Igor Shpilband: Figure skating has made a huge step forward
Recently in Russian media appeared two interview with Igor Shpilband. Both quite about the same – World Junior Championships, preparation for the Worlds, work with Ilinykh and Zhiganshin. So, here the translated mix of this two interviews.
It’s surprising to see you at the Junior World Championships a few days before the start of the senior Worlds, where will compete your duets …
Igor: World Junior Championships is an important start. All future champions started from it – Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, Meryl Davis and Charlie White.
And Igor Shpilband – Tatiana Gladkova, who won the WJC-1983 in Sarajevo …
Igor: It’s nice to remember the athletic youth. Actually, our first international competition was in Debrecen.
What has changed in the junior ice dance over these thirty years?
Igor: Everything. Figure skating during this time has made a huge step forward. Now guys skate at such speeds that we have never dreamed of. The level of skating increased a lot. Although, in those days, when I was competing, in the competition program were compulsory dances. They was giving the necessary basis. Now the dancers have enough basis to be able to have interesting programs.
Age restrictions that exist today in juniors, are optimal?
Igor: Pairs and ice dance has its own specifics. Duets are teaming up, getting used to each other, splitting-up and it’s an quite a natural process. Girl and boy are developing differently. Their interests also change as they grow older. Of course, there are exceptions, like my pairs, who become an Olympic champions in Vancouver and Sochi. They’ve been skating together for fifteen years.
In Debrecen you brought the American and the French team. How do you choose which flag to place on accreditation?
Igor: At this tournament it was simple: together with me came Fabian Bourzat. Quite naturally, he became a member of the French delegation, and I – American.
Working in America and being an American citizen, I often represent the United States at various competitions.
Angelique Abachkina, who represent France told that she was very happy that Fabian joined your team. Said that she understands French better than English.
Igor: For sure she speaks English better than I speak French. But I try to use Russian language rare in the work with this duo, not to offense the partner.
Do you have enough attention for US last season’s champions Madison Chock and Evan Bates?
Igor: Of course. I have been working with them for many years and give them a sufficient attention.
This sporting year seems ambiguous and complex. Especially, on the background of surprising soar of Maia and Alex Shibutani. Is it hard prepare the guys for the World Championships in Boston?
Igor: Each tournament is difficult in its own way. Evan and Madison are experienced athletes, Evan has been at two Olympics, Madison at one. With different partners they won the World Junior Championships, they were silver medalists of the World CHampionships last year. This experience, I hope will help them to prepare and to set up for Boston.
What is their trump card at the World Championships?
Igor: In many aspects they can compete with all the leading pairs in the world. But, of course, Madison and Evan stand by excellent and soft skating, and they are both very dancing. This year programs are built on the expressive plastic and jewelry skating skills. Modernity and complexity of transitional steps are also very important, and in this Madison and Evan have clear advantage over the other duos.
Over which one?
Igor: Over the European champions, whose program is very nice but simple. Their programs are much more simplified than in the past season. They’re very beautiful – it’s true, but made of crossovers and skating on two feet.
In your opinion, what is the reason of Shibutani’s progress?
Igor: They are talented. Very hard-working guys, who have always been a worthy rivals – amazingly consistent, which is actually a huge plus. It’s not a shame to loose to them.
Won’t the judges stereotypes prevent Chock Bates at Worlds, after the the recent National Championships?
Igor: No. I believe that it’s not a problem, at the US Nationals judging panel gave Madison and Evan higher marks in both programs than to Shibutani. It is very important. The technical score let us down. We have focused on it and made major changes in steps sequences, changed the spin. Hopefully, the technical panel in Boston will notice these improvements.
In what condition you met Elena Ilinykh and Ruslan Zhiganshin?
Igor: In fact, we have just started to work together. Three weeks have passed since their arrival, very little time, but we have already decided on what will work and how.
Everyone is interested in developing of this duo, and I see the direction to go. Thus it is necessary to understand how will our cooperation shape. While about the long-term perspective we can speak with some caution. So far I don’t want to talk about the organizational aspects.
With the guys we have discussed creative aspects. It’s a pity that from three weeks that we have been working together, one Lena was ill.
What they need to change?
Igor: It’s important for me to make them look different next season. Just different.
Igor: Cardinally. In plastic, in skating, in expression. And especially Ruslan, because role of the partner is extremely important for me.
So, Elena is much stronger than her partner right now?
Igor: I don’t want to talk about it, because each athlete has a positive and negative features, and the work of the coach is to correct the negative. Each athlete has weaknesses, but there is no sense to talk about it, because the cooperation just started. And for me it is very important that both athletes want to improve and open for work. That’s the main thing.
Many Russian fans, think that partner in this duo is on the background. Can Zhiganshin come out on the fore?
Igor: Ruslan has everything to be a good partner, which is now not so much in the world. To do this, of course, you need to work a lot, and I have a feeling that Zhiganshin is ready.
Many were shocked when Ilinykh and Katsalapov split up. Are Ilinykh and Zhiganshin able to reach the level of 2014 Olympic bronze medalists? And can they be better?
Igor: I can not answer this question unambiguously. It would not be fair. But I know what need to be done to achieve it. Is it possible to do this in some minimum period of time? For example, in one year? I do not know. This will depend on the athletes and their progress. It is important how they will adapt to the work that I will offer them.
This season, they showed the original free program – “Frida.” In your opinion, does it suit them?
Igor: I would not like to comment on this.
Did you start working on new programs?
Igor: No. At this stage goes the process of music choice, themes, and I want to understand in what way these components better to present. Now I answer my own question: what for Lena and Ruslan will be more advantageous.
Having worked closely with Elena, have you changed your mind about her?
Igor: I know Elena for a long time, worked with her when she was twelve years old. I know her very well, and watched her career. I can help admiring her talent.
What she needs to impruve?
Igor: Elena – one of the most talented partners in the world. And anyone can improve. I can talk a lot about the different technical details, but, you know, at some point, they become secondary and less important. When a man goes out on the ice and live in the dance and music, like Lena does, for me it is a rare case. I mean, the level of her skating is well enough to express herself on ice completely. Yes, she will have to work on elements, on spins, lifts, twizzles – like everyone else. But it works out, but not everyone is gifted with such natural abilities.
Related topics: Angelique Abachkina Louis Thauron, Elena Ilinykh Ruslan Zhiganshin, ice dance, Igor Shpilband, interview, Madison Chock Evan Bates, Maia Shibutani Alex Shibutani, World Junior Championships