Tamara Moskvina: “I don’t pay attention at coaches competitors”
Interview with Tamara Moskvina. About pair skating, the return of Alina Zagitova and Evgenia Medvedeva and the principles of her work.
source: rsport.ria.ru dd. 9th March 2021 by Vasilii Konov
Tamara Nikolaevna, thank you very much for taking the time to talk. How did such an extraordinary season like this one turn out for you and your skaters?
Tamara Moskvina: Usually every season is different. There are always some advantages and disadvantages that you have to cope with, figure out how to get out of this or that situation. This season turned out in such a way that it was necessary to figure out how not to get sick, or how to get better; when to make programs, with whom to make programs; for which competitions you will have time to recover, or which competitions you will miss because you get sick. So it was an ordinary season, and it was necessary to get out of all the difficulties in the best and shortest way.
Surely you are already looking in the Olympic season, because there is not much time left. Zhulin already has music for his athletes for the Olympic programs, Liza Tuktamysheva told me that she and Aleksei Mishin also discuss options that might work out for the Olympic season. Are you already thinking about Beijing?
Tamara Moskvina: Usually we start thinking about this as soon as the previous Olympics ends. Gradually you start thinking about music, about elements; who of the competitors will continue to skate, what style they will practice – so that we choose successful programs and music for our skaters. Different from others, but at the same time successful.
If I start telling you now, it will practically be a textbook on how to prepare for the Olympics and how to win them (laughs). Or at least win medals – if not gold, then of a different value.
Should we expect quadruples in pairs soon?
Tamara Moskvina: Quads can be expected soon, because in pairs we have no elements left where we can come up with something new. Everyone does almost the same jumps, interesting lifts that do not give more points than the highest score, and other elements too. And since the athletes began to jump well, it is possible to learn a reliable quadruple throw, first on the harness and then without it.
Of course, you shouldn’t do this before the Olympics, because there is a possibility of accidental injury. In addition, the International Skating Union, “taking care” of the athletes’ health, has come up with a rules where a quadruple throw does not give a huge advantage over a triple one – well executed or with some additions, for example, hands above your head, holding landing position for a long time or silent landing.
And in a quadruple throw, even if there is a small defect, the score immediately goes down, so logic says ‘Why do a quadruple?’ It takes longer to learn, the likelihood of injury is significant, it is not valued by the judges – the game is not worth the trouble, so now it is not necessary. But the Olympic Games will pass – what advantage the next generation should have?
So most likely it will come. Plus, everyone is talking about equality now. Single skaters also jump these difficult elements with the likelihood of injury, but I don’t really read much in the press that this one broke down or other one has an injury after quads. This means that the methodology for preparing these elements is developed in such a way that the likelihood of injury has decreased, and we will do this in pair skating too.
In your opinion, what happened that made the interest in ladies’ single skating skyrocket?
Tamara Moskvina: Several strong athletes have appeared who have mastered complex elements, quadruple jumps, which only men were doing. But these elements are not prevalent in their programs – the girls show interesting skating to decent music, they perform it artistically, beautifully, with ballet preparation. And they perform reliably.
This is not only about the achievement of one coach. Several specialists have already caught this idea, and a competition between the coaches begins – whose group will win, who will do more of these complex elements, who will have slimmer girls, whose programs will be more attractive. That is, now the interest in the competitive fight not only between athletes, but also between groups of coaches, between schools, and between cities has added.
In the ladies’ skating, I think, it’s still mostly between the two camps in Moscow – these are “Chrustalny” and “Angels of Plushenko”. The whole situation with the transfers and the subsequent show business around this – what do you think about this?
Tamara Moskvina: It’s completely normal. A person finds another place for himself, attracts other specialists – two centers are organized. Maybe somewhere in another city they think: “Well, there are such centers in the capital, but we are not worse, let’s do this and that.” And so it develops. This is the right competition.
Therefore, it seems wrong to me to condemn or stir up some scandals. This contributes to the active recreation of our people – this is first. Second, it contributes to the involvement of children in sports, instilling the habbits to watch, to cheer, to have idols and to want to be like them. Perhaps they will not succeed in this sport, but if they are used to following, wanting, dreaming, then they will do it in some other area of their activity.
We have people, children, not robots. And this is evident: at first we had prima Lipnitskaya, before Lipnitskaya we had others – Butyrskaya, Slutskaya. Then Sotnikova, Medvedeva, Zagitova. And it’s good when there are a lot of them! Someone first admired Lipnitskaya, and then transferred their interest to the next champion, and so on. Everything is right.
With your coaching experience, what do you think: what should Zagitova and Medvedeva do in order to return to a competitive level?
Tamara Moskvina: They should refuse any activity related to performing in shows. But they will not do this anymore, I cannot say 100%, but I assume that they will not return to the sport of high achievements.
That is, then we look at Valieva, Trusova, Shcherbakova, Kostornaia, Tuktamysheva?
Tamara Moskvina: Yes.
Do you think Liza has a chance to compete with Moscow girls?
Tamara Moskvina: They all have a chance.
Have you discussed this with Alexei Nikolaevich? Still, this will be Lisa’s third attempt to get to the Olympic Games.
Tamara Moskvina: I had a student who changed 13 partners and became the world champion. The famous Alena Savchenko changed partner, so hope and wait, everything is ahead. Fight, strive, wait for your chance. And this is what Lisa does.
We touched on the topic of the transition from “Chrustalny” to Plushenko. When the athletes left you, did you quickly let go of the situation, or did you worry?
Tamara Moskvina: The first day, when athletes come to me, I say to myself: as they came to me, so will they leave me, because when a student comes to the first grade, he will still go to the second, to the third, to the fourth and further to the university, to work in different companies.
It’s not a jail, I don’t tie a person to myself with a chain. Therefore, I will coach and enjoy – or not enjoy – working with this athlete as long as our work together satisfies both of us. If it does not satisfy, then athlete has the right to switch to another coach at any time. This is his right. But we agree this way: if you don’t like something – a bouquet of flowers, champagne, thank you, and I wish you all the very best. Because I can’t stop a student who finished fourth grade with me from going to the fifth grade or to college. It is the same in any profession, in any company.
Did it happen that someone left you, and you could not understand what did you do wrong?
Tamara Moskvina: No. I had one pair, the girl fell ill with mononucleosis – it was Irina Vorobyova. At that time in our country they did not know about this disease and she simply could not go to training. The partner was waiting for her for six months, he could not wait any longer, and he asked for another partner, began to skate with another girl. Irina recovered and began to skate with another partner. And when these two pairs stayed with me to train, one had to leave, so they came to me and said that they wanted to switch to another coach. To Alexei Nikolaevich Mishin. I never had any regrets, I always said: “Thank you, goodbye, wich you success!”
Now Anastasia Mishina and Alexander Galliamov came to me, who for a long time, well, all their lives, have trained with the Velikovs. I appreciate the work they have done and the skill that athletes have, and I want to add something. But what if they don’t like our community, or feel uncomfortable? How can I keep them? This is the norm – people leave, like everywhere else. Even in families.
Are you a tough coach?
Tamara Moskvina: No, I’m a liberal. I once read an article in a scientific journal about characters: liberal, democrat, autocrat, and so on. I looked and thought that perhaps I belong to the liberal type of a coach. I am waiting for the guys to accept my comments and work on their own, to feel that they need it. And if you forced them once, forced the second time, then it’s not gonna work on the third time. I want us to do a common work as colleagues, and not as “I’m the boss – you’re a fool”. That doesn’t work for me.
It works for me when we become colleagues, even if the guys are still young. Actually now, compared to my age, they are all young (laughs). But I try to build, or rather, to feel with my heart and brain, that I’m of the same age with them – this is what they love, this is what they like – in order to be on the same wave with them. But this autocratic type of leadership or …
Raising your voice, using profanity.
Tamara Moskvina: To raise my voice … Well, I once called my student a fool. It was a long time ago. And then apologized to her.
What did she do? Rather, what didn’t she do.
Tamara Moskvina: I do not remember. But I think, since I graduated from school with a silver medal because of the Russian language and I’m a PhD, my knowledge of the Russian literary language is enough for me to explain to my students what I want to tell them. I believe that the skaters we work with are also well-mannered and educated enough to use literary Russian or at least English.
What do you think about Nina Mozer’s return to active coaching?
Tamara Moskvina: Why should I discuss the actions of Nina Mikhailovna? She lives her life, I live mine.
No, I mean that you have a coaching competitor now.
Tamara Moskvina: (Laughs) There are so many coaches all over the world who are competitors. I do not evaluate and do not follow who else has appeared. The whole world is full of coaches who are like competitors. I don’t pay attention to it.
In the pre-Olympic season, there is the World Championships, which awaits us in the very near future, then preparations for Beijing. In your opinion, who are the main competitors of Russian pairs?
Tamara Moskvina: Chinese and Canadian athletes, because we don’t even know how they skate yet. And American too.
That is, by and large, the World Championships will be such a serious test?
Tamara Moskvina: Yes, if everyone comes there, because at the beginning of the season it was announced that the Canadians would not send athletes to the competitions. But perhaps it will change. And then, I always try to consider a wider range of competitors, because no one knows what they are doing there while we are here.
Well, yes, we have not actually seen the Chinese.
Tamara Moskvina: We did not see the Chinese, we did not see the Canadians. We do not have a developed network of informants (laughs).
There are not enough spies.
Tamara Moskvina: Well, no, informants, how they skate. Then sometimes “dark horses” show up – this is natural. The same with us. Therefore, we must assume that there will be more competitors, and prepare for this.
Are Boikova / Kozlovskii and Tarasova / Morozov two strongest pairs in the country at the moment?
Tamara Moskvina: At the moment, according to the results, yes.
Who can be the “dark horse”?
Tamara Moskvina: We have another two strong pairs: Mishina / Galliamov and Pavliuchenko / Khodykin. These two are also very serious, good pairs. They have both technical and artistic preparation and have experience of participating in international competitions.
Have you said something to Kozlovskii regarding his “Get in line!”?
Tamara Moskvina: I did not discuss this issue with him. Well, young people do not always think what they say, and maybe not always restrained. This is youth, so we will not judge them harshly.
In an interview with Elena Vaitsekhovskaya, you talked about the end of active coaching at 85 years old. Has nothing changed?
Tamara Moskvina: Why are you reading all this… I always say something like that and I don’t remember what I said to whom (laughs). Let’s do this: I’m not doing work, I do what I love, for me it’s a hobby. Some specialists say: “I am doing what I love, and they also pay me a salary for it.” Other people say that. And I just like to take two young people, diverse, with different characters, maybe even a bit hostile against each other, and then make idols from for the audience who will be admired.
As an honorary citizen, I often meet with colleagues in St. Petersburg. Now, unfortunately, the Nobel laureate Zhores Alferov is gone, but I looked at him and thought: here he creates material wealth that is used by millions of people, and what am I creating?
Art that gives emotion.
Tamara Moskvina: Well, probably. And this is always made me … Well I didn’t felt unhappy, but, in comparison with such people, I felt inferior. What am I creating? I only create a sports pairs or skaters that other people enjoy. So I want to create this, one generation after another. And so that they are different. So that it is not a copy of my previous athletes, but development. But all the same it is all non-material, this somehow upsets me. But such a profession.
I remembered the words of Tatiana Anatolievna Tarasova that Tamara is not afraid of anything, because Igor is always behind her back.
Tamara Moskvina: Yes. This is my main backbone, because our life, we’ve been together for 56 years, it has been such a strong union, a real family. And now, when he is no longer there, I can say that he was a wonderful husband, man, rear, father. And a high-profile professional, because he taught me to work. True, sometimes I neglected, thought: “Oh well, he is already an old coach, I know better how to do it,” and did it in my own way. And only ten years after one of his advice, I said to myself: “You fool, you fool! 10 years ago he told you not to do this. 10 years have passed, and you have come to this.”
But our life was filled not only with work. Some people say, “You are fans.” We’re not fans! We went to the theater, and we have many acquaintances, friends, and Igor studied, he was a yachtsman, even the champion of the USSR in the Finn class. Therefore, I can’t say that our life was focused only on figure skating.
Have you argued with Igor Borisovich?
Tamara Moskvina: We had one quarrel related to a quarrel between our students. But in general we did not swear, never shouted at each other, did not break the dishes. What else is there?
What’s the secret? How is this possible?
Tamara Moskvina: A secret? Probably, I tried to speak in such a way so not to offend anyone, and he probably loved me (smiles).
Until the last moment, did he suggest something and give any advice?
Tamara Moskvina: The last three years, when it was already hard for him, he did not coach, but he came, sat on the rink and said: “Tamara, why aren’t you listening? Look how far your athletes are skating! What kind of pair skating is this?” This is really correct, but nowadays the young people are not as executive as they used to be.
And when he was no longer able to visit trainings, he always asked how the training went, when I returned home. I always said: “Oh, Igor, it was very good today,” although at that time there were not very good trainings, because I had new young athletes who did not want to give in to each other. They do not want to find how to do a joint work without exposing their “I”. Well, things are getting better now, so it’s okay.
Didn’t you want to upset him?
Tamara Moskvina: Yes. In general, I always tried to think what to say to an athlete, coach or colleague so as not to upset the person or, if this is some kind of comment of mine, how to present it in such a way that it would be an improvement, not a punishment; so that it helps to improve and not to upset the person.
You were born on the fourth day of the war. Did your mom talk about the evacuation from besieged Leningrad?
Tamara Moskvina: About the evacuation, no, I do not remember. But, I think, already in September we were evacuated to the Urals, to the city of Lysva, where my mother was born. We lived in the house of her relatives: her brother and sister. What I remember from that time: my cousin, who was evacuated from Moscow, also lived there, and I stole her piece of bread in 100 grams from the third shelf of the cabinet.
Which was the daily norm?
Tamara Moskvina: Yes. I was three years old. This is what they told me.
Do you remember your return to Leningrad?
Tamara Moskvina: I remember the return. But we were transported from Lysva to Khabarovsk, because dad served there at the end of the war, he was an aviation engineer. And I went to school there. I was small, and they bullied me a lot.
Who bullied you?
Tamara Moskvina: Boys first. And daddy said, “Let me teach you.” He taught me how to box (laughs). Since then, I began to fight with the boys, and they called me Eagle. We ran around the yard, jumped from the roofs of sheds, and since then I became brave and was not afraid of anything.
I went there to the first grade, after the first grade my family and I moved to Leningrad, my father continued to study at the aviation academy. Well, I finished school, and it went on…
Related topics: Tamara Moskvina
Inna Goncharenko: “I believe that Kostornaia’s break up with Tutberidze was just a whim.”
A truly wise and inspiring coach, woman, and athlete. Tamara Moskvina is a legend!
I like both sides of the interview; very professional. Congratulations.
I really enjoyed reading this. She is such an interesting person, and I adore her sense of humour.
Oh, beautiful interview!