Tatiana Mishina: There are no such athletes in Europe as Tutberidze and Arutyunyan have, and ISU doesn’t want the competition to stop
Interview with Tatiana Mishina, wife of Alexei Mishin and coach in his group. Partly translated.
by Alexander Makarov for sportsdaily.ru dd. October 23, 2019
Tell us how the work in your group is organized.
– If Liza has competitions, then Alexei Mishin always goes with her. Also Tatiana Prokofieva often goes. But she couldn’t go to Skate America, because Andrei Lazukin is preparing for Skate Canada. Prokofieva will go with him to Kelowna. Aleksei Nikolaevich can no longer travel with everyone to different competitions.
While he is with someone at the competition, you train the remaining athletes in St. Petersburg.
– Yes, it’s been going on since the time of Zhenya Plushenko. When Alexei Nikolaevich left with him, all the other athletes remained on me. Then Tatiana Prokofieva came, she’s our former student. For a long time she has been skating in the Leningrad ice ballet, but when Liza Tuktamysheva came to us from Glazov, Alexei Nikolaevich suggested Prokofieva working with her. Liza was probably ten years old. It was obvious from the beginning that she was a jumping girl. But she didn’t have any special preparation. Our St. Petersburg guys from the very beginning have choreography classes, but Liza, of course, didn’t have such a thing then.
How often do your views on the training process or the need of certain elements differ with Alexei Mishin?
– Of course, we think in the same vein. I myself went through his school. But you must pass everything through yourself, you can’t just copy. When the coach explains something, he must understand what he wants, demand it and achieve it. Sometimes you come to some training camp, you see foreign coaches who watch our coaches and you think: “Well, ok.” They still cannot fully understand. You can’t do the same as Mishin. There are few coaches who think and understand. There are very few coaches who have achieved something on a global scale, have raised more than one athlete, but generation after generation. And there are lot of those who take prepared athletes, only to stand at the boards, go to competitions.
On your Wikipedia page, Artur Gachinski, Andrei Lutay, Alexander Petrov, Andrei Lazukin and Sofia Samodurova named as your famous students.
– Honestly, Lazukin to a lesser extent. Petrov – yes. I’ve been traveling with him a lot to competitions, in his best years. Unfortunately, he has a decline now. Well, Sonia Samodurova originally came to me. She was brought by her coach Masha Nikolaeva herself.
– Yes, it happens that the coach himself gives the athlete. If someone in the group stands out noticeably, you have a warm attitude towards him, then you begin to understand that he needs to move on. I perfectly remember the moment when Nikolaeva brought Sonia. She was still quite small, with bad posture (smiles).
She did everything right, after all Samodurova became the European champion.
– Yes, Sonia took a chance well. Agree, you still need to be able to do this. For example, Konstantinova who participated in the European Championship could do that. But at this particular moment, Sonia was better. And it doesn’t matter anymore that Zagitova skated badly in the free program, that Liza got sick. Sonia showed herself from the best side.
Many fans and experts are perplexed, watching the performances of Tuktamysheva. Tell us, why didn’t you manage to think through all the nuances of the short program for Elizaveta last summer? Why did they begin to change the music, suddenly deciding that they wouldn’t understand it, and then, in the course of the season, bring it back? Just a few days before Skate America, Elizaveta changed the combination of triple flip- triple toe loop to two triple toe loops in the free program …
– The program was done in the summer with Canadian Shae-Lynn Bourne. She herself was a good dancer in the past. Then she made several successful programs for others, and everyone said: “Oh, this is a masterpiece!” She became a brand in figure skating. Such as Mishin, Tutberidze, Tarasova or Tchaikovskaya. She made a program. But during the skates there was criticism: the music wasn’t right, Liza doesn’t reveal it well. Of course, it wasn’t out of nothing. Opinion was negative. As a result, they took more lyrical music, but after some time realized that the original music suited the movements better. Liza also thought so. She didn’t want to change the music at all, she wanted to keep the Bourne’s version. But coaches always think how to do better …
And what about the combination?
– The very notorious edge on the flip is very difficult to fix. Medvedeva jumped lutz incorrectly and continues to jump. But it’s not because Medvedeva is bad, it’s just very difficult to fix it. During the program, judges sometimes give an exclamation mark when the edge is unclear for them. But with an exclamation mark, there can no longer be big pluses, increases.
At the competition in Italy at the beginning of the season, Liza coped well with the flip, but in Finland they began to call the wrong edge.
– Yes, in Finland, for a combination of triple flip-triple toe loop, they took off almost two points. We calculated that if Lisa jumps a combination of two good, high triple toe loops, then the score would be high. That’s why the cascade was changed, and not because Mishin is insane or something else.
But at the Skate America a combination of toe loops didn’t turn out, and Liza has already said that she will go back to the flip.
– Maybe. The video always shows whether the edge was right or not. Judges often forgives Medvedeva her lutz. She always has one lutz, because you won’t put two and make a mistake in each, right? So coaches make some changes. I remember that we changed Zhenya Plushenko’s program before the Olympics, there was such a criticism! How was it even possible not to listen? But then we regretted. He had a cool Moulin Rouge program, and it was criticized, called cabaret. Tarasova then spoke most of all. As a result, we changed it to “Carmen” …
And what happens with Tuktamysheva’s PCS? Do you have an answer why they give her PCS almost at the junior level?
– This situation surprises me. I saw the words of Averbukh, who said that Liza undeservedly received such low points. I agree. Scores should have been different. Some kind of stereotype.
Maria Butyrskaya believes that judging is “a little politics” Do you agree?
– Yes. Think of Carolina Kostner. Even when she skated poorly, her components were close to “tens” anyway. We were happy about this, because she trained with Alexei. But it happened we didn’t understand how this is possible. If there are technical mistakes, then the second mark can’t be high. Or think about Patrick Chan, when the athletes themselves said
how long can this situation continue, just give him a medal, we will compete with each other. He falls twice, but becomes the world champion because he gets almost maximum second marks. Didn’t these falls spoil the overall impression? When there was a 6.0 judging system, if you had an incomplete set of triple jumps, then you could not get higher than 5.7. Turns out we don’t have such now.
How does Liza herself react to this? Of course, from the side she behaves very restrained.
– She has a strong character. It’s clear that she’s upset. But still she continues to fight, doesn’t give up. She has an inner core. In this regard, I also respect Voronov, who is also not given the scores he deserves. But I hope he will fight. So does Liza, continues to progress, now she has two triple axels in a free program. After Skate America, we’ll make some more corrections.
How do you feel about comments on the Internet?
– If you read everything that is written on the Internet, hair rise up. Better not to read. What is important is what experts say, such as Tarasova, Tchaikovskaya, Averbukh … You need to listen to them. Although Tarasova as a commentator should be more kind, criticize less.
Nevertheless, I’ll give you one quite widespread opinion, published after another Alexei Mishin’s attempt to defend Tuktamysheva: “The pity thing, that these pink glasses of the coach hinder Liza’s development. Mishin believes that everything is fine anyway: there is no need to improve spins, choreography, difficult combinations aren’t necessary. It’s enough to have shapes and a triple axel.” What do you think?
– Firstly, only few have triple axel, it is almost ultra-c. We have a very clear understanding that complexity is needed. Spins are improving all the time, but we will not argue that somewhere Liza lacks stretching or bilmans. They are no better than others’. We understand that this needs to be improved. Therefore, Alexei defences Lisa. As he defended Zhenya (Plushenko) at one time.
Do you feel that you are living in a special time now, when ladies’ figure skating in Russia is reaching cosmic level?
– Sure. It is always said that the smallest changes have happened in pair skating. Valova and Vasiliev, the single skaters, who paired up, jumped salchow, toe loop and double axel – current pair skaters jump practically the same content. But in single skating, of course, colossal changes happen. As a specialist, I look at Trusova and Shcherbakova and don’t have time to count rotations (laughs). These are super talented girls. Now already at the age of 10 you can see the prerequisites for multi-rotational jumps. After all, besides Trusova and Shcherbakova, more young girls start to stand out.
– Yes exactly. And others. Videos are posted on the Internet when they jump triple axels, quadruples. An obvious trend is the complexity of the elements. In Europe, there are no such skaters. Alexei in his interview said that they are jumping today, but what will happen tomorrow is unknown. But don’t think that they will become fat in two years. And don’t say that they shouldn’t do such jumps, that they are harmful. Although the whole Europe will now begin to talk about it, because they do not have such athletes as Tutberidze and Arutyunyan have.
And we will have to divide figure skating into those who jump something difficult and those who just skate and jump double jumps, winning with a double axel. In America, this question is already being raised, they are thinking about some gradations not to feel humiliated and offended. Maybe someone will appear in the USA. Chicago alone has 40 rinks. Due to selection, someone will appear. But the ISU will think something, they do not want the competition to stop.
Do you see any scenario?
– Perhaps they will do like in rhythmic gymnastics, where you can get a medal for performing with different apparatus (jump rope, hoop, ball, clubs, ribbon). But in figure skating, it is unrealistic to beat the Russians now, and interest to this sport will begin to disappear. As already said, they can make performances without ultra-c elements, with beautiful spins and simple jumps.
If we forget for a moment about Liza Tuktamysheva, Sonia Samodurova, Nastya Gulyakova, then whose performances do you enjoy most?
– I like both Medvedeva and Zagitova. Not last years Zhenya, but the one who was earlier. “Anna Karenina”, which she skated at the Olympics, turned out to be very emotional and exciting. Among the new girls, I really like Alena Kostornaia, she skates very beautifully, powerfully. In some moments, she is not worse than Zagitova.
And what about foreign skaters?
– Not in terms of criticism, but for me, for example, Rika Kihira is only about triple axel. Satoko Miyahara skates nicer. Korean Eunsoo Lim hasn’t performed very well at Skate America, but I really liked her.
– When she just appeared, she was so pretty that I thought: “She will be better than Yuna Kim.” But now she has slipped backward a little. She left Rafik and began to look worse. Wagner skated well, it was beautiful. But now she’s no longer skating (smiles). I mean, that there is no one to name among current skaters.
How many talented children from the regions now dream of getting to Alexei Mishin? Or is everyone going to Moscow to Eteri Tutberidze?
– Of course, in many ways, yes. Especially girls want to get to Tutberidze now. Boys also came to their group, but less. Alexei Nikolaevich has those who wants to work with him, but St. Petersburg has fewer opportunities than Moscow. I’m about the boarding system. For example, Gleb Lutfullin, a talented and capable boy, he is from Kazan. But the boarding school for winter sports is far from the “Jubileny” skating rink. Parents also don’t always have the opportunity to rent an apartment for their child. And it’s not very good when at this age children are left alone, they still need help.
In this regard is it easier in Moscow?
– Yes. There are more boarding schools and specialized schools. The financial component is better there. We have no opportunity to take everyone.