“More experienced pair should perform in the team event.” Igor Shpilband about Davis/Smolkin, Olympics and Papadakis / Cizeron
Interview with Igor Shpilband. About Davis/Smolkin, Olympics and Papadakis/Cizeron.
source: matchtv.ru dd. 17th January 2021 by Vlad Zhukob
Russian ice dancers Diana Davis / Gleb Smolkin are having their debut senior season. The skaters sensationally took second place at the National Championships in St. Petersburg, and the seventh place at European Championships in Tallinn.
Their coach Igor Shpilband summed up the results of the competitions, spoke his opinion about the new rhythm dance of the French Gabriella Papadakis / Guillaume Cizeron, and also explained why he would prefer other athletes to participate in the team event at the Beijing Olympics, and not his young duo.
Igor Yurievich, you look pleased.
Igor Shpilband: And I’m really pleased with what Diana and Gleb showed. We need to clarify the technical problems – they didn’t get some levels. On the other hand, at such competitions judges are always a little stricter with debutants. And I think that’s right.
Is it right that Diana and Gleb were underscored a little? Comparing with their results at the Russian Nationls, scores at the European Championships clearly looks more modest.
Igor Shpilband: Well, you can’t compare scores at Nationals. Look what scores dancers get at the US Nationals, for example. There is always a support at Nationals, especially for the leading athletes. This is the right trend, they do it everywhere. Look at the National Championships in France, Canada, America, Italy.
The European Championships is another thing. Moreover, Diana and Gleb were debutants, they started far from the strongest warm-up. Many judges have not yet seen them at all this year. So I think the result is very good. The guys showed themselves worthy, performed well. Seventh place is a cool debut for the third pair (of the national team).
The judges noticed them, remembered them and will pay attention. This was the main task, the guys coped with it.
You mentioned the National Championships, so I can’t help but ask. Can you clarify if it’s worth paying attention to the scores of ice dancers there? Especially on the eve of the Olympics. Just, for example, the American pairs at the US Nationals got more than our Sinitsina/Katsalapov in Tallinn.
Igor Shpilband: Absolutely not. Let me emphasize that scores at ISU events and scores at national championships are completely different things, completely incomparable.
So is this not like some kind of signal to the judges? Saying, look at our skaters, they can do so much and all that.
Igor Shpilband: Of course, the judges want to support athletes from their countries. Especially the athletes who will compete at competitions of such a level as the World Championships, European Championships, Olympic Games. Therefore, scores at nationals are always higher.
I watched Diana’s and Gleb’s training and caught myself thinking that, unlike single and pair skating, it is almost impossible for an average viewer to assess official ice dance training. Is it even possible to have a bad official training in ice dance? And what is the risk?
Igor Shpilband: You know, of course, the trainings where the judges are present, are already part of the competitions. Because some judges see programs live for the first time, and some see participants in general for the first time. Therefore, making the right impression is very important. You need to show your best at this training.
It turns out that an unsuccessful official training in ice dance can still lead to unpleasant consequences in terms of scores?
Igor Shpilband: Well, still it’s competitions that are judged, not trainings. I have seen when athletes train poorly, but perform well. There were also reverse examples. It happens to everyone. Of course, it is important to skate well at the official training, but it is even more important to perform well at the competitions.
What else catches your eye when you look at several strong dance teams on the same ice is the importance of bright charisma. Maybe even audacity? Do you think Diana and Gleb already have it?
Igor Shpilband: Well, of course, they still cannot be compared with the leading teams. This is the first year for Diana and Gleb when they compete at this level. But what is nice for me is that they are progressing from competitions to competitions. And these are not empty words, you can see it by watching their performances. They skated very well in the summer in America, then at the Grand Prix in Canada. Then they had some great competitions in Europe and continued to grow.
But their best performance, it seems to me, was at the Russian Nationals. There, on my opinion, the free dance was the best.
At the same time, the Russian Nationals are considered the most nervous event.
Igor Shpilband: You know, we simply had no expectations. It was their first senior event and we just wanted to show what we can and what we have prepared. In my opinion they got it right.
So, getting into the top three was unexpected for you?
Igor Shpilband: Sure. It’s hard to plan things like that (laughs). It was a wonderful surprise. It’s very nice that this happened. And that the judges noted them.
If you look from the side, it seems that now Diana and Gleb are winning mostly with technique. In any case, it seems to me, the guys are making the most progress there.
Igor Shpilband: We have been working for three years, and progress in elements is our daily work. I don’t think it will ever be finished. It seems to me that they have made a lot of progress in terms of skating, gliding, power and maturity of skating. I’m glad how they grow, how they listen to me.
They both work very well. Thoughtful guys. This progress is pleasant, but not accidental. And what we are talking about in terms of technique is really a daily work. We are trying to improve constantly.
How interesting is it for you to work specifically with Davis / Smolkin?
Igor Shpilband: You know, amazingly interesting, actually. I have over 30 years of coaching experience. And I was lucky enough – I had a lot of good athletes.
I would say – the best athletes.
Igor Shpilband: You can say that, yes. On the other hand, there were no identical athletes. For everyone you need to convey information in their own way, because you can say the same things, but people will perceive them in their own way. You need to see and feel that they heard you.
In fact, I’m still learning it. Right now, working with Diana and Gleb. I learn to feel them, to understand what they perceive, how they see the world. This is a joint work.
Can you describe them? What makes them stand out from other athletes that you have had?
Igor Shpilband: I really like the way they treat each other. This is really very touching. How Gleb treats Diana… A few years ago, he was a boy, but he behaved so masculinely towards her… When Diana had a fracture last year, he literally carried her in his arms. Literally! Diana was in a cast, and Gleb carried her from the car to the skating rink. He carried her everywhere she needed.
They have a soft mutual relationship. And I really enjoy watching them. It is unusual when guys at such a young age behave so intelligently towards each other.
In ice dancing, this chemistry is very important.
Igor Shpilband: Well, to convey this to the viewer, you have to work hard. But they have something internal, of course. Something gentle… And for me it is extremely touching.
You said that you don’t know how to drag Eteri Georgievna to the skating rink. Why is she refusing?
Igor Shpilband: (Laughs.) Oh yes, it’s true! It seems to me that she(Diana) is just very pleased with her mother’s position in this matter. She is very tactful, does not want to impose. Of course, I would love to see her at the rink. As a coach, she notices a lot of things, and for me it would be interesting. Eteri Georgievna is a very high-level specialist.
Even though she is not an ice dance coach ?
Igor Shpilband: On the other hand, she herself skated in dances. And besides, she still has a trained eye for the expressiveness of skating, for some effects, gliding. She sees it very well.
You see, it is very important for me that professionals look at our work from the outside. Because our own eyes get blurred, and you start to miss some things. Therefore, when she comes to us, I really want to hear her opinion. But she doesn’t like it very much.
Does she keep a distance?
Igor Shpilband: Yes Yes. She, you know, as a parent – sits somewhere far away. Or watch through the glass.
There is little time left before the Olympics. What do the guys need to improve before it? And most importantly – how to protect yourself from the coronavirus?
Igor Shpilband: A very good question. Now it’s a big problem, but, unfortunately, it is extremely difficult to answer. All athletes will be very careful. All safety rules must be observed. I hope my guys will be in some kind of “bubble”, completely safe. It would be a terrible shame to miss the Olympics because of such an illness.
You said that Davis / Smolkin’s getting into the top three at the Russian Nationals was a little surprise. What result at the Olympics can give you the same emotions?
Igor Shpilband: I try to look at it realistically. I understand very well that today they are not in such a position to fight for a medal or for more or less serious places at the Olympics. I think that our task will be the same as here in Tallinn: to show ourselves, so that we will be remembered, noted, seen. And, of course, it is impossible to think of a better field for this than the Olympic Games.
Is it impossible for Diana and Gleb to fight for medals even in the team event? Well, theoretically, let’s talk about it.
Igor Shpilband: Theoretically, in the team event … First, the federation needs to put them there. This is the federation’s decision. But, of course, it is better for the team to let more experienced athletes perform there, who have rating and who are able to take more or less high places there. But of course, that’s not for me to decide.
That is, to summarize: in your opinion, it would be more logical to put someone more experienced than Diana and Gleb in the team?
Igor Shpilband: I can’t calculate all the points and all the competitors. But, of course, in team competitions, every skate is of great importance. So here, of course, it is necessary to put objectively the strongest guys.
Then let’s talk about the strongest. Did you watch how Sinitsina / Katsalapov performed?
Igor Shpilband: Oh sure. I think both pairs – Sinitsina / Katsalapov and Stepanova / Bukin are extremely strong, they have a very high level. At the Olympics, they will be a serious competition for the Americans, Canadians and Papadakis/Cizeron. And they will represent Russia worthy in Beijing. It is a great honor for Diana and Gleb to be on the national team with them and also skate for Russia.
Sinitsina / Katsalapov vs Papadakis / Cizeron – is this a real fight or is it still conditional?
Igor Shpilband: It’s definitely real. Although this season I haven’t seen Cizeron live. So it’s a little harder for me to compare them.
But have you seen the new rhythm dance of Gabriella and Guillaume? Some say it’s just a phenomenon.
Igor Shpilband: And by the way, I don’t really like it. The pair is absolutely unique, with amazing plasticity, synchronicity, gliding and everything else. And the short dance…
Isn’t it impressive?
Igor Shpilband: No. For me – no. At least not like for many others. From the position of dance and choreography, this is not very interesting for me. As for me, it has little to do with the theme of street dancing. I would like a little more arrogance of performance, more street dance atmosphere.
On the other hand, this performance is fully consistent with their style. It’s unsurpassed, completely unique. But here, you know, everyone likes different things, and I cannot definitely say what is good and what is bad. So this is purely my opinion.