“Something is not quite right in the Tutberidze’s coaching staff” big interview with Irina Rodnina about doping, suspension of Russian athletes and Trusova’s rudeness
Big interview with Irina Rodnina.
source: RSport dd. 14th July by Anatoli Samokhvalov and Vlad Zhukov
Three-time Olympic figure skating champion Irina Rodnina became the latest guest on the RIA Novosti show ‘A Few Words,’ where she talked about enemies from the USA and those responsible for Russian doping, Tutberidze’s figure skaters, Trusova’s rudeness, the scandal surrounding Valieva and the ‘sponsor from Putin’ for the Russian Figure Skating Federation.
Do they understand sports in the State Duma?
Irina Rodnina: There are many athletes there. Big athletes.
And what does an athlete need to know and be capable of before entering the Duma?
Irina Rodnina: First and foremost, they need to know their field. Because I have the feeling that some people who work in sports management and organization don’t remember or know much about what happened during Soviet times. And even less about the international sports movement. We have somewhat different systems, tasks, and funding. Here, of course, you need to know both. And, of course, know where to go next.
Nevertheless, do you see any young athletes who could succeed you?
Irina Rodnina: I haven’t thought about it. It’s not my story. Any ministry is interested in having its own people who could bring new ideas. Perhaps that’s the task of the Ministry of Sports. Because a large group of athletes entered the Duma thanks to Fetisov (Viacheslav Fetisov – Soviet and Russian hockey player, coach, political and sports figure) when we still had a sports agency.
The Ministry of Sports was established in 2010, and a separate sports budget was introduced in 2012. That’s why we fell into such a pit back then. Initially, the sports budget was within the healthcare system, then it was under education. It only became separate two years before the Olympic Games in Sochi.
Does an athlete have to be popular to enter the Duma?
Irina Rodnina: At one time, it was used. Most of our athletes are from ‘Edinaya Rossiya,’ (the largest political party in the Russian Federation) and, with few exceptions, we are all single-mandate representatives. Being elected through a party list or in a single-mandate district are completely different things, so recognition certainly matters here.
In addition, our voters understand very well that you can’t buy anything in sports. In sports, you have to make yourself. Therefore, there is a certain level of trust in people who have achieved success through their own hard work and ambitions.
There is a feeling that we have a relatively small percentage of athletes who independently decide to enter lawmaking. Most of them are invited.
Irina Rodnina: Honestly, no one invited me. I made the decision myself, and Fetisov and I were on the same page here. Because I am the only one in the State Duma who worked in the Central Committee of the Komsomol. Specifically, in the department of sports and defense-mass work. So, I know quite well how everything was organized in our country. We can’t close that door and go I don’t know where.
We had a certain system, structure. Perhaps it was my work there that propelled me towards the future. Additionally, I worked as a coach and as an athlete in the USSR, so it was a familiar story for me as well.
So, you and Fetisov arrived and settled…
Irina Rodnina: No, Fetisov arrived first. Then he called me and said, ‘Stop fooling around, come over.’
It was either in 1987 or 1988 when certain circumstances were already taking shape. If you remember, after 1988, they allowed Fetisov to sign a contract, then they remembered later that he was an officer and banned it. This was even before we left (for the USA). I left in 1990, and Slava [Fetisov] left six months before that.
But the main thing was not just the desire to leave, but the fact that we were dissatisfied with the work of our federations, which at that time were simply appendages of the State Sports Committee of the USSR. We were dissatisfied with the attitude. I was no longer an active athlete at that time.
You probably realized at that time that you shouldn’t condem people who leave the country?
Irina Rodnina: You know, I don’t quite understand what ‘condemning’ means.
It relates to the conversation about your colleagues (referring to the State Duma deputies who make comments about boycotting the Olympics, etc. – ed).
Irina Rodnina: Perhaps, through their actions, colleagues can become famous. Because next time, they may not be invited to a program.
They don’t understand what true sport is.
Irina Rodnina: At best, they know what the GTO complex is. (“Ready for Labor and Defense” – All-Russian physical culture and sports complex – ed.)
And the word ‘traitor.’
Irina Rodnina: Because these people have never defended the honor of the country in sports. They haven’t stood on the podium and don’t know what it’s like when, thanks to your performance, not only the flag and anthem are raised, but stadiums rise as well. For example, at World and European Championships, flag wasn’t raised, and the anthem wasn’t played until 1973. There was no cry or exclamation. Flag or no flag, the most important thing is that our performance made people believe in the power of sports.
You mentioned that there are certain expressions about figure skating that annoy you. For example?
Irina Rodnina: First of all, it really annoys me when commentators excessively praise our athletes with excessive enthusiasm. Come on, you’re a commentator, be objective! It particularly amuses me when they start saying things like, ‘Here, he has 98 points, which means he needs to score a total of 115, but for that, he needs to perform at least all the elements of the third and fourth levels. And here, he didn’t reach the third level, and the step sequence is only of the second level.’
I see. What’s the problem?
Irina Rodnina: Does the audience even know what a ‘level’ is? Explain what it means, how the scores are calculated, why one lift brings more points than another, what the issues with jumps are. We shouldn’t overwhelm the audience; we should…
Irina Rodnina: Exactly!
In that context, I agree with you. I don’t like it when all jumps are referred to as ‘the most difficult.’ So, ‘the most difficult triple lutz’ and at the same time ‘the most difficult quadruple lutz.’ Both are the most difficult at the end.
Irina Rodnina: Well, if we’re talking about lutzes, they are indeed the most difficult. But I also really didn’t like when they say, ‘This is an ultra-C element.’ Where did that come from, anyway?,
From artistic gymnastics.
Irina Rodnina: Exactly! Because in gymnastics, all elements were classified into difficulty groups A, B, and C. And the elements that went beyond those groups were considered ultra-C. But what does that have to do with figure skating? We don’t have such categorizations.
But coaches and skaters themselves say ‘ultra-C.’
Irina Rodnina: Well, they listen to you! And most coaches, especially those who work at the initial stage, can’t tell a rocker from a counter.
Nowadays, all coaches know because the scores are determined based on these elements.
Irina Rodnina: Some know, while others don’t. We conduct seminars, and the tests for edge work have become mandatory. And I realized that it’s a problem. It’s not the highest category coaches, not the national team level, but they prepare the basics.
At the same time, comparing figure skating from my time to the present is complete nonsense. The rules have changed multiple times, as have the requirements. So, when someone starts comparing what it was like in our time and now, it’s impossible because they are completely different sports. Figure skating is moving forward, and we have to understand that. But we have a unique sport with two types of scores. And for some reason, we often start evaluating technical aspects through the prism of artistry.
In what sense?
Irina Rodnina: Well, either you landed a jump or you didn’t. At the same time, I really like it when they talk about one of our skaters, saying that she did five quadruple jumps. Well, she only actually completed 2.5!
How cryptic you speak! Let us take a moment to reflect and figure out who it is.
Irina Rodnina: Here’s one thing to understand — if we turn to gymnastics again, for attempting more difficult elements, you would receive extra points, even if you made a mistake. But for us, if you make a mistake on a difficult jump, they deduct even more points.
That’s why it’s funny to talk about attempting five or four jumps. We can only talk about the jumps that were successfully executed.
Not quite. When Sasha Trusova attempts a difficult element and doesn’t even land it, it’s still more interesting to watch than clean triple jumps.
Irina Rodnina: “Almost” doesn’t earn you a gold medal.
The girl who fought and accomplished everything won the gold in Beijing.
Irina Rodnina: We have many examples like that. I remember the 1994 Olympics. Everyone was competing, everyone was a leader, and Alexei Urmanov emerged quietly between Brian Boitano, Viktor Petrenko, and everyone else to become the champion.
Shcherbakova performed consistently both physically and mentally in Beijing.
But who could withstand the pressure that came down on Kamila Valieva? And she’s also a strong-willed girl.
Irina Rodnina: She’s a determined girl. I felt really sorry for her because, in my opinion, she was the most gifted among all the girls in her generation. She had excellent qualities — both in terms of figure and appearance. That’s why I liked Medvedeva; she was vibrant. Valieva has the same quality.
There’s a sense that Medvedeva is more about hard work than talent. While with Valieva, it’s the opposite.
Irina Rodnina: You know, I’m afraid of the word ‘talent.’ I’m also afraid when people start saying ‘masterpiece!’ and all that.
Does the word ‘genius’ not annoy you?
Irina Rodnina: Oh, even more so. I can only talk about abilities. And you really need the corresponding data. We tend to say that ballet requires talent, singing too. But in sports, nature must also bestow certain gifts upon you. Sport is not just work. People work in ballet, our musicians who spend hours playing instruments. Let’s put it this way: without work, you can’t achieve anything anywhere. Hard work is the foundation, but if nature and your parents have blessed you with certain abilities, then it becomes twice as interesting.
And then comes the competitions. That’s a different matter altogether. In competition, you have to be a predator — quite literally, like on a hunt, feeling the taste of blood. You can’t turn a hare, even the most talented, jumping and fast, into a wolf. That’s why there’s a natural selection here. We had many talented, as you say, athletes. Take Toller Cranston, for example…
He changed the perception of men’s skating! Belousova/Protopopov — they showed duo skating, the interaction in every movement. Then we came along — bold Muscovites. We over jumped them, ran faster. But now, few will remember that I didn’t skate vis-à-vis with any partner. We either skated in parallel or in the Kilian position because after Protopopov, we had to show something different.
That’s what Toller Cranston did, changed men’s singles skating, but he didn’t win anything. His emotions and talent were so strong that he couldn’t control them. And it took Natalia Bestemianova a lot of time to come to terms with that fiery energy of the red-haired beast!
Well, that’s Tarasova.
Irina Rodnina: No, it’s not Tarasova. I think it’s experience. Because, excuse me, Tarasova was there at the 1980 Olympics and the two seasons after that. We didn’t start skating until we fell and “sobered up” (laughs). Because the emotions were overwhelming. Learning to bring them in order, to control your body and thoughts — that’s what sport is mostly about, not how many quadruples you jumped.
But that’s what Valieva and Shcherbakova represent — the balance of technical content and choreography.
Irina Rodnina: Valieva was a very bright girl in that season. But there’s something amiss with that coaching team.
In what sense?
Irina Rodnina: Well, in what sense… Look at 2014, Lipnitskaya. Where was Lipnitskaya just a year later? We lost the girl. Thank goodness she has a family now, she got married well, has a child. She let go of herself mentally. I saw her, and she was just a tormented child.
Moving on, 2018 — two girls, and we pitted them against each other…
Well, how else? There’s only one gold. Naturally, it’s disappointing for the one who loses.
Irina Rodnina: Nevertheless, I’ll continue. Next, we have 2022 — already three girls. And that hysteria at the Olympics. It means something is not quite right there.
But what’s wrong with that reaction? Well, there was hysteria, yes. The girl was going for that medal, but it didn’t work out, so she was upset. She’s a living person with a still-developing mindset.
Irina Rodnina: Then she has no business being at the senior Olympics. That’s what the Youth Olympics are for.
Alright, but what’s wrong with Tutberidze’s team?
Irina Rodnina: I believe there’s a problem there. Something with the psychological atmosphere within the group. It’s all very complex, I understand how it happens. When Zhuk (Stanislav Zhuk, the Soviet coach who coached many Olympic champions, including Rodnina) showed interest, and I started moving to the second, let’s say, plan, it infuriated me. I’m selfish. When I left Zhuk, I knew that Elena Anatolyevna Tchaikovskaya really wanted (to take me), but I considered it like, there’s Pakhomova/Gorshkov and Kovalev there. Am I going to be the third wheel there? I’d rather go to a coach where I’d have more freedom and the status of the number one.
Alena Kostornaia also switched to Evgeni Plushenko for similar reasons. Same with Sasha Trusova, by the way.
Irina Rodnina: Listen, how old was I when I left? And these girls switched while still underage and with parental support.
Because there’s no time now. There’s one Olympics — and everything else comes after.
Irina Rodnina: No, it’s not that there’s no time! Just don’t compare. I left as a person with significant experience who knew her worth. Zhuk taught us to work independently, at least he taught me.
So when I moved to an inexperienced coach, I utilized what Zhuk taught me. Not how to jump, but how to train and manage the training process.
You are familiar with Plushenko, you’ve been at his skating rink.
Irina Rodnina: Once. It’s difficult to discern in less than an hour.
Is Plushenko better in terms of psychology compared to Tutberidze?
Irina Rodnina: No. I also witnessed what appeared to be rude behavior from Sasha Trusova towards him. I even confronted him about it, asking, ‘How is this possible?’ To which he replied, ‘Should I remake her? We have competitions coming up.’
In what sense was it rude?
Irina Rodnina: When your coach gives you an assignment, you should follow it instead of doing whatever you feel like.
So, it’s like ‘I want to jump, so I’ll jump’?
Irina Rodnina: Yes. ‘I want this, I want that.’ In my understanding, it’s a matter of discipline. The discipline during training reflects on your discipline during competitions and in critical moments. The devil is in the details, after all. Therefore, when this hysteria erupted, it was not surprising to me.
Then it’s a question for Sasha herself, not Tutberidze.
Irina Rodnina: I don’t know who it’s a question for. You asked about Plushenko’s training — I was there for 40 minutes, and 20 of those were spent drinking tea and coffee. And I was there because I head figure skating in the Moscow region, not because I was particularly interested in how Sasha Trusova or anyone else skated there. I had completely different tasks.
And when I saw that… No, maybe it exists in other groups as well. But I come from a different generation, and I mainly gained my knowledge from Zhuk. For me, it was a glaring moment. I also stopped working with Sasha Cohen in the USA for the same reason. She was an exceptional girl, very exceptional but she also did whatever she wanted. No, I don’t tolerate such things. Either I am responsible for your preparation, or we discuss certain aspects when you gain knowledge, experience, and self-understanding, or we don’t work together.
Regarding Tutberidze — no, I’m all for it, for new champions to emerge. Many dreamed of having a conveyor — Zhuk, Tamara Moskvina, Tatiana Anatolievna (Tarasova) herself. But any conveyor belt has its flaws, primarily psychological ones. And how much does it cost our country to train a child who will shine in competitions for two or three seasons? What is the cost? Tremendous amounts of money. And is it just for two or three seasons? We don’t live under communism, do we?
So, a conveyor belt is bad?
Irina Rodnina: If it’s interesting in and of itself. But if there’s endless replaceability, then I’m not interested. Maybe it’s great for someone, even for the majority, but that’s my opinion. If there’s a champion, I want to see individuality in them — in their skating, in program choreography. But not in choreography, let’s remove that word. Choreography belongs in the Bolshoi Theatre, whereas we have program where we must fit the necessary elements within the allocated time and embellish it somehow in between. That’s not choreography, so don’t lecture me about it.
Of course, it’s very easy to choose music where there’s already a story. Where everything is known to the audience.
Like “Carmen,” a hypothetical example, or “The Phantom of the Opera”?
Irina Rodnina: Yes. Even “Don Quixote.” There’s no need to tell anything there. Moreover, ballet music is composed to fit the choreography. Placing accents, taking movements from the Bolshoi Theatre or any other place where these works are performed is effortless. What kind of choreography is that, you may ask? What kind of creative process is it?
But who will repeat Valieva’s ‘Bolero’? The music is overused, but what a program!
Irina Rodnina: Well, excuse me, but what Torvill/Dean did with ‘Bolero’ is completely different. They had entirely new positions. Dance came to us from the floor, with precise, strict positions. Torvill/Dean showed something completely different, entirely new.
And what did I see in that ‘Bolero’ (Valieva’s), can you tell me? I saw the same thing I saw in Plisetskaya’s performance. I only remember that when Plisetskaya danced Ravel’s ‘Bolero,’ the guys next to me were gasping for breath. That’s what I call femininity, high individuality! Then you can say ‘talent,’ ‘magnificent,’ ‘beyond classic.’ But regarding figure skating, I didn’t see any magnificence.
Irina Rodnina: Nowadays, all our girls are so flexible that it’s unbelievable. Even ballerinas would be envious. So what you’re talking about is not artistry, but flexibility. Learn English — it’s called flexibility.
Valieva is talented, I already said that. But what happened to her (at the Olympics), honestly, nobody talks about it. That’s the failure of her coaching team. But it happened, and you know it perfectly well. We just speak loudly about some things and bury our heads in the sand about others. So, they broke the girl. And the coach and doctor are responsible for her. And all those stories she told, which made the IOC and the whole world laugh…
You mean the grandfather’s glass?
Irina Rodnina: Yes. Well, let’s be honest.
What should be done in such a situation?
Irina Rodnina: In my opinion, we should speak honestly.
When we were in Beijing, the next day, when everything was revealed, we broke into the zone where Eteri was training and asked her directly. She replied, ‘I don’t deal with gossip.’
Irina Rodnina: And you’re asking me about the problems in that coaching team after that.
Does Eteri herself know who is to blame?
Irina Rodnina: I don’t know. I can only say one thing — there’s a joint failure here. Why don’t we take our own doping tests in parallel to know what we’re getting into? Everyone knew that there would be a hunt for these girls. So we should be prepared for that. These are the problems we’re talking about.
Then let’s look at it from a different perspective, we’re now almost acknowledging that something unpleasant happened in this doping story from our side. But at the same time, the official rhetoric is that Kamila is an innocent child, and nothing happened. Why do we do that?
Irina Rodnina: I have the same question. You’re the one presenting it in such a way.
No, essentially it’s the official position of our authorities, including the ROC and the Ministry of Sports.
Irina Rodnina: Then why do we ask about the punishments that are being imposed on us? Yes, there’s a political undertone to all this, but there should be some consequences.
So, we intentionally anger people?
Irina Rodnina: It’s hard to say. But at the same time, only in sports is there the category of fair play. It doesn’t exist anywhere else — not in business, not in politics, especially. Sports has clear rules and a system of punishment for violations. How many Olympic medals did we lose between 2004 and 2014?
Irina Rodnina: Well, more than forty for sure. And did anyone take responsibility for it? I’m not even talking about punishment — just responsibility.
Except for reshuffling people from one position to another.
Irina Rodnina: Exactly, you said it right — reshuffling. Worked with the women’s biathlon team, and they got caught, so they were transferred to the youth team.
But that can’t be changed anymore.
Irina Rodnina: Then why do we exclaim that we’re not liked?
Because Americans have fake smiles, and we are sincere. That’s what they say, at least.
Irina Rodnina: They just have better dentists. The next question that our journalists wrote a lot about — how is it that WADA gave only 19 therapeutic use exemptions to Russian athletes while giving 500 to Americans and Canadians? But the thing is, I was part of the commission representing Russia, led by Smirnov, and we made a request. WADA replied, ‘We gave you as many as you requested.’
So, we don’t have requests for therapeutic use exemptions?
Irina Rodnina: Exactly! We are completely illiterate in this matter.
You know who was the first to say that we don’t know how to determine therapeutic use exemptions? Chegin.
Irina Rodnina: Let’s even look at our sports medicine as a whole. We don’t have antidepressants, they’re non-existent here, while they are widely used in the West. Do you know what happens to our athletes after competitions?
In cyclic sports, they always did biochemistry at the end of the season, in the beginning, in the middle — wherever they could. Once we shouted for them to check us (figure skaters) too. It was during the 1984 Olympics. The boys refused to take blood samples before and after the competitions, but the girls agreed, we are more courageous. So, after the short program, the blood reaction of the female single skaters was like that of cross-country skiers after a ten-kilometer race. The short program lasts for two minutes.
We don’t know what processes, what changes occur in our bodies. Our entire medicine was focused on cyclic sports, not those involving coordination and a different mindset. I was fortunate to work in the same international center as Michelle Kwan, where they help athletes recover from this state. But with us, on the contrary, there is a decline after competitions — not physical, but psychological. Especially because these girls are getting younger and younger, and we always think, ‘Oh, with the young ones, everything will pass quickly.’ But not everything passes.
That’s what we should focus on, instead of searching for drugs that will quickly restore you.
You say that we need to be honest. How can we act honestly to quickly return to international competitions?
Irina Rodnina: Well, that no longer depends on us.
So, we have absolutely no control over the situation?
Irina Rodnina: The thing is, controlling the IOC is practically impossible. I remember the time when Samaranch was elected; he had a clear program — to stop boycotts and revive the Olympic movement. Then Rogge came, and he also had a program — anti-doping.
Does Bach have any ideas?
Irina Rodnina: I haven’t heard any from him even once. He added ‘Together’ to the Olympic motto, but it seems to be the opposite. What he meant by the new motto is unclear.
On the other hand, what else can he do? He seems to be trying to prevent discord as much as he can.
Irina Rodnina: I don’t know. He’s in his position, it’s up to him to decide. I can only say that while this is happening, we need to fix things internally. For example, in figure skating, is anyone working on training judges? I listened to the report of the Figure Skating Federation on the 2018 Olympic Games, and they were talking about great achievements in PyeongChang. We know those achievements! Although they weren’t that great, to be honest.
The Federation should be held accountable for their work. Why are they reporting on the work of coaches and athletes? Does any federation have a prospective plan for training people to send them to international organizations? We have many champions, including Valieva and others you mentioned. But we don’t have a single person in the executive committee or committees of the ISU.
We had a whole ISU Vice President for figure skating. And he would still be there if not for the age limit.
Irina Rodnina: But have we prepared for his replacement? We used to have representatives in the committees for figure skating, ice dance, Gorshkov even led one of them.
What should the Figure Skating Federation do?
Irina Rodnina: They should train these people! Now we’ve had this tragedy with Sasha Gorshkov. And what? In 2018, I attended a conference, looked at everything, and felt embarrassed. I told them, ‘Look, I’m looking at your presidium, everyone else except Gorshkov. I was skating, won three Olympics and ten World championships, gave birth to two children, worked in the USA, and I’m being elected to the State Duma for the third time. What about you? You’ve been sitting as you were.’
I believe that the federation should not only work for the national team. Yes, there was a shift after the collapse of the USSR — naturally, there was a lack of money and resources. We must give credit to all our coaches who preserved our figure skaters and the potential of our sport. And now we have the national team… They survive by having mostly promising children in it, making it easier to control. But programs should be implemented across the country to generate interest among people, not just about whether someone lands a quadruple jump or not.
Our sport is such that no leader worries about how to fill the stadium. It’s already a concern in football, and it’s starting in other sports, but figure skating doesn’t have that problem yet. However, we have no one in the ISU. Yes, there are victories, but all technical and judging matters are resolved without us. That’s what the federation should be held accountable for, not just the number of medals won! As for the conditions you create for the figure skaters, the Ministry of Sports covers all the expenses.
Well, not everything. What about sponsors? It’s impossible to finance the figure skating season solely through the Ministry of Sports.
Irina Rodnina: Let me tell you a story. Once, a long time ago, Sasha Gorshkov approached Vladimir Vladimirovich (Putin) at a sports council meeting and said, ‘We have a problem with figure skating! There’s no money, nothing.’ So (points with a finger) the head of Rostelecom was summoned: ‘You’re now responsible for figure skating.’
So, to this day, everything is done according to the principle of ‘Come here – now you’re in charge of this.’ Manual control.
Irina Rodnina: Exactly. I understand that we can’t avoid it, but there’s no management.
And then we send judges to an ISU seminar for qualification improvement and wonder why almost no one passes the tests, like what happened in Frankfurt last year. And we explain it all as Russophobia.
Irina Rodnina: That’s right. No, now, of course, we can talk about Russophobia, but I still believe that we need to look deeper. We’re not preparing people. Bring them in – like Kostomarov, for example. Our champions are now performing in shows, and everyone is happy – people watch them, they earn money.
Well, it’s still difficult to get judges on board. Their salaries are not very high.
Irina Rodnina: So, solve this issue!
Do we need to go to international competitions under a neutral flag?
Irina Rodnina: When it was 2018, I said we should go. Because if we hadn’t gone, we would have had to explain the reason and miss two Olympic cycles. In other words, cut off the oxygen to coaches and athletes. And it’s clear why we went under a neutral flag – we were to blame no matter what they say. Olympic medals are revoked based on tests, and that’s what you call evidence.
But now the allegations are not about doping, after all.
Irina Rodnina: Yes. That’s why now I wouldn’t go under a neutral flag. The political situation is different now, and our athletes have not done anything wrong in terms of sports this time. Why should it be like this? Just because of what’s happening in our country right now? But why wasn’t it like this in 1960 when America was heavily involved in wars? It’s definitely about who we love and who we don’t. This is a violation of the rules of the IOC itself.
I feel very sorry for our athletes and coaches, I pity them, it’s an enormous amount of work and stress, but business is business. Some people are looking for alternatives and compete for another country. By the way, in this context, the term ‘sports citizenship’ also annoys me. There’s only one citizenship.
Well, now Davis/Smolkin decided to compete for Georgia due to the complicated situation. They acquired the sports citizenship of that country.
Irina Rodnina: They acquired regular citizenship. And we know how that’s done. With a residence permit, they can compete in world and European championships, but for the Olympics, only citizenship counts. And what’s the difference? The girl had American and Russian citizenship before, now she’ll have another one – Georgian. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Am I judging or something? I’m just saying – it doesn’t matter for them.
When you mentioned your work in the US, you said, ‘when I went to the enemies.’ Why the enemies?
Irina Rodnina: Well, maybe it’s just a figure of speech. But overall, that’s how it turns out. You know, on the other hand, I’m very glad that I learned from them, worked in an interesting coaching team, in a new environment. I remember asking John Curry – he had just started coaching – what’s the secret? And he said it’s not about the coach, it’s about the environment.
At first, everyone laughed at me. I arrived, got acquainted with everyone in a few days, and I asked, ‘What are the hours I can work?’ They smiled and said, ‘Any time! Come and work whenever you need.’ But I was used to having a strict ice schedule, knowing when each group goes out.
I found it very interesting there, I learned a lot from them.
But at the same time, they’re ‘enemies.’
Irina Rodnina: Well, they are indeed enemies.
Why do we have such an attitude towards that country?
Irina Rodnina: You know, they received me very well there. There was a coach who spoke German – I hardly knew English at the time because I studied in a German school – she translated everything for me and helped me. But as soon as students started coming to me, even from other countries, they started looking at me differently. Envy – that’s what it is. After some time, everything began to change drastically because within the team, I became their competitor. Especially in pair skating.
You see, I learn quickly. Once another coach grabbed my hand, and I said to him, ‘Go ahead, hold it. Once the parents of the skaters see you doing that, I have my lawyer’s card in my pocket.’ You can’t touch. They only allowed me to shout on the ice. Apparently, I had so many emotions.
This year marks ten years since your most provocative tweet – with Barack Obama and a banana.
Irina Rodnina: So what?
Was that tweet yours or not?
Irina Rodnina: No. Unfortunately, it wasn’t mine!
Unfortunately? So showing a banana to Obama is acceptable?
Irina Rodnina: You know, maybe I’m just from the generation where a banana was considered a good fruit (laughs). And I’m not part of the football crowd where a banana has a specific meaning. But, sorry, it was a setup – they made such a gift to me on my birthday.
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