Maxim Kovtun: “I’m proud of our skaters. I remember what it means to train when you don’t know if you will have a competitions.”
Interview with former Russian National champion Maxim Kovtun. About finishing his career, the reasons for growth of competition in men’s single skating in Russia, triple axel in ladies’ skating, keeping good relationships with coaches and attitude towards hate on the Internet.
source: by Anastasiia Panina and Pavrl Lysenkov for matchtv.ru dd. 2d December 2020
At the end of your career, it seemed that this decision was taken quite easily. After a while, did you regret it and maybe had a desire to return?
Maxim Kovtun: There is definitely no regrets. There were moments of pleasant sadness, since I have devoted many years to figure skating, and in the future, I think, I will remain in this sport in some form.
It was a deliberate decision, although it wasn’t easy. But sometimes you need to think with your head, not with your heart.
How was the process of adapting to a new life outside sports? What activities did you try, what do you like the most, and what is definitely not for you?
Maxim Kovtun: First of all, I enjoyed as much as possible that I could devote all the time to myself and my hobbies. But you have to work a lot, I realized this during my career in figure skating. If you take the time before the pandemic, my time was scheduled for a year in advance, and I simply did not have the opportunity to try something new – say, play golf. Now (in a pandemic) everything is different, but I perceive this period as a time that needs to be waited out.
I graduated from university, graduated as a figure skating coach. Now I am doing this, do some additional studying on the topic. I want to try myself as a choreographer.
With what emotions do you follow figure skating now? What has impressed you the most from what you’ve seen recently?
Maxim Kovtun: I am proud of our skaters. I remember what it means to train when you don’t know if you will have a competitions. This time, the guys haven’t known for a long time whether there would be a season at all. This is much more difficult than what I had to go through.
I was at the Russian Grand Prix, once again I was convinced of the highest level of our figure skating. Despite the illnesses, injuries, incomplete preparation: you have the ice, you don’t have the ice, the competitions will be, then it canceled … It’s exhausting, but you won’t guess it looking at the the skaters. I’ll even say – I haven’t seen our single skaters skating at such a high level for a long time. Well done, they continue to progress, especially since the competitors are also strong.
What are the reasons for the growth of competition in men’s single skating in the Russian national team?
Maxim Kovtun: Somehow it turned out that the guys reached approximately the same level at the same time. It is not new when a person, who does not have a status at the international arena yet, jumps 3-4 quads and shows a high level. This puts pressure on others, which creates competition and leads to growth.
Now I really like to look at Misha Kolyada. He progressed very strongly after switching to Mishin. They found some kind of key, because now you look at him and don’t worry. They made the program a little easier, the jumps became more stable, plus he has the highest GOE, because the quality of the elements is excellent. This is the right decision. Still Kolyada is the leader of our national team.
Alexandra Trusova is learning the triple axel and cannot stabilize this jump yet. Tell us about your experience – what is the complexity of the axel, why skaters have problems with it?
Maxim Kovtun: I would say that she has already mastered it and can consistently perform in training, but at competitions she does not it jump yet. Maybe the adrenaline affects in some moments. Even a small misfire – move your foot or hand otherwise – and there is no element. I think it’s a matter of time. Just continue to work on it. The girl is jumping all quads! The triple axel should be easy for her in the future.
Girls often have problems with the axel – I don’t know why, just some kind of curse (smiles). For boys, this is a common element that you can easily jump in the second half of the program. For girls – they goes on axel through the entire ice, an incredible tension. Although at the same time they easily make the quadruple lutz – the most difficult element that I, for example, did not perform. No one will tell you exactly the reason for the mistakes, it is always individual.
Perhaps, soon the International Skating Union will raise the age minimum for figure skaters moving to the senior level (from 15 to 17 years old). What do you think about this innovation from the point of view of an athlete who would be limited by the new rules, and from the point of view of an adult who is already out of sport. Raising the age minimum is it evil or good?
Maxim Kovtun: I’m not Nostradamus, of course, I can only guess. I think this will reduce the interest in ladies’ figure skating a bit, because many juniors who could learn difficult jumps will skate till 17 and end their careers. At the same time, it will give adult skaters a chance to show their maximum and compete in the international arena.
In general it’s ambiguous, but I think it would be better to leave everything as it is. Ladies’ figure skating has really rejuvenated, but we have already formed training systems for this, according to which children train. It wouldn’t be right to mess them up.
The pandemic is forcing the federation to hold some competitions without spectators. Did you have such an experience – to perform in front of empty stands? Do you think it’s harder than skating with a full arena?
Maxim Kovtun: I didn’t have such experience, only at some training skates. Or at closed test skates of the national team, where only judges and specialists from the federation were present. I think that without spectators at the competitions, athletes may face a lack of motivation. Of course, it’s a hundred times cooler to perform with with a full stands.
Many skaters now face a lot of negativity on social media. Has it become less in your life after the end of your career?
Maxim Kovtun: I was probably one of the first to come across this, just when Instagram and other social networks became popular. It was difficult. Now the guys are more ready for this, they are of a different temper, so they perceive everything a little easier. In addition, there are many pleasant things when they support you, write kind words. Well, even in the negative, you can find benefit – it motivates many.
In your life you happen to change coaches. How to make sure that you stay on good terms with your ex-coach after a breakup, and is it even possible?
Maxim Kovtun: It’s possible. For example, I am still on excellent terms with all of my coaches. To do this, you need to be honest. I directly explained the situation, said why I should do this, and that it does not affect the relationship outside the ice at all. This can be compared to a job change, although the coach, of course, is not quite a boss. Maybe I was just lucky with people – they understood me. And I didn’t see it as a betrayal.
You are a coach now. Do you think that the level of preparation of children has changed compared to what it was before when you were a child?
Maxim Kovtun: Now they are putting a lot of pressure on children that everything needs to be done faster. More jumps, more gliding, learn ultra-c quicker. The level is serious. Compared to what it was fifteen, even ten years ago it has become twice as difficult. But at the same time, the popularity of figure skating has increased three times. This is progress; it should not be feared, but supported.
Are old traumas interfering with normal life now?
Maxim Kovtun: The lower back hurts a bit, because there are two hernias and protrusion. I can’t stand up for long. But for us, the athletes, when you finish career all the sores go away. So I’m not complaining, everything is fine.