“I’m not sure if Trusova has ever been in such a shape before” – Erem Gazazyan physical training coach in Angels of Plushenko
Interview with Erem Gazazyan – physical training coach in Angels of Plushenko academy. About importance of physical training, Titova, Zhilina, Konstantinova, Trusova and Kostornaia.
source: matchtv.ru dd. 8th May 2021 by Marina Tchernysheva-Melnik
What is your author’s methodology of exercises for figure skaters?
Erem Gazazyan: I focus on mental and psychological preparation. I give a lot of exercises with different movements in a row, where you need to think quickly and make decisions in a split second. So the athlete’s head begins to work hard and it is easier for him to catch information and warm up before going to the ice.
An important thesis that I have learned during my coaching: in any sport you need to work as a team. Even in figure skating where every man for himself. Indeed, in group training, the coach must take into account the individual characteristics of each athlete. There are 20 people in the hall, but someone has a backache, someone has a leg hurting, etc. It is important to keep this in mind and understand which tasks you give and whom.
I saw on your blog the so-called “brain exercises”: when you stand on a balancing disc and squeeze an anti-stress toy.
Erem Gazazyan: The disc touches the floor only in the middle, so it is unstable. Holding yourself on such an object is useful for the vestibular apparatus. You can try different positions on the disc: stand on one leg, with a bent or straightened knee, where only your foot works. At this moment, I ask you to take the puzzle in your other hand and solve it. That is, the athlete must stand on the wobbling disc, without changing the pose, and at the same time work with his hand. This turns on the brain faster, both hemispheres are activated. It’s easy to be a stupid athlete, but there not many smart ones. But the smart ones win.
As far as I know, rope combinations are very beneficial for the muscles. Explain in more detail.
Erem Gazazyan: The foot is actively working and this is a huge help in learning jumps. I give “exercises for the brain” on the rope. For example, first a single jump, then a double, triple, then in the reverse order, or in some other way. Up and down, like a sine wave. An athlete must do everything quickly and keep score at the same time … Your brain is boiling, you have no time to think about anything else. This develops concentration.
By the way, it helps before the morning warm-up: after all, for many skaters it takes a long time to get to the rink, usually they sleep in the car. And it is important to cheer them up so that they immediately get involved.
How do you distribute the workload depending on the age of the athletes?
Erem Gazazyan: I always draw up a training plan for the strongest athlete in the group in advance – 1-2 weeks in advance. I select exercises that are a little difficult for him to do. This means that it will be even more difficult for the rest. In the process, I watch how everyone is doing and adjust.
Plus we have an excellent connection with the ice coaches: they always tell me about athletes condition, which part of the body should not be overloaded right now. For example, someone needs to work on a push, this skater has no competitions and it’s time to try new elements, to work on certain muscle group.
If an athlete has competitions in the near future, do you increase the load or give him time to accumulate strength?
Erem Gazazyan: In general, the approach is as follows: usual load for two days, then we increase it, and then we reduce it. The day before the competitions, I a give the child rest from general physical training. But in general, this is a very thin line – I draw up an individual plan of loads for everyone and agree on it with the head coach.
How does general physical training help a skater learn difficult jumps?
Erem Gazazyan: I never interfere with the jumping technique itself. I work more on the athlete’s endurance, help him to maintain rotation and coordination, and develop sharpness.
Not without reason they say: 90% of the process takes place on the floor. If you haven’t mastered your jump on the floor, how would you do you do it on the ice? It’s even more dangerous there! I often go to ice training and watch how skaters perform elements, what prevents them from doing them cleanly. For example, an under-rotation appeared on the jump, there was not enough push, arms were sluggish and slow for the bending… I select special exercises to fix this, and we work on it with the athlete.
One of your first athletes at the academy was Olympic champion Adelina Sotnikova. Weren’t you afraid of responsibility?
Erem Gazazyan: Adelina started to train after an injury, and for any coach it is difficult. After all, sport is sport, but a person needs to live on. In such a situation, the most important thing is to preserve the athletes’ health, not to harm. We quickly got along with Adelina: she was slowly recovering and doing the exercises. She really wanted to continue in sports, but a relapse happened and she had to finish. When the injured leg began to torment, I looked her in the eyes and realized that she was tired of everything.
When Sofia Titova moved to your school a couple of years ago, Evgeni Plushenko talked about her problems with triple jumps and double axel. Did you manage to fix it?
Erem Gazazyan: Yes, Sophia was in a completely disassembled state: there was not a single triple jump and double axel. We took her practically from scratch – nothing worked out on the ice. Now everything is fine: Sofia won the Moscow championship, where a year before she was far from the podium.
In general, the entire Titovs family is athletic. Her grandfather comes to our gym every day and works out with a barbell. Parents themselves monitor her diet and lifestyle, they know how to set her up in the right way. Now Sophia is gaining momentum: she has mastered triple axel and works on quadruple jumps. She will show herself.
What has been happening to Veronika Zhilina in the recent months? After all, she often did not succeed in jumps at competitions and shows.
Erem Gazazyan: Nika’s past season was like a roller coaster. Somewhere she performed great, somewhere it did go well. She had back problems and, accordingly, a lot of visits to doctors. Later it turned out that the doctors had made the wrong conclusions and she had to change the treatment urgently. Because of this, Veronika lost a lot of time. But now she has recovered and works hard. She collects all her quadruple jumps and 4-3 combinations, she has also got the triple axel back.
Stanislava Konstantinova is a mature skater. What are your impressions of working with her?
Erem Gazazyan: This is my task – to understand what a particular athlete needs at his age and condition. I trained Stasya selectively, because she came in a disassembled state. It was impossible to put pressure on her with difficult exercises. But Stasya is an adult, an experienced person who knows the value of what he does. She quickly regained her shape in the gym, and everything worked got better on the ice. And in general, Stasya is a positive, very strong-willed person.
Alexandra Trusova spent a year in your team. According to your observations, is she really as fearless as they say? Does she easily agree on risky exercises?
Erem Gazazyan: It’s the question of the initial trust in me as a physical training coach. Sasha believed me that she would not twist or break anything under my guidance. Sometimes I gave Sasha a task and she looks with round eyes and asks if this is exactly feasible. I explain to her in detail the execution plan of the element, and everything works out. Then – sports pleasure from the fact that a new peak has been conquered.
Then Sasha could not be stopped. She herself asked to invent new complex exercises for physics and for mind almost every workout. Fortunately, I had enough imagination. Sasha once said that she had not been given many exercises from my repertoire before. Any exercise that was not from the usual fitness, delighted her.
In one interview, Sasha said that she is not afraid of ultra-c jumps – you just need to follow the technique. How did you manage to develop and maintain her crazy technique?
Erem Gazazyan: Sasha loves challenges on the ice and always wants to do something better, higher, stronger. Not afraid of difficulties. She is a truly unique athlete – her records never end.
By the end of the season, we came to peak shape: Alexandra looked perfect on the ice, all her muscles worked like clockwork. Even at the end of training – after these cosmic jumps – she could start working on the equally difficult triple axel. I’m not sure if Sasha has ever been in such a shape in her life before. It was happiness to look at such a athlete, and she also start to like herself.
In general, I would like to note that a lot depends on the athlete’s lifestyle. Yes, they created all the conditions for Sasha (a house next to the rink, a positive atmosphere), but she herself knew what she wanted. She followed a diet, kept herself in good shape. When a person has an inner core, he does not need to be forced, persuaded, monitored whether he is eating something superfluous in the locker room. As for a coach, it is easy for me to work with such an athlete. I thought only about my direct responsibilities: choosing exercises.
Alena Kostornaia is praised by many for her choreographic talent, but what is she like in general physical training classes?
Erem Gazazyan: I didn’t work with Alena. She was in the group of Sergei Rozanov, where Leonid Sviridenko, Vladimir Litvintsev, Arina Parsegova and Nastya Sharoshkina train. Sergei has his own vision of the training process, I do not work with his group. Therefore, I can’t say anything about Alena – we just greeted politely.
You’ve been on Evgeni Plushenko’s team from the very beginning, right?
Erem Gazazyan: Nearly. The academy opened in April 2017, and I came in August. Common acquaintances advised me to Evgeni Viktorovich when he was looking for a general physical training coach. The director of the academy called me and invited me for an interview. I thought it would be just a dialogue, I will tell about my coaching approach.
When I first saw Plushenko live, it was something incredible. His achievements in sports are cosmic. We met, and he says: “Well, will you do a workout?” I agreed: I had a certain amount of exercise by that time, why not? After 15 minutes, skaters gathered in the hall, and all the coaches came to watch. I was almost at a loss from such attention, but everyone liked it. On the same day, Evgeni Viktorovich took me to his coaching staff without a probationary period.
What have you learned from Evgeni Plushenko?
Erem Gazazyan: Everything that I know about figure skating, I took from him. Evgeni Viktorovich taught me how to jump so that I could understand their technique and be able to develop leading exercises. Now it’s funny to remember how four years ago I couldn’t tell the difference between lutz and flip. And now I easily mix acrobatics with figure skating elements, I teach children what I once did myself.
The famous coach Rafael Arutyunyan has recently visited your skating rink. What do you remember from this meeting?
Erem Gazazyan: It was rather a friendly visit to Evgeni Viktorovich. But for the whole team the experience is invaluable: when such a person is near the ice, he cannot but share his knowledge. Rafael Vladimirovich explained and showed a lot. Very informative! At such moments, you look at a specialist and catch every word. They all fly into the soul.
I especially liked Arutyunyan’s reasoning about the psychology of an athlete. But I would not like to advertise the details – after all, there was a friendly informal meeting, let everything remain within the team. On my own behalf, I will only note: it was really nice to hear in an interview the words of Rafael Vladimirovich that we are a good team.