Javier Fernandez: “Figure skating, in my opinion, is a story about mature skating. Our sport lacks this now”
Interview with Javier Fernandez for Russian media. In the interview Javier spoke about plans for the future, problems of figure skating in Spain, assessed the coaching prospects of Evgeni Plushenko and the sports prospects of Evgenia Medvedeva.
by Bella Gaurgashvili for news.ru dd. 11th November 2020
More than a year has passed since you’ve ended your sports career. Tell us about your life after big sports. Do you miss the old days?
Javier Fernandez: This is definitely a different life. There are things that I miss: not being able to see the skaters on a regular basis, to feel the atmosphere of competitions. There are moments that you can only experience at big competitions, and these things will never return. These are the things I miss the most. However, there is a downside to competitions: nerves, depression. After finishing my career, I had the opportunity to relax. Now I have a lot of projects to work on. Some things cannot be combined. My projects cannot go on at the same time with training and competitions.
Indeed, you left the sport with a lot of ideas. This is the academy, this is the Revolution on Ice show. As far as I know, in 2019, you had a tour all over the Spain with Revolution on Ice and were going to China, Japan this year. But suddenly the coronavirus came … How much did it change your plans?
Javier Fernandez: This situation affected everything. I will say that this is a special year. A year of hope. A year when a little patience is needed until a solution is found. Once the issue with this virus is resolved, I want to continue doing the show. And, of course, now our goal is to go beyond the borders of Spain, we want to go around the world.
At the same time, I really want to start working on the creation of the academy. It will be based in Spain. Children of different ages will be able to train with us, where they will have all the facilities to develop, and, possibly, where they will be able to grow into world-class figure skaters in the future. It is not easy to achieve this goal, but with the proper effort and with the support that we will give to the children, there is hope that we will be able to success.
What about coaching?
Javier Fernandez: I will be the head coach of the academy. In Spain, the way of working is a bit different, I want to change it. In my opinion, athletes should see some benefit in this sport. I have no goal of becoming some kind of director or manager. Yes, to some extent it will be necessary to combine these responsibilities. But the main goal is to be with the athletes every day.
When you just finished your career, you said that you were not striving to take up coaching fully. What changed your mind?
Javier Fernandez: This decision is not new, I have been thinking about it for a long time. Even before ending my sports career, I knew that I would come to this. Now I realized that the time has come to start more thorough work in this direction. I would like the issue with the academy to be resolved in the near future very much. However, there is no need to think that we will leave the show – we will continue to work on them. We will try to support both directions.
Everyone knows that you made a huge contribution to the development of figure skating in Spain with your sporting achievements. How is it shown?
Javier Fernandez: The desire of people to watch and do figure skating has grown. But to this day, the main problem is that we have few ice rinks. The lack of ice rinks does not allow inviting people to figure skating simply because there will not be enough places for everyone. And skating rinks are absent in most cities. However, despite this, in recent years there has been a significant increase in the demand for figure skating.
How many more European Championships will have to pass for a strong representation from Spain to appear in men’s single skating?
Javier Fernandez: Enough time should pass. We have good, talented children. However, you need to understand that the European, World Championships, and the Grand Prix series are competitions of the highest level. I have not seen Spanish children of such a high level yet to be in the leading positions in these competitions. We need to wait a few more years. That is why I want to open an academy to help our children go this way as quickly as possible, to try to bring them closer to the world level.
In general, the poor level of figure skating is a problem for most European countries. What does Europe lack to get even a little closer to Russia’s success?
Javier Fernandez: My opinion on this matter is this: in order to get closer to the successes of Russia, you need to try to work even more than in Russia. If you want a sport or athletes to be at the elite level, it is necessary to have trainings at the appropriate level. Not ok, not ordinary trainings, but trainings at the highest level! There are many aspects to be involved in the training process. Came to the skating rink, skated and left – it will not work. This is a more complex process. Doing sports for the sake of sports is not what is needed. If you want to perform at the best competitions and achieve results, you need a different approach.
However, in many countries there are no ice rinks or people for big purposes. In Russia there is. There are many specialized coaches with great skill. They have their own technique, their own knowledge base, which has been accumulating since childhood. A genius or an Olympic champion will not turn out of a boy or girl if the ñomprehensive work is not done. There will be no result if you train for only one hour. Spent an hour at the rink, went to work in the gym, floor, returned to the ice – that’s the only way. There must be good choreographers. Russia has it all. And Spain needs to strive for this.
Are there many figure skating activists in Spain like you?
Javier Fernandez: Yes and no. A large number of people in Spain are focused on business. Of course, on the one hand, there must be profit in order to be able to continue the activities of the academy. But this is not for the sake of money, but for the sake of the product, which shows itself up in the skater’s level, in his future success. However, the fact is that most ice rinks in Spain are of a commercial nature. They need to find hours for school, they need to find hours for public events. For you to understand, figure skating, hockey, curling, open events can take place on the same rink. This is not suitable for sports results. There are activists, but it’s very difficult to arrange this all. Therefore, some additional help is needed in the person of the state or sponsors that could help to make a good school with affordable prices. In our country, most people pay for everything: for the choreographer, for the costume, for the competitions, which is very difficult.
Do you follow what is happening now in Russian figure skating?
Javier Fernandez: I follow some competitions, but I don’t watch them, I just check the results. Currently, young guys and girls from Russia are the best skaters in the world. I think that in the coming years, all the pedestals will be taken by Russian skaters. This will definitely affect the level of competition. It will grow because athletes from all over the world will work hard to place on the podium as well. The level of ladies’ skating in Russia is especially high now. Even very young girls have a very complex technical base. It seems to me that there are many talented children in Russia who work hard, have good natural data, a high level, but they need to prolong their level for at least a few years. If they cannot compete according to their age, it will be very bad.
Athletes grow up, their axes of the jumps change, after all their body changes. These are very delicate and personal moments. Therefore, we often see that some older skaters are not able to perform at a very high level. As a result, they have been performing for several years and disappearing, performing and disappearing.
You’ve definitely heard about Medvedeva’s return to Russia. Is this a right decision?
Javier Fernandez: I admit that the situation which we all faced has greatly influenced her. You cannot travel, move freely … We also know that in order to stay in Canada on a permanent basis, you need a visa. This is all very difficult. Many coaches, many academies find themselves in a difficult situation precisely because their athletes are gathered from all over the world.
In the end, she ended up in a place where she is comfortable, where she learned a lot from her former coach. So it’s better for her this way now. She is a grown girl and a good friend of mine as well. I know Brian Orser is of the same opinion. He will do everything to make her feel good. If it is better for her to be in Russia, then it will be Russia.
As you noted, now there is a tough competition in ladies’ figure skating. Young girls who jump quads win all the pedestals. What sport prospects does Medvedeva have in this case? Can she still prove herself?
Javier Fernandez: Honestly, I do not know. Only she can answer this question. The only thing I know for sure is that Evgenia is a figure skater with a lot of experience. She is literally a woman on the ice. When she began to achieve her sports results, she was still a little girl, now she is not.
One of the important tasks, in my opinion, that the figure skating community faces is to save mature ladies’ skating. However, this is not an easy process. It is difficult for figure skating federations to take a step in this direction, as young girls achieve incredible results, win big awards for their countries. But this issue should be regulated primarily from above. Returning to Evgenia, she presents herself on the ice much better than most young skaters, simply because they are still young.
I cannot but ask about Evgeni Plushenko. Now he is experiencing a new round of popularity in figure skating. However, already in a new status. Do you think he will be able to achieve the same great results in coaching as in sports career?
Javier Fernandez: It is almost impossible to achieve the results that Plushenko has in his sports career. He’s a big legend. At least for me. When it comes to his coaching prospects, he does a great job. He has a team that is working to achieve not just a great result in the future, but incredible heights in Russian figure skating. But this takes time. What is there now? There is even more competition among children. Evgeni, together with other coaches, gives the children the opportunity to compete, progress and, possibly, become champions in the future. However, do not forget that a lot also depends on athletes. In any case, Evgeni can always consider the option with Spain (laughs).
I really hope that he will be able to bring up long-lived skaters, and not those who disappear in two or three years. Figure skating, in my opinion, is a story about mature skating. Our sport lacks this now.
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Figure skating is alreaday struggling with popularity, except for Russia and some Asian countries… If it continues in this direction to become a sport of pale thin teens with incredible jumps and nothing else, you can say goodbye to its commercial potential… Sad but true
Figure skating is an expensive sport, so if Javier’s academy can attract major sponsors and support from Spanish governments, that would be a positive development.