“I came from training and saw Kamila running around the stadium. Red like a tomato! The 8-year-old run 12 km, which for her age seemed unrealistic.” Interview with Valieva’s first coach Igor Lyutikov
Interview with Igor Lyutikov, the first coach of Kamila Valieva. In an interview with Match TV, Lyutikov spoke about his contribution to the formation of Kamila as a skater and vivid stories illustrating her character. The coach also analyzed his past mistakes and explained how his former athlete got so much strength and psychological core.
source: matchtv.ru dd. 13th February 2022 by Marina Chernysheva-Melnik
Igor Lyutikov was one of the first coaches of Kamila Valieva when she just moved to Moscow from her native Kazan. It was he who taught the future Olympic champion all the double jumps and the first triple when he himself was just starting his coaching career.
How and when did you meet Kamila?
Igor Lyutikov: It was at the beginning of 2014. At that time I was engaged in choreography and created programs for various skaters. Once my former coach Marina Kudryavtseva asked for a program for her little skater. I liked that the girl was very stretched and glides well. So, she can be given interesting elements and transitions. I came up with a children’s program, and with it Kamila took 6th place in the city competitions. I remember how her mother Alsou was very happy, but at first I did not understand why. Alsou explained that her daughter had not had such achievements before, especially at the capital level. Soon Marina Kudryavtseva retired and gave me Kamila. At that time, I was just getting a permanent coaching job and was glad that a colleague entrusted me with a talented child.
Did you immediately realize that this girl has a great future?
Igor Lyutikov: Let me tell you a couple of telling stories. The championship of Moscow was planned, 50 girls planned to participate in the “younger age” category. When we were getting ready, I suggested Kamila learning the double axel. The motivation – to make a birthday present for her mother. We mastered the jump in the shortest possible time, as a result, Kamila, the smallest of the 50 participants, qualified for the free program and made a sensation there with the Swan program to the music of Saint-Saens. I was later jokingly told that the association with the name of the composer, Camille, helped. In one evening, 15 thousand people watched Kamila’s video on the Internet. At that time, there was no such boom in views, especially of baby skaters. It was wow! Kamila proved that she knows how to pull herself together at the right moment. And she’s also was coping with popularity well: after a surge of attention, she calmly continued to work, without star fever. And now, watching her interview, I see that her behavior is the same as during the time of our joint work.
Once I punished Kamila by mistake. A new girl came to the group, and Kamila was very jealous of her. But she tried to hide it – she just turned away and cried. One day I asked Kamila to show this girl how to do the steps correctly. She perfectly knew how to do them, but showed them poorly. I understood that it was on purpose. I got angry, again asked to show what we had recently learned. Kamila showed even worse – obviously out of spite. I say: “Now I will send you to run 10 circles.” We have a stadium right next to the skating rink, and it’s 15 degrees celsius outside. Kamila does not obey, and I say: “Now you will run 20.” She is even more mischievous, I say: “Now you will run 30 circles.” In the end, I gave up and went to train other skaters. An hour later I go out and see: Kamila is running around the stadium. Red like a tomato! I call her and ask: “How many cicrkles did you run?”. – “26”. I say: “Well, are you going to obey the coach now?”. – “Yes, I will”. – “Will you finish the remaining 4 circles?” In the end, the 8-year-old did all 30 circles. This is a total of 12 km, which for her age seemed unrealistic. So much Kamila was persistent and trained. I realized that this child is a godsend for sports.
Judging by these examples, Kamila, as a child, definitely set herself up for success in big sports. How do you think, where did an 8-year-old child get an understanding that one must overcome oneself so much for the sake of the result?
Igor Lyutikov: I think it’s an innate quality. It happens when one superchild in a million. Even at the first joint training, I noted Kamila’s diligence and determination. She attracted those around her with her charm and energy: when she skated programs, other coaches who were present at the rink could not take their eyes off her. The family situation also played a role. Mom left the well-established life in Kazan for the sake of her daughter, brought her to Moscow and pulled in a foreign city alone. She worked at several jobs and gave everything for the development of Kamila. They rented an apartment near the ice rink, and Kamila almost always went everywhere by herself. My colleagues and I sometimes accompanied the child home, because Alsou could not pick her up during the day. It also was very endearing: small in age and at the same time so adult.
What have you taught Kamila in a year and a half of work? With what methodics?
Igor Lyutikov: I put her all the double jumps, including the axel. By the end of the season, she was fully rotating the triple salchow, and we already had a toe loop. At that time, few of Kamila’s peers had such jumps, didn’t jump triples at all. Until now, when I watch our “Swan”, I say to myself: “At 8 years old, they don’t skate like that.” So small, she did level 3 step sequences and level 4 spins. I remember how the “kind” parents of other skaters approached Alsou and tried to convince her that her daughter was “not for jumps”, would not master complex elements … “You are wasting your time!” This made me angry, and I tried even harder to make Kamila jump. I took her to run in the arena located next door to strengthen her feet. She ran for half an hour every day. In general, I pay a lot of attention to physical training in order to strengthen the ligaments and muscles. I take this area very seriously and to this day I consider it an integral part of the development of a skater. We also worked a lot on the rope: 200-300 double jumps per workout – imitating jumps on ice. Sometimes it reached 500. As a result, Kamila began to jump well, and the “kind” advisers fell silent. She also became very musical thanks to her jazz classes.
Why did Kamila leave your group?
Igor Lyutikov: Oh, the breakup was very difficult. It all started with the fact that two girls a little older than Kamila came to the group and began to “eat” her mentally. Kamila was angry, fought back, but for some reason she hid the problem from me. At the training camp in Tallinn, the girls had a conflict, and Kamila attacked her teammates. None of the adults saw how it all happened, and those girls presented the situation as if Kamila was to blame – that she started a fight. Although later we found out that they themselves provoked it. Kamila did not even try to refute the accusations, and I spoke with her strictly: I tried to convey that it was not normal to fight. When we returned to Moscow, Kamila told her mother that she no longer wanted to work in our team. And they asked to join the group of Natalia Dubinskaya.
I was very offended. I did not understand the reason: everything went up, we mastered triple jumps, progressed and made a lot of plans. I did everything for Kamila, the relationship was good. And then, after an unexpected fight, when we had already planned a new camp in Turkey, she leaves. It would be different if something didn’t work out. But Kamila was at her peak. I tried to talk, I came to the Valievs’ house. Alsou also understood little, because her daughter did not explain anything to her. She only said that she was offended, but without details. Alsou decided to give the child the right to choose and therefore did not put pressure on her.
Did you talk later, discussed the situation?
Igor Lyutikov: The first year after parting, we saw each other at the rink, because I often trained there. We talked coolly, but still helped each other. For example, somehow Natalia Petrovna and Maria Kasumova could not take Kamila to the competitions, and I came there with my group. I offered Kamila to put her on the ice. When there was a common ice, he asked her to show my atheletes the rotation. That is, we both behaved in a civilized manner, but there was a still some after-taste.
Now, as a coach, I understand the situation. When Kamila left, much became clear, but it was too late. And then I was still a young coach, and I did not have enough experience, professional wisdom to guess that the reason was in training and sports problems, but in bullying. I could not recognize in time what Kamila was silent about. Plus, it was the first when an athlete in whom I put my soul left. So it was very painful. After Kamila left Moskvich, we stopped seeing each other, and last summer I was walking along the embankment and suddenly I met her with a dog. We hugged and talked a little. Now there is no after-taste.
What was the sports fate of the girls who bullied Kamila?
Igor Lyutikov: They quickly left the group and the sport, because they did not want to work. Do you know what is the most interesting thing in this story? I took those girls for Kamila’s motivation. I thought that it was hard for her in the role of the only eldest skater, there was no one to reach out for. It seemed to me: I’ll take a few peers, and it will be more interesting for all of them, they will make friends. But there was no healthy competition among children. “Friends” only made it worse and ruined their own careers.
What do you think about Kamila’s success in recent seasons?
Igor Lyutikov: I’m very happy for her. Spins, gliding, presentation of the program, musicality… All this has been with her for a long time, and in recent years Kamila has brought her qualities to a new level. I remember a month ago I watched the European Championships at home and said to myself: “There are all the skaters and there is Kamila.”
How do you think Kamila manages to maintain stability? The most complex and risky content in the world, and she almost always performs it cleanly. It’s still a unique phenomenon!
Igor Lyutikov: I think the secret is in the desire and efficiency, which I spoke about above. She has been accustomed to intense loads and jogging since childhood. Not every adult can handle 30 circles in a big stadium. Plus, Kamila is very smart. I remember one day after practice she told me that she was going to a reading lesson. I ask: “What interesting things do they teach you there?” “We read poems and stories.” And Kamila recited poetry to us. And long ones, she read with expression, emotionally. I thought then: “Wow! She’s a kid, but she talks like an adult. If this child achieves heights and wants to develop in the media field, then she does not need to take public speaking lessons. She will be able to work on television, comment on competitions or even broadcast. It will be easy with her for any producer who will give a microphone. When the president spoke with the Olympians, who spoke for the entire team? Kamila. She is not afraid, she performs, her diction is gorgeous. Kamila has everything in a complex – head, arms, and legs. Plus, she is not such a know-it-all, although how many praises and delights she hears now! Correct behavior is very valuable.
At the Olympics, Kamila has already performed both programs in the team event. (Interview was taken before the individual competitions) We all remember the story of Yulia Lipnitskaya, who came to Sochi as a favorite. But she spent so much effort and energy on team event that she eventually broke down psychologically for the individual competitions. Do you think your former student will withstand such a test?
Igor Lyutikov: I believe in Kamila, she has good physics and psyche. After all, coaches weigh everything before agreeing to such challenges, and doctors monitor the condition of each athlete of the national team. I once worked with Yulia Lipnitskaya, I know many nuances. At the Olympics, only psychology let her down. She is more delicate and fragile than Kamila. And this girl is able to withstand any pressure.
Related topics: Kamila Valieva