Maxim Trankov: “The champion position is very precarious. Today they love us, tomorrow they will crucify us.”
Olympic champion Maxim Trankov celebrates his 37th birthday on October 7. By his own admission, by this age he has not acquired status, but has learned to be happy. In an interview Trankov told how he stopped feeling like an eternal loser, about his dream to be at the Olympic Games again, about Tarasova Morozov and modern figure skating.
by Veronika Sovetova for tass.ru dd.7th October 2020
Maxim, you don’t look as 37 years old.
Maxim Trankov: Yes, I don’t follow the numbers at all. Moreover, I have a funny story about it. When I came to work in the team of Ilia Averbukh, I was associated with the younger generation – Roman Kostomarov, for example, ranked me so. I told him that we have little difference in age. I was either 34 or 33 then. And once we all were at the birthday party together, the same conversation started again. There is a guy working in our team – he is my classmate. He says “How can it be so? You are half a year younger than me.” We started counting, and it turned out that I was a year younger than I thought. Believe it or not, I’ve been adding at least a year for a couple of years.
Now I’m a little stunned when I see on TV a person to whom, when we met, I was addressing as mister. And then he turns out to be 35, for example. I definitely don’t feel so high-status. Young people communicate with me on equal terms, and most of my friends are younger than me, so I am well preserved. My peers are Oksana Domnina, Maxim Shabalin, but when they finished, I stayed in sports and, as it were, caught up with the generation of Maxim Kovtun. So these 37 are my 37, in my format, and it is closer to 33. When I sometimes buy alcohol, they ask me to show id.
Let me make shocked eyes and ask: “You and alcohol? What do you mean? It can’t be!”
Maxim Trankov: I actually had my own bar. My close friend Fedor Klimov and I – by the way he’s younger than me – had a dream: we wanted our own bar, with sports broadcasts, figure skating live, a place for a friends to gather. When we finished sports, we had a small amount of money and we did it. Our bar was called Kolpak Pub, because Fedor is from Kolpino, in St. Petersburg this area is called Kolpak. Our bar was almost in the very center of Moscow, figure skating fans came to spend their leisure time there – everything was great. But then a pandemic came, and that’s all. The bar is gone now, we did not survive the coronavirus. Two months we tried to survive, but went to losses. But pride remained – we closed with a rating of 4.8 out of five according to the Yandex rating.
No plans to reopen your bar?
Maxim Trankov: No. But now we already know how it all works. We can try again, especially since some of the equipment remains, but not now. Now it’s not the time. We understood one very simple thing: if you do something like that, you have to live with it 24 hours a day. We didn’t have such an opportunity, so we missed some things. And to open and entrust someone else would be wrong.
It seems to me that private business in this format is for courageous people. And you are athletes who live on suitcases all their lives between training camps, competitions and rare arrivals home, it’s not easy.
Maxim Trankov: Well, you are right about that. Not so easy. But it depends on which athlete are you. It’s easy for a football player. But for a figure skater I wouldn’t recommend it. But if there is someone’s help, why not? You can save up for a kebab stall.
And now you are a coach and live only with that?
Maxim Trankov: Now I coach Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov. A lot of time was wasted, including on my projects. And now it turned out that there are no ice shows, I gave up the “Ice Age” in order to try with the guys to return to their previous level.
I remember very well our conversation two years ago, when you said: “We’ll work for a year, and if it doesn’t work, then I’ll leave myself and won’t interfere.”
Maxim Trankov: I honestly worked for a year, but the guys needed help – they asked for it themselves. I tried to help them in some moments, not being the coach of this pair. If we count my work with them that year, in total it will not be even two months, I think. This year they asked me to focus on working with them, I weighed everything, set myself a certain goal. I have been to the Olympic Games as an athlete twice, as an employee of Channel One in Pyeongchang. I want to work at the Olympic Games as a coach, I want to stand at the board. This is very important for me now, and there’s everything for this now. I want to be the coach who led my pair to the Olympics.
A lot of it depended on Ice Age, but I was able to abandon this project because I have a pair.
Evgenia and Vladimir have gone through a lot. They are not very emotional, not as open as others. They are very in themselves, very serious.
Maxim Trankov: Their closeness is a serious matter. This is especially true for Zhenya, and I try to convey this to them. But they are adults, and this is the most difficult thing for me. Volodya is an adult man, I can’t change him. He can either take or not take my advice. And technically I cannot retrain him, otherwise you can only break. I don’t even have the right to get into some things. I got a very good pair, but in a very difficult psychological period. They ended their seven-year relationship, they performed unsuccessfully at the Games, being the leaders in the short program, flew out of the top three. It hurts psychology a lot. And it seemed to me that it would be an incomprehensible year and it would be possible to solve all this. We were well prepared for the competition, we wanted to show everything that we had developed at the first stage of the Russian Cup. But then the coronavirus happened. We have already missed three starts, and from this Monday we started from scratch again.
I talked with Alexander Kogan, told him: there are athletes who go through overcoming all their lives, there are those to whom everything is given from the very beginning. This is true. It’s the same story with coaches, and it seems to be about me again. But I hope everything will end well, just like it happened in sports.
Do you remember how you said about you and Tanya Volosozhar: “Once we were the athletes from the category “take you things and leave”?
Maxim Trankov: I understood what this question is about. Yes, Zhenya and Volodya also had a similar story. And at some point in their careers, they also felt like the fifth wheel. But they are a selection pair – beautiful, special. Volodya is a big, handsome, red-haired man on the ice. They are bright. But there is such a story in sports: if your path initially runs through thorns, it will always be so. You just need to realize and accept it. They passed a moment of inner competition, although it did not last long.
Does it bother you that pair skating goes into the shadows?
Maxim Trankov: When I just finished skating, I resented, shouting that pair skating was turning into a survival game: “You are drowning our discipline, pair skating will soon be gone.” But then I realized: if I can’t change anything, influence the situation – what sense? I will not be able to walk around offices, warm a seat at meetings.
It’s a pity. I say this because for me personally pair skating has always been the quintessence of figure skating. Only in pair skating one can see the complexity and beauty, and the “chemistry” of a man and a woman, and geometric synchronicity. I understand that dirty rags from fans of the ladies’ single will fly at me now …
Maxim Trankov: I will clarify: not “one can see”, but “one could see”. Now it’s just a sport. Did a side by side jump – well done, and no one is looking whether you have lines. Look at the photos of Belousova and Protopopov, Totmianina and Marinin, maybe a little bit at Volosozhar and Trankov. On these lines, look where the right angle was right, and it was polished, verified to a centimeter. Now nobody needs it now. And who are the judges? Singles skaters, there are practically no pair skaters, and if there are, I don’t know when they skated. I’m not saying that they are bad judges. It’s just that they did not try pair skating on themselves.
Well, you won’t become a judge, will you?
Maxim Trankov: No! Never. I don’t know how can you judge. I’ve always been judged that’s why I don’t want to do it. I don’t want to be for athletes what judges are.
You once said that you always skated for those who wanted it even more than you.
Maxim Trankov: This is true. A year before the Olympics in Sochi, my father died, right before the European Championships. And he was my biggest fan. I still remember how after winning the Games, I missed his reaction, his eyes, his words, his joy. I’ve always wanted him to see me win the Games. And maybe he’s seen it from above. It may sound very selfish, but I really really needed it then.
I can’t say that at the Games in the free program we had some kind of super fight – after the short program everything was already clear. And that free program – it was my worst skate, I skated like a robot, skated like a mechanical doll just to go through the program.
How many of your fans will breathe out in disappointment now.
Maxim Trankov: My best free skate was the one that took place at the Japanese Grand Prix before the Games. And I’m proud of that program. I know myself. When I got into a trance, when I caught it, this chemistry, we got into the hearts – we lived the program, we did not follow the technique. This happened sometimes in a free program, but it did not always happen. But it was a real thrill.
And the historical world record for the short program in Sochi has not been broken yet.
Maxim Trankov: Yes. And it’s very interesting for me to ask when they give scores close to this – are these components really close to that components? In the future, I want to see the programs like our, like the Olympic free program of Alena Savchenko and Bruno Massot at the Games in Pyeongchang, as the last free program of the reigning world champions – the Chinese. Or like Tarasova – Morozov’s Rachmaninov program. For me this is a reference pair skating.
Do you agree with Klimov, who is a member of the ISU (International Skating Union) Athletes’ Commission?
Maxim Trankov: We are discussing this. But we have a completely different view of pair skating. He skated a little differently. For me pair skating is power elements, creativity of elements, good high lift, difficult twists. Stolbova and Klimov’s pair was “about jumps and throws”, and they did 3-3 combinations, and we did 3-2, what can we argue about?
Do these disagreements interfere with your friendship?
Maxim Trankov: He’s godfather of my child. Friendship is friendship, and in sports everything is decided by ice. Yes, I had rivals with whom we did not even greet. But this was not a problem for me. We were friends with Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres. And already being a coach, if we lost to them, I always went first to congratulate these guys. This is not a problem for friendship.
Since we started to talk about Vanessa and Morgan, how do you feel about the situation with the sex scandal that Cipres got into?
Maxim Trankov: You must play by the rules of the country in which you live or work. And breaking the rules, you must understand what awaits you. I know the whole story well. Perhaps I’ll tell you a secret, but before this season they wanted to train with me. So I really know very well what was going on there. It’s not quite the way the press portrays it.
Safe sport is a necessary thing, but sometimes it is too much, as they say. Not everything is so simple. Yes, it is necessary to suppress, it is necessary to punish, but everything is ambiguous. I’m not making excuses for Morgan, but there are many important nuances in this story and many mitigating circumstances. In our country, such things are completely unacceptable, for us such things are completely unacceptable.
Does it bother you that figure skating is going into a tough hype?
Maxim Trankov: Figure skating has gone to such a peak of popularity, before journalists were looking for news like “Who will do a triple twist in the season”, now everyone is replicating squabbles from the Instagram. Demand creates supply, and this is the personification of our modern society. If people are interested in it, then they will consume it.
Let’s take an example. In the summer, Anastasia Mishina and Alexander Galliamov switched to Tamara Moskvina, well, three people wrote about it, so what? And how many have read it? How many times have I received a call to comment on this topic? And when they discuss the participation of the junior Kamila Valieva in the test skates?
For me, this is not news at all, and why shouldn’t she, the world champion among juniors, participate in the senior test skates, if the juniors do not really have a season? But the question is different: when this news appeared, my phone was heated with calls. This is a demand and we created it ourselves. And it’s great – the girls have their own contracts, they earn, and this is definitely not a minus.
And what can be done so that pair skaters also have contracts?
Maxim Trankov: Win. But apparently you still need a scandal. I don’t know the recipe. When I left Maria Mukhortova, it caused a little fuss, I was even a “traitor”. But this is like a swing. Today they love us, tomorrow they will crucify us.
And I immediately recall your Olympic free program “Jesus Christ Superstar”.
Maxim Trankov: So why this program was – I wanted it for four years, for four years this image was nurturing. I understood that if we lose, we will be crucified. Had we taken second place in Sochi, our fans would have crucified us.
You would have crucified yourself.
Maxim Trankov: The champion position is very precarious. And I am happy for those who quickly ended their careers – because they did not faced all this as much as we did. Some still cannot recover. You will be on Olympus for many years, but walking the razor’s edge is an unreal endless stress. If I had won at 25, I would have been calm and happy.
Since we started talking about stress and walking on a razor’s blade, I’ll touch on the topic of Katya Aleksandrovskaya’s suicide, which completely shocked everyone in the summer. Can figure skating be somehow blamed for this?
Maxim Trankov: I don’t know the whole situation very closely. Indirectly, you can. Yes. But so you can blame life for death. But here’s what I want to say: while discussing all sorts of nonsense, people do not see how many wonderful people from the world of figure skating have passed. Over the past couple of years, many have gone. First Denis Ten, then Chris Reed, whom we all knew very well, John Coughlin, Katya … And they were all absolutely awesome guys, whoever said anything about them. And a million people will support my words. Every year we mourn the guys, it’s some kind of black streak.
That’s why, I begin to overestimate my strengths, capabilities, outlook on life. Denis, Chris, John – we were all friends, we knew each other’s families, constantly communicated. They were wonderful, bright people. But now I understand how fragile this world is.
Can you call yourself a happy person?
Maxim Trankov: Yes. I enjoy what is happening to me. After Volosozhar came to me. And this is not a catchphrase. All the time I tried on the role of unlucky guy – I walked around and whined. At the Vancouver Olympics, I fell on my favorite jump because I’m unlucky. I have a partner not like I need, because I’m unlucky. I scratched the car – I’m unlucky.
And in the competition of the unlucky ones you would have become the second.
Maxim Trankov: Of course. Because I’m not lucky. I haven’t put a coin into any slot machine, because I’m unlucky. And then the best partner Volosozhar comes to me.
Because you are unlucky?
Maxim Trankov: And I thought: well, I won’t cope with it, not with my fortune! And then I started to understand: yes, I’m a happy person, she changed everything. And I’m happy to have such an amazing family. What a cool mother, wife, daughter, daughter-in-law she is. I admire her, she makes me happy. She gave me a daughter who also makes me happy. And in addition to everything, I can do in this life what I really want. I want – I train, I want – I perform on TV, I want – I skate in the show. I do what I want. Of course I’m happy. My mother is alive and well, I have where to live, what to eat, what to drive. I have friends. And I don’t have to do any of the things to become popular. And I won’t be poorer if I don’t have a hundred thousand followers on Instagram.
Maybe that’s why you look so young?
Maxim Trankov: Sometimes it seems to me that even now I could skate. Tanya and I, we would not have spoiled the picture much if we skated. We sometimes joke with her on this topic – well we would definitely take at least 18th place. But I still want to do something more in my life.