Oleg Vasiliev: “Tuktamysheva is a woman of mystery. She could have won everything in the last Olympic cycle, but lost because of the lack of appropriate attention to training, competitions and her shape.”
Oleg Vasiliev shared his opinion that Elizaveta Tuktamysheva could have won everything in the previous Olympic season, but lost to her competitors in little things. Explained why he does not like the acrobatic style of Daria Pavliuchenko and Denis Khodykin and what prevents Mikhail Kolyada from skating clean. The famous coach also told why official trainings before the competitions are very important.
source: russian.rt.com dd. 25th November 2021, by Elena Vaitsekhovskaya
Three Russian athletes who claim for a place in the Olympic team will compete in women’s single skating in Sochi. Moreover, all of them – Kamila Valieva, Elizaveta Tuktamysheva and Maiia Khromykh have high chances of getting into the Grand Prix Finals (interview was taken before its cancelation). How difficult is it for skaters to stay in maximum shape for several months?
Oleg Vasiliev: It’s incredibly difficult. Compared to the times when I skated myself, the sport has become completely different. In our time, there were no such competitions as Grand Prix series, competitions of such a format, so everyone started the season leisurely and gradually gained shape for the main competitions. When the Grand Prix series had started, the competition still allowed not to show your maximum at all events and at the same time stay at high positions. In other words, the skaters did not have an urgent need to keep in shape from October to the end of March. Now, all athletes are in the public eye from the very first competition of the season, especially in the Olympic one. Because of the high competition they have to skate on the edge of their capabilities. To keep this level is firstly traumatic, and secondly, it is very difficult psychologically, because you need to constantly force yourself to train at the limit, keep the weight strictly. It’s insanely difficult, but there is simply no other way.
Who in this regard have your special admiration?
Oleg Vasiliev: I will not name just one. All our leaders have been working in such a mode from the very beginning of the season, and I really hope that they will survive this race. Nobody shows weakness, does not “fall out”.
There is an opinion that official training does not show anything at all, because an athlete can look completely different at competitions. What are you paying attention to?
Oleg Vasiliev: There is really no direct connection between training and competition. For judges and technical specialists, they have a practical meaning: to see who and which elements performs in the program, how consistent they are, what potential the athlete has in terms of the levels.
Do you want to say that 90% of the score is formed in the judges’ minds even before the start of the competitions?
Oleg Vasiliev: No, I didn’t say that. But a certain understanding – whether, for example, an athlete is capable of getting the fourth level for a spin or, on the contrary, has more chances to lose difficulty on this element – comes just from the observation of trainings. This is actually right, because at competitions everything happens very quickly, and the number of repeats, when the judge can replay this or that element, is limited. Therefore, the International Skating Union requires a technical team to be present at every skating. The score for the components also depends a lot on the presentation of the program before the start of the competitions. Experienced coaches always remind skaters that in official training, you need not only to be able to skate in public, but also to be “well dressed,” that is, to show yourself in the most advantageous way.
At the Grand Prix in Tokyo, Victoria Sinitsina got level one for the one foot step sequence. After that, Alexander Zhulin said that he did not understand how suddenly the skater had forgotten how to skate. But the skating skills and the ability to meet the given requirements are different things. Do you agree?
Oleg Vasiliev: Absolutely correct. At the level we are talking everyone can skate, especially ice dancers, with a few exceptions. Anyone can make steps, turns, but at the same time not everyone performs the elements clean – so that even after replay it would be impossible to find any mistakes in the technique of execution. The level of difficulty depends not only on the number of different turns, but also on how perfectly each of them is performed. Any little thing that is not done carefully enough can lead to a loss of the level. And there are many such details.
I listen to you and remember how many points Liza Tuktamysheva used to lose because of her trademark and sometimes demonstratively careless manner of skating.
Oleg Vasiliev: Liza is generally a unique skater. She could have won absolutely everything in the last Olympic cycle, but she lost in the little things. Because of the lack of appropriate attention to training, to competitions, to her shape. For me, Tuktamysheva is a woman of mystery. The abilities are colossal, great talent. Learning multi-rotational jumps in adulthood is a very difficult task. Until puberty, girls, as a rule, are not afraid, it doesn’t hurt – they simply do not perceive it. With age, the attitude changes: you clearly understand what you are going to do and how it can end. But Liza did it! This once again speaks of her uniqueness and originality. Perhaps it depends too much on the mood, I don’t know. But every time I can’t get rid of the thought that Tuktamysheva does not realize half of her capabilities on the ice.
In contrast, the example of the ex-world champion Daisuke Takahashi, who switched to ice dance two years ago, suggests itself. Every his dance step is beautifully packaged, as we can say.
Oleg Vasiliev: It should be so. The main task of the skater is to sell the elements that he performs to the judges as profitable as possible. Takahashi, as a clever, adult and very experienced athlete, understands this very well. Moreover, he has always been an excellent skater. Therefore, he presents his steps to the judges exactly as you said: “Well, there you have it” In my understanding, every skater should do this. It doesn’t matter if he performs alone or in a pair. Today, few people are able to present their skating the way Takahashi does this season.
I would say that Mikhail Kolyada is capable of this, but so far we are only waiting for him to reveal his potential. Is this a reason for regret or “the throne is never vacant”?
Oleg Vasiliev: Misha, of course, is very talented, he’s not deprived of opportunities, but, in my opinion, he decided to make changes in his life too late. When he switched to Alexei Mishin, he was already too crushed psychologically by the negative experience of his previous performances. Therefore, it is so difficult for him now to abstract from this burden and show what he is really capable of. Can this be called the trouble of Russian single skating? I think not: our men have not yet reached the level at which Russian girls are, and we must understand that you cannot get to the gold medals without making mistakes. Maxim Kovtun have done it for several years, now it’s Misha’s turn. We can only hope that younger athletes will learn not only from their own mistakes, but also from the mistakes of other athletes.
Did you and Elena Valova also have to go through mistakes to the gold of the Games in Sarajevo?
Oleg Vasiliev: Our path turned out to be very short, since we entered the international level only a year before those Games. The level of competitions in pair skating in the world was not very high then, which could not be said about the situation in our country. Therefore, we made our mistakes on the inner level. It turned out to be much easier to compete at the European and World Championships.
At the same time, you have experienced on your own skin what is it like when direct competitors skate on the same ice and work with the same coach. How difficult is it to be in such an atmosphere?
Oleg Vasiliev: From the training point of view, such competition is a blessing, since it constantly pushes the athlete forward. But psychologically it is very difficult. You constantly pressure yourself with a thoughts that you have no right to make a mistake. And the one who has a stronger nervous system wins in such a rivalry. Actually, a very similar situation can be seen now among our girls: the competition within the group is much higher for them than at the main competitions.
With such a competition is there jealousy in the athletes’ minds?
Oleg Vasiliev: A competent specialist will never show that he prefers one of the athletes.
Tamara Nikolaevna Moskvina always built the training process very professionally. None of her athletes could complain that they were somehow deprived of attention.
At one time, you actually worked alone with Tatiana Totmianina and Maxim Marinin in Chicago. Now six or seven highly qualified specialists work at the same time with Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov. What are the pros and cons of such approach?
Oleg Vasiliev: With Totmianina and Marinin, we lacked competition most of all. Skating alone is generally difficult, because you have to constantly overcome yourself, make yourself work. But look what happens to Tarasova and Morozov: no matter how many specialists work with them, they still skate alone on the ice. And this is not at all like skating with other pairs. In my opinion, it would be much easier for Zhenya and Volodya if there was a competitive environment around that allows you to constantly feel where you should improve.
Of the four pairs competing for a trip to Beijing, Daria Pavliuchenko and Denis Khodykin stand apart due to their very recognizable acrobatic style of skating. Do you think that such a direction in pair skating has the future?
Oleg Vasiliev: I don’t like it, to be honest. Although I give credit to both the guys and their coaches for the fact that they are trying to bring novelty to pair skating. But from a purely technical point of view, a number of elements raise certain questions.
Oleg Vasiliev: For example, the acrobatic flip which Pavlyuchenko and Khodykin start their short program with. In fact, this is a twist – with the only difference in axes. I do not exclude at all that one of the judges may think of counting this element as a twist and putting zero for it.
If I’m not mistaken, something like this has already happened in single skating, when the skater decided to decorate the steps with an amplitude waltz jump, but the element was counted as a failed axel.
Oleg Vasiliev: Quite right. That is why I said that I do not see in the acrobatic style any new direction of development. That’s great that the guys are trying all this. But you need to be very careful when fitting such an innovation into the framework of the rules.
If you were a just a spectator and had the opportunity to buy a ticket for only one type of program …
Oleg Vasiliev: It definitely would not be ice dance. I think I would go to pair skating. Short program.
Oleg Vasiliev: The free program is more interesting in some sense, more diverse in terms of elements, but the significance of the short program, in my opinion, is higher. And the nervous tension is completely incomparable with what an athlete experiences before a free program. It’s clear why. Skating in the short program, skaters can provide themselves with either a gap or a stronger warm-up group. What does it mean not to get into the strongest group? Your second mark is automatically lowered by at least 0.5 from each judge. In pair skating, if you did not appear in the top four – you are out of the fight. That is why it is so often repeated in our sport that you cannot win a competition with a short program, but you can lose it.
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