“Our training approach is designed for longevity anyway, so new age minimum doesn’t make much of a difference to us when it comes to focusing on every day progress.” Vadim Shebeco, coach of Mia Kalin
Interview with Vadim Shebeco, coach of Mia Kalin. About quads, aga minimum and ice shows in America.
source: sport24.ru dd. 18th July 2022 by Polina Maksimova
We can say that you have a unique career path in figure skating. Tell us about its main stages.
Vadim Shebeco: Firstly, I would not say that my path in figure skating is unique. I was born into an ordinary family of engineers. Mom brought me to CSKA when I was 6 years old, but by that time I was already considered hopelessly old. However, the choreographer of CSKA, a ballerina of the Bolshoi Theater, for some reason insisted on making an exception and taking me. I had to catch up with my peers very quickly.
In the late 80s/early 90s, the situation changed dramatically, the country collapsed. It was impossible to get boots and skating blades, let alone food. My parents lost their jobs, and many of my talented peers had to leave the sport. When the circus directors arrived in Moscow, I signed a contract to work in Central America and went there. Then I spent almost a year working on the show in Mexico.
When I got the chance to work at Ice Capades with Dorothy Hamill (Olympic champion – 1976. – Sport24), I realized that I had to use it. My bosses in Mexico refused to terminate the contract. I tried to run, and they literally chased after me. There was a car accident and I barely survived. But everything worked out! I skated, performed the main roles in Ice Capades from the moment Dorothy took over the show until the very end. After the end of Ice Capades, I continued to work for a while in various other shows, but over time I decided that that was enough for me. I decided to settle down and start coaching, which is what I’m doing now. My parents still live in Russia.
As a member of Ice Capades, can you assume why it popularity in the US has fallen so quickly?
Vadim Shebeco: Probably for several reasons. First, when the corporations took over the Ice Capades, it changed and was not the same quality as it was when it was owned by Dorothy, who put her soul into it and recruited the best skaters from all over the world. Secondly, the tastes of society have changed.
Are ice shows popular in the USA today?
Vadim Shebeco: “Stars on Ice” in the United States are popular among figure skating fans. And, of course, Disney on Ice is especially popular among families with kids, even those who aren’t very into figure skating. But there are no large current ice shows like those that you see, for example, in Russia and Japan.
American female skaters have been leaders for many years. Why have they given up their positions now?
Vadim Shebeco: To be able to achieve success in this sport, first you need a wide access to it, so that skating rinks and quality daily training are not only widely available, but also very affordable. In fact, this is of decisive, enormous importance, even if you do not take into account other factors – for example, the desire of Russian coaches and skaters to push the technical boundaries for women in the way they have done in the last decade.
Is there any explanation why it was in Russia that girls began to massively perform ultra-c jumps?
Vadim Shebeco: Again, as a starting point, in Russia, you first of all have much greater access to figure skating and coaching in general, greater accessibility, greater popularity of this sport in the whole country. This creates a larger pool of talent, more competition, forcing skaters to push each other forward. And, on top of that, coaches who a few years ago began to challenge the assumption that women couldn’t jump ultra-c. Ambition and commitment were directed towards this and led to success. And so it went.
At the last junior world championship, there was not a single attempt of a quad from American girls. Why do coaches not hurry to include quads in their programs?
Vadim Shebeco: I do not know why. In addition to Mia, who did quads last season, I know that two other junior skaters have tried ultra-c elements at several domestic competitions. One of them tried a triple Axel, and the other tried a quadruple toe loop. They didn’t succeed, but it’s still great to see that they tried it.
Tell us about your work with Mia – who suggested trying quad?
Vadim Shebeco: I’ll start with the background. I started training Mia when she was 5.5 years old. At that time, due to the family situation (finance, location, etc.), she could only skate a few times a week. But Mia was very focused, very determined, loved to skate. By the time she was 9 years old, she was skating more, but still no more than 8 hours a week. At that time I had already understood where Russian girls were going and just wanted to somehow keep the “door open” for her opportunities. I thought it was important that Mia complete all her triples by the age of 10 with good technique that will grow with her as she will eventually be able to skate more and pay more attention to every aspect of her skating. We made it, but along the way, Mia and I were always talking about what should be next. So when we started with the quad salchow and toe loop, it wasn’t a “solution” or any suggestion, it was just the next step in our progress that we knew we’d take. Mia was very happy about this, as she always strives for new goals.
Many experts believe that quads and high-quality choreography are incompatible. Do you think it is possible and necessary to find a balance between the two parameters?
Vadim Shebeco: Oh sure. Figure skating is a combination of sport and artistry, so it’s a must. However, it is true that the more you strive to achieve technically, the more difficult it will be to combine it with artistry. As skaters get better at more complex elements, their ability to use quality choreography increases. This is the essence and the great challenge of figure skating, and this is what makes our sport so unique.
Mia has already had her first competitions of the season under the new rules. Did you feel any difference?
Vadim Shebeco: Not much, because at the stage of Mia’s development we are working literally on everything – on improving everything related to her skating. The rules change, but for us it’s the same: work to make things better and better, adjusting the details to the new rules.
What are your goals for this season?
Vadim Shebeco: Again, Mia is working on literally everything — on her skating skills, spins, and performance, as well as on new elements like quad salchow and stabilizing the triple axel. There is a lot of work to be done.
In your opinion, will the decrease in scores for jumps due to pre-rotations lead to the development or, on the contrary, to the stagnation of women’s single skating?
Vadim Shebeco: In this question, the answer lies in the type and degree of pre-rotation, as well as who or how will measure this pre-rotation, and whether this will be judged consistently and fairly. Of course, everyone knows that there is a certain type and degree of pre-rotation of the upper body that is normal. But extreme pre-rotation is bad, no matter how you look at it, you shouldn’t teach jumping like that.
Will the suspension of Russian skaters somehow affect the jumping content of athletes at international competitions?
Vadim Shebeco: I can only say that this does not affect our approach to training in any way. Our approach and Mia’s mindset is to continue striving to be competitive with all skaters, whether they are currently in competition or not.
How did you and Mia take the news of the age minimum increase?
Vadim Shebeco: Neither Mia nor I were surprised, because it had been discussed for a long time. Our training approach is designed for longevity anyway, so it doesn’t make much of a difference to us when it comes to focusing on progress/growth every day, as it has been since our day one.
Do you believe that this decision will only help young athletes in the end?
Vadim Shebeco: No, I don’t think that this change in itself will change anything for younger athletes.
Mia has recently met the famous composer Ludovico Einaudi. Whose initiative was it?
Vadim Shebeco: Mia herself chose Experience for this season’s program many months ago because she was so inspired by this piece of music. So when she heard that Ludovico Einaudi was going to play next to the rink where we train, she wanted to know if there was a way to meet him and talk. We contacted his manager and Ludovico came to the rink to meet Mia and see how she would skate her program to his music. They also had the opportunity to talk about the meaning of the Experience – Mia wanted to know how he felt when he wrote it, and she was delighted with their conversation.
Last season, Mia’s free program was to the music from the Game of Thrones series – is this some kind of reference to Sasha Trusova?
Vadim Shebeco: In this case it was a coincidence. Mia chose the music herself, simply because she really liked it.
What was Sasha’s key mistake, which did not allow her to become an Olympic champion?
Vadim Shebeco: That’s a controversial question. Anyone can train “from the side” and have an opinion that Trusova should or should not have tried the triple Axel in the short. But such judgments are just guesses, and only the skater herself and her coaches have the right answer. Besides, one mistake fewer here or there in the free skate, she would have won. Of course, as they say, “risk is a noble cause,” and one of Trusova’s great and worthy traits is her courage and ambition. But it is impossible to predict when it will definitely pay off, and when it will lead to a loss.
Which of the girls did you root for at the Olympics?
Vadim Shebeco: It is hard to say. I know that Shcherbakova is Mia’s favorite skater, not only because of her skating, but also because of her willpower, determination and competitive mindset.
Recently, Russian scientists in their study of the consequences of the use of trimetazidine concluded that it does not affect the results in figure skating. And in your opinion, can doping still help in this sport in some way?
Vadim Shebeco: I understand that people have very different points of view on this matter. For me, this is something that would never have crossed my mind as a coach, and I see absolutely no point in it, because the peculiarities of the technique, artistry in figure skating make doping completely meaningless.
Which Russian female figure skater would you single out and why?
Vadim Shebeco: Medvedeva. This is not to say that she was perfect or that current Russian competitors are not superior in various skills, but she is the skater who, more than anyone, ushered in the modern era of Russian dominance in women’s figure skating. It is not only her stability over a long period of time, but also her passion for figure skating, her ability to constantly express herself through the exceptional artistry of her performances.