Sergei Voronov: “Tutberidze has a rare quality – the gift of persuasion”
Interview with Sergei Voronov. About work with Tarasova – Morozov, time in his career when he trained with Eteri Tutberidze, Olympics and desire to be a coach.
source: rsport.ria.ru dd. 18th May, 2021 by Vasilii Konov
Sergei, what is your current status?
Sergei Voronov: Coach.
Who are you working with now?
Sergei Voronov: At the moment, let’s say, there is no permanent place of work, so now I am looking for myself as a coach. I spent last season as a coach in pair skating, as surprising as it may sound, but now, let’s say, I ponder.
That is, basically you are unemployed?
Sergei Voronov: Yes.
Planning to work with pair or single skaters again? Who do you feel more comfortable with?
Sergei Voronov: You know, last season was probably a kind of challenge, because I have never faced pair skating in my work. It was interesting, it was exciting. In any discipline, no matter whether it’s ice dance, pair skating or single skating – at a high level any sport is wonderful as it seems to me.
What was the range of your responsibilities working with Zhenya and Volodya?
Sergei Voronov: First of all, these are technical aspects of jumps, steps, spins – let’s say, single skating elements.
How did it happen, who was the initiator?
Sergei Voronov: It happened absolutely spontaneously. On October 7, I congratulated Maxim Trankov on his birthday, and he said that because of the pandemic they were in Moscow. I said: “Max, if you need any help …” He replied: “Yes, it might be interesting, but I must ask the guys first.” The guys agreed to try first, I came to some of their trainings, the guys were fine with it, just like me, slowly we started to work, and during this season we had such a cooperation.
Which competitions is more difficult – the Russian Nationals or Worlds?
Sergei Voronov: Since the championships did not work out, I must probably say that Worlds (laughs). But the Russian Nationals was not an easy walk either. Each competition is stressful. I discovered for myself that it is stressful not only when you are on the ice, but also on the other side of the boards, outside the ice.
Then I felt for the first time that when the guys go and take the opening pose, nothing depends on you. You cannot feel the shoulder blade, leg, arm. You can’t even prompt something, and all you can do is watch this action.
When you found out that the guys were moving to Khrustalny, did you immediately understand that your cooperation would end?
Sergei Voronov: What can I say, it’s been a long time ago … There are rumors, there are gossips, I tried to abstract from all this, but in general I understood that, probably, going to “Khrustalny” is one of the ways out for the guys. First, a permanent training base.
Which they didn’t have the whole season.
Sergei Voronov: Yes, we were constantly facing this issue. And here there is a permanent ice base, a coaching staff that needs no introduction. Probably, at the moment it is one of the strongest coaching teams in the world.
Have you thought that as a person close to Khrustalny and who worked there, you can get an invitation?
Sergei Voronov: Firstly, I probably haven’t even thought about it, because when I was in “Khrustalny”, I was an athlete and I trained with Eteri Georgievna and the team. Now I am in a different status, and, probably, it is not right to discuss this, as it seems to me.
And offer your services yourself? All of a sudden they need a specialist at Khrustalny.
Sergei Voronov: You answered the question with your smile (smiles).
But there is a huge number of skaters there. I doubt that Sergei Viktorovich, Eteri Georgievna, and Daniel have enough time for everyone.
Sergei Voronov: Probably this question should be addressed them. If they show the result, then, probably, people are coping.
What is the secret of “Khrustalny”?
Sergei Voronov: In their capacity for work and desire, answering briefly. Probably, to tell some trivial things, what I saw when I worked with people, with the team … At that time, I remember that there was a wild desire, wild dedication, and also Eteri Georgievna demanded from us, athletes, one hundred percent dedication.
Is it really a teamwork at Khrustalny?
Sergei Voronov: Yes, there are three people, and there is no division, that one trains this, the other trains this, the third trains this. No, this is a teamwork, everything is done together.
In one of your interviews after working at Khrustalny, you said that one of the qualities that Tutberidze taught you is to overcome yourself. Can you explain what does it mean?
Sergei Voronov: In recent years, they’ve said a lot of epithets and compliments about Eteri Georgievna, but what I really felt is that she has a rare quality – the gift of persuasion. She knows what to say to convince me and I believed her. As in Stanislavsky’s system – the actor plays, and you believe him. And it happens that a coach or a choreographer talks, you look at him and think: what are you talking nonsense?
With what words did she say that you believed her?
Sergei Voronov: Human, simple. There are no grandiloquent phrases. The look is important, the presentation is important, and the words can be completely different.
Yes, Eteri Georgievna can give a look…
Sergei Voronov: It seems to me that this is the work for the result, there is no “excuse me, Your Excellency”. Then it is not a result.
Could this be in contrast to the fact that before that there were reproaches against you about laziness, not working hard enough, including from the federation? And then you came to Tutberidze, who, as you said, made and taught you to overcome yourself. Is it just to overcome the laziness in which the federation accused you, or is it overcoming yourself at some moments?
Sergei Voronov: First of all, probably, now I treat all these accuses with humor (smiles).
But these are quite serious accusations against the athlete.
Sergei Voronov: I didn’t steal, I didn’t kill, well if I haven’t worked hard enough in some moments, well, does everyone work hard enough? Not everyone. It is clear that you need to look at yourself first.
When I got to the group of Tutberidze, I was either 26 years old, or 25 – a pretty serious age, I was already told that it was time to finish. That’s why this challenge was so interesting, and thanks to Eteri Georgievna that she agreed to help.
Can we say that the period of working with Tutberidze is the most effective in your career?
Sergei Voronov: One of the most effective. In some interview, I accidentally stumbled upon the beautiful: the era of the Renaissance for Sergei Voronov. Okay, so be it (smiles).
One of. What about the second one?
Sergei Voronov: Well, not only the second one. First, Urmanov, with whom I spent six years. With Alexei Evgenievich, I generally became some kind of more or less famous figure skater – junior competitions and medals of the world championships, Grand Prix, and at the senior level – Russian Nationals and the Grand Prix. Should I forget this stage? No, it was. It was challenging but interesting.
Each coach, how many I had, – probably few can boast of a larger list of coaches …
Sergei Voronov: Probably more.
Arutyunyan, Urmanov …
Sergei Voronov: These are famous personalities (smiles). And there were some not less famous, but people who, so to speak, did not have such outstanding results. I have never wondered about counting, but absolutely from every person, not only a coach, you can take something. There is something good in every person.
Before Urmanov you started working with Arutyunyan, and everything seemed to be going well until the moment of his departure to the USA. Calling Arutyunyan a fanatical coach, fantastically dedicated to his work, why didn’t you follow him to the USA?
Sergei Voronov: Let’s see, first, what year it was. It was 2001, at that time I was 13 years old. Roughly speaking, I would have had to go alone, it was financially unrealistic to go with the mother. We didn’t even consider it. And besides, at that level where would I perform there? How would I live there, exist? This story was unreal from the very beginning.
Yes, I was very upset that Rafael Vladimirovich emigrated, but it was clear that a person was not appreciated here the way he could have been. He was extraordinary man. I mean, here in Russia, because he still is, thank God.
We’ve recently talked, and you can hear pain and resentment in his voice when he says: “How many times I come here, but Plushenko is the first who invited me to the rink.” That is, he would be interested, but absolutely not in demand.
Sergei Voronov: I think that Rafael Vladimirovich has a lot of work in America and he is already so self-realized. God blesses everything will turn out great for Nathan next season. What hasn’t he won as a coach? Probably everything, and he has such a galaxy of his students – world champions, and Michelle Kwan, and Jeffrey Buttle, and Mao Asada, and you could see his style in their skating.
How can a coach find his style?
Sergei Voronov: Probably believe in yourself.
What is the style of Sergei Voronov?
Sergei Voronov: (Laughs) Look, it’s not yet a year since I’ve officially ended my career as an athlete.
What style would you like to have?
Sergei Voronov: My own, not like any others. My opinion is that a person is always interested in being an original, and not someone’s copy.
But at the same time, for sure, there are some coaches whose work you like, who inspires.
Sergei Voronov: There are a lot of them, because even my former mentors – I clearly notice some things in everyone: what Urmanov has, what Tutberidze has, what Nikolai Morozov has, what Goncharenko has, Vodorezova. These are all people from whom you can and, most importantly, you need to take.
Wasn’t the period of work with Morozov very short?
Sergei Voronov: Well, it was from 2010 to 2013 – three seasons. But it was really unique and unrepeatable.
Were you comfortable with Morozov?
Sergei Voronov: At first it was very unusual, because, firstly, there were constant moving. One move from Moscow to St. Petersburg was enough for me.
From Arutyunyan to Urmanov.
Sergei Voronov: Yes. Well, not to Urmanov – first I skated with Galina Kashina for about two seasons. To be honest, this was also an interesting experience (smiles).
Sergei Voronov: School of survival in some point, where you move from your own three-room apartment. How did I even persuade my parents to take this adventure?
No, this is an absolutely cool experience, and I am very grateful to St. Petersburg that I got there when there were all these champions. Skating on the same ice with Plushenko, having a live example before your eyes, the best in the world, what else do you need? It was very inspiring, motivating.
How did the option to train with Urmanov appeared?
Sergei Voronov: The director of the school, Tatyana Anatolyevna Menshikova, advised my mother. At that time I’ve spent three months with a leg injury, got back on the ice, began to get in shape, well, and somehow it all was so incomprehensible – my leg hurted … You know, somehow everything was vague, and at that moment Tatyana Anatolyevna suggested: “Do you want to try skating? Alexei Evgenievich has recently finished his career and starts to coach.” He already has his own group, and the Olympic champion did not need any introduction. And that’s how it happened.
At what point did you realize that you need to finish working with Urmanov?
Sergei Voronov: Firstly, the 2010 Olympic season was very wavy. There were some good performances at the Grand Prix, there was a good performance at the Russian Nationals, then there was a complete failure at the European Championships.
What happened then?
Sergei Voronov: Well, nothing happened then, I just went and skated poorly.
There must be some reason.
Sergei Voronov: Firstly, it was exaggerated: I was going there as number two, the first was Zhenya, who had just returned. Of course, he was the leader, and the second place, we all know that it is under discussion, and I understood that Russian Nationals does not guarantee anything at all. Valentin Nikolaevich Piseev said to me: “Let’s see how you will skate at the European Championships”. So, he looked (smiles).
And he sent Borodulin.
Sergei Voronov: Yes. Of course, at that moment it was more than just bitter and insulting, the world has collapsed for me in Tallinn! Because it seemed to me that it was a lifelong dream.
How not to break down at such a moment?
Sergei Voronov: Close, dear people helped. A day, two, three passes – at that time I was 22 years old … Well there were so many moments in my career, when it was possible to break down, there were so many injuries before that. I have never thought that I would achieve even such heights. When I came to St. Petersburg it would seem how to get out among all these stars? But somehow I did it!
I was always confident in myself, especially at the competitions, despite the fact that everyone always said that I don’t do jumps in training, but this inner sports arrogance, self-confidence always helped me at competitions …
But anyway, for every athlete Olympic Games are probably the main goal in his career.
Sergei Voronov: Absolutely. But I would make a remark: at that moment Urmanov said a very correct phrase, I did not understand it then, but he said a very true thing: “What did you expect there, at the Olympic Games in Vancouver?”
Many will disagree with me, but there are first, second and third places at the Olympic Games. The rest is the participants. I understand that you need to jump out of your pants to become fourth at the Olympic Games in men’s single skating, but in fact it will not affect your life dramatically. Either you are an Olympic medalist …
Either you have accreditation as a souvenir.
Sergei Voronov: Yes.
By the way, do you have accreditation?
Sergei Voronov: Yes, from Sochi (smiles).
Slightly different situations though.
Sergei Voronov: Yes Yes Yes.
Who gave it to you?
Sergei Voronov: A man from the federation (laughs).
Whom did you meet at the Ministry of Sports?
Sergei Voronov: In the figure skating federation. I don’t remember where it was handed to me, but it was comical.
And then before Pyeongchang you have already decided that you skate for your own pleasure, so as not to be disappointed anymore, right?
Sergei Voronov: (Laughs) Well, this is also a certain self-deception. When you are at a high level – yes, somewhere it’s for pleasure, you have become older, you have become wiser, but …
Look, you have become older, you have become wiser. Sochi, on the eve of the men’s short program, after the team event, they call you in the morning and say that they will send you a ticket, and in the evening it turns out that nothing will be sent and you are not going anywhere.
Sergei Voronov: You also asked Maxim (Kovtun) about this story. We all know this story that there was one participant in a team event.
I just mean did they really called you and said thet they will send you a ticket, that you are going to Sochi?
Sergei Voronov: Firstly, Eteri Georgievna, who was with Yulia Lipnitskaya at the team event, called me and said: “Get ready, there may be such an option.”
And then the wings grow? You understand that there is a chance to perform at the home Olympics.
Sergei Voronov: Of course, these are such indescribable emotions. It seems that it was over, Evgeni Plushenko went there, and then there is such an opportunity. All this, when there are such suitcase moods, yes, then no, it … You see, until you find yourself on the ice, on a six-minute warm-up, some guarantees – well, it’s funny! Of course it was. Did it inspire? Yes, it did.
And then knocked down?
Sergei Voronov: No, I can’t say that it knocked me really hard. Rather, I already treated it as some kind of bonus: it will be – good, it didn’t happen – well, it didn’t happen.
Returning to Urmanov’s question, what would you expect in Sochi?
Sergei Voronov: I can say directly that these guesses are a thankless job. Could I skate well there? I could. Could I failed? I could.
What could I count on with a good performance in the individual event? The third was Denis Ten, may he rest in peace. Could I compete with him? Probably I could. But thank God that Denis Ten took this medal, and thank God that he took all his medals. I think, I still hope that there will be enough medals in my lifetime, albeit in a different role. But you can’t return the person.
When you competed with the program that he choreographed, was it emotionally difficult?
Sergei Voronov: Very much, because I took it deeply, and for me, in general, this is so unfair, such a talented person, a talented athlete and…You think all your everyday problems are really problems? Guys, close your mouth. This is a tragedy, everything else is nothing.
Which competitions of those that brought either a victory or a medal do you consider to be the main one for yourself?
Sergei Voronov: There is no such thing, because every competitions is probably like a small life. For me personally, it has always been that way.
Well, for example, silver at the European Championships or the Grand Prix Final?
Sergei Voronov: Silver at the Europeans – it’s one story, the Grand Prix Final – another story. Some moments remain in the memories, at each event something is brighter, something is less, some curiosities, some situations. You live a little life at every competitions.
What are the warmest memories?
Sergei Voronov: It’s always interesting, pleasant and warm to perform in Russia. On the one hand, it’s very pleasant when there is our audience, because, it seems to me, we have the warmest and most pleasant audience, as well as in Japan. On the other hand, in Russia, it has always been as hard morally.
Are you talking about Russian Nationals or the Grand Prix?
Sergei Voronov: In general, about all competitions, regardless of whether they are international or domestic.
Sixteen Russian Nationals?
Sergei Voronov:(Laughs) I haven’t counted. No, I guess…
Sergei Voronov: I do not remember. One of your colleagues once said how much. I won’t lie.
It seems to me that no one else had more.
Sergei Voronov: Oh well. So, like, kinda skated (smiles). I did not have this goal in itself.
When you won the Russian Nationals for the first time …
Sergei Voronov: It was cool! I still remember that. First, it was in St. Petersburg.
Why are few skaters in Russia reaching the sports age of 30 and older? In men’s single skating, in fact, it’s you, Zhenya and Kostya (Plushenko and Menshov), but, in general, athletes finish quickly enough. What is the reason?
Sergei Voronov: I don’t know, you should ask the guys. I do not know. Injuries probably, or lack of motivation.
What motivated you?
Sergei Voronov: First of all, the desire and love for this sport. I just really liked skating. I can’t say that I’ve ever thought: oh this skating rink, this figure skating … No, of course, it happens that when you have some failures in training, you might think – screw it!
Was that often?
Sergei Voronov: Well, the work is nervous, of course. But is everything always cool? Of course not (smiles). What’s hard about our sport is being able to keep a face. You cannot act like in football, where if you are touched, you can pretend, lie on the field, doctors will run up to you, freeze, something else. In our sport if you went to the ice for 2.50 and 4.10, then be kind enough to skate. It hurts you, you fell, something else – it doesn’t matter. It seems to me that this is a rather difficult task.
At what point did you decide to work with a psychologist?
Sergei Voronov: Firstly, it was Urmanov’s proposal. At first I perceived it like this: “What, with a psychologist?! Maybe I also need to go to a mental hospital?” It was such youthful stupidity.
Did you work once a week?
Sergei Voronov: Yes. It was interesting because it was such a right switch. Not that you come, they put you, a lamp in your face and they say: “You must!” This is all nonsense and myth, everything is completely different, and in fact it is very useful sometimes, even just to come and tell a person about your day.
How many years have you worked with a psychologist?
Sergei Voronov: Well, probably, until the end of my sports career.
Few of our athletes openly talk about working with psychologist and that it really helps. I do not know why.
Sergei Voronov: It seems to me that an open position is a strong position of a strong person. And the fact that everyone is engaged and are afraid to say about it – well, guys … Do you know that in the West no one hides this? On the contrary, all say that they are working with a psychoanalyst, with a psychologist, someone else.
We are just trying to hide and clean up. But there is nothing wrong about that. You pay money, you work with a person – this is a normal situation. And here it is perceived as you go to a psychiatrist. Well, even going to a psychiatrist, if a person monitors his health, his mental state, this is not bad.
Have all coaches accepted your work with a psychologist?
Sergei Voronov: I didn’t expose it. There is a result, we work in a team – I could tell, and many reacted calmly. The main thing is that you feel comfortable. There was no such thing: “Are you sick?” They are all adequate people, so I cannot say that someone was strongly against it.
What was the most difficult moment psychologically in your career when this work helped?
Sergei Voronov: Probably Vancouver. Firstly, there was such an age, 22 years old, when it’s no longer youthful, but still maximalism. Probably, then, because at all other moments, already at 26, at 28, at 30 you look at it a little differently. Everything is perceived more calmly.
You had a chance to skate and compete with several generations. Which of the rivals made the strongest impression? Who was the most interesting, who was interesting to watch?
Sergei Voronov: Probably Plushenko. He really made a strong impression. There were also banal methods, it was interesting. First, it was a strong move.
Sergei Voronov: For example, the Russian Nationals, everyone gathers, nevertheless everyone come and look – what, who, how. Zhenya comes with Alexei Nikolaevich, skates for 15 minutes instead of 35, does everything and just leaves. And there are people, it also happens that many come and start to show themselves, the kings of training. And he just does everything in a businesslike way, quietly, calmly, without any fuss: did it in 15 minutes and left. Little action, but the psychological moment is very strong. Only those who saw it can understand.
I know that you have realized your dream, which you voiced in 2019 – did you learn to drive a motorcycle?
Sergei Voronov: I learned, but I don’t drive yet.
When are you planning?
Sergei Voronov: Probably, when I will be ready. After all, it seems to me, this is a crucial step, it is not just that I put on the helmet, as it seemed to me at first, and rushed. Still, unfortunately, there is no second and third life – there is only one life and it must be appreciated, whatever it may be.
That is, to a certain extent it is like the fear of going on the ice? Training is one thing, competition is another. And with the motorcycle there is also a certain barrier?
Sergei Voronov: It just seems to me that if you can make a mistake on the ice, then it is undesirable here. Sometimes there may be no second attempt. And then, by the way, this is also a serious adrenaline rush (smiles).
Turns out that to a certain extent the dream of 2019 has been realized. What is Sergey Voronov’s dream this year?
Sergei Voronov: Probably, a dream for the near future, and maybe not the near future – to realize as a coach. This is not a dream, but a desire. The desire to convey something from what I took from my coaches so that other guys would use it. And so that it is really beneficial, so that these guys have good results.
Now, finding yourself at a crossroads, without work, without shifting responsibility to anyone, in fact, the time has come for you to make serious decisions.
Sergei Voronov: No, first of all, my first serious decision in recent years was ending of my career. I understood clearly for myself that I had finished it.
Although you could still continue skating.
Sergei Voronov: That would be stupid. I’ll tell you honestly, it would be stupid and, in principle, everything that I wanted I proved to myself. Then there was cooperation with Tarasova / Morozov, and now, again, there is a time when you discuss with yourself, take responsibility for yourself in order to move on, move in the world of figure skating along your own path.Not on someone else’s’ who shows you, points, or shifting responsibility on someone, but yourself.
I know that you have watched some episodes, but you probably did not go into the comments. Your surname is one of the most frequently mentioned with a request to call you on the air, that is, you have a fairly large army of fans, which writes: “Vasilii, call Voronov.” What can you say for fans who miss you? Where can they see you?
Sergei Voronov: First of all, I would like to say thank you very much to the fans who supported me all my career or most of my career, because, of course, I see, read and notice some things. The fact that I don’t shout at every corner and don’t say some things doesn’t mean that I don’t see anything.
I am not blind and I notice everything. I see people who are worried. Most of the people I see are sincere, who are sincerely worried. Not those who are worried only when you are somewhere in the top, with a medal, but real fans who are with you in joy, and in sorrow, in failures and successes. I want to say a huge thank you to them, because without this human support, a lot of things would not have happened.
So where can we see Sergei Voronov?
Sergei Voronov: This season you could probably see me sometimes near the boards or in the Kiss & Cry corner.
I mean, some kind of show, gala performances?
Sergei Voronov: There are no shows yet, because now in general it is difficult with shows. And nevertheless, I would probably like to work as a coach more, because it’s interesting work. Work for the future. This is what I would like to do, where I would like to realize myself.
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