Oksana Grishuk: “Tatiana Tarasova behaves dishonestly towards me and even deceives.”
The first interview in many years with two-time Olympic champion Oksana Grishuk: about the conflict with Tarasova, “Ice Age”, age minimum and victories at two Olympics.
source: By Natalia Mariyanchik for sport-express.ru dd. 17th December 2020
When was the last time you were in Russia?
Oksana Grishuk: In 2007, when I participated in “Dancing with the Stars”. I would love to come more often, I really miss it. Russia is my country, my heart is there. But I have a lot of projects and very little free time.
What do you think of the Ice Age project, which is similar to the one you participated in?
Oksana Grishuk: Honestly, I haven’t seen many episodes. I liked Lena Ilinykh – as always, she’s very bright, gorgeous. And I saw some kind of spark in Olga Buzova, although I know that she is mostly criticised in the press. Yes, of course, she lacks plastic, but just imagine how is it to start skating for the first time with the height of 176 cm! It’s very scary to fall from such a height. But long legs, long arms look beautiful on the ice. And that it is still a little uptight, it is not surprising. She already did well.
How do you like Alina Zagitova as a host?
Oksana Grishuk: We do not know each other, but I sympathize with Alina. She reminds me of a little angel. She is very diligent, hardworking, and I’m sure a kind girl …
Raising the age minimum for reaching senior level up to 17 is now actively discussed. So that such beautiful skaters as Zagitova could compete longer. What do you think of it?
Oksana Grishuk: I think this is wrong. Even on the example of my daughter, who is now 18, I see that this is a very difficult age. Hormones play, not only body changes, but also desires and behavior. If we limit the minimum age to 17 years, then we will lose a whole layer of talented athletes. They just won’t live up to senior competitions. And not because their preparation were forced, but because of the characteristics of the body. Is this fair? I think that if we raise the minimum age, then up to 16 years. After 16, you can safely let them compete in seniors.
And if a girl skates for a year and finishes, isn’t that bad for the sport?
Oksana Grishuk: Why? I think each person should have a choice. This is not only a Russian problem, there are many examples of American ladies who won the Olympics at the age of 15-16, and then went to school or somewhere else. Tara Lipinski, Sarah Hughes, Oksana Baiul … And I think that forcing a person to continue a sports career is wrong. Maybe Alina wants to try herself as a TV host or something else – why not? This is her own business.
Your daughter Skyler has been seriously engaged in tennis. How is she doing now?
Oksana Grishuk: Skyler is a very domestic girl, she grew up under my wing. This is not the case when a child grows like grass. In tennis, she reached the 60th racket of the world among juniors, played in two Grand Slam tournaments. And this despite the fact that I trained her for the last three years. Unfortunately, tennis is a very expensive sport, and we did not have the financial ability to hire a whole team of specialists to reach the level that our daughter could have potentially reached.
How did you feel as a tennis coach? Where is tennis and where is ice dances …
Oksana Grishuk: I studied a lot: from specialists with whom my daughter worked before, from other coaches and players. I watched a million videos, analyzed every match. Since the age of nine that Skyler has been playing tennis, I went everywhere with her, and I tried to spy something useful from each coach. Unfortunately, the eminent, expensive coaches that we came across with were mostly not eager to raise a champion. They needed to earn their 150-200 dollars per hour, and didn’t care what result the athlete would have. Therefore, at some point, I said to my daughter: let’s try to work ourselves?
Do you regret it?
Oksana Grishuk: In general, I am the kind of person who always doubts himself and is very self demanding. Once we were in Germany and took a lesson from Nicholas Kiefer – a great man, a former fifth racket in the world. I was sure that in comparison with him, I was a complete zero. But after the lesson my daughter said: “Mom, you tell me almost everything the same as he does.” Maybe Kiefer noticed 5% of some other nuances, but mostly it was a repetition of what we’ve already known. But I am not saying this to emphasize what a great tennis coach I am. This is never the case. Although I have a desire to develop in this area.
Why don’t you coach skaters now?
Oksana Grishuk: I started coaching when my daughter was only 9 months old. I worked with Angela Nikodinov and several other athletes. Then I got my own academy, which was very interesting. Although there were also enough problems: in words, everyone has huge ambitions, but no one is really ready to work. It’s like parents think that if I’m a two-time Olympic champion, then, like a fairy, I’ll wave a magic wand and their children will also start winning. And when you realize that no one here is ready to work hard except you, the motivation to work disappears. It got to the point of ridiculousness: at the end of the training session, I could hardly breathe, I was so tired of showing and correcting everything, and the children did not even sweat.
Have you been bothered by all these scary stories with harassment: for example, tell a girl that she needs to lose weight, and then her parents will sue you?
Oksana Grishuk: I have no negative experience here. It seems to me that everything depends on the coach, on his energy. The same message can be conveyed in completely different ways. You can say: “You are fat!”, Or you can say: “What do you think about bring yourself into even a better shape?” I have never even thought that I was afraid to say or do something to my student. I treated them sincerely, with soul, and the children probably felt it.
Why aren’t you working in figure skating now?
Oksana Grishuk: American skating rinks have their own coaches. Basically, they did not achieve much success in sports themselves and learned everything, much like I did in tennis. But such coaches categorically do not want the Olympic champion to come to their rink. Because they immediately lose part of their earnings. A couple of times at public skating sessions I saw how they work, and my heart was bleeding. I see a mother standing at the boards, full of hope. She probably earned this money with a hard work and pays it to the coach, confident that her child will be taught. And they teach completely wrong.
What is your relationship with Tatiana Anatolievna Tarasova now? Judging by her interview, not great.
Oksana Grishuk: Tatiana Anatolyevna behaves dishonestly towards me and even deceives. And if the words in the interview I can take as a journalist’s mistake, I can’t say the same about written in her book. There is an outright lie. And for me it is very painful, because none of my former coaches – neither Natalia Dubova nor Natalia Linichuk allowed themselves such things. And I am sincerely grateful to them. Yes, we had quarrels, there were difficult moments, but now I have only gratitude in my soul towards them. And everyone who has ever worked with me knows that I worked hard and gave all of myself on the ice.
Give examples where Tarasova is lying.
Oksana Grishuk: Allegedly, I beat Zhenya (Grishuk’s Evgeni Platov. – ed) on his sore knees using skates’ toe peaks, insulted and humiliated him. I think the people who know me at least a little bit, reading this, could not believe their eyes. Even if you think logically: Zhenya has been my partner for many years, he just underwent a difficult surgery, he has sore knees, and our second Olympics is ahead. Am I really going to beat him?! My whole life depends on him. On the contrary, I was be all over him. I literally did not breathe during lifts, fell everywhere myself, only for him to stand on his sore leg. Many trainings I conducted alone in order to save him. Because of this, by the way, three days before the Games, I fell and got a crack in my hand. I performed with it.
How did Tarasova become your coach?
Oksana Grishuk: I emphasize, it was not even close that Tatiana Anatolievna made us two times champions as a coach. In 1996, we came to her as accomplished figure skaters, current Olympic champions. We even came with ready-made programs for the season, because it was in December – of course, our programs have already been done. It was just that at that moment there was such a situation that our coach Natalia Linichuk began to bet on another pair, Anjelika Krylova – Oleg Ovsyannikov. By the way, I love and admire Anjelika very much. I could not afford to say this when I performed, but now I can sincerely say: Krylova is a gorgeous skater and person.
Oksana Grishuk: At that time, Linichuk, Tarasova and Dubova were in the mix. We already trained with Dubova, Tatiana Anatolievna remained. Initially, it was Zhenya’s idea. We thought that we needed not even a coach, but such a consultant, a person like a stone wall, on whom we could rely, get support at the right time, advice from the outside. And we saw all these qualities in Tarasova.
How did she take you?
Oksana Grishuk: I can’t even say that she coached us. She did not teach us anything, she praised us and gave compliments. It was very unusual for me, because from the same Linichuk, who raised me from the age of 12, it was rare to hear praise. I also remember how Tatiana Anatolievna smoked. We came to the boards and got clouds of smoke in the face. I was shy away from voicing something to her, and Zhenya constantly asked: “Tatiana Anatolievna, stop smoking, we have nothing to breathe!”
Did you often quarrel with her?
Oksana Grishuk: The Olympic season is always stressful. Sparks were flying, but again: whoever knows me even a little will never believe that I was mocking someone there. Tatiana Anatolievna sometimes behaved like a madman. She could, for example, take my bag and throw it on the ice. And then I crawled picking up my cosmetics. Morally, it was just killing.
What’s the story with the prize money for the 98 Olympics, which you allegedly lost because of Tarasova?
Oksana Grishuk: Since the age of nine I had been representing the Dynamo society. It was they who gave me a chance to stay in Moscow after moving from Odessa and train. But Tarasova, after we switched to her, began to persuade: “Oksana, we need to pay for ice, for costumes. And my good friend is the president of the society of trade unions. They are very rich, they will give you money to prepare for the Games, they will pay you a good bonus after the Olympics, they will give you an apartment / car – just switch”. I hesitated for a long time and did not dare to take this step. Until one day Tatiana Anatolievna simply put an empty sheet of paper in front of me: “Oksana, I urgently need to sign this and send it to Moscow. This will be a letter about your transfer to trade unions.”
Did you sign?
Oksana Grishuk: Can you believe! Now I do not understand how. But Tatiana Anatolievna has a frantic energy. She seems to bewitch you, it is impossible to resist. The transition took place, the costumes for the Olympics were really paid for me – in any case, I did not pay for them myself. After the Games, a reception was held in my honor. They gave me a book “Moscow” as if I were a tourist and didn’t grow up in this city, some kind of perfume and an envelope with seven hundred dollars.
What is your reaction?
Oksana Grishuk: I cried. After all, athletes did not earn anything at competitions before. The Olympics and the show were the only opportunity to arrange your life somehow. The president of the society calmed me down a lot. He said that the money was spent on some kind of children’s and youth competitions, and all that was left was given to me. Of course, right after returning to the hotel, I called Tatiana Anatolievna. She said it was inconvenient to talk and hung up. And then several people told me that most likely Tarasova deceived me. And with the president of the society of trade union they shared the money I honestly earned.
What’s the story with the change of name from Oksana to Pasha Grischuk?
Oksana Grishuk: Now I regret it. After the 1994 Games, in the USA they began to constantly confuse us with Oksana Baiul. I don’t understand how we are alike, except for the name, but for some reason the Americans could not figure out who is who. In 1997, I received an offer from a famous Hollywood director to try myself as an actress. This was six months before the Olympics. I was given a role in the movie “Ronin”, which I had to refuse due to preparation for the Games. But somehow, gradually, I began to get inside this world, I got my own acting agents. And so they proposed to change the name, create my own unique pseudonym, in order to get rid of the analogy with Bayul.
So it wasn’t your idea?
Oksana Grishuk: Of course not. At first I was very shy about it. All my acquaintances and friends still called me Oksana. And when someone on the street in Los Angeles started shouting “Pasha!”, I didn’t even understand at first who they were addressing.
What is your relationship with Platov now?
Oksana Grishuk: Right after the 1998 Games, of course, I was very offended. Zhenya succumbed to the influence of Tarasova and, behind my back, paired up with Maya Usova. Although I literally begged him to go to the Stars on Ice show, where we were offered very good conditions. It’s a complete lie that I didn’t want to skate anymore. I was eager for the ice, that was my goal. Even when Zhenya left me, I continued to perform in the show for three more years. Would I do that if I wanted to end my career, as they said? .. Although, of course, the breakup of our pair was a blow for me. With Zhenya, we would have had completely different fees in shows, and we could skate for another ten years.
Why did Tarasova need all this?
Oksana Grishuk: I think the fact is that after the Olympics, she offered me, Zhenya and Ilia Kulik to sign a four-year contract with her. I refused. Why should I give a percentage of all my earnings in the show if she has nothing to do with them? We choreograph the programs ourselves or hire a choreographer. But what has Tarasova got to do with it? To be honest, it seems to me that Tatiana Anatolievna’s main talent is acting. She’s a really great actress. And like any great actress, it is difficult to understand where she has truth and where lies. But I know for sure that there are a lot of lies in her words.
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