Svetlana Sokolovskaya: “I’ve never been to the Olympics in my life, just like Mark. So why to worry about this ahead of time?”
Interview with Svetlana Sokolovskaya, coach of European Champion Mark Kondratiuk.
source: russian.rt.com dd. 16th January 2021 by Elena Vaitsekhovskaya
The higher other people’s results, the better Mark Kondratiuk sets himself up for his own program during the competitions. This was his coach Svetlana Sokolovskaya said. According to her, this is why it makes no sense to forbid the skater to follow the progress of the competitions on his phone. The specialist noted that she did not know how much Mark updated his personal records in Tallinn, admitted that she forbid him to use public transport, and explained why she did not discuss with Mark the question of participating in the team event at the Olympics.
Before the start of the European Championships, there were rumors that any failure of Russian men could affect the composition of the Olympic team. Were you sure that this would not affect Mark Kondratiuk?
Svetlana Sokolovskaya: I wasn’t too worried about that. The only thing that really bothered me was that nothing should prevent my athlete from showing everything that we had worked on. At the same time, we did not think about the places at all. We just wanted to perform well, skate no worse than it was at the Russian Nationals. As for the Olympic selection, we didn’t even have a reason to worry about this. Mark is the Russian champion, he’s healthy, full of desire to skate. Why should we be bothered by anything?
Did you have any reasons for worries in Tallinn before the start of the competitions?
Svetlana Sokolovskaya: No. Mark skated well on trainings, I liked everything. I generally like to watch him skate. Mark is also different from most athletes, he is different.
Svetlana Sokolovskaya: He likes to be looked at. The more fans, the more people in the stands, the more energy he gets. I can see it in his eyes. Why did we leave for a training camp in Novogorsk for a week before the European Championships? Well, because there was someone to look at us, and we had someone to skate for. We trained on the same ice with pairs, with ice dancers, so Mark was not bored.
Is Alexander Samarin different in this aspect?
Svetlana Sokolovskaya: Yes. He can train alone.
It is common for debutants of major competitions, to experience such severe stress that they begin to compete already in training. Did something like that happen to Kondratiuk?
Svetlana Sokolovskaya: The fact is that we were not nervous. At the Russian Nationals in St. Petersburg, the stress was really great. But after Mark was selected for the team, we agreed with him that we would just go further. Do not want anything, do not plan anything, but just do our job as well as possible. Not someone else’s, but yours. Well, yes, I am often asked about the Olympics, what we expect from these competitions. But what can I say? I have never been to the Olympics in my life, just like Mark. So why to worry about this ahead of time?
In relation to the European Championships, how did you set Mark up for performance?
Svetlana Sokolovskaya: You, probably, don’t believe me, but I did not set him up. We just changed the city, changed the ice rink, the environment, saw new people. It is really very important for Mark to be cheered for and supported.
By the way, he admitted that he was very worried before the free program – so much so that he was even tired of it.
Svetlana Sokolovskaya: He knows how to worry. Like me, in fact, that’s why I tried to do everything in my power so as not to dwell on performances. It’s difficult. Very. And then I perfectly understood why Mark was worried about the event. The main thing is not that this is the European Championships or some kind of selection. It’s just that at the Russian Nationals we managed to set a certain bar and rather a high level for the result and did not want to be lower in Tallinn. You always want to go up.
Is it important for you that Mark, having won in Tallinn, increased his personal record so much?
Svetlana Sokolovskaya: Absolutely not. I don’t even know, to be honest, by how many points he increased it. For me, as a coach, it doesn’t matter.
What is important?
Svetlana Sokolovskaya: That Kondratiuk was given the third level for the step sequence and for the spin. Well, the landings also could have been better. And this means that we have a lot of work with him.
By the way, did you manage to understand why levels were lower?
Svetlana Sokolovskaya: Sure. I was afraid, to be honest, that we would be given a second level for the step sequence. There was almost no body work, apparently, fatigue and stress had an effect. Emotions came from inside, and the body hardly moved. And on the spin there was another mistake. Mark, apparently, was already so strongly concentrated on the jumps in the second half that he hurried the element.
Didn’t it seem to you that Mark ran out of strength in the middle of the program, after the second quadruple salchow?
Svetlana Sokolovskaya: It seemed to me that there was no strength left after the first quadruple toeloop.
Wasn’t it scary?
Svetlana Sokolovskaya: Of course it did. I even thought that the first triple axel Mark would jump, but the second one will not. But he pulled out.
Is skaters taught to save jump like this in trainings?
Svetlana Sokolovskaya: Certainly. You can’t say it in one word.
But I don’t limit you to one word.
Svetlana Sokolovskaya: To do this, I teach Mark to skate programs when he no longer wants and cannot skate them. This usually happens on a Sunday evening. Monday is our day off, so Saturday and Sunday, when fatigue accumulates the most, are the most important days for us. Sometimes I see that an athlete is already really loaded and unable to endure training, but with some jokes I make him to overcome this state. Mark, it seems to me, does not even always understand what I am trying to achieve.
Now all the programs of the skaters are so filled with elements that there is no time to take a breath during the program. Is there a place to relax in Kondratiuk’s programs?
Svetlana Sokolovskaya: We’re fine with that. Just after the spin, he can stand, relax, “drink some water” …
I’m talking about the competition, actually.
Svetlana Sokolovskaya: I’m talking about the competition too. We have a pause in the program, where Mark bends down and seems to scoop up some water from a stream. At this moment, he comes to his senses, restores his breath. So everything is calculated.
What feelings did you experience at the moment of the final performance?
Svetlana Sokolovskaya: I’ve just stood there, unable to move. And I believed that everything would be all right.
You shouted something to Mark during his skating.
Svetlana Sokolovskaya: Honestly? I do not remember. What could I scream? Probably: “Don’t give up!” I don’t even know if Mark heard it, never asked him about it. Although usually I keep quiet. Sometimes I look at other coaches who somehow gesticulate at the boards, and I think: “Probably, I should also do that.” But every time I just get numb and turn off.
It is believed that the nervous of the coach is transmitted to the athlete.
Svetlana Sokolovskaya: Who sees my worries? I don’t show it. I’m kidding, talking about something. The same Kondratiuk does not need to be especially distracted at all. He always watches all the competitions, from the very beginning. Turns on the phone and goes everywhere with it. I even like it, because at some point I realized: no matter how the rivals skate, Mark is motivated by it. The higher other people’s results, the more powerfully his emotions grow, they help him set up for his own performance.
Do you speak with Mark about the Olympic team event?
Svetlana Sokolovskaya: No. We do not talk about it. The federation say go, we will go. The federation won’t say – we won’t go.
And theoretically is Kondratiuk able to skate four programs in a row?
Svetlana Sokolovskaya: Why not? If someone else skates, then why can’t we? I don’t see any problems at all in skating the short program in the morning and the free program in the evening. In training, we do this all the time, four times a week.
Did you dream of skating between the short and free programs in Tallinn?
Svetlana Sokolovskaya: No. In general, I have changed my attitude towards competitions. Stopped twitching. Even now I have no inner delight: “Wow, the Olympics!” Yes, getting to the Games is cool. But it’s just competitions.
Do you take any measures to minimize contact with the outside world?
Svetlana Sokolovskaya: Sure. For example, I forbid using public transport. Mark lives outside the city, and, fortunately, his mother has the opportunity to bring her son to training. Or, she sends a driver with Mark. Walking around Tallinn was not forbidden, but, of course, with all possible measures in order to protect yourself from possible contacts. I know Mark planned to go to museums after the competitions.
You have probably visited his to personal art-exhibitions.
Svetlana Sokolovskaya: Oh sure.
Is there any connection between how your athlete draws and how he skates?
Svetlana Sokolovskaya: You know, yes. This is inner freedom. He draws as he wants and skates the same way. At the end of the free program, for example, he fell to his knee. This was not in our choreography, but in Tallinn it appeared. And not the fact that something else will not appear. This, again, is the whole Mark: he constantly needs to come up with something new.
Tamara Moskvina always adhered to the rule: make such an exhibition program that the skater could go beyond the rules in it, do something that is impossible to do in competitions. And how do you choose programs?
Svetlana Sokolovskaya: It’s easier for us. Since Kondratiuk has two quadruple salchows in the second half of the program, our task is to bring this element to automatism in any conditions: in the dark, under stage light, with a screaming audience. Therefore, we jump this salchows in the exhibition program.