Maxim Kovtun: Many athletes are very afraid to make a step into another life, but I’m ready for it
Interview with Maxim Kovtun who announced his retirement.
by Elena Vaitsekhovskaya for rsport.ria.ru
Last September, you told me that you have never reached such a great shape, that your age allows you to skate many more years, and suddenly such a sharp turn. How long have you been going to the decision to end your career?
– This is a difficult question for me. There was no long way to this decision, no long thoughts. I just suddenly understood very clearly what my sporting life is like, where it goes. I couldn’t finish figure skating a year ago. I did not even think about it, because I knew that if I hadn’t returned to my previous level, the feeling of unrealized potential would have ate me. Now I have a clear feeling that as a skater I did everything I could, everything I was capable of. This season every minute of my life I was aimed only at the result. All this year, including the Russian Championships and the European Championships, I lived like a monk in a cage. Worked hard in training, with no excuses. Not a single one. All this was for the sake of result, in order to be the best, to be at the very top, in the elite.
At the same time, I was aware that health is a very serious constraint. That my back, all these hernias and protrusions are for the whole life, and the only thing I can do to keep my back in working condition is to do regular exercises and watch it very carefully. But the more I worked on the muscles, the more clearly I understood that the resources of my body are simply not enough to take places in the world top. Not to mention getting into the top three.
At what point did you realize that?
– After the European Championships, when I started to prepare for the Universiade. Then my back reminded about itself very strongly. With my coach (Elena Buyanova – ed) we simplified the content of the program, but I didn’t feel better. So I began to think: the Olympic cycle just begun, three years till the next Games. This period is too long. Yes, probably I could continue to train, but for what? To be somewhere in the middle of the result table? I guess I’m not the person who can afford it.
After your unsuccessful performance at the European Championships, I honestly thought that your main problem isn’t mostly in physical condition, but in your nervous system which cannot withstand such a pressure. You are a creative person, which is a great help in figure skating, but usually creative people are very vulnerable.
– But I have had good performances. There were performances when it was possible to quit successfully control myself. I will not hide, it wasn’t always easy. Besides at the European Championships I was very well prepared, much better than at the Russian Nationals. But on the day of competitions there was only one feeling – that my whole body was filled with cement. And I can’t do anything about it.
Didn’t you want you give up after that championships?
– At some point – yes, I did. But I was pretty quickly pulled out of this state. For a short time I went home to Yekaterinburg, then returned to Moscow and we continued to prepare for the World Championships. The Universiade was supposed to be just a stage of this preparation. But then serious problems began. How can you think about trainings when you even can’t tie a shoelaces?
Have you watched World Championships?
– Yes, of course.
What was the strongest impression?
– Yuzuru Hanyu. I didn’t care that he lost to Chen. Of course, Nathan is incredibly cool, but he didn’t impress me so much. At the same time it was a little sad to understand that Hanyu has no room for growth. If he tries to complicate the programs, the risk of injury and the risk of mistakes will be too great.
How do you feel about the fact that skaters are about to start jumping the quad axel?
– Sometimes I think that not so long ago it was considered impossible to do all quadruple jumps and an axel in one program, but Chen did this? If guys start jumping axel, it’s almost the same thing as a toe loop or salchow in five turns. And that means these jumps are also just around the corner. On the other hand, our sport should not become a gladiatorial battle, where the defeated is killed to the death. After all, the organizers of any competition will prefer to see Hanyu skating, not killing himself on the quad axel.
Why, having refused to go to Saitama, you did not give any comments on this topic?
– Because at that moment it was too hard for me to discuss all this. There are always some problems in the life of any athlete. A little not enough health, nerves, a trauma has happened or some kind of misunderstanding. In my case it all happened together. Now it has become much simpler: I set certain priorities for myself, there is an understanding of what I want to do.
Did Buyanova try to dissuade you?
– Of course she tried. But it seems to me that Elena Germanovna understood that the fact that I lost European Championships wasn’t the reason for my decision. That it wasn’t spontaneous. In fact, I felt great relief when I made this decision. You can say otherwise, I just stopped deceiving myself. Many athletes, when they start to realize that a career is going nowhere, are very afraid to make a step into another life. I would call it the fear of adult decisions. I’m not afraid of this. On the contrary, I’m looking forward for new opportunities.
And what are you going to do now?
– Studying is the priority now. I’m a third year student at the Institute of Physical Education at the department of “Theory and Methods of Figure Skating”, and I really want to develop in the coaching direction.
Probably I would have been less surprised if I had heard the word “rap” from you now.
– All this is in the past. Once I perceived music as a hobby, but I got over it. I want something completely different: to be a serious, self-sufficient and independent person who builds his life around big and interesting business.
I still can’t imagine you as a coach.
– Maybe you’re wrong. I have serious ambitions. After all, until recently I had no idea what a huge practical encyclopedia I have accumulated in my head: I trained with Nikolai Morozov, Elena Buyanova, Tatiana Tarasova, Inna Goncharenko and even Alexei Nikolaevich Mishin. Just I have never had the task to teach someone. Only recently I have started to help someone with jumps, with steps. I got myself a special diary, in which I write some coaching methodological ideas, I’m preparing a thesis.
Who of the listed specialists was the toughest coach?
– Probably, Nikolai Morozov. He didn’t find the key to me, although now I can confess that it was much easier than he thought. But happened what happened: Morozov simply didn’t have time, desire, or energy for me.
Do you have plans for the summer?
– In July-August, I’m invited to work with the children in training camps, I will gain practical experience. But I wouldn’t want to work only in training camps. I want to work for the result, go to competitions, reach the world level. I’m studying very seriously for this now. In the meantime, I have no a degree that would allow me to officially work as a coach, I will held training camps, master classes and individual lessons. The main thing is that I intuitively feel that I’m on the right track now. And intuition almost never fails me.
Do you see yourself as a tough coach?
– I can be tough. But yelling at skaters is not the key. The main thing is to be able to find a key to them. There are athletes at whom you cannot even raise a voice because in this case they simply stop “hearing” you. I can say about one more idea: I really want to try myself as a choreographer. I have never done it before, but it’s interesting to try.
I strive to be very busy. I want to develop in all possible directions. I don’t know what level I will be able to reach, but I will try very hard.
I know that you were going to write a farewell text for your fans on Instagram and sign: “The boy who did not get to the Olympics.”
– This has become a joke long time ago. After I didn’t get to the Games in Sochi, a policeman stopped me, looked at my driving licence and said: “Oh! Kovtun! Is it you? The boy who didn’t get to the Olympics?”
And if without jokes, is that story is still a thorn in the soul?
– No longer. Yes, I understand that my time in figure skating is gone, but it was and it was not bad. In general, not every sportsman got such a fate. After all, it happens that a person wins the Olympic Games but then nobody needs him at all. This, in my opinion, is really painful experience. I can’t complain. I’m still in demand in the profession, I have a goal, I have an understanding how to reach it. And most importantly there is a feeling that I did everything I could. Therefore, I’m leaving the sport with a light heart.
How much your retirement from sport hit your financial situation?
– My financial position throughout the season was zero. I earned nothing, and the scholarship that I continued to receive was enough for food. For the first six months, I paid off with debts. A figure skater who performs in competitions earns only when he shows a top result. All my earnings start only now.
What about welfare?
– I would say this: good enough not to think about it. I have where to live, a have a car. But without high-hat. Over the past three or four years I almost get over it. My dream is to build a house for parents in a countryside.
– Not. I just want to do it.
Serious plans. And what was the most insane and stupid waste of money?
– On clothes. There was a period when I bought some expensive things exclusively from leading brands. Some crazy clothes, some new sneakers …
And the iconic LV bag?
– Of course! Ask me now why I needed all this and I will not answer. Then I sold it all when I had no money. So now I’m a boy who doesn’t have a Louis Vuitton bag. But I definitely don’t suffer because of this!
Related topics: Maxim Kovtun