“I don’t envy each of the girls – the psychological stress will be enormous.” Ilia Averbukh about Olympics, Evgenia Medvedeva and Eteri Tutberidze
Interview with Ilia Averbukh. About Evgenia Medvedeva’s future, salaries in the ice show, chances of the Russian team at the Olympics and Eteri Tutberidze.
source: lenta.ru dd. 8th June 2021, by Angelina Nikitina
One of the most discussed topics in figure skating today is Evgenia Medvedeva’s debut in pair skating in your ice show. How is the work going and what elements has Evgenia already mastered?
Ilia Averbukh: This is a certain challenge for Zhenya, but she dived into work with great desire. I would not say that a new pair has been created, which is about to start competing, but she and Sasha Enbert learned some interesting high lifts and a death spiral… Of course, there are no throws yet, because this requires more serious preparation.
In an interview, Evgenia said that she was going to compete as long as possible. How will pair skating experience come in handy in her singles career? Wouldn’t it distract her?
Ilia Averbukh: I think this will help, because these are related types of figure skating. Zhenya keeps in good physical shape, trains, but I can’t say what will happen next.
She and Alina Zagitova could have entered the Grand Prix series, but they did not. On social media, some fans condemned them. How to respond to criticism?
Ilia Averbukh: The role of the fans in this situation is to provide support, not make claims. If there are complaints, then these are not fans. These people see their favorite skater as a toy that entertains them, satisfies their ego. True fans are always grateful for the outstanding performances that both Alina and Zhenya had in their sports careers, and are ready to support any of their endeavors, be it work on television, performances in pair skating, or a completely new profession.
Will we still see Medvedeva and Zagitova at international competitions?
Ilia Averbukh: Anything is possible, but I would not make predictions.
The next season is Olympic. What is your forecast for the Beijing Games? Will it be possible to repeat the result of the last World Championships, when Russian figure skaters won three out of four gold medals?
Ilia Averbukh: For sure we have chances. Women’s single skating and pairs are our types, as well as the team event. We will also try to fight in ice dance, because Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov won in Stockholm. Here, however, we must not forget that Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron did not participate, and they will create the strongest competition. Our duo and the French have equal chances, I would say. Although there are still Americans … Well, in men’s single skating our ultimate dream, if everyone is safe and sound, is a bronze medal. Nathan Chen and Yuzuru Hanyu are completely out of reach at the moment. Although, of course, sports and the Olympics are always unpredictable.
Speaking of ice dance, shame about Alexander Stepanov and Ivan Bukin. Sometimes it seems that they are openly underscored. What is their problem?
Ilia Averbukh: I love this duo very much, endlessly respect their coaches, we work a lot together and are very friendly. Part of the reason, of course, is that we have two wonderful dance pairs. It is quite difficult for two pairs from one country to claim the podium. Sasha and Vanya may not think about it now, but it is quite possible that the next four years will be their time. I would like them to come to their gold medals, they definitely deserve it.
Although this season they also can claim a lot. Much depends on the programs that they and their competitors prepare. Last year, injuries interfered, it took a long time for Stepanova and Bukin to enter the season. If they start performing earlier this time, it will help them.
But the closest attention, of course, is paid to women’s single skating. Where is Kamila Valieva stronger than Anna Shcherbakova and vice versa?
Ilia Averbukh: I would definitely not compare in such a way. Anya Shcherbakova is an outstanding figure skater with a fighting character, she’s already a world champion, known for her hard work and loyalty to her coach. Kamila Valieva is a rising star who has amazed us more than once. Youth plays for her, if I may say so (laughs). We have seen more than once that figure skaters rushing into the Olympic season become champions. Yulia Lipnitskaya and Alina Zagitova showed this. They did not have a background of big victories, so psychologically it was probably easier for them to perform.
But the fight is not limited only to the confrontation between Kamila and Anna. There is also Sasha Trusova, who returned to her coach and works twice as hard. And if Alena Kostornaia restores the triple axel, she will also be absolutely competitive, because her skating is outstanding. Plus Maiia Khromykh, who showed two quadruple jumps. In general, the fight will be very interesting, I do not envy each of the girls – the psychological stress will be enormous.
You didn’t say about Elizaveta Tuktamysheva. What are her prospects, in your opinion?
Ilia Averbukh: This year I did a short program for Liza. It seems that it turned out interesting, she really likes it. She is already a legend and her silver medal at the World Championships in Sweden is a great achievement. She is in the ranks, fights, I saw how she mentally prepares for this season.
Everyone knows how difficult it is to get into the Olympic team, but this skepticism about Liza has existed for a long time, but she answers with high places.
American Alysa Liu is distinguished from foreign competitors. Should Russian ladies be wary of her?
Ilia Averbukh: What I saw is not worth fearing. Maybe something will change. Rika Kihira is probably the only one who can show something worthy. She did not cope with her nerves at the World Championships in Sweden and at the World Team Trophy in Japan, but if she had done everything … From foreign ladies, so far only she can be seen.
When the Russian national football team didn’t make it to the next round at the European Championships, Evgeni Plushenko said that if at least 30 percent of the money received by the players were sent to figure skating, we would win all competitions. Someone will answer that we are winning anyway. So is there a direct connection between money and results – specifically in figure skating?
Ilia Averbukh: Of course, there is a connection between money and results, because the sport of high-achievement needs, for example, ice arenas, and professional coaches should receive adequate salaries. There is a direct connection, but, in my opinion, these are still a little populist statements.
Firstly, in Russia a lot of funds are allocated for figure skating. Secondly, each sport has its own market. With the same success, fencing, which has less media coverage, for example, can say: take the money from the skaters and give it to us, we will win. This is not right, in this situation the problem in football must be looked for globally.
How comparable are the prize money at the World Figure Skating Championships and the fees of the athletes who play the main roles in the leading Russian ice shows?
Ilia Averbukh: One is connected to the other. First you have to win titles, in competitions the prize money will not be very big, if you take the world of sports. Up to 100 thousand dollars, it seems …
In Stockholm, the champions got 64 thousand each.
Ilia Averbukh: Well, if you then work in ice shows, then theoretically you can earn even more in a year of work. For a hundred performances, say.
Before, it seems to me, skaters went to the show for money. Has something changed now?
Ilia Averbukh: Previously, these were not shows, but, in fact, just exhibitions performances. It seems that I managed to change the perception of the ice performance, and after me similar projects began to be organized by Zhenya Plushenko, Tanya Navka, theater groups appeared.
A simple exhibitions turned into a performance where athletes become heroes of literary works, work as full-scale artists of the big stage level, and this influenced the psychology. Now, they come not only for money, at least to my projects, but also to show what they did not have time for in sports.
You have worked and are working with a large number of athletes. Which of them do you see the ability to become a great choreographer in the future?
Ilia Averbukh: Interesting question. Zhenya Medvedeva can, maybe she is a little afraid, but she could be both a choreographer and a director of various events. She has an unusual vision. Many guys tend to create, but among the active athletes I would name only Zhenya.
In one interview, you said that you and Eteri Tutberidze have in common insecurity on social networks. How do you explain the fact that the coach who trains the best singles in the world receives so much criticism from the fans?
Ilia Averbukh: Not only Eteri and I, but many others are disarmed and discouraged. After all, social networks provide an opportunity to criticize without professional knowledge. But everything must be answered with the result. All this buzz that is around touches only at first, and then you get used to it. The result is the only answer to the hype of social networks. The concept of respect is lost there.
It’s clear with social networks, but if we talk about criticism from foreigners? Is it envy?
Ilia Averbukh: They criticize those who go forward. It is not worth reacting to. When you have proved that you are a trendsetter, you just do your job – as far as you have the strength.
Describe Eteri Georgievna based on personal communication.
Ilia Averbukh: This is a person with an inner core, a very strong woman. She is sociable, you can talk to her sincerely about life. But at the same time, you always feel that you have a big personality in front of you.
The main thing that causes my respect is that she achieved everything herself. She proved that her athletes are progressing faster than anywhere else, she created a group. If we draw a parallel, then I had the same with ice shows. We both started from scratch, so it’s easy for us to communicate.