For Tutberidze either you are among the leaders, or you are nowhere
Eteri Tutberidze’s former student Polina Shuboderova who now will represent another country shared her experience of training in this group.
by Dmitri Kuznetsov for sport-express.ru dd. 7th May, 2019
How did you get to the group of Eteri Tutberidze? It’s very difficult to get there.
– I came from Perm to train with Anna Tsareva. I came to her at the age of 11 with double jumps, despite the fact that now everyone jumps all triples including Axel at this age. I’ve been training with her for two years, learned everything and then moved to Eteri Tutberidze. Anna Tsareva calmly reacted to this, with understanding.
But you couldn’t just come to the rink and say “Take me to the group.”
– Eteri Georgievna knew me, saw at competitions. When we asked, she said: “Yes, I know her. There is something to work on, but I take her.” She set a deadline of three months; if there is a result, I’m staying and we continue to work.
Something like probation?
– Not really. We ourselves needed to understand if there was any sense in such trainings when you were at the rink all day. If there had been no result, we would have drawn conclusions, moved to another coach, or quitted at all. But everything was fine, even excellent. In three months I learned all the 3-3 combinations, started to learn them with arms over the head, then it was just coming into fashion. She said – well, let’s go to the training camp.
Did you understand what is the secret of Tutberidze? A whole day at the rink?
– Yes, even when I came to America, all the coaches came to me, wrote notes – how does she do it, how did you jump so much? But I couldn’t tell everything. Well how? Just day after day, from morning to evening, you do the same thing. There is no such thing as “tired, I can’t”. If you are tired or you are injured, you still go on the ice and work. Even if you have two toes broken, you just go and do the same thing a hundred times a day. Two hundredth, if necessary.
With broken toes?
– When I just came to the group, I had an injury, I didn’t know which one and I didn’t tell anyone. It was very painful for me, I could not even wear a sneaker, my toes were blue. But I still jumped, and … it healed itself. In Eteri Tutberidze’s group they say about injuries when it’s something serious, but such minor ones, well they just train with them. Although in America you would have been taken to the hospital and got a month of rest.
It is said that there are also strict requirements for weight. How to keep it? Special diet?
– No. Just weighing every day, you have to right to miss it, just like training. At exactly the same time except for your day off. Your weight can deviate a maximum of 200 grams. And so throughout the year to have stable jumps. All this together gives the result. If I hadn’t monitored, I would hardly have noticed that. Even extra 100 grams affect the rotation.
Noone nowhere pays such attention. Even to your appearance, to clothes, makeup. For many coaches the only important thing is that you work on the ice, no matter what do you wear. Here everything is important, every detail. Not everyone can keep the bar for two or three years. Probably, that’s why people leave.
You were among those who left.
– She is a very strict coach. She was fine with how I progressed. But then … At the training camp in Novogorsk, I got another injury, my heel ached. I still skated, jumped. Could not get out of the rink to put the ice. Every day it was harder to talk with Eteri Georgievna, it seemed she wasn’t interested in working with me. I recovered and came, but she sent me to the younger group with the words: “We’ll see, decide for yourself where you will go, but in principle you can quit.” I actually needed half a year to get her attention . Of course, I gave up.
The younger group wasn’t for small kids, but for those who are just not interesting for her. Including senior skaters. For me it was a disaster. She could miss the trainings of this group. After perfect run-throughs, she could say something like: “Well, in principle, you still can skate.” And when I failed something, it was the end.
Did she pressured psychologically?
– Not actually pressure. She said real things, but in such a way that you were in a stupor and didn’t want to do anything.
And to participate in competitions, you also need to achieve her favors?
– She withdrew me from the competition. There were even such situation that it was announced to me and another athlete before one competition: now you will have a run-through and I will decide whether you go or not. I did everything, she said no. Like, well what is the reason for you to go, to take the last place? Just for her, even the fifth place is the last place. Either you are among the leaders, or you are nowhere.
But you still could go to Russian Nationals.
– If I had competed. But I hadn’t qualified. I skipped competitions. Of course, I trained myself, but I missed three months. Then I realized that I don’t want to do like that any longer. It was necessary to decide either to leave, or to return to the rink, to catch up. I called Eteri Georgievna, she said: “Go to the rink, recover, start jumping”. I came because she allowed me, she watched from the board and said: “I think you need to finish.” At that moment I couldn’t understand her at all.
Did you fail some jump? When did it happened?
– I just went on the ice and started warming up. She sat behind the board, then called me and said: “You see what children we have, what they jump, how they do everything. You can go to the training camp, but do you need it?” Something like – you can be in a group, but that’s all. No chance for growth. And I quitted. I didn’t see any sense to continue. I wanted to train only with her, saw only her as a coach.
Then we went to Viktor Nikolayevich Kudryavtsev to tell him that I was going to quit. Because he was the initiator that I moved to Moscow at the age of 11, he saw, well, my talent. And he said: “If you respect me, then Polina should continue.”
Did you understand why it ended like that?
– I didn’t understand what she meant, there was no clear line. She constantly said that it was necessary to quit, then after good trainings she didn’t say anything. Perhaps to make me angry. She acts like this, and other coaches too. But it didn’t work for me. I take it all straight. Of course, I regretted for some time that maybe I perceived something in my own way, incorrectly. But now I’m glad that everything turned out so that I didn’t stay. Everything for the best.
You were in the same group with Evgenia Medvedeva and Polina Tsurskaya, who also left soon. Have you noticed some problems in the relationship between Evgenia and Eteri Tutberidze?
– In the Olympic season I was no longer in the main group, so I didn’t see. But Zhenya had an injury then, and Alina became the leader. Probably, this also affected. Although honestly, I thought that sooner or later she would leave. Anyway, this moment comes. You can’t skate forever in Eteri Tutberidze group.
And what about Polina?
– We left the group almost at the same time. You know, I didn’t see her having any problems with Eteri Georgievna. I knew some internal things, but these are working moments. In “Chrystalny” there were no scandals or public quarrels in front of everyone at all. Just at one moment you stop seeing this person in the locker room. Yesterday he skated, but today he is not. And then you find out that Polina left the group. And it was the same with everyone – Sergei, Adian (Voronov and Pitkeev – ad) and others.
How do you think why Tutberidze can’t bring men to the top level?
– It seems to me that she is too tough for men’s skating. This only my opinion. But guys need to be given a break sometimes, it is difficult to train quadruples every day. And when there are a lot of little girls who do a dozens of quad attempts in a row just in front of you, it puts pressure. Maybe boys even feel ashamed.
Does Tutberidze talk to parents or to skater more often?
– She says everything directly to the athlete. She tell to your face what she thinks. It doesn’t matter you are 12 or 16. She rarely talks to your parents, only it’s necessary.
But at least outside the rink is she different? Did you have any parties?
– When Diana (Davis, Tutberidze’s daughter – ed.) had a birthday, we went to a cafe near the rink. And there was all the coaches, cake, all the guys from the group. I have been a couple of times at such parties. But Eteri Georgievna is tough and in life too, she’s just such a person.
In fact, if I had not gone to her group, I wouldn’t have achieved what I have. Everything in my head has changed, attitude to work, how to train. I’m grateful to her for that. I would not have achieved this with others.
So, there are more advantages than disadvantages?
– More advantages, of course. The experience I got there is invaluable. Many dream to train with her, to feel this atmosphere of endless work. And I was there for two years. Yes, it didn’t work out, but this is also my fault. Actually this is my fault. But I don’t regret my decision. In any case, I realized what is the price for such results. And if now to start working on the same thing at the same time, then everything is possible, I can do it myself. My goal is the European and World Championships. I want to go to the next Olympics not as a participant, but as a contender for something serious.
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