Sergei Davidov: “In today’s figure skating, there is only one way: if you want to win, learn quads.”
Interview with CSKA coach Sergei Davidov. About his athlete switching to Tutberidze, what to do to be the first, diets and tears, trainings and Beijing Olympics.
source: rsport.ria.ru dd. 20th April 2021 by Vasili Konov
Is it right to say that your group is the main competitor of the group of Eteri Tutberidze and “Chrustalny”, or is it more about the future?
Sergei Davidov: I think the comparison is not right here. They are working, we are working, everyone is moving forward in his own line.
But it so happened this off-season that the lines have crossed: Liza Berestovskaya chose to go to “Chrystalny” and to work with Eteri Georgievna. Was it a surprise or shock to you, or were you ready for it?
Sergei Davidov: No, of course, we are always ready for such transfers, because the result is better there now.
But the competition is also higher there.
Sergei Davidov: Competition is exactly the result. Where there is competition, there is a result. This is the choice of Liza and her parents, here I cannot say anything, how they see it.
Is it Liza’s choice? Or her parents’?
Sergei Davidov: I can not say. Most likely, while they are children, parents choose for them. Still she’s not an adult, but a teenager.
Have you tried to persuade her to stay?
Sergei Davidov: What for? If a person has decided, if he already has this decision in his subconscious, if he wants to switch, then it is better for him to do this, because it will not be a work.
But you can give some arguments. You have invested quite a lot in this girl. She came with what – double jumps, right? You have brought her to a certain level.
Sergei Davidov: Many people believe that they have outgrown their coach, that they need to go further – this is the main opinion.
Tamara Nikolaevna Moskvina told me that in this situation she does her best to keep the athlete: “I invested so much in them and I give another coach the ready material that goes and wins medals. Why? I have to limit myself somewhere, but to bring it to the end, to the goals that we set together with the athlete.”
Sergei Davidov: Well, how do you imagine it? The person does not want to train with you, the person has decided to work with another coach. You can’t force someone to like you. You just can’t do a big, global work this way.
What’s a big work? Here a person comes – he trusts you, he looks into your eyes, he expects some prompts from you, he is looking for something that you will give him, that will help him. If a person aims to switch to another place, it is better for him to switch, because in the future there will be constant conflict situations, the athlete will find something wrong in the coach, some problems – coach said something wrong to him, and so on. It was, is and will be, so I believe that if you have already decided in your head, then you need to move on.
Did you part well?
Sergei Davidov: If I may say so – yes. Absolutely no argues.
Was it parents or Liza who told you?
Sergei Davidov: Well, in general, we found out earlier.
Not a nice situation if you learned from the outside, and not from them.
Sergei Davidov: It’s the world of figure skating. You just went beyond the threshold and everyone already knows that. Moreover, both Liza and her mother understood perfectly well that as soon as they appeared at school No. 37, we’ll know about it. So we just parted.
Turns out that Sofia Samodelkina is becoming the main star in the group?
Sergei Davidov: I wouldn’t say that either. I don’t think Sofa is a star or anything else. The leader of the group – maybe, but they must clearly understand: when they go on the ice it’s doesn’t matter you are the star, the leader – you have a job, you must go and do it. It’s the most important. Group leader? Well, probably yes.
Has Sofia coped with the task this season?
Sergei Davidov: I think not. Sofia approached the Russian junior Nationals in great shape, and of course I expected the maximum from her. But we added two quads, and, of course, she lost concentration a little bit on the first jump, but then focused and did finished everything. But this element, of course, threw her back a lot.
There was also a mistake in the short program, but not so significant. But at that time she was ready very well, so I think that she did not complete everything this season.
Was the quadruple loop part of the task for the season?
Sergei Davidov: We did it in training, we did it at practice at the Russian junior Nationals, but it was not part of the task to put it in the program.
Wait, you did at Moscow championships.
Sergei Davidov: We tried it. But you understand, putting a loop removes one salchow. In my understanding, to put – is to add another quadruple, and we changed one for another, more complex, more expensive one. Therefore, probably we tried it in the program. Yes, we planned, we wanted to, but loop is an edge jump, like salchow, and edge jumps require a lot of concentration, that’s why not everyone can do an axel, because you move forward and jump from the edge. Went a little bit in the wrong direction and it’s already difficult to catch it.
How to protect Sofia?
Sergei Davidov: There’s no way. Work. There’s no need to protect her – Sofa is an athlete, she comes, works, works. We need to build relationships. I cannot say that Liza and I had a bad relationship. We treat everyone equally, be it Liza or Sofa.
Well in the situation with Liza this was an athlete’s initiative, but, for example, Sofia may find herself in a situation where the initiative will come from any other coach who will take a step forward and offer better conditions than in CSKA.
Sergei Davidov: Why are conditions in CSKA bad? Everything is just fine in CSKA.
No, the conditions are excellent, but you can offer better. You can offer a mansion on Rublevka.
Sergei Davidov: Let’s start with the fact that if anyone can offer anything it is “Chrystalny”. Now going somewhere else is a step back. Probably a step back, or at least a huge risk, so to speak. I do not presume to judge, maybe not a step back, but a big risk, because it turns out that you are going where they have not done anything yet, and it is not known whether they will. So there is only one move – to go where they did and do it from year to year, and they do it well. Therefore, she is unlikely to be offered a mansion there, and she has everything in CSKA in order to win, take first places, add quads into the program and skate well. Absolutely all conditions.
For the past few weeks, everything has been boiling over hormone blockers, which the former Russian figure skater first announced in the English press, then an American journalist took up this topic, and they started to talk again that girls in Russia are not fed, they are not allowed to develop.
Sergei Davidov: Honestly, I don’t know anything about hormones. I have no idea what it is, I don’t need to know about it. Regarding nutrition, there are some restrictions, but this is not only in figure skating. You have to keep the right weight so that it works for you later. This is the only goal actually.
What is the critical weight change? When do jumps start to be affected? Two hundred grams, five hundred, a kilogram?
Sergei Davidov: It depends. Everyone has a different muscles, someone can pull out a little more and for someone 300 grams is already critical.
That is, 300 grams can really affect?
Sergei Davidov: They can. As for the quadruple jumps, then, of course, it’s a very fine tuning. Movements should be so equally correct and if you are just a little too late – that’s it. And this a little bit can be 300 grams. I am not saying that 100 grams will affect, but some changes will occur. Roughly speaking, you drank too much water and this will already play a role.
For example, you see that one of your students is eating a chocolate bar and drinking soda. What will you say?
Sergei Davidov: There is no such. If someone eats a chocolate bar and drinks it down with soda, they do it so that no one can see and so that it does not affect their shape in any way. I may not notice how they eat the chocolate bar, but I will definitely notice that the weight has increased and something is going wrong.
What quadruples Sofia jumps?
Sergei Davidov: Recently we’ve started to jump toe loop. Now Sofia jumps well axel, toe loop and salchow. Now we have started to work closely on the loop: we come, quickly do everything three or four times in a row and go to the next quadruple, so that we have time to catch another element and fully work on it. Now we have started working on loop and I think we will master it.
I read what Sofia said, that at some moments she jumped an axel up to 500 times a day. Is this real?
Sergei Davidov: Well she probably rounded. I cannot say that it was 500 times. You know, we were in Pervouralsk, I helped there with technique and took Sofia with me. We had two workouts for an hour and a half, and we spent all the time working out the axel. How many jumps can be made in an hour and a half … Well, probably, we did about that much. I can’t say for sure – 400, 500 …
How many times out of these five hundred did Sofia fall?
Sergei Davidov: We jumped a double axel. Sofia fell a little, because we were raising the height, the push-off, worked on the right push, so Sofia didn’t fell much. At the same time, by the end, we had already started doing a triple axel.
I mean when you have fallen ten times in 15 minutes, you will go on 16th jump thinking “Now I will fall again.”
Sergei Davidov: No. How do make it clear for you…Sofia was talking about 500 double axels. She does not fall from the double axels. It is quite difficult to fall from a double axel, but it is possible if you change the jump, so, of course, there were falls.
But actually, no one gives a task to jump 100 triple axels. The coach’s task is to prepare for a complex element, so as not to do it 100 times. Because if you have not worked out some movement, have not worked out a push, have not worked out the necessary hand movement and you tell a child to jump a triple axel, of course, he will fall.
Is it easier or harder to jump with raised arms?
Sergei Davidov: We came to the conclusion that it is easier. I think that now not only we, “Chrustalny” also comes to this opinion, because there are two nuances here: the arms are the balancing of the air and the extension upward. That is, if you use arms correctly then this is only a plus, not a minus.
What other trump cards does Sofia have?
Sergei Davidov: We have already said in an interview that Sofia is very balanced skater. Of course, she has weaknesses that we try to work on, to hide, but I can’t said that something is really missing.
How many people do you do have in your team?
Sergei Davidov: It does not change: we have four people, five people with a harness, where Evgeni Viktorovich works.
Evgeni Viktorovich – is this the person who got on the video with the famous five-turn jump?
Sergei Davidov: Yes.
What for? Was it such a hype or are you really watching?
Sergei Davidov: Listen, we didn’t expect that, really, we didn’t expect that there will be some …
How? You post the video …
Sergei Davidov: Well, in the figure skating circle everyone understands perfectly well that jumps on harness is not a jump. You will not feel how tightly the person is holding you, and you will not see it. Only the person with a harness knows it. Only a person who works with a harness knows how much efforts he makes to hold an athlete. But again, we weren’t aiming for it to blow up like that. At some point, I said to Maxim: “That’s it, finish it. These people who come, interview you near your house, it’s all useless.” We tried it not for the first time, so there was nothing special.
Are you a tough, authoritarian coach? Or are you soft, calm, reasonable?
Sergei Davidov: I’m strict. Yes, we demand a lot.
Well, for example, if a guy does not perform some element, can you refer to him as a girl and call him by a woman’s name, as it happened at one of the neighboring ice rinks?
Sergei Davidov: Well, I can joke on this topic, but not with the aim of offending, but to get some kind of right reaction. But, if I see that it offends, of course, I will not do it.
What is the main difficulty, in addition to discipline, in working with guys?
Sergei Davidov: I think this is the most basic task. They have this negligence. Negligence in training, negligence at competitions: they can forget to take the music and come to the competitions, that is, some kind of indiscipline. Rather not negligence, but absent-mindedness, or something. Although I have a boy like Lev Lazarev, who is perfect in general.
If you sum up the results of the season for your group, what is the score – C, B, A+, A- ?
Sergei Davidov: I would not rate it. In general, I can say one thing: everyone has moved forward. During this season everyone stepped over this line which is significant for me. Anya Frolova started to work closely on the quad, last year we also worked on itm but then she stepped aside, and now I see that she really wants to. Ksyusha Tsibinova began to work on axel. That is, this does not even concern each athlete specifically, but this applies to the entire system. We took the whole system from triples and moved to quadruples, and everyone accepted and understood all this. In today’s figure skating, there is only one way: if you want to win, learn quadruples.
You did quadruple jump in training when you were an athlete. Why didn’t you take a risk to try it at the official competitions?
Sergei Davidov: Because I jumped it badly, most likely.
There were no confidence, didn’t want to take risks?
Sergei Davidov: Sure. There’s a coach for that. Probably, there was no opportunity to add it, because some year I did a good toe loop in training, even at the European Championships I did it well in training.
That’s when you were fourth?
Sergei Davidov: Yes. To do it at competitions, you have to master it, so that the coach put it into the program in advance. Because otherwise this is a lottery ticket.
As an athlete who begins his journey and finds himself in the era of the battle between Yagudin and Plushenko – what did you feel when you saw their skating and looked at your own?
Sergei Davidov: I cannot say that I had some emotions. I understood that the guys are better, but at that moment I did not understand that the guys work better. Now I am very well aware that talent itself wasn’t enough then, I should have worked hard.
Was the decision to change your sports citizenship easy?
Sergei Davidov: Not hard. At that time, I understood that it would be difficult to compete with Plushenko and Yagudin. When I got the offer, I accepted it in order to participate in major competitions.
Could a situation arise when you will advise one of your athletes to change their sports citizenship exactly in order to be able to go to major competitions?
Sergei Davidov: Maybe, why not. The athlete should have life. Our children are 13-14 years old now, they have been skating almost their whole life, since the age of 3 or 4. Just imagine how much time they spent. We, in particular, have girls who perfectly jump all triples, but given the current competition, they are not useful here.
Now we are entering the Olympic season with Zagitova, Medvedeva, Trusova, Shcherbakova, Kostornaia, Valieva, Samodelkina, Tuktamysheva, that is, these are eight people for three places in the national team.
Sergei Davidov: Yes. And believe me, they all know about it.
And I probably still haven’t named five or six people.
Sergei Davidov: Yes. Someone may not show anything this year, but next season he will shoot.
How can athletes in this situation set themselves up, control and not give up?
Sergei Davidov: The strongest wins. I always tell my athletes: “If you lose – don’t cry that you lost, come, work harder and win. If you want to get to the Olympics – be better, if you want to get to the World Championships – be better. Don’t complain about life, just get better, and that’s it. If an athlete thinks that way, it seems to me, he will show his maximum.
The question that I ask everyone, and they continue to scold me for this, but nevertheless: is it possible for Zagitova and Medvedeva to return to a competitive level?
Sergei Davidov: I think it’s unrealistic. It is unrealistic not because they are not able to, it’s unrealistic because the faster and younger ones come, who are simply faster, that’s all. Therefore, it is unrealistic. But only time will tell. Today people are like that, and tomorrow they сan buckle down…
In your opinion, who are main candidates for a trip to Beijing?
Sergei Davidov: I can’t say for sure, but, probably, Shcherbakova, Valieva, Trusova. Most likely so. Tuktamysheva – everything will depend on how the whole season goes.
Who impressed you the most over the past season? Whose program?
Sergei Davidov: Probably not a program, but, most likely, this presentation and the very nature of Valieva, of course. She fascinates with her skating, and of course she looks much more advantageous than others. Plus they picked up the music for her, “Bolero”.
Tutberidze – number one?
Sergei Davidov: Now – yes.
What needs to be done to make Davidov number one?
Sergei Davidov: Work, work hard. Tutberidze worked hard to become number one. You don’t get anything just like that, everything is through work. Athletes through work, a coach through work, parents through work, everything through work.
You said that theoretically you can do five, six quads in the program, but won’t it kill the very essence of figure skating? Indeed, in order to make five or six quads there will be no time left for the program itself.
Sergei Davidov: This World Championships has already shown this. For both guys and girls – the more quads you have, the less program you have left, because quadruple jumps require tremendous concentration, that is, the program is built so that a person goes to the element with the maximum concentration. Accordingly, everything is done to a minimum, and it is clear that the image, the idea of the program is lost. I cannot say that it is one hundred percent lost, but it disappears. The audience can see it.
Does it make sense to limit the number of jumps by rules?
Sergei Davidov: I don’t know. Now the World Championships has passed, everyone liked it, everyone is interested. If this format moves on and everyone is happy with it, everyone will like jumping mostly …
Well, make a separate competition, as it was at the Channel One Cup.
Sergei Davidov: A lot is being said about it now.
Sure! Just make a jumping competition and leave normal figure skating.
Sergei Davidov: Maybe we will come to this someday.
Do girls need a new age minimum?
Sergei Davidov: Probably, this will also lead to balance. This will not be a chase for these quads, as Sasha Trusova ran the entire program, trying to jump. Accordingly, these five jumps are her whole program.
Well, yes, it took all the time.
Sergei Davidov: In general, everything! And there is nothing left to show some idea, some artistic image, to show you costume – after all you are skating something, someone. Therefore, it will probably be a more balanced program. This will lead older, not teenagers, but already matured girls to the fact that they will perform one or two, maximum three jumps and skate their program. It will be both complex and beautiful, and everyone will like both.
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