Kavaguti and Smirnov: It’s important that we are one team
My translation of Tatjana Flade’s interview with Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov in Bratislava. About return to the ice and plans.
Sasha, in Bratislava, you went out on the ice for the first time after a long break caused by Yuko’s injury. How do you asses this performance?
– Well done that we coped with the first half of competition, a short program. Naturally, there were little mistakes, because we lack enough amount of run-throughs. We still can’t train in full force. All the time that Yuko was recovering, I missed a lot, trained less, worked more as a coach. And, of course, Yuko hasn’t fully recovered yet. I think because of this we had small mistakes. But we’re very pleased that we coped. Short program is always more difficult to handle.
Not many people believed that you can return to the ice. When you decided that you will continue to skate?
– Believed – didn’t believe … When Yuko got injured, we all thought that after such injury people don’t return to the ice. We found out from people who have gone through the same trauma, and they said that recovery will take a year – year and a half. So, even if Yuko had recovered, then during that time we would have missed Olympics, everything else. The question arises: does game worth the candle? But the next day after surgery I went to Yuko in the hospital, and she for some reason began to apologize that we won’t skate at European and World championships. I asked, ‘Yuko, why are you apologizing? This injury, is not your fault.’ And she said that now she has even more desire to continue skating. ‘It’s great’ – I said. – ‘Because Tamara and I almost gave up. We are waiting for you!’ Then it was just words. But when Yuko started to recover actively, very actively, ahead of schedule, we realized that she’s serious about come back. In total, we haven’t skated for more then 7 months. Then, when doctors allowed, we began to go on the ice, to train for 15 minutes. We worked in the gym. I believe that this event have shown what we are really capable of. At the moment. But, again, we want more, only Yuko’s health still doesn’t allow us to do it.
When did you start training on the ice?
– Somewhere in the middle of June.
You have old programs because you didn’t have enough time to prepare new?
– Not just wasn’t enough. We didn’t have time at all. We took the music for the programs that we have already skated. Fold several programs together – short and free, and get new ones. Of course, choreographer helped us to make it all look acceptable.
Why did you choose this music?
– Free program “Moonlight” – it was our strong point. I also thought that it’ll be easier for Yuko to skate the program to a calm music. And the short program is blues. We didn’t want to go on about and take the music with vocals. We took the blues, which is very suitable for our current state. it shows all our worries. I think that we’ll skate in the programs and will be fine. At the time, when we have did the program to this music, we didn’t skate them much.
Where else are you planning to compete?
– Of course, we need to perform more, but we must keep in mind how Yuko will feel, her leg. We all have great desire, but don’t have possibility. Yuko wants, but yet she can’t. And the most difficult thing that her leg doesn’t hurt, she just doesn’t feel it. Because of the time that she wasn’t skating, the muscles atrophied a bit. And when you don’t feel the leg, then how can you skate, do triples or restore quadruples, which we want to restore?
You don’t want to take risks, to avoid new injuries.
– When I injured my leg, the doctors said that if I injure my knee again, I will walk with cane, not only finish skating. Repeated Achilles tendon rupture will force not only to give up sport, normal movement will be a problem. Therefore, we are very careful, and it slows down our progress.
Still your pair have such a willpower! First, you got injured, then Yuko …
– It turned out from the very beginning of our career. As soon as we start to skate together, in the first season there was a fracture, and so it went, one by one, all the time we’re waiting for each other. Thank God we have Tamara, who realistically assess our chances and always support us. It’s important that we are one team. What we experienced can be an example not only for ourselves, but for someone else, to support people in difficult times. The fans wrote us that, they watch how we go to the hospital, recover, go to the ice and it’s miracles. It’s so nice. Great that many people support us. This encourages us even more.
Does the Federation support you?
– Very much. We were very warmly welcomed at the test skates. Moreover, in Sochi, we spent all training well. Alas, not everything turned out at the test skates. But it was our first skate of entire programs. This is not the same with what we show at our master-classes, for example in Igora. There we do one difficult element, then a simple one and everything turns out. And at the test skates, it was necessary to show more of difficult elements. Plus stress. But in the Federation supported us. They are even glad that we came back. And not so much because of what the result that can show this year, but because we can be an example for young athletes that they shouldn’t despair. Young have unstable psyche. Someone can have one brilliant competition and then a disastrous one and they say ‘I’m going to quit’, even though all the guys are worthy. And here our young people can look at our pair, see that there are such dinosaurs, who go forward regardless of obstacles, and nothing can stop them, nor injuries, nor anything else.
What goals do you have for this season?
– I knew that you will ask this question and then will ask Yuko the same question. The main goal is to recover for the Russian Nationals and perform with dignity. In general, when we found out that we also got Grand Prix, of course we were excited and a little scared, because understood that we don’t have much time. So the goal is to recover at least to the level of last year. Let it be no quads. The goal is to recover and don’t get new injuries, to please Tamarochka Nikolaevna and ourselves.
Yes, today we didn’t skate clean. But I’m happy for Yuko that she coped with problematic elements, although it seemed to me that in the middle of the program she ceased to feel her leg. I saw it, I tried to help her, but Yuko is a fighter.
While Yuko was on recovery, you started to work as a coach?
– I work, and I like it. I would like to work more, but it’s difficult to combine, it’s physically difficult, I don’t have time. But we have ice, time for trainings, we worked good with guys in the training camp. I have a schedule like this: first, I went to trainings with Yuko, then stayed for an hour with students. I dined. Then Yuko again and then again guys. By evening I was exhausted. But we worked very productively. I saw that my athletes like to train with me. This year they have interesting programs, choreographers helped – Povilas Vanagas. But all programs I finished myself. We all made a very good team. I’m happy for my athletes.
Your pair Goda Butkute Nikita Ermolaev also competed in Bratislava. Did you skate yourself and look after them at the same time?
– My wife is laughed before this trip to Bratislava, said: ‘Oh, you’re the first player-coach in the history of figure skating.’ Such were in football, whether there were such in figure skating I haven’t figured out. Tamara Nikolaevna strongly supported me. She saw that I didn’t have time for everything and she helped the guys. She has a rich experience. Thank her very much.
You also were with Sergei Voronov.
– His coach couldn’t come and Sergei asked me ‘Sanya, can you stand behind the board?” And I say: “I will also train you, not only stand behind the board.’
Yuko, you’re back on the ice. Congratulations! Sasha said that immediately after surgery you decided to continue skating.
– I told Sasha that I want to skate, because at that time I didn’t understand how serious my injury is. And then I stayed in a plaster for two months. It was long enough to forget how to walk normally. I said that I want, but I had a desire in the first three days after surgery. In fact, I didn’t understand how it will be. I couldn’t Walk normally, couldn’t do anything myself, even to take a shower. I had to go, to live. Every day little by little. And then I couldn’t put on the skates on the foot. They didn’t fit. It was hard.
The leg swelled?
– Just “Achilles” was thin and doctors “strengthened” it. And then I had to change skates. Tormented with them for two-three weeks, but it’s ok. Then I went out on the ice. I couldn’t even stand. I didn’t understand even how to skate. I thought that everything would have been much easier.
But still you didn’t give up. What was the motivation?
– Figure skating is my life. But to skate is one thing and to compete is another story. Now I have strength, because I haven’t skated for 3 months, rested. I was tired, when I waited Sasha, when he injured his leg. Mentally tired. And now, on the contrary, I want to skate, but physically I can’t.
With what attitude did you go out on the ice?
– With a thought that it needs to be done. But my head and my legs are not together yet. Head wants to skate, and the legs do not allow. But I don’t want to justify this.
You took the music which you’ve used before. Do you like it so much?
– I’m not ready for something better yet.
Did all these injuries, problem make you stronger, bring together, unite?
– I do not know about make stronger. But yes, we got closer. Before Sasha’s injury I had a operation on shoulder, then he injured his leg. And when Sasha told me some things, I didn’t understand it. Now I understand. This brougt us together.
Who supported you in difficult times?
– My mom. First she came to me, because I couldn’t go to Japan. Sasha and Tamara supported. But my mother, of course, the most. When it become possible, I flew to Japan for 10 days. In Japan, I started to pass rehabilitation, but I couldn’t stay there for a long time. Still, here were Sasha, Tamara. Japan is far, I was drawn back. I Returned and was recovering in Russia.
Sasha told that sometimes you don’t feel your leg, how do you cope with this?
– There is no other way. But my leg is not fully ready to compete yet.
Is there a fear to get injured again?
– There is a fear because I don’t feel my leg and can’t train a lot, but I want compete. Dilemma. The hardest part is to recover psychologically. I have to endure. It’s harder than to do elements.
Maybe in time you can also train children, like Sasha?
– I can train children. Not so sure about adults. I need to recover. Sasha switches from our training to work with the guys – it’s good. And I need time and patience.
After such trauma, people restore for year and a half, and you’re already competing. What doctors told you?
– When I told the doctor that I want to continue skating, he said: ‘If you want, you can skate.’ And I believed him.
Now you train less?
– Even more than before. I do exercises to recover faster. I feel and know that I need it.
Probably, a lot of fans write to you?
– After surgery, many people wrote me. I got a lot of letters from Japanese fans. I’m very grateful to everyone, but I want to forget quickly about injury. It’s nice that in Russia I perceive as Russian athlete. Even in such difficult moment everyone supportes me.
So, you feel on 100% as from here?
– Yes. It’s nice. But fatigue accumulates from all this. And I want to rest a little more.