Elena Vaitsekhovskaya’s interview with Oleg Vasiliev about pair skating.
Oleg, you have been working in the sports club of Tamara Moskvina for the second year. Can you say that the idea of creating this club is strategic?
– Anton Sikharulidze, who was the initiator of this project, in a conversation with me voiced one simple thing that completely coincided with my desires. He wanted to return the interest and attraction to pair skating that it has once. Pair skating is the most interesting discipline in our sport. There are difficult elements and jumps, and the relationship of two people on the ice, and artistry – all that ice dance or single skating may lack. In other words, a great pair can combine all the best that can be done on ice. Now there are only few examples of pairs that can truly attract the attention of both viewers and tv-viewers. At the last Olympics such pairs were Alena Savchenko / Bruno Massot and the first Chinese pair (Sui Wenjing / Han Con). And that’s all. The idea that Anton offered was to implement a project aimed at a global change of the situation. I work together with Tamara Moskvina, we have a very good team, and I think that only time is needed to realize the project.
The sports result is always largely dependent on the “material” with which the coach works. And according to the specialist, the country has a problem with talented children who would like to do pair skating. How are you going to solve this problem?
– Someone will probaly judge us for the world “material” with reference to children, although the word is just coaching, a kind of professional slang. Of course we thought about this. Now in our club there is not only a group of sports pairs, but also a group of single skating, and we know that not all singles remain in demand when they reach sinior level. Therefore, there is reason to believe that after some time this problem will be solved in our school. We won’t have to look for athletes for pair skating on the side and try to drag them to our school.
I always thought that for coaches who work with single skaters, it’s quite a painfull process when an athlete switches to pairs.
– This is true. It has always been like that. In our case, the difference is that all this was negotiated with all the coaches, it’s like the idea of the club. Therefore, coaches from the very beginning understand where they come. Of course, no one intends to prevent the best athletes from continuing to perform in singles, if they want it and have appropriate prospects. Another question is that not everyone can do that, but this doesn’t exclude a brilliant pair career. It’s just necessary to recognize it in time. The scheme of work in our club can make the switching from singles to pairs painless both for athlete and coach.
You brought two St. Petersburg pairs to the test skates. What can you tell about them?
– Alisa Efimova and Alexander Korovin have been training in our school for a year, before that, three and a half years they trained with Natalia Pavlova. It was rather difficult to start working with them, but I hope that all problems related to adaptation have been solved.
What exactly was difficult at the beginning?
– In our school partners have equal responsibility for what happens on the ice. For mistakes, for the execution of elements. Alexander hasn’t faced such approach before – in the previous group the responsibility was more on the girl. But he copes, moreover, it seems to me that he likes everything. The guys work with pleasure, although it is clear that the way to the pedestal from the place where these athletes are now is still quite large. Another our pair – Alexandra Boykova / Dmitri Kozlovski last season combined junior and seniors competitions and this year will perform only at the senior level.
How serious are your ambitions?
– Do you mean the ambitions of athletes?
First of all, yours as a coach.
– I’m a more reasonable person and soberly assess the situation: where are my athletes, what are their shortcomings, why are our competitors and where to move. We are on the right way, but this season we are aiming with Efimova and Korovin to fight for the top three in the country.
There’s a very popular point view that during four years after the Games-2014 almost all Russian pair skating fell into decay, and that to a great extent it’s a fault of Nina Mozer, who has now moved away from coaching.
– The easiest way, probably, is to say that one person ruined everything – with absolutely limitless possibilities he did not produce a result worthy of attention. But if we analyze the situation that has evolved in pair skating for many years, we will see that the fall began much earlier. This is 2010, when for the first time we stayed without medals in pair skating, and 2006, when Tatiana Totmianina and Maxim Marinin had to compete in the constant environment of three Chinese pairs. So we can say that even then our discipline was on some edge. Just to the Games in Sochi, Nina Mozer managed to bring together all the resources – administrative, financial and all the rest and used them to prepare Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov. Another question is that on those opportunities no single junior pair grew, although Mozer always was a pretty strong junior coach.
Well, the goals were different. In such cases, everything else is often let slide.
– In the junior age it is very important to control the process very strictly. If there is no control, everything starts to crumble. The girls begin to gain weight, the boys, respectively, start to have problems with back and knees.
It turns out that those coaches who are very strickt with juniors are right?
– Everything must have its limits. You can’t talk to children with swear words, you can’t beat them, you can’t put girls on the scales eight times a day. You can shout a little, but this style of communication also shouldn’t turn into a system – the coach must closely monitor this line without crossing it. Children after all can’t answer the coach, therefore the internal psychological trauma for them are stronger than for adults.
Do you like the way your ex-student Maxim Trankov works with Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov?
– I definitely liked the result of their summer work: the programs that Maxim did for the guys are very differ from those they had before. I have already seen before cool elements from Zhenya and Vova, but there was no style, there were no proper packaging images, there was no corresponding external frame. Now there are programs and they skate them with pleasure. As for the Maxim’s work as a coach, it will be seen later – how the athletes will approach the competition, how they will behave in stressful situations, how quickly they will be able to recover from difficult performances. At such a high level, these things characterize the coaching work.
Honestly, it is surprising for me that explosive and not always balanced Maxim transformed into such a calm and reasonable specialist.
– Probably, that’s because Trankov fully realized his ambitions in sports, the feeling of dissatisfaction that consumed him while he was a skater disappeared. Now he has the opportunity to share all his experience with Tarasova and Morozov, and this is a very fascinating process.
And how do you feel about the perspectives of Ksenia Stolbova, who started to skate with a new partner few months ago?
– Carefully. In the history of figure skating, there were very few examples when age skaters achieved success by creating a new pair – all these examples can be listed on the fingers of one hand. This has an explanation: the partners always have to get used to each other, and this doesn’t always go smoothly. Of course there are exceptions: Jamie Sale and David Pelletier had six or eight partners with whom they didn’t reach any serious heights, but as soon as they began to skate together, they became prize winners of the World Championships a year later. But in most cases with age it’s becomes very difficult for the partners to get used to each other. It’s like in family life: while you are young, you by and large don’t care with whom to create a family. On the ice, the relationships of partners are complicated by the fact that athletes have to do a lot of work. When a person gets tired, it becomes more difficult for him to control and restrain himself. Unfortunately, this limit of psychological endurance doesn’t increase with age. And it is necessary to work more, because sports constantly goes forward, it becomes more difficult, more rigid.
How long does it take to make a pair capable of fighting for medals from two talented athletes?
– There is a story of Irina Rodnina, when it was done in seven months. But then our sport was completely different. The elements and requirements were different. Therefore, I wouldn’t draw parallels. To learn all the elements and perform them on the third or fourth level, you need more than one year and not two. Two years is the minimum that can allow athletes to be visible in the general mass. For example triple twist, which, by the way Rodnina did, no one is alsready interested and it doesn’t cost anything. All elements have overgrown with additional requirements, and this is not the limit.
Does the work such elements as quadruple twist, quadruple throw begin only after the athletes pair up, or can you prepare a person for these elements earlier, so that they come to pairs being already prepared?
– Many-turns jumps in figure skating are learend in childhood. There are girls who can quickly rotate, but there are those who can’t do this because of their anthropometric and physical qualities. The closer the mass of the body is to the axis of rotation, the faster the athlete can rotate. That is, the girl should be thin and narrow. There are so many indicators that a potential pair girl should have. But if a girl at the age of 13-14 is capable of jumping quadruple jumps, she will not go to pair skating voluntarily.
But if such a girl team up with a boy capable of jumping quadruplets, progress can be amazing.
– A good example in this respect is Boykova / Kozlovski. Two strong single skaters, who ahve all triple jumps and 3-3 combinations, teamed up and in the first year they won almost all junior starts, in which they participated. But this is junior skating. Senior skating is different. To teach an athlete to jump is sometimes easier than to teach him to skate. Skating skills also need to be learned in childhood, before the jumps began. If this moment is missed, it can’t be compensated by anything. For example, I look at how Alena Kostornaya skates in juniors, my soul rejoices. Still, it means a lot when a talented child from the very beginning gets into good coaching hands. Still it’s necessary to be able to recognize a talent.
And how did Tamara Moskvina select children for pair skating?
– She had an interesting principle. She was very fond of little girls with athletic body type – with short legs and arms, and tall, slender boys. By the way, this principle still works. For example, when I look at some long-legged girls I see how difficult it is for them to cope with elements that girls of a more compact body type perform easily.
To what extent does Tamara Moskvina participate in the training process?
– 100%. Every day and almost every training she is on ice, in skates, despite the fact that not so long ago she had a complicated surgery on her knee. In my opinion, it is very valuable that she constantly shares her coaching experience, advises, suggests, explains, but doesn’t try to dictate to any of the coaches on any occasion. Although, perhaps, she could have: Tamara Nikolaevna is so authoritative person that no one would dare to disobey her.
by Elena Vaitsekhovskaya for rsport.ria.ru