Interview with Viktor Adoniev who worked with Eteri Tutberidze and Anna Tsareva
The coach and choreographer Viktor Adoniev, who started working with Eteri Tutberidze, and then worked with Anna Tsareva, dispelled myths about Tutberidze’s character and principles, told about collaboration with Yulia Lipnitskaya and Evgenia Medvedeva, explained why Eteri once asked Anna Shcherbakova to leave the group and how he helped her to return, also spoke about the work with Anna Pogorilaya, with whom he went to the World Championships at his own expense.
by Elvira Ondar for gazeta.ru dd. 14th July 2020
You said that you came to figure skating only at 11 years old.
Viktor Adoniev: Yes, I learned to skate in October, when I was 10, but on December 1 I turned 11.
Why so late?
Viktor Adoniev: I wanted to become a singer. I had an amazing voice, I performed at all concerts, in my area I was considered the best child, I wanted to enter Gnessins (The Gnessin State Musical College). But the parents did not want a singer in the house. They said that this was not a profession.
And then by my mother met her friend who worked at CSKA – she was in charge of the children’s group. She said: “Let the child go to the rink.” That’s how it started. I liked it so much that I said: “That’s it, I want to skate!”
I was warned that it was very late and nothing would really worked out, but I’m a stubborn guy.
I began to skate at CSKA, but not in the group. Nobody took me there, because I was considered very old (laughs). But since my mother had a friend there, she allowed me to skate. And then I went to the “Serebryany Rink”.
Did Eteri Tutberidze work there?
Viktor Adoniev: She appeared there somewhere a year after I came. She just returned from America.
Why did you decide to go to her group? Was the coach’s potential visible then?
Viktor Adoniev: Sure! It was clear that no one worked like her. Eteri Georgievna was very stubborn, so her group began to develop rapidly, new children constantly came … When a person works, you see it immediately.
To this day she remains the same terrible perfectionist. She meticulously treats everything, every little thing that many do not even pay any attention to.
What was it like to train in the Tutberidze group at that time – before fame and excellent conditions of “Chrystalny”?
Viktor Adoniev: Honestly, the conditions were not very good then, because the whole rink was given to hockey groups. We had only one ice training a day – either 1 hour or 1 hour 15 minutes.
So we trained a looot in the gym. General physical training, cross-running for 2.5 hours … There was little ice, so we couldn’t catch up with the leading groups who had it 2 hours 2 times…
And 1 hour on ice is not a training, especially when you work with small children. With adults it is another matter, even 1.5 hours a day is enough, if everything is done well. But with the small kids you need to work a lot.
Now things are much better with extra sessions – there are a million rinks. But then it was very difficult.
What progress have you made with Tutberidze?
Viktor Adoniev: It was impossible not to start jumping in Eteri Tutberidze’s group. With her great desire and the way she made you work … You cannot fool her.
She always feels when a person gives everything to his work. Over 2.5 years I learned a lot – I jumped all doubles, axel 2.5, started to learn triples. At that time it was good, especially for a beginner and for 1 hour of ice a day.
On the floor I jumped all triples and even quadruple. But this is not the same as on the ice. On the floor, you can quickly develop sharpness, jump high, be nimble, but on the ice I didn’t succeed because there was no skating base that had been developed for years. If you feel the ice, then the body begins to work in a completely different way.
You said that at that time you sometimes did not have enough money.
Viktor Adoniev: To be honest, yes.
I come from a very poor family, and we often didn’t pay money to Eteri Georgievna. She didn’t even take, she knew our situation. And I wasn’t the only one. She even dressed me.
Paid for costumes?
Viktor Adoniev: No, Eteri Georgievna gave me clothes – very cool, branded. It seems that some of their relatives brought it from abroad. Maybe this was a second-hand, but I was happy to wear it. Then it was hard to get something.
And then they tell me what a creepy coach she is, a despot. Yes, she is quite a hard person at work, but I think that is right. I myself have become the same. If children can’t do something, I force them, even shout. This is absolutely right if you want to achieve a result. If the coach always pats on the back, then what will happen to you?
Eteri is completely different in life. This is a person you can always call. Even when I switched to ice dance, she was with me. Switched me from group to group, looked for partners, cared all the time. She was like an older sister to me.
Turns out that from the Tutberidze group you switched to ice dance?
Viktor Adoniev: She did it. In single skating, it didn’t work out because my knees hurt terribly because I started training late. In adolescence, they simply could not stand it.
Nevertheless, I resisted: “No, no dancing, only jumping!” I was crazy about jumps. But Eteri answered: “You are a handsome guy! Go to the ice dance! You will skate.” Me: “No, Eteri Georgievna, I don’t want to skate with a girl! Not everything will depend on me. ” She: “You will! You look like a guy from an intelligent family. You will skate!” (laughs).
She took me to Odintsovo, she went there with me. And she was always there. Helped if there were any problems with a partner, or it was necessary to solve something. Therefore, do not tell tales that Eteri supposedly needs only money.
What a nonsense! She herself is ready to pay to work. By the way, she helped to find work for all her students. They were taken as coaches, or given extra classes where you could earn money. But nobody talks about this at all.
I want to get everyone together and say in person: guys, are you really sick? Why am I the only one who tell this? Is it hard for you to admit?
And she dressed not only me. And didn’t take money not only from me, because at that time it was generally hard. Not everyone had finances at that time.
Was figure skating a very expensive sport then?
Viktor Adoniev: Of course, not as much as now. There wasn’t so many extra classes, but there was no such a result either. Now look how everyone grew up in skating, in jumping. The demands are crazy, and the competition just got nuts. Without individual training, you will not be able to grow to such a level – it is simply impossible.
Now success goes from quantity, hours of work. And, of course, you will pay for it if you want victories for your child.
I also want to say that figure skating become very young. At the age of 15, athletes already become, roughly speaking, millionaires, well-known media personalities. When does that happen? If only in America, Tara Lipinski or Michelle Kwan. But we didn’t have such before.
What is the reason for this rejuvenation?
Viktor Adoniev: Well, because the body of adults does not stand up to perform such jumps. Everything is simple.
What do you think about it?
Viktor Adoniev: I believe that this is even better, because then children have a chance to study, to get some kind of profession. Lots of options! I honestly would have chosen this path for myself. By the age of 18, you have finished sports, earned everything you can, earned money, and now you can invest in your education. You are a famous athlete, you won everything – I’m talking about Alina Zagitova.
But I think that Alena Kostornaia and Anna Shcherbakova will achieve the same.
They can afford a different life, and not to skate until retirement – up to 40 years, making money in shows. In my opinion, this is not interesting, because you should develop.
When you decided to switch to coaching, what did you do first?
Viktor Adoniev: Called Eteri Georgievna.
Viktor Adoniev: Well yes. She said: “Come, will see how you work.” Me: “Eteri Georgievna, I have no experience at all.” She: “It’s ok you’re a dancer, you will work on gliding.”
Honestly, I thought that she would not take me. But she did. Moreover, Vazgen Azroyan worked with her then, but for some reason he immediately left, and she took me. It was 2012.
What did she entrust you at first?
Viktor Adoniev: Well, everything. I watched the athletes, worked on gliding with everyone, went to the competitions with the skaters, made programs together with Eteri Georgievna.
In Chrystalny you worked also as a choreographer. What programs did you male in that period?
Viktor Adoniev: We did everything together with Eteri Georgievna. When they say that a particular choreographer created a program, it’s not so, believe me. In this group, everything is done together. And Danya Gleikhengauz works the same way – together with Eteri Georgievna they decide how it will be.
The only thing: it was my idea to take the music with which Zhenya Medvedev became the world champion for the first time (the program “I hear / can’t hear.” – ed).
I watched the movie “We”, I really liked the soundtrack, and I made a piece for the program. Everyone was thrilled. As a result, this music was used for the Medvedeva’s free program in the season 2015/16.
Bur this piece was originally made for Lipnitskaya, and we even put the program. It turned out very cool – it is a pity that people haven’t seen it, Julia did not want to. But I would even say that this program was better than Schindler’s List.
You said that while working in Chrystalny, you made Lipnitskaya love the second mark. Turns out that initially she was more focused on technique?
Viktor Adoniev: Julia hated to glide. At all! Gliding, doing run-throughs – it was very hard.
And what did you manage to work on with Evgenia Medvedeva at that time?
Viktor Adoniev: Programs, gliding, and we also went to competitions together. She was not so famous then, but I think that working with a child and teaching him something is always harder than working with an already established athlete who can easily do what you ask.
Zheya is quite unique for me. She always worked so much … You didn’t have to force her — I hadn’t told what to do yet, but she was already doing it. She is a workaholic from workaholics. There are only a few such as Medvedeva.
I was very upset that she left Eteri – terribly upset. It seems to me that Tutberidze did everything for her. Everything that was possible!
And I think Zhenya would jump quadruple if she stayed. I don’t know why she left, but this is their relationship.
In May, you wrote a long post in support of Tutberidze when she was in the United States. Said that she was waiting for the flight back and that Russia was everything for her. Then it seemed that you keep in touch and know about many events in her life.
Viktor Adoniev: We text with her sometimes, but rarely. I just knew about it. I do not use unverified information and I will never lie about anything. I knew that she flew to the USA to her daughter, and I think that she did absolutely right.
Then you also said thanks to choreographer Alexei Zheleznyakov for the “lesson of gratitude”. Did you mean that you have to leave the group nicely?
Viktor Adoniev: Sure. This I can’t understand at all. Zhenya Medvedeva – how could she leave and not say anything to the coach? I don’t know the details and don’t want to know what was going on there, but … this is your coach since childhood! Well, bring a car of flowers! That’s not how people leave. No matter whether it’s hard for you or not – come and make a beautiful point and you will not be discussed or judged later.
Why did you leave the Tutberidze group for the second time – already as a coach?
Viktor Adoniev: I would not have left, but I had to do it in October 2014 because my mother was very sick. If everything was fine, I think we would have worked with Eteri Georgievna to this day.
And then you decided not to return?
Viktor Adoniev: Well, why? Danya Gleikhengauz works there. They became popular. And I’m a very proud man. If I come back now, they will say: “Everything was handed to him on a plate.” And I’m not the one who comes to everything ready. I did a lot at Chrustalny.
In the group of Eteri Georgievna, there used to be problems with the second mark, although technically all the children were well prepared. And we started to raise the PCS. I told Eteri that you need to glide a lot, skate – then everything will be different. I brought something of my own …
Now look at the result. The most beautiful jumps, and wonderful spins, and fantastic programs. Eteri Georgievna saw the result, she liked it – and they began to develop skating skills.
In the spring, Sergei Rozanov left the group, and the place of the coach of young skaters was vacated. Do you think they already found a replacement?
Viktor Adoniev: Yes, of course they did. I should have come right after that. But I don’t want to do that. I’m afraid of condemnation. People are very now, they write such comments!
I envy what Canadians, Europeans, Americans write about their skaters … They write that all their skaters are the best! And here people will find some muck and will bring it to apogee.
Why? After all, they are athletes, they are winning medals for our country. And many of them are still children. Write them nice things, make it pleasant for them to live, not being afraid of the whole world!
Have you faced pressure when you worked with the skaters of the national team?
Viktor Adoniev: I almost never leave comments. I don’t want to be on the spotlight, I don’t like it. Besides, I’m a terribly impressionable person. I know that Eteri Georgievna too. I’m sure that she reads every comment and worries about everything.
Now I try to stay away from social networks, because I know that I will read everything. I remember someone wrote two nasty comments about Plushenko under my post. I didn’t understand at all what he had to do with it, I didn’t write anything about him.
Well, Trusova went to Plushenko – that’s her business. I did not touch this situation in any way. She can leave, she just needs to say thank you to the coach, because it was Eteri who taught her everything. I believe that it was Tutberidze who discovered Trusova’s talent.
Talent for quads?
Viktor Adoniev: Sasha is fearless. I had a couple of classes with her, and I can say that she is absolutely not afraid of anything. And, of course, Sasha moved figure skating forward, but without Eteri Georgievna no one would have done this. Honestly. Tutberidze never stops at anything – there is nothing impossible for her.
Did you work with Trusova when she was still training in Anna Tsareva’s group, before joining Tutberidze?
Viktor Adoniev: Yes, that’s right.
And then no one thought of quads, right?
Viktor Adoniev: Of course not. All this appeared only in the Eteri’s group.
After leaving the Tutberidze group, you started working with the team of Anna Tsareva at the same skating rink.
Viktor Adoniev: Yes. Before that, I gave extra lessons for her skaters, only for very small ones, because Eteri Georgievna always said that we shouldn’t work with competitors, and I understood this perfectly.
And then, when I’ve already left Eteri, I began to work there more. I wasn’t officially in Tsareva’s group, just helped, because I spent a lot of time with my mother. I needed to earn money to pay for her treatment.
Nevertheless, you became one of the key people in the group and even accompanied Anna Pogorilaya at the World Championships.
Viktor Adoniev: Yes, Anya said: “I feel comfortable when Victor is around.” I know how to calm down at competitions, because I am a positive person in life, and an athlete cannot help but feel this.
In addition, at that time I coached a boy from Belarus – Pasha Ignatenko with Tsareva – and I was lucky: they made me an accreditation from this team for the World Championship in Boston.
So I went to the Worlds, paid my own money, by the way. Then many were indignant: “Why did Adoniev appear at the World Championships?” There should be one athlete and one coach with him. But I paid for everything myself.
But, just before the competitions I was not allowed to sit in kiss-and-cry with Anya … It was terrible.
But she skated gorgeous, took bronze and, in my opinion, should have taken second place. Ashley Wagner did not perform very well in the free program and shouldn’t have placed higher than Anya.
But it happened in America, so it’s understandable.
In addition to helping Pogorilaya at competitions, what did your collaboration consist of?
Viktor Adoniev: We worked a lot on programs. Although Nikolai Morozov was officially listed as her choreographer, I had to practically redo his programs, because they were very empty.
He made good step sequences, but everything else seemed to be missing – there were not enough transitions, no arms at all. As a result, we changed a lot, and I was even offended that Viktor Adoniev was not listed among the choreographers.
By the way, Misha Ge made a great program. He did tango and everything was great. I did not touch anything there at all.
I also made all the gala programs for Pogorilaya. For example, before the 2018/19 season, we created a Frida program for her. And then they decided to turn it into the free program. The program was very interesting – it’s a pity that Pogorilaya ended her career and people have never seen it.
Now I also give all of myself to work with my current students. Of course, these are not famous athletes, because I left the team and do not want to work there yet. I feel calmer like that. Nationals team is a huge responsibility, no freedom, no personal life. You are obliged to work with skaters from morning till night. Of course, this is your favorite business and it’s great, but, in addition to sports, there must be something else in life. But then there was a cool time, of course.
What guys are you working with now?
Viktor Adoniev: I have a small group. There is a second coach. I don’t take a lot of people, because now it’s easier to work on intensives, extra lessons.
In addition, I try not to lure anyone. There are a lot of coaches who do that. I do not understand this. I feel great when I take difficult children and make them very worthy skaters. Feelings are amazing.
In my opinion, a coach should start with this and be able to prepare an ordinary child, not talented one, from scratch. If a specialist is capable of this, then for me this is an indicator of a good coach. But many take ready-made athletes …
By the way, I don’t understand why they write this stupidity about Eteri Georgievna – that she also takes only ready-made skaters. Yes, good children go to her, because they perfectly understand that if you want to become a champion, you should go to Eteri. But where did she start?
Do you think that she always had good skaters? No, of course not. She also accepted all the children, because she had to work with someone.
Russian figure skaters very quickly began to restore their jumps after coming back on the ice. Anna Shcherbakova jumped a triple lutz + triple toe loop after a week of training, Alexandra Trusova – a quadruple lutz, and Dmitri Aliev made a quadruple toe loop on the very first day.
Viktor Adoniev: Do you believe that Aliev jumped a quadruple on the very first day?
He posted a video.
Viktor Adoniev: Maybe they started skating earlier. But they couldn’t tell you about it. I can believe that Shcherbakova was able to perform triple-triple in a week. But quadruple on the first day … if he did, well done.
But, on the other hand, it is still stupidity. God forbid to get injured at the very beginning of training. It is better to jump it in competitions.
Earlier it seemed that it was physically impossible to restore jumps on ice so quickly. But in the end, everything is pretty good.
Viktor Adoniev: You know, I see a lot of people on social networks now. And it pisses me off when someone goes on the ice, uploads a video how the girls restored triples on the very first day, but in fact they have been skating for a month and a half.
And then they explain: “Well, we can’t say that we skated during quarantine.” So why lie? To make yourself a beautiful ad? I despise this.
You wrote on social networks that now many have problems with programs, because everyone is concentrated on the number of revolutions.
Viktor Adoniev: Honestly: there are few interesting programs. Everyone began to focus on technique. This is understandable: try to catch up with the guys with quads no beautiful program will help here. And before there were many interesting programs, everything looked brighter. Maybe I looked with different eyes then.
But this season, for example, I like Kostornaia’s programs. For me Alena is a goddess on ice, charming.
I also like Anya Shcherbakova’s programs very much. I used to work with her a lot – when Tutberidze asked to leave the group. I also left at that moment, and we worked a lot with Anya.
Wow … Never heard of this.
Viktor Adoniev: I don’t think it will surprise anyone that we worked with Anya then. We worked together with Artemy Punin – he worked on her jumps. It was he who put Shcherbakova triples, and no one else. By the way, Punin is also Tutberidze’s student.
So, he put her jumps, and I was engaged in programs and gliding. And after this Eteri Georgievna took Shcherbakova to her group again.
This is a normal situation because Eteri is already a great coach. Now she tells: “Good girl, come with all the triples and I’ll take you.” She already has such a solid track record, everyone strives to her, so there is no other way.
What did Anna jump before leaving the group?
Viktor Adoniev: She jumped doubles and double axel, but there were serious mistakes, and no one wanted to work on it. The coaches had other priorities then, and there was no point in wasting time with Anya.
And in which group did Shcherbakova skate before returning to Tutberidze?
Viktor Adoniev: She didn’t. Her parents paid for private lessons – that was all.
This was in 2014-2015. And at the end of that season, in 2015, Anya came to Tutberidze with all the triples. They took her right there. And now we see the result.
Shcherbakova is insanely emotional – and she got successful programs this season. And everything else, except for Kostornaia, I didn’t like. It was very sad.
As a choreographer, it is interesting for me to look at beautiful programs. Still, I want figure skating to remain figure skating, and the girls did not lose this. You look at girls and they jump better than boys, and you look at boys – they already skate like girls.
Everyone make interesting spins, everyone has good stretching. And the girls jump, jump and jump! You look at it and think: “Well, something has really changed.”