“Russian girls will win in Beijing. And many doesn’t like this.” Judge Vedenin about politics in figure skating, envy and fairness of scores.
Figure skating judge Aleksandr Vedenin analyzed the scores of Russian athletes in women’s figure skating, explained why they are fair and reply to Philip Hersh’s criticism.
source: matchtv.ru dd. 18th October by Marina Tchernysheva-Melnik
Let’s analyze the performance of each Russian female skater who claimed victory and world records in the past two challenger events. Let’s start with the Finlandia Trophy.
Aleksandr Vedenin: Liza Tuktamysheva, who skated brilliantly, definitely won in the short program. And in the free program, Kamila Valieva didn’t leave anyone even a theoretical chance to win. The technical content showed by Kamila is the flight to the moon. Not only because of three quadruple jumps, but also most difficult triple jumps and combinations with them, the most difficult spins in incredible positions and, finally, the highest quality of all these elements. Only Sasha Trusova and Anya Shcherbakova can theoretically fight the record set by Kamila.
Of course, it’s a pity that our other star Alena Kostornaia did not cope with the program, although she tried to fight with a triple axel. The attempt was quite good, albeit with an unclean landing. But I think that now, at the beginning of the season, such an attempt is more useful than giving it up. In the short program, Alena jumped clean and beautiful double axel and won over Kamila, who took a risk. But Tuktamysheva fairly won, performed all the elements clean.
In general, Liza showed that she is in excellent shape and she is seriously determined to fight for getting into the Olympic team and getting a medal. I believe that with such a shape, Elizaveta will begin work on the quadruple toe loop again and, most likely, will be able to prepare it for her second Grand Prix or the Grand Prix Final. The first stage (in Canada) is very soon, and it would probably be too adventurous to take risks there. There is such a problem in figure skating: if you put a new, complex element into the program, then even if you do it, other elements may suffer. As we say, “the whole program will fall apart.” But I think we have every chance to see this year how Liza breaks all the rules and our ideas of possible and will be able to compete with young competitors.
How did program components scores formed for all of our girls? As far as I understand, this is a much more subjective score than the score for the technique, therefore it raises even more questions.
Aleksandr Vedenin: I completely do not agree with the hate on the Internet that Kamila was given these points for nothing. First, her component scores are not that high. Most of her components were no higher than 9 for each element, which was the minimum possible for her level in Helsinki. This is for sure lower than Kamila deserved and, by the way, lower than Liza Tuktamysheva got, who showed her best performance.
Someone criticized Valieva for not smiling and skating with a focused face. But she doesn’t skate to a pop music. To skate such a program, you need to concentrate. The whole body is involved in her expressive means – every part of the body and every finger. Every ending of her element reflects the music. And all this is happening at incredible speed and energy. Many judges hold back Kamila’s PCS under the impression of stories about the youth of Russian stars, which are “not feminine enough.” But she is very feminine and has incredible energy! This is the main advantage that both Kamila and Anya Shcherbakova have. It seems that a nuclear reactor is built into these delicate, fragile bodies. And when an athlete shows such energy, it cannot but influence the judges and spectators.
Another very important note on choreography. For me and many specialists, choreography is an organic combination of body and hand movements with the movement of skates. The first requirement is the expressiveness of the skate’s movements. The music should be expressed with a skate and enhanced by movements of the body, hands and even eyes. Kamila’s skating expresses music, and her incredibly flexible body and arms emphasize this musicality.
In my opinion, this is what Liza lacks, who is very expressive in the movements of her arms and head. But this expressiveness is often carried out without skating, and sometimes just standing on two feet. She has her own merits and she was charming in both programs. Especially at the end of the free program, where she was on fire in the sequence of steps and connecting steps between spins. But this was the only place where Liza’s legs, arms and body moved together, and not separately. While in Valieva’s skating we see that even jumps entries and landings are the means of expressing music. Therefore, despite the lack of a smile, I am more impressed by her expressive means.
What advice can you give Alena Kostornaia? How to get back the same stability, strong content and self-confidence?
Aleksandr Vedenin: Having arrived from Helsinki, I called Sergei Dudakov (he was not at the competition) to share my impressions of what I saw. To almost all my comments on training and competitions, he answered: “Yes, we know.” And not because Daniil Gleikhengauz, who was present in Finland, has already told everything. No, the team sees the process every day in training. They all are the best in the world because they know. As for Alena, she simply shouldn’t have thrown the past season down the toilet, when her rivals were training hard and mastering new elements.
How would you comment on the criticism of Kamila’s scores at the last competitions? For example, the words of the American journalist Philip Hersh with a hint of bonuses for the country.
Aleksandr Vedenin: I will allow myself to reproach Mr. Hersh with slyness. The whole world of figure skating knows him as one of the most experienced and professional sports journalists. At one time, he did a lot to promote the image of Michelle Kwan, when she was not a star yet. Hersh was one of the first to see and reveal the talent of this incredibly gifted young figure skater. And now I do not believe that he did not see the same level of energy in Kamila. If her energy impressed calm, cold-blooded Finns, then such an expert as Hersh could missed something just because he really wanted to miss it. And if the Russian Valieva were given fewer points, then in Finland they would have gone to another Russian – Tuktamysheva or Kostornaia. There are simply no other options! This is what causes such a bilious reaction from Mr. Mudslinger.
I was also very interested in the technical advice that Philip Hersh gave Kamila several times in the recent past (at the junior level). He recommended improving the landing technique. If Hersh is so well versed in technique that he gives advice to Eteri Tutberidze, why didn’t he help the wonderful skater Karen Chen, who still underrotates most of her jumps? The judges even got used to it, so they gradually cease to notice mistakes. Or why didn’t Hersh help Jason Brown finally master the complex jumps? He is the only one from the top ten in the world who, over the past five years, has barely jumped two clean triple axels in a free program, not to mention quads.
Preparations for the Olympic Games are underway, and Russian girls are likely to win. And many people do not like it. Sports politics, as a part of sports or near-sports struggle, was, is, and will always be. But I would ask our choir of housewives, overwhelmed by hate and envy, not to take part in this struggle! I would like to wish you to focus on cooking in the kitchen and stay away from the world of figure skating. After all, 15-17-year-old girls whom you hate for “high scores” read your nonsense, and it cannot but affect them.
Olympic champion Alexei Urmanov did not see an interesting interpretation of Bolero. Let’s explain to the reader – how do you see this program performed by Kamila?
Aleksandr Vedenin: Alexey Urmanov is a well-known and respected name in figure skating. Of course, he has every right to have his opinion. Only Alexey was not talking about the program, but about himself – that he did not understand. But I agree with the opinion of Ilia Averbukh, who called Valieva’s skating alien. By the way, it is not necessary to look for a plot and write a libretto for every program. It is necessary to express the music and the feelings. In my opinion, Kamila succeeds.
Urmanov said one absolutely fair thing: “Bolero” has already been taken by many skaters, and it is difficult to offer something new in this regard. Tutberidze’s staff chose “Bolero” for one of their brightest stars a year and a half ago, with a thought of the Olympics. This program looks brighter today than last October, and Kamila feels the difficult music better now. Although, of course, this is not the level of Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean yet.
You spoke with the judges who worked at the event. What are their impressions of our skaters?
Aleksandr Vedenin: I managed to talk with a member of the ISU technical committee Leena Laksonen after Valieva’s skating. Mrs. Laksonen was one of those who supported raising the age minimum for girls in order to achieve more femininity in skating. Now this lady was emotionally saying how delighted she was with the expressiveness and femininity of our 15-year-old figure skater. She saw Kamila for the first time live and was amazed! She unequivocally confirmed that femininity is determined not so much by age as by preparation, training and nature. Kamila have all three of these components.
Three of our other stars took part in the Budapest Trophy – Anna Shcherbakova, Maiia Khromykh and Sofia Samodurova. What are your impressions of the performances and scores for the technique and components?
Aleksandr Vedenin: The competitions in Budapest turned out to be, as expected, of a lower level than in Finland. This always happens because more high-level skaters from more countries come to Finland. Finlandia Trophy is more convenient in terms of timing for those who are going to participate in the Grand Prix in the USA and Canada. Of course, the presence of three Russian girls meant that, as in Finland, they would compete for medals. No matter how annoying it was for Mr. Hersh, nowadays, at all competitions where Russian girls participate and Japanese singles do not participate, medals can be given to the Russians in advance.
First of all, of course, we need to congratulate the amazing Maiia Khromykh, who coped great with her first competitions in seniors. She did two quads that she had struggled with for the previous two years. And even though the first quadruple toe loop had no the best landing, in the technical score it was counted as quadruple. And the second attempt of the quad toe loop was cool – so she managed to add a triple at a good pace. We know that Maiia also has a quadruple salchow, which, perhaps, will be included in her next performance and make its technical score sky-high. The rest of the program was skated clean, winding up quality marks with each successive element.
It is a pity that the best figure skater in the world of last year, Anya Shcherbakova, continues to suffer from injuries and illnesses and can’t restore the quad jumps. Moreover, judging by the way she stands evenly in the air, screwing herself straight up in a double axel, and taking into account a fairly good technique, it seems that Anya can also do a triple.
And her second mark with a refined performance of all the details of the program and music, of course, should create a significant advantage for her in the fight against her rivals. I totally disagree with Anna’s second mark in the short program. It was not for nothing that Daniil Gleikhengauz shook his head, watching Maiia’s scores and showing his displeasure. I think his negative reaction was more related to the Anya’s scores, who skated right before Maiia. True, the judges saw an underrotation on Anya’s loop, performed in a combination with lutz. I rewatched this element and tried to find the underrotation, but remained unconvinced. Although there was some inconvenience after the lutz, a certain delay in the rhythm and violation of the axis, which, in principle, can lead to the mistake on the second jump. But components below 9.0 are not a level for Shcherbakova’s skating.
Perhaps, the overall low level of skating of the rest of the participants affected her scores. There is a psychological trick for the judges: they gave all the previous participants marks from 5 to 7.5, and then the star Anya appears, which they gave a lot more – like 8.75. Having completely lost the bearings, that this is a completely different level of skating and that she is not competing with the rest of the participants, but with herself and, as it turned out later, with Maiia.
Frankly speaking, I would advise any coach not to show their displeasure so clearly on the TV. The judges are also watching this, and I know that last year at the Russian Nationals, the judges were talking about Zhenya Plushenko’s reaction and his defiant gestures to Trusova’s scores. The judges were very indignant and offended, determined to punish the athlete for the coach’s inappropriate behavior. Do not forget that judges are ordinary people for whom nothing about human beings is strange. As for Shcherbakova, we can only wish her not to get sick and not get injured, to quickly regain her fantastic shape, in which she amazed the whole world. In any case, she remains a star and one of our main hopes before the Olympics.
Of course, we are rooting for Sonya Samodurova, she is also not at her peak yet, but it looks like she is getting rid of her habitual under-rotation and is ready to jump 3-3 combinations in all possible variants. And this is the first step towards mastering another rotation in a jump.
Can Maiia Khromykh become the leader of the women’s team? What does she lack in the fight against already established stars?
Aleksandr Vedenin: I do not presume to assert, but there is no doubt that Maiia will create supercompetition for everyone who will fight for Olympic spots. In my opinion, she lacks details: stretched legs, finished arms and fingers movements and, most importantly, lacks the absence of unnecessary steps, pushing with the toe picks of the second leg and transitions between the elements. What is called a skating class. By the age of 15, Valieva managed to learn these details. But I know that in “Khrustalny” they take details very seriously, and, undoubtedly, all the skaters will sooner or later master these details.
Many bet on several Russian female single skaters, especially on Kamila – predict victory at the Olympics. There have already been many cases when the burden of expectations put pressure on the athlete and interfered at the decisive moment. What advice would you give to our top skaters and their coaches to preserve the psyche?
Aleksandr Vedenin: Children usually don’t bother. Yes, coaches understand who is claiming what and understand their responsibility. Therefore, they do not sleep, do not eat and sometimes react nervously to stupid questions. Children only know that they need to work hard and prepare for the competitions. The most responsible understand their tasks for each competition. These tasks are not about the final place, but about the fulfillment of the coaches’ task. First place with a bunch of world records with failed axels is unfulfilled task. Although the pedestal and the photo sessions, of course, motivate and create a great mood. But there is an axel on mind and the realization that it must be performed.
All of our stars still have many competitions in the season, and the tension will only grow. If our coaches are in good health, then the athletes will also come to the Olympic Games in good condition.