Irina Rodnina: “Rising age minimum was absolutely right. The skating program has become incredibly difficult. Girls cope with it physically, but for sure not psychologically.”
Interview with the three-time Olympic champion Irina Rodnina. About ban of Russian athletes, age minimum, reasons why many skaters who haven’t competed for a long time do not retire officially and why they choose shows rather than competitions.
source: sobesednik.com dd. 26th August 2022
Do you think there is a chance that our Olympians, including figure skaters, will be allowed to compete at the next Olympics in four years?
Irina Rodnina: In three and a half years. It will be allowed when all athletes are allowed to compete. I will note that now all female figure skaters, not only ours, can compete only from the age of 17. This is not the first time when the age minimum has been raised. For the first time it was raised because of Tara Lipinski (in 1997 she won the World Championships at the age of 14, after which the age was raised to 15 years, the next year at the age of 15 she won the Olympics – Ed.), And then we are didn’t care about it. These are some double standards.
It’s a pity for Sofia Akatieva (due to the gradual raising of the age minimum from 15 to 17 years, Sofia, 15 years old, now will be able to compete internationally among seniors only at 18 years old, since she was “unlucky” with the date of birth: she was born on July 7, and for skaters, the achievement of a particular age is taken into account on July 1 – ed.) …
Irina Rodnina: Don’t you feel sorry for skaters from other countries? The new rule applies to everyone. This is the beauty of sport, that the rules apply to everyone – ours, yours, strangers and neighbors.
So you think it was right to raise the age minimum?
Irina Rodnina: Absolutely right. The skating program has become incredibly difficult. We all saw that girls cope with it physically, but for sure not psychologically. I’m talking about a nervous breakdown and what Sasha Trusova was shouting after her Olympic silver. It means, there is nothing for children to do at senior competitions. Why did the International Olympic Committee start hosting the Youth Olympic Games?
To give a chance to kids who won’t make it to the Olympics?
Irina Rodnina: This is not a chance, this is a different level, junior level. We have junior world championships, there is a gradation. After all, third-graders are not dragged to the 11th grade to take the state exam.
Well, for example, Kamila Valieva, on the one hand, participates in competitions on an equal basis with adults, and, on the other hand, she is a child, a protected person.
Irina Rodnina: This is such a legal cause. When the Youth Games began to be held, this column appeared, which did not exist before. It concerned exclusively those who competed in junior competitions under 18 years old. These are children, and therefore the issue of their crime and punishment is not considered until they reach the age of majority. They are not responsible for their mistakes and misdeeds, but the coach, doctor and parents.
The Russian Figure Skating Federation organized a whole series of domestic Grand Prix. Will they be able to reach the level of the European and World Championships in terms of prestige?
Irina Rodnina: They won’t. Competitions take on a high level when a variety of athletes take part in them. Why are we having illusions? It’s good that there are a lot of such events, the guys skate, they earn money. Coaches who develop programs are in good shape. In our time, that is, in the last century, we had four competitions a year, and we skated no worse and won no less. Of course, by those standards, not by today’s standards. Sometimes it’s good to stop and think. There are no competitions, but everyone calls me and asks why Anya Shcherbakova suddenly decided to have a surgery on her leg.
She decided on a surgery in August, although the leg had been making itself felt for a long time. If Anya had planned surgery right after the Olympics, she would probably have recovered and prepared for the test skates. But then she would not have skated in 22 shows over the summer with Ilia Averbukh and would not have earned decent money. If now she doesn’t recover in a month, she will most likely miss the season.
Irina Rodnina: Which season? We don’t have a season. Will she miss Mordovian Patterns? Don’t make me laugh (laughs).
But fans criticize her for such a choice of the surgery date and call her, for example, very cunning.
Irina Rodnina: Anna doesn’t owe anyone anything. The girls are trying to occupy themselves as best they can. Someone tried herself in athletics, someone else in something else. Maybe they get injured there, because they don’t warm up, they’re not prepared. It’s a completely different job. And Shcherbakova has every right to earn money. You just need to remember that you can’t sit on two chairs with one ass. Zhenya Plushenko have been telling us for four years, that he would return to the sport. And during this time he was in the national team, and he was paid for it.
Zagitova and Medvedeva have not officially ended their careers either.
Irina Rodnina: You can not do it this way. Choose either one or another.
Maybe it’s worth establishing at the legislative level that if you don’t compete, then you leave the national team?
Irina Rodnina: Legislative level has nothing to do with it. The Federation is a public organization. In this regard, the laws do not work here. You are confusing something. These are not laws, but standards that any public organization adopts.
It just amazes me that an athlete who haven’t competed for years still can be in the national team.
Irina Rodnina: And it’s not the athlete that amazes me, but the federation, which is obliged to resolve such issues. They probably don’t want to. I understand that there are injuries that athletes are prone to, especially young ones. But you need to clearly define that no one takes someone else’s place. The main thing is that there should be good competition within the country, which will raise both athletes and coaches. We shouldn’t look back all the time, but move forward. I think that our federation is not working properly. We have such athletes and coaches, but we don’t have anyone in the international federation. That is, all changes in the rules are accepted without us.
We have Alexander Lakernik (in June, a 77-year-old Russian, former vice president of the International Skating Union, became honorary vice president of the International Skating Union – Ed.).
Irina Rodnina: Don’t make me laugh again (laughs again). Lakernik is an honorary person whose term will end due to his age.
And maybe you could, in addition to working in the State Duma …
Irina Rodnina: Why me? We have enough people, and there should be a program to promote our judges, our people to the technical committees, our representatives in the executive committee of the international federation. And every federation should have such programs! We have learned how to win medals, but we have lost our presence in international sports bodies.
Yes, it’s sad.
Irina Rodnina: It’s not sad, it’s an indicator of bad work. The federation does not report with how an athlete, who is trained by a coach, choreographer, performed. It is not the federation that pays for this, but mainly the country or region. The federation must report on its work, which means positions in the international arena, influence on judging in the form of legal introduction of some rules, training of judges, development of this sport in the country. When did our federation hold educational seminars in Siberia, in the Far East? We build a lot of ice rinks, but low-skilled coaches work there.
I travel around the country and conduct some master classes. Just returned from Gorno-Altaisk. There is a good new skating rink, but when children say that they have been skating for three years, it seems to me that a few months would have been enough to teach them what they can do, but not three years. This is the work of the federation. It should develop programs not only for the national team, but for the development of its sport within the country. I worked in the USA, and there each federation has its own programs that maintain interest in this sport. Figure skating is one of the most expensive sports. And any normal parent wants his child to be interested, safe, to be in a good society and develop physically.
In any sport, out of thousands of people involved, only one champion appears. And the task of sport is to ensure that we have a healthy generation growing up, physically and psychologically ready for study and serious workloads, for solving the tasks that they set for themselves and that the country sets for them.
So that the Olympic silver in figure skating is not perceived as the main defeat in life and you are not considered a loser.
Irina Rodnina: It has always been, and not only in figure skating. When I was 16 years old, the famous runner, Olympic champion Petr Bolotnikov told me: “Baby, only gold is valued in this country.” These are our ambitions.
Do you agree with him?
Irina Rodnina: If you are wasting your health, time, strength to the detriment of everything else, then you must do everything to be the first. It doesn’t work out every time, and for some it becomes a tragedy. And rightly so, and it moves the sport forward. We shouldn’t say that sport is sport. The state pays a lot of money to bring a person to competitions an he took 18th place. In other countries, the parents pay for the training first. When you have achievements, sponsors appear. And we want the state to pay for almost everything. But in this case, the state can form an order – high places.
Irina Rodnina: Wherever they are. We have no records in figure skating. Journalists calling the scores for the short, free program and total score but it’s nonsense. Records are important in swimming, in athletics and weightlifting. And the amount of points that the judges give you may not be entirely objective. Therefore, calling it a record is not entirely correct.
Is the number of quadruple jumps in the program important?
Irina Rodnina: It’s worth a shot. Probably they explained it poorly to Sasha Trusova. In figure skating, the score is given for an element performed clean. And if you try to do an element, but you don’t do it cleanly, then your score is even lowered. Therefore, all the cries that she did five quadruples … She just barely did two or three.
Do you think it was right for Sasha Trusova to try to perform a triple axel in the short program at the Olympics, although she almost never succeeded at competitions? Or at the Games it was necessary to think about the country first of all and not take risks?
Irina Rodnina: This is a question to the coach. There is such a thing – the tactics for competitions, which is developed together with the coach. I don’t know what was their thoughts.
“Is it forbidden to go to the USA or something? I came to my friends who have my winter clothes.”