls were just learning these elements. But it so happened that I jumped it at the competition only in 2019. I probably lacked a “kick” from Eteri Georgievna. Although the 2017-2018 season in general was not the best for me due to injuries.
The change of coach in 2013 was very difficult for me. I remember how often I dreamed about Eteri Georgievna, no matter how strange it may sound. On a subconscious level, I did not want to leave this group, for a year and a half I became close to them and I liked it there.
Why did you decide to leave for Canada in 2013 and what difficulties did you face when moving?
Elizabet Tursynbayeva: Brian Orser was the coach of Yuna Kim, the Olympic champion at that time, so we decided that this was the best option for me. The move was difficult, we waited a very long time for a visa, about six months.
Up to this moment, I trained in shopping malls on public skating.
My mother was always next to me, drove me to different skating rinks (we were constantly looking for places with fewer people, in Moscow all skating rinks are always jam-packed).
In the sports complex where I mainly trained, public skating began at six or seven in the morning. We lived far from this rink, so we left the house at five in the morning. I was preparing for very important competitions, but I did not have the necessary conditions that a professional athlete needs. At my first grand prix in Minsk, I took second place – this was a great achievement for me after everything I had gone through. I was given a visa only after all the grand prix.
I came to Canada with almost zero knowledge of English, so it was not easy to communicate with my new coach. Despite all the difficulties, the experience in Canada was invaluable, and Brian is an excellent coach, not without reason he is considered one of the best.
Your performance at the 2019 World Championships was phenomenal. It was a truly historic event. Tell us about it and how you felt.
Elizabet Tursynbayeva: I was incredibly happy, because all my many years of work and the work of my parents finally bore fruit. People only see the performance, but they have no idea how much is behind it.
It took me a long time to achieve this victory over myself. I think it was only thanks to the fact that I was the only one among women who jumped a quadruple at that World Championships that I managed to get into the prize-winners. Without a quadruple, I wouldn’t have a chance, even if I had performed clean all the same elements as the other girls. This jump became my ticket to the pedestal.
And of course, nothing would have worked for me without Eteri Georgievna and the entire coaching staff of Tutberidze. They opened me up as an athlete, combined all my strengths, gave me the training I needed. They taught me to believe in myself. Thanks to a cleverly built training system, for the first time I felt that confidence at the competitions, which helped me to perform as I performed.
What do you tell yourself before the skate at competitions? Is there any special tradition?
Elizabet Tursynbayeva: There is no tradition, I do not carry talismans with me. I’m not a superstitious person. In fact, the way you prepared and worked in training, the way you will perform. Soft toys and words won’t help if you don’t work well in trainings.
Is participation in the Olympics different from participation in the World and European Championships?
Elizabet Tursynbayeva: Of course, the Olympics are a special event. Children have dreamed of getting there since childhood. Although for me all the competitions were equally important, be it the Olympics or just an international competition, I always tried to prepare on maximum.
Have there been times when you wanted to leave the sport?
Elizabet Tursynbayeva: Yes, when the back problems started. It happened in August 2019. I don’t know how it happened. All this was unexpected for me, because I made big plans for that season. It all started with minor pains, and they grew at a rapid rate, within a week.
I tried everything in the world. When nothing helped, I turned to a German doctor. He diagnosed a stress fracture and said that I needed a year off to fully recover. We agreed that I would give rest to my back for six months. I just had no choice.
I have been given many diagnoses, one of them is Bertolotti’s syndrome. As far as I know, this is a rather rare anomaly, and symptoms begin to appear only after a certain age. After six months, I did not feel any improvement, and then I began to have thoughts of retirement.
Thinking about my future, I decided to start preparing for entering to one of the most prestigious universities in Russia – MGIMO. I realized that if the situation with the trauma does not change, I will have to move on. After nine months, I felt some relief and returned to training. At that time, I had already entered MGIMO, so I had to combine training with study.
The recovery was difficult and slow. It took me long time to start jumping again, because during the break I did not even bounce. I completely forgot this feeling in the air during the jump, my twist and vestibular apparatus was far from desired. Unfortunately, I didn’t fully recover my back.
How much is figure skating in Canada and Russia different from Kazakhstan?
Elizabet Tursynbayeva: We will not go into details of figure skating in Canada, there is a completely different system and mentality.
This sport has existed in Russia for a very long time, while in Kazakhstan it was born relatively recently. We do not have many athletes going to the international competitions, and even more so taking places on the podium. In Russia, figure skating is currently very popularized: all the main competitions are shown on TV, and events are widely covered in the media, respectively, more and more fans appear, which cannot but rejoice.
In Kazakhstan, summer sports are more famous, they are more affordable. But our people start to show more and more interest in figure skating. I think we are moving in the right direction.
Where do you see yourself in a few years? Will the future be about figure skating or something else?
Elizabet Tursynbayeva: It is very difficult to predict, but I think that my future will be associated with figure skating, I have devoted almost my whole life to it. It’s not easy just to walk away from it and do something else. I would like to develop this wonderful sport in Kazakhstan. For example, we annually hold an event for my prizes in Kyzylorda. This year 285 athletes participated. It was a great joy for the children, as the competition was difficult to hold due to COVID-19. But despite the difficulties, the competitions went well. Now in Kyzylorda I help children and share my experience.
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