Nina Mozer: My favorite sport shouldn’t be turned into robotics
Interview with Nina Mozer. About pair skating, Eteri Tutberidze and developing of figure skating.
by Artem Melnikov for sportbox.ru dd. December 23d, 2019
We haven’t heard much from you recently, why?
– Now I am more engaged in organizational work. Marina Zueva and Max Trankov work with Tarasova-Morozov on a daily basis, and I act as a consultant. Last year, I helped the guys before two competitions – Russian Nationals and Worlds.
Will we see you standing at the board again?
– Coaching is my profession. I love it very much, know from “A to Z” and I definitely plan to return. But what is happening now … It is unpleasant to work in an atmosphere of chaos and dirt. So far, together with Vladislav Zhovnirsky, Arina Ushakova and Philip Tarasov we focused on preparing juniors who can show themselves at the Olympics in Italy. I wait for changes after the Games in China. I understand that reforms are necessary. Now it’s not possible to talk professionally with everyone. In this mode, it’s hard to explain what you need. I hope that everything will change soon in figure skating itself.
Should the federation create comfortable conditions for your training?
– Not just the Federation. The Federation is a public organization that does not have the ability to be responsible for everything. This is a serious work, which, unfortunately, almost no one knows now. This is the Ministry of Sports and regional organizations. I am waiting with the hope that things I would like to change will change. So it was possible just to do your job and show a good result. A simple example. You are preparing an athlete for the competitions, you are calculating everything. We have a coordination sport, it is very important to consider all the parameters. And some official orders you a plane ticket for the wrong time, because it is cheaper. As a result, such a nuance destroys plans. You start to think how to compensate the lack of sleep, how to change the training schedule, having arrived you need to go on the ice and show the best skating and elements. Judges sit on the stands from the first minute and assess everything … An athlete starts to get nervous, coach, nerves are wasted, but nothing can be done. And there are a lot of such organizational issues.
What changes are waiting for figure skating?
– The system of competitions and scores is being reformed. The requirements for elements and components will be adjusted. Now figure skating itself has faded into the background. Only a mathematical approach to work remained. It doesn’t matter how skilled you are in skating, how artistic you are, whether the program is beautiful, the main thing is how cleanly you performed everything. Now even an outstanding skater who has not made a specific set of technical elements will be lower than the guys who jump, but hardly skate. This is not very interesting to me. That year, I was alarmed by such a system, and this year I was convinced that I better wait for other times. It is necessary to increase the interest not to the technical side, but to figure skating in general. My favorite sport shouldn’t be turned into robotics.
Is figure skating becoming a robot sport?
– From a technical point of view, yes. And I want athletes to remain figure skaters with the same technical content. I understand that you are hinting at our girls and many will also turn my words in this direction. But I’m not talking about girls, they are great. The Tutberidze’s team is a team who performs its work very professionally, efficiently. It is a pity that even they lost their nerves and could not restrain themselves in order to keep neutrality. In the end, unfortunately, happens what happens.
Do you understand what caused the conflict?
– Just that not everyone here loves the truth. As soon as everything was said openly and in person, the talkers immediately spoke. You can be, as Arthur Werner says, observer or you can honestly do your job. You are right that I have not appeared in media for a long time. Including for the reason that I wanted to protect myself from all the noise that occurs around figure skating. And you know, life has become more fun! It is easy not to stand at the board all days round, but only to observe and assess. I don’t understand why some outstanding people who couldn’t adjust to the new reality are trying to be afloat by any means?
I got an impression that Eteri Tutberidze is not very interested in girls who have reached the puberty period. After all, it’s more difficult to work with them …
– Your opinion is absolutely wrong. From the perspective of a coach, I can say that you misunderstand the situation that some people are escalating. It’s not about Eteri or other coaches. It’s about the system. The International Skating Union has increased the requirements for the execution of the most complex elements, the rules of the competitions have changed. Therefore, such collisions occur. You are right, about the age of 17, girls have a puberty period: weight increases, they grow sharply, and their bodies change. You just need to wait out this stage in order to recover, get used to the new body and continue to do the work that you did before. Believe me, no one knows how puberty will end for a particular child. Of course we look at the parents, try to take a small kid. But in the end, everything happens very unpredictably. When a person begins to grow, his elements cease to turn out, multi-rotational jumps become underrotated. Mentally, it is difficult to survive. It seems that just yesterday you did everything perfectly and won, but now you need to wait tomorrow until everything passes. Not everyone has enough patience, but for some reason the coach is the one to blame for everything …
I can say for sure that Eteri gives the strongest to be the strongest without doing backstage games. She has no favorites. Because a very large group works under her guidance, starting with the kids. The one who is stronger wins. The sporting principle should always come first. Again, I understand why this topic haunts many. But in figure skating it was almost always like that: girls achieved results before puberty, won everything, and then there was a lull. Everyone went through a period of patience. It took Slutskaya, Butyrskaya and others about two years to adapt to a new body. They worked for several years, recovered and returned to their previous level. Now this moment has become aggravated simply because the requirements of figure skating have increased a lot.
This is ironic but no one squealed when young Americans girls took the lead in single skating. Tara Lipinski, Sasha Cohen, Sarah Hughes became champions at the age of 15-16. And everything was quiet and peaceful, like it was normal. And now they shout because of this. And I’d understand if it were our rivals who envy our success, but the buzz and negativity comes from Russia. Apparently having seen enough of the “Ice Age” on television, we decided that we had learned to be a judges and can make comments. The line between sport and ordinary skating has blurred. We drove ourselves with this issue of age into a dead end, in which there is only dirt, dirt, dirt … It’s unpleasant!
That is, the rules makes coaches squeeze the maximum out of girls before puberty?
– There are requirements for skaters, there are rules for competitions, there is a technical side of the sport. Now, in order to win, you must complete a complex program. Children from other schools go to “Chrustalny”, but we must not forget that it prepares girls and boys from the age of three. They have a huge school, which has excellent specialists. Therefore, it is possible to select those children who are able to cope with the requirements of ISU. But those who say that Eteri does not work, but only took talented guys, they lie. She lives on the rink.
It’s hard to argue with the facts. All the students of Eteri Georgievna left her at the age of 17.
– Because they did not want to wait. They are used to be winners, champions. And in such a strong team, for objective reasons, you will not be the strongest, maybe even the weakest. It seems that it’s the coach to blamed for everything, who makes it possible for the younger ones to perform. Humanly, girls who have such a grudge can be understood. This is a difficult question to answer. I will try to give an example. Now we live in a world of high technology, communication around the world …. Suppose I say that I do not want to talk to you via Skype or Whatsapp, but let’s talk using old phones, because I feel more comfortable. Will you agree to change your latest model Iphone for a button device with a wire? I am sure that no, because you want to keep up with the times. The same in sports. The world does not stand still. Opportunities, equipment go forward. Style is changing, choreography … To be the best, you need to change. And there will always be a new champion.
I would agree with you that the girls do not want to wait, if not for the example of Evgenia Medvedeva, who went to another coach and continues to enjoy skating without victories.
– Again you are listening to talkers from the TV. Zhenya is a great fellow. In this regard, she is similar to our outstanding skaters who returned and already at a more mature age began to show results. Perhaps Zhenya will wait for her moment. After all, figure skating will change again after the Games in China. Other requirements will appear and everything may change, including for her.
Here’s another message from the talkers: “Eteri has everything according to the principle of “either you are the first or not with me ”…
– Nonsense!!! Like any coach, Tutberidze always wants to win and show maximum results. I recall the phrase of a very talented coach, who, unfortunately, was not given a chance to work in Russia. He said: “You see, Nina, you faithfully love only your first students with whom you begin to work. They are akin to your children. And then the conveyor begins. That is, athletes come and go, but we stay. They get a profession, skate, make money, and then forget the one who helped them do it. But if something doesn’t work out for them, then you’re the one to blame. Therefore, a coach must understand that figure skating is a conveyor.” I realize that it’s difficult to attach the word “conveyor” to people, in the sense we know it. Still, figure skating is a creative activity. The moral and psychological side is important. But here it should mean that from season to season the coach does the same job, just the faces change. And the coach’s job is to make a champion out of a skater.
How will figure skating develop further?
– Let’s see what direction the International Skating Union will choose. I don’t want to guess. Now I work more with juniors in pair skating. I participate in master classes, held training camps. In this direction, I can say that the progress is obvious. Now 15-20 pairs step on the toes of the leaders. It is clear that, technically, they are not ready to compete with the elite yet, but the potential is great. Our work with ISU has an effect. Previously, we hardly had 4-6 pairs. All the time there were problems with getting to the European and world championships, now there are no problems with competition. This year, on average, 20 pairs skated at challengers. Now the problem is to choose who is the best. At the same time, the technical skills of pair skating has increased. It inspires me.
Is there no fear that pair skating will also turn into a children’s sport?
– This definitely won’t happen, since it is impossible to create a pair that claims for medals in a short period of time. Pair skating is a more mature sport.
Does pair skating have a good future?
– Very promising juniors are growing up. I think we can make champions out of them in a few years. The main thing is not to rush. Again, much will depend on ISU’s decision regarding the reform of figure skating.
Do you agree that December 2019 is the time of the split of our figure skating?
– You could say that. I am sorry that the coaching staff of Chrustalny could not stand it and was forced to defend their honor and dignity in public. Believe me, it has been enduring attacks for a very long time. We had a conversation with coaches on this topic before the Olympics in Pyeongchang. Even then it was unbearable to watch how an absolutely outsiders who consider themselves experts are interfering in the relations of the coach and the athlete. Eteri took the right position then: “I work, I do not have time to pay attention to such things.” I replied her: “The main thing is that in the end you still do not have to pay attention to this”. I must have had a crystal ball, unfortunately.
I also received a lot of criticism that I didn’t communicate with athletes that well … It was exhausting. They said to both of us, Eteri and me, something like “Who are you, what have you done for a particular athlete?” But at all times there was only one person behind the large coaching staff. Before we just didn’t say thay out loud, and the entire media background went to the main team member. And now we openly say that without a team we would not have succeeded, that people make champions on equal terms with us … Having heard this, the fans began to accuse us of not doing anything ourselves. Sometimes you want to answer, but there is no time for conversations. Athletes are waiting for us on the ice. And after the performance I want to come home, keep quiet and not to think about anything.
And yet, for a coach, is a skater primarily a person or a means of achieving success?
– The result of our work is the scores on the scoreboard. And what else goal should the coach have? We are working for the country so that everyone knows that the best athletes live here.
But what about the soul?
– I can understand you as a journalist. Only, the same people who say one thing on TV, on the sidelines answer me the following: a good person is not a profession. A soft, kind athlete does not reach the highest level. I never humiliated my athletes, but still they were people for me who should be on the podium. They wanted it themselves. By the way, the same fans say, that the coaches worked and throw away. But aren’t that you who dragged those athletes through the mud after a bad skate? There are many ways to make comments. I know that some guys and girls even after the Rostelecom Cup left the ice with tears, and then recovered for a long time. The athlete gets confused in himself, and then ceases to trust the coach. As a result, you restore his nervous system bit by bit. It’s good that there are few such athletes. Believe me, we think about the mental health of our skaters, but first of all we are faced with the task of winning. In sports, there is no other way around. And only strong personalities who do not fall after the first failure come to sports. Worse, when also parents press on the children. But this is a different, longer conversation.
What do you think about the situation with WADA?
– I had enough of Pyeongchang without a flag, without an anthem. Therefore, I do not want even to think.
I remember your emotions after Pyeongchang …
– I don’t even want to think about that it can be the same. There are probably people who must solve these issues. Enough to speculate on facts, act out stories, shout about conspiracies. It is necessary to do business. How do Eteri, me, other coaches do. I don’t want to think about the bad things, all the more when I’ve already stood with one foot in this gray mass.
Daniil Gleichengauz: composers need to work faster, because we do a lot of new programs, and they write not so much new music