“Russian pair skates to Russian music” Alexander Zhulin about Olympic programs for Sinitsina and Katsalapov
Interview with Alexander Zhulin. About upcoming Olympic season and new programs for his leading pair Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov.
source: championat.com dd. 25th August 2021, by Alexei Adamov
Alexander, a little more than two weeks remains before the test skates of the Russian national team. Are you satisfied with Victoria and Nikita shape at this stage of preparation?
Alexander Zhulin: Both new programs are ready, in principle, I like everything. The only thing is that Nikita’s back hurts again. This is an old injury that makes itself felt every August. Because of this, I cannot mark this preparation as one hundred percent, but they do all the elements, they also did run-throughs. We prepare as usual: two ice trainings, plus choreography, plus general physical training. If we manage to cope with back problems, then everything should be fine.
Do you have any fears that injury will prevent Sinitsina and Katsalapov from performing at the test skates in Chelyabinsk?
Alexander Zhulin: I do not allow him to skate through pain, because it is very dangerous, especially in the Olympic season. We cannot allow exacerbation, therefore we must treat this situation carefully. Doctors are engaged, we’re trying to get out of the situation with minimal losses. We face this problem every season, almost at the same time. So far it has been possible to neutralize it all. Let’s hope that it will work out now.
Last season, it took a long time for Victoria to recover from a knee injury, plus both skaters suffered a coronavirus. Do the consequences of those problems make themselves felt now?
Alexander Zhulin: Last year, Vika’s knees hurt badly, but this offseason she did a lot of physical training, and so far, touch wood, everything is fine.
How did you choose the music for the Olympic free dance?
Alexander Zhulin: At the beginning of last season, Vika and Nikita brought this music themselves: Rachmaninoff Concerto no.2, a slow part. We added a piece from variations on a Theme of Paganini by Rachmaninoff, and got a complete piece, played by David Garrett.
Based on what you see in training, does this program matches the Olympic status?
Alexander Zhulin: Absolutely, as it seems to me. This is one hundred percent man and woman on the ice. Moreover, a Russian pair skates to Russian music. In addition, the program suits them in terms of emotions and, in general, suits them very much. In my opinion, we hit with the program.
Next season, the theme of rhythm dance will be “street dancing”. Did you manage to understand the essence of this direction applicable to figure skating?
Alexander Zhulin: The technical committee put all the dancers in difficult conditions. As I understand it, no one has fully realized yet what street dance is in ice dancing. But we are trying to match and choosing the music we tried to guess what they wanted to see. For the first part, we chose Joe Cocker’s famous piece You Can Leave Your Hat On from the movie “Nine and a half weeks”. The music is very strong, sexy. The second part is the Brick House by Commodores.
Preparing this rhythm dance, have your skaters had to master new dance styles when preparing rhythm dance?
Alexander Zhulin: They worked with a hip-hop and street dance specialist. Sergei Petukhov and I controlled the entire process and made our contribution. It seems to me that we have succeeded in the rhythm dance. Anyway, we like everything so far.
Victoria and Nikita will start the Grand Prix series only in mid-November. Where do you plan to compete before that?
Alexander Zhulin: At the end of September we plan to participate in the first stage of the Russian Cup in Syzran. Also, the guys were supposed to perform at the Ondrej Nepela Memorial in Bratislava, but this event was canceled due to the coronavirus. Now making far-reaching plans is a thankless task. Of course, it is desirable to have at least two starts before the first stage of the Grand Prix. We will try to perform somewhere else, but in this situation we cannot predict anything.
And what about vaccinations for you and your athletes? Now this requirement may be critical for participation in competitions.
Alexander Zhulin: We were vaccinated, but this still does not guarantee anything in terms of admission to competitions. We were vaccinated with Russian vaccines, but they are not recognized in many countries abroad. Getting foreign vaccines as well, in my opinion this is too much. Therefore, I really hope that the PCR test will be enough, since all the competitions will be held in a bubble format. We are locked in a certain area, we take a test every three days. God blesses, those conditions will be kept and we will not need to inject 150 vaccines to prove that we are not an outcasts.
There is a lot of talk that the upcoming season is special because it is Olympic. In your experience, does the Olympics year really stand out and require a special approach?
Alexander Zhulin: I think that we need to do our best not to focus on the fact that this season is Olympic. This also applies to preparation, and the choice of music, and general perception. In any case, the pressure before the Olympics exists. Like it or not, you always remember that the season is Olympic. Therefore, I always try not to be nervous. It’s necessary to prepare calmly to this season and treat it like any other.
This season you have choreographed a short program for the Tarasova / Morozov. Tell us about your collaboration with their team.
Alexander Zhulin: This is not the first time I work with Zhenya and Vova. I did an exhibition program for them for my show in Belarus. I have also worked with Eteri and I can say that I am very comfortable working with her. She is seriously involved in the choreography process, we advise each other something, offer. Maxim Trankov also participated. Everything was very comfortable and wonderful.
The only thing is that some things were not included in the final version, because now there are a lot of elements in the short program and very little time is devoted to choreography. This makes it more difficult for the choreographers, but I likes what I saw at the US competitions. If there was no mistake on Zhenya’s triple toe loop, the program would have sounded a little differently. In general, I think that they hit with both programs: short and the free, which was choreographed by Daniil Gleikhengauz and Eteri Tutberidze. Now the main thing is to prepare and skate without mistakes. If they polish everything and perform both programs clean, then everything will be fine.
Recently it became known about the cancellation of the Grand Prix in China. Your pair was not listed for this event, but in general are there no fears about Beijing Olympics after such news?
Alexander Zhulin: So many things have already been canceled that I try not to think about it too much. Be that as it may. For the second year now we have been living on a powder keg, in limbo.
Many Russian athletes are now experiencing difficulties in getting American visas. Has this situation affected you?
Alexander Zhulin: We have visas, but we did not want to go there at all and did not plan to go there. Therefore, there are no problems for us from this point of view. And the fact that now they did not give visas to Maria Lasitskene and other athletes, I fully admit that these are certain intrigues, which are called sanctions. As for me, I don’t like going there at all. First, it’s far away. Secondly, in America, the judging is often not the best. I was never eager to go there either as an athlete or as a coach.
You reacted quite sharply to the statement of the International Skating Union on the admission of transgender people. Does it surprise you that figure skating is one of the first sports where this issue was raised at the international federation level?
Alexander Zhulin: To be honest, nothing surprises me lately. Somehow it all coincided: BLM, transgender people and coronavirus. In my opinion, these are the links of the same chain. The world is going crazy. I don’t think we will have a lot of transgender people in women’s skating. To count on a high result, someone of the top five in men skating should take such a step. So far, I can’t even imagine such a thing. Therefore, the problem seems to me far-fetched.
In general, my position is unchanged: if girls become boys and perform among men, then this is acceptable to me. But when men take part in women’s competitions, it is completely wrong.