“Moskvina hypnotizes her skaters.” Tamara Moskvina about upcoming Olympics and headlines in media
Interview with Tamara Moskvina. About preparation for the upcoming Olympics.
source: russian.rt.com dd. 17th January 2022 by Elena Vaitsekhovskaya
During the season, the skater must improve the quality of the elements and performance of the programs so that the results grow. This was stated in an interview by honored coach Tamara Moskvina. According to her, instead of loud words that her athletes were judged unfair, she would prefer to study the protocols and figure out what else they should improve. The specialist also hinted that she pulled Aleksandra Boikova out of the emotional hole, told what she and Andrei Minchuk are striving for, and quoted Alexei Mishin, answering a question about the pressure of the upcoming Olympics.
After your two pairs performed absolutely brilliantly at the European Championships, I caught myself thinking: what a pity that one of the pairs is obviously doomed to lose. Have you ever experienced similar emotions at competitions?
Tamara Moskvina: I always leave the result at the mercy of the judges. It is their job to determine the final placement. It is completely pointless to try to figure out which scores will be given, especially since the panel of judges is different every time. Therefore, our coaching work with Artur Minchuk comes down to giving the judges the opportunity to choose, but at the same time to make sure that both of our pairs placed as high as possible. For this, in fact, we involve a variety of specialists.
Aleksandra Boikova and Dmitrii Kozlovskii spent quite a lot of time in Novogorsk this season, working with Nikolai Morozov. Was it your initiative or the desire of the athletes?
Tamara Moskvina: Initially, the idea belonged to me. We purposefully searched for a dance coach who would give the guys a short program and work on the expressiveness of steps transitions during the program. That’s on the second mark. This specialist turned out to be Morozov. He choregraphed the program, and in general, Sasha and Dima liked working in Novogorsk. In St. Petersburg, they mostly skate with juniors, but there was a more mature and interesting team of athletes.
Kozlovskii admitted at a press conference that constant and very high competition is always a coin with two sides. It not only moves the athlete forward, but also exhaust him psychologically. Do you have to take measures to reduce the degree of rivalry within the group?
Tamara Moskvina: In training, the guys don’t skate together – they only cross at competitions. It was like that from the very beginning: it was more convenient for us to work with these two pairs separately, in different groups. Therefore, it is difficult for me to say which of the skaters more vulnerable for thoughts about competition.
And if you recall your skaters of the past years, who reacted most painfully to the rivalry?
Tamara Moskvina: No one. There was, for example, a period when Oksana Kazakova / Artur Dmitriev and Elena Berezhnaya / Anton Sikharulidze trained with me. I knew that the girls did not like each other, but at the same time, both pairs always trained side by side, on the same ice, and none of the athletes express dissatisfaction about this.
It turns out that is it harder with girls in this regard?
Tamara Moskvina: I can’t say that. All situations are different, and no one has yet invented a device that allows you to measure the pressure within a group.
In your opinion, is work on the same ice is more productive than on different ones?
Tamara Moskvina: When athletes look at each other, they always start to compete, they try to do something better, to get ahead of their rivals in some way, this is noticeable. But this is just a normal process. In my opinion, this is how all business in the world works, regardless of its area. The same Apple company pulled ahead in the computer technology market primarily because they wanted to get ahead of its competitors. And I’m just sure that the scouts of the leading companies have access to all the information in their professional field.
Do you want to say that you also try to follow what is happening in the groups of coaches-rivals?
Tamara Moskvina: Everything is easier for us: we met very often, and this allows us to compare our work with someone else’s, see the positive and negative sides, and adjust our own training. I think that I have always been very successful in this.
While the old judging system was in use, your pairs were perceived as absolutely equal in class. Now Mishina and Galliamov are not only noticeably ahead of their rivals in terms of basic difficulty, but are also the current holders of all the highest titles, with the exception of the Olympic one. Do you separate your athletes by class at least in your thoughts?
Tamara Moskvina: As for the basic difficulty, I want to note that Mishina and Galliamov jumped their most difficult combination even before they came to my group from the most experienced specialists – Lyudmila and Nikolai Velikov. So, this is not the situation that I taught some athletes something, but not others. And besides, I really do not think that Boikova and Kozlovskii are less competitive. All our coaching staff make a lot of efforts to ensure that the strengths of our athletes are equal.
If competitors perform more complex elements, this does not mean at all that they cannot be beaten in quality or second mark. Another question is that you can never predict what the result. Each athlete in this regard is like a black box. What will be in this box depends on many factors: mentality, motivation, health, mood … Or are you trying to convince me that our athletes were not well prepared for the event?
Definitely no. But now there are a lot of talks about that one of your pairs is guaranteed the Olympic team event, and the positions of the second pair are not so solid. Therefore, I’m trying to understand: did Boikova and Kozlovskii have any chances to perform in Tallinn better?
Tamara Moskvina: Unfortunately, the guys made a ridiculous mistake on triple salchow. This is not the most difficult jump, besides, Dima and Sasha have never made a mistake on it. Never. Perhaps the guys wanted too much to show the maximum result, and this desire affected their inner balance. As for the Olympic team event, we don’t yet know what our sports leaders will decide, so there is no point in discussing anything. Personally, I would like to see in the team those skaters who are objectively capable of bringing the country the highest possible place.
How did you manage to get Sasha Boikova out of the emotional hole she fell into by failing the jump in the short program?
Tamara Moskvina: I had to use all the methods of psychological persuasion.
In theory, this is understandable. But to do it at the competition, and even in such a short time …
Tamara Moskvina: I can tell you a story. Before one of the important competitions, Natasha Mishkutyonok and Artur Dmitriev skate in training and fall from the lift, and they fall quite unpleasantly.
They performed perfectly at the competitions, and one of the foreign journalists asked how I managed to make Natasha forget about the fall. But I wouldn’t go into details. Therefore, I said out the first thing that came to my mind: well, nothing complicated, I just hypnotized the athlete. The next day I read the headline: “Moskvina hypnotizes her skaters.”
But seriously, there are quite a lot of ways to psychologically influence the athletes.
Yes, but the situations that arise during the competitions are not always predictable, and it seems to me that the coach does not always have time to analyze them.
Tamara Moskvina: For those who do not do this work all the time, it can really be difficult. I have been working with athletes for 50 years. I learned a lot of things on my own, a lot of things came with experience. But whether this or that technique will work or not, I can’t know for sure until now. It’s not always possible to achieve what you want right now.
Since records have been set in figure skating, journalists have been paying quite a lot of attention to them. Does it matter to you that all three top results in pair skating currently belong to Mishina and Galliamov?
Tamara Moskvina: It doesn’t matter to me at all. During the season, the athlete must improve the quality of the elements, the quality of the programs and this is the meaning and essence of our work. If there are no big mistakes, the results also grow. The level of this growth depends not only on the performance, but also on how the judges work. So, everything is quite subjective. Therefore, the only thing that matters is what place your athlete took.
Do you always agree with the placement?
Tamara Moskvina: I just play according to the rules that in our sport are determined by the International Skating Union (ISU), which includes Russia. Therefore, our job is to adhere to these rules. Judges live by the same principles, by the way. Moreover, none of the judges do not decide anything individually. So I never have any questions. Moreover, I’m always aware that the scores in our sport reflects not only the technical level of performance, but can be influenced by a variety of factors: the difference in cultural perception, musical preferences, subjective opinions, relationships between people, and so on. You can’t turn on a stopwatch, you can’t measure skill with a centimeter. Scores are given? That’s it! This is already a history.
The only thing I can do, if I am not satisfied with the place that my athletes have taken, is to take the protocol, study it, analyze it and see what can be done so for the step sequence or spins my athletes get not the third level, but fourth. By the way, I don’t understand my colleagues who, after each competition, complain that they are doing everything right, but they are underscored. Every time I want to ask: have you ever tried to understand why, in your opinion, you are “underscored” every time?
Do your pairs have a rest after the European Championships?
Tamara Moskvina: After the competition, it is always provided. For example, after the Russian Nationals, for the first time the guys rested for five whole days, although we usually have two, maximum three days. But this time I decided to give more rest. Before that, everyone had a very tense and nervous period of preparation, and you won’t demand people go and skate on January 1st?
I know that some coaches demand.
Tamara Moskvina: I have been convinced many times that our athletes return to the shape very quickly after the rest. So I completely trust them in this aspect.
Now it’s the final period of preparation before the Olympic Games. Is it a narrow corridor from which athletes are no longer allowed to take one or another step aside?
Tamara Moskvina: Quite on the contrary. The Olympic Games themselves are a complex and responsible business. If you artificially create additional pressure, you can actually achieve the opposite effect. The athlete’s shape in this regard, as Alexei Mishin likes to say, is like a slingshot: in order to hit the target exactly, you need to pull the rubber with a certain force, but you must not allow the rubber to burst. I adhere to exactly the same views: it’s better for my athletes to underperform a little than get injured. You have to be especially careful when people do not have the experience of the Olympics yet.
In this case, are they more nervous than usual or less?
Tamara Moskvina: The question here is more about what you need to be prepared for. For example, at the Russian Nationals, Mishina and Galliamov skated after Boikova and Kozlovskii. Those skated perfectly, and, naturally, this caused a corresponding reaction from the stands – a thunder of applause. Despite the fact that Nastya and Sasha competed in St. Petersburg as world champions, it was a completely new experience for them. Indeed, in Stockholm there were almost no spectators in the stands – only volunteers. I told the guys: “Start getting used to it. Because at the Olympics, you will most likely be in the strongest group, where many, if not all, will skate well.
Is the ability to distract an athlete from unnecessary thoughts before an important performance also an experience?
Tamara Moskvina: Now it has become much easier: everyone has a lot of gadgets, computer games. But at the Olympics in Salt Lake City, I remember, just for this purpose, I went to the mountains to sled with Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze – our American fans gave us such an opportunity. So, I, an experienced coach, did not take into account one thing then – how strong the sun can be in the mountains. And Lena returned from that walk with a face burn.
What do you think is the most important thing at the Games?
Tamara Moskvina: Give as little importance as possible to what is happening around. After all, there will be many factors that can cause irritation: tests, a bunch of all sorts of rules and restrictions. You need to perceive any situation simply as a given and treat it calmly, without unnecessary emotions. And it is highly desirable to be distracted from the upcoming performance as much as possible. If we start to remind the athletes every day that they have the most important performance of the four years ahead of them, they will finish skating already at the training camp in Krasnoyarsk before reaching Beijing.
Ekaterina Kurakova: “Russian girls at competitions think “If not me, then the other will do it.” That’s why they’re so afraid of it. And when I go to competitions, I understand that I’m just happy to be there.”