Sofia Titova: “When I was kicked out from Tutberidze’s group the first time, I was suggested going and working on my triples somewhere else and then return”
Interview with Sofia Titova, top skater at the Angels of Plushenko. About being kicked off twice from the Tutberidze group and trainings with Plushenko. (partly translated)
source: matchtv.ru dd. 18th November, 2021 by Vlad Zhukov
When you were born, there was not a single Olympic champion in women’s single skating in Russia. How and when did you get to the rink?
Sofia Titova: My mother is a former figure skater. At 1 year and 8 months, she decided to put me on skates. And I got up and started shouting: “I want more, more!” At first I skated with my mom, and then we went to the coach.
Tell us about your first coaches. Who taught to stand and make the first jumps?
Sofia Titova: The first coach was Irina Nifontova at CSKA. She coached Maria Butyrskaya. I came there when I was 4 years old. I remember that I had to get up very early … Not even me, but my grandfather. He carried me in his arms to training, because we left at 5 o’clock in the morning, and sometimes even earlier.
Did you live far from the rink?
Sofia Titova: No, half an hour drive. But our classes started were very early. There were the main groups after us, they also needed ice.
Before Plushenko’s Academy, you were at Khrustalny. Tell us a little about that time.
Sofia Titova: I got there when I was eight. I’ve skated at CSKA for four years and then switched to Khrustalny.
Who was your coach at Khrustalny?
Sofia Titova: Tutberidze.
Do you immediately started to train with Eteri Georgievna?
Sofia Titova: Yes. She immediately took me to her group. Well, basically, we were going to her from the very beginning.
How did the selection go?
Sofia Titova: I remember I went to the ice. Eteri Georgievna asked to jump a triple loop. And at that time I had no triple jumps at all – I only jumped double. Well, I under rotated it… She looked at it and immediately left.
After training, she called my mother and said something to her. Since then I had been training at Khrustalny. From the first training session.
What was Eteri Georgievna’s training like then?
Sofia Titova: Well, first we warmed up, then we jumped. In this regard, it is not much different from other groups.
I heard that at that time in “Khrustalny” ice training sessions we longer. Longer than in the rest groups, anyway.
Sofia Titova: At that time, yes. The younger group skated for an hour and a half. It happened that Eteri Georgievna delayed the ice training of the elders, and we could skate on the evening ice for only 45-30 minutes. It’s just that the elders had run-throughs, they were preparing for the Olympics, they did not have enough time, and Eteri Georgievna prolonged their trainings.
But what was detained was always returned to us later, so to speak. So the conditions were good. There was definitely enough ice for everyone.
Why did you decide to leave Eteri Georgievna in the end?
Sofia Titova: … I was kicked out.
Sofia Titova: Many weren’t taken, they kicked them out. It turned out that in two seasons I did not jump … Well, nothing. With what I came, with that I left.
Why do you think it happened? In Eteri Tutberidze’s group anyone will jump. I remember that Daniil Samsonov told me that he also came to the Khrustalny with double jumps and was able to jump a triple flip at the very first training session.
Sofia Titova: Because of fear.
What do you mean?
Sofia Titova: Well, it happens because of fear. You do it purely on emotions. Danya was afraid that they would not take him, so he jumped.
Why didn’t it work out for you? Was there little fear?
Sofia Titova: (Laughs.) It seems to me that I just did not understand how serious everything was. Little girl didn’t even realize … Nothing at all (laughs).
And how does this happen? Are they just say you “Goodbye”? And that’s it?
Sofia Titova: Yeah.
Was it offensive?
Sofia Titova: Yes…
Did Eteri Georgievna somehow explained this? Because there have already been such stories – for example Anya Shcherbakova in childhood was offered to practice triple jumps in another place, but then she returned.
Sofia Titova: I had this too. For the first time, Eteri Georgievna said (to leave and try to learn the triple jumps in another place) – we left. Then we returned. And the second time, other coaches talked to my mother.
So you got kicked out twice?
Sofia Titova: Yes. When I first came to the group, I skated there for the whole season. Then Eteri Georgievna said to go and try to do something with triples. We left, then we returned – and here again.
But the first time did you come back with triples? Well, at least some.
Sofia Titova: No (laughs). All the way with Eteri Georgievna I went from eight to nine years approximately. From the age of eight I trained, then we was taking additional lessons for 3-4 months. Well, it all ended at about nine years old.
When you left Khrustalny for the second time, were there any other options besides Plushenko?
Sofia Titova: No. In general, we thought for a long time. Didn’t know where to go. Well, in the end, my grandmother suggested – let’s go to Evgeny Viktorovich, his academy has opened. And before the new year 2019, I already came there.
Back then he was still coaching at that small rink.
Sofia Titova: Yes, yes, the arena was really small. A maximum of 24 meters wide, if not less! And very tiny in length (laughs).
Was it really possible to train jumps and skate there?
Sofia Titova: Well, we skated somehow (laughs). In general, I started to jump triples there. Skated there for one month, and in January a jumped a double axel. Evgeny Viktorovich explained it to me, explained the technique – I went and did it. The triple salchow followed the double axel.
But in general, my first attempt of a triple was triple flip. I jumped and jumped it constantly, I really liked this jump. And then I landed it! After that there was double axel, then a salchow.
Then, as I remember, in February there was the Moscow championship. I took 23rd place out of 24 there, performed “well” (laughs and thumbs up). After that competitions, Evgeni Viktorovich put me all the remaining triples.
By the way, I think that after this competitions I became aware of the seriousness of sport. It happens that at some point it just turns on and does not go away.
And the next year I already won both Moscow and Russian championships.
How so? Turns out you have learned triples in a couple of months.
Sofia Titova: Yeah. But in general, by the way, I want to say that I am very grateful to Eteri Georgievna and the Khrustalny coaches. Without them, I would not have what I have now.
Describe Evgeni Plushenko as a coach, what is he like?
Sofia Titova: He is very hardworking, caring. And sometimes funny.
How does he show his care?
Sofia Titova: It happens that something does not work out for me – Evgeni Viktorovich will support, hug me. He will say: “Do not be upset, everything will work out.” And we start working on other things. There is no such thing that, they say, do it until it starts work out. The process is structured a little differently.
Switching to something else helps not to memorize mistakes, and then, in the next workouts, it starts to turn out. And you’re skating so happy – yeah, I did it! Well, at least that’s how I skate (laughs).
It seems to me that Evgeni Viktorovich just has his own approach to all athletes. Not when a coach, for example, has one approach. It suits someone, and everything is fine, it doesn’t suit someone – we don’t work with this skater. This is already some kind of conveyor.
Do you think this is right?
Sofia Titova: Nope. On the other hand, as you can see, it gives an excellent result. But I don’t like it, you don’t feel very well there. Not at ease. You go up, and then you go down one step out of a hundred – and your place has already been taken by another.
How did you jump your first triple axel?
Sofia Titova: I remember that the main coaching team went to the Russian Junior Championships. Our groups were united, and other coaches, with whom I had not worked before, worked with us. At one of the trainings, I started jumping a triple axel, and it so happened that the very first successful attempt was filmed on video. I even remember the date – February 5th!
And I started working on the triple axel on that little rink. On the mini-arena.
And the quadruples?
Sofia Titova: I began to work on them as soon as we moved to a bigger ice rink. I started with a quadruple salchow and a toe loop.
Anna Pogorilaya: “At trainings with Turberidze’s group I felt like like I was among the sharks. It’s like being thrown into the sea. You are afraid to do something wrong.”