Tatiana Tarasova: Abroad, figure skating is entertainment. And we have a professional sport
Interview with Tatiana Tarasova. About the consequences of prolonged quarantine; training and entering new season; the prospects and development of figure skating, as well as the reasons for the negative background regarding the progress in ladies’ single skating.
by Olga Ermolina for fsrussia.ru dd.23d April 2020
Tatiana Anatolievna, how will the situation with coronavirus affect figure skating?
Tatiana Tarasova: It already affects. And not only in sports. First, thousands of people around us are sick, thousands of people are dying. Secondly, quarantine. Athletes do not go anywhere. They sit at home. Someone jumps at home. Someone trains at a country house, runs … All this is general physical training. But at this stage, it is not related to professional work. Just something you need to do. Not all of our athletes have necessary equipment for proper training in their apartments. Even on the floor. This is absolutely clear. I do not mean only our sport. It’s hard to look at how swimmers train without water.
Figure skating is a sport with complex coordination. We are losing time, we are losing our wheelhouse. Recovery will be long. Yes, injuries often occur in the summer when skaters are back to the ice after resting. Injuries happen because skaters skate in their “rested” boots, because they have not skated for two weeks. In these two weeks, boots become stone. There are corns, bruises on the legs, bruises on the skin… All this is accompanied by pain. Legs hurt a lot. And now, when athletes do not skate in these boots for five weeks? I’m even afraid to touch them – how tough they are. It is one thing to train 2-3 times a day and all the salt is sedimented in these boots. Another thing is not to skate for 5 weeks. We, coaches who spent so many years on the ice, had no such experience.
But it happen that skaters did not train for a long time because of injuries.
Tatiana Tarasova: Of course, we had an experience with injuries. In the 97th, in the Olympic season in September, Kulik broke his leg. It happened in America. He broke the finger on his right pushing leg. We had to insert needles. And for six weeks (!) we trained with needles in the leg. With Leonid Raitsin, we quickly adjusted various exercises, because the most important thing was not to break anything. But six weeks Ilia had to train without ice.
We were afraid to break the needles. The leg was fixed in the “boot”. We developed a lot of exercises. Invented special choreography classes. Thought out the work on speed-power training. Gave a strong heart load. Worked at maximum loads. We practiced 2 hours in the morning and 2 hours in the evening. In the evening there was also choreography. Sitting and standing. The second leg strengthened. We bent and stretched, and did many other things. Worked on the program, worked on the arms and, in the end, won the Olympic Games.
Recovery happened very quickly. Before the Olympics, we won gold at the Grand Prix Final. Because Ilia was absolutely prepared. His body was prepared. But we watched and controlled him for days. Only him. Controlled his nutrition. All our forces were directed at him. At one athlete.
But all these trainings took place in the gym. There was no fear of going outside as it is now. Ilia even learned to drive a car with his left foot … And now, when many skaters are don’t have the opportunity even to go out and do jogging, not everyone has bicycle ergometers at home, not everyone has steps. Even the most outstanding. Because the living space does not allow. Someone allows, someone does not. And then the athletes are also used to do this in the gym, where everything is adapted for such training.
I can’t say that athletes are immobilized. I watch online classes. Everyone is engaged. No one is lazy. Everyone occupy themselves physically as they can. Of course, it’d be great to bring bicycle ergometers if someone doesn’t have …
But many do not have programs. This also takes time. Time to put and time to learn new transitions. I’m not talking about the elements. That everything was at the highest level ..
The tasks are very high. But you can not rush. Because legs can fly off right away. Right away! And until you break into new boots no work will turn out. Therefore, a smooth entry into the work is necessary. And a lot needs to be done now.
As a national team consultant, what do you suggest to do for a more effective recovery and entry into the season?
Tatiana Tarasova: I think we have such opportunities. If, in two weeks, as it predicted, the rise of the disease will end, the peak will be passed and the recession will begin, then I hope our Russian Figure Skating Federation and the country’s leadership will be able to decide on the resumption of training.
But first you need to check all our athletes. Check them well. Make sure they are not sick and the people, coaches, specialists who will work with them. Free several skating rinks where you can live nearby and you can train indoors and in the gym. Divide athletes into small training groups of 3-4 people.
Of course, all coaches agree to work almost around the clock just to start entering the season. And I think it’s possible to do this, because we have rinks. And not just skating rinks, but sports complexes, with gyms, accommodation, feeding … Therefore, for this month, which we still have to be in quarantine, we must do everything to get ready for work on the ice. Carefully monitor yourself so as not to damage the feet, do not break anything. And ask the leadership of the country to meet us halfway. In Sochi, in the mountains, there is a wonderful sports center, in Kislovodsk, in other places …
But we need doctors, we need a check, we need to monitor our health. Check everyone, then collect them, bring them to one place and not let anyone in there. But give people the opportunity to skate. If we don’t do that, then the restoration will be very long. Because the loss of sensations of the ice, speed – this is a serious moment.
Of course, when injuries happen, we try to treat them still working. Not on the ice, working in the gym, or inventing something else. But still, it throws back. Very much. We have nowhere to throw back, because all our rivals are working. Tirelessly. They work in full. Therefore, in any situation, you can always think of something if you want to and take it seriously. Because now it’s impossible to force with the words “come on, come on”. It is necessary to approach everything very competently.
The next season is pre-Olympic, in any case there is no information about the postponement of the Winter Olympic Games, but the competition calendar will change, and you will have to adapt to this.
Tatiana Tarasova: Of course, the calendar will change, because the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic will still be felt, will not completely disappear. But in this situation nothing depends on us. Even if we assume that we start training in June, and the junior team will be prepared by September, will there be competitions, junior Grand Prix? This depends on the international situation – whether the borders open, whether flights resume, what will happen with visas, the economy – perhaps some countries will not be able to hold their competitions, there are many more different reasons. So it’s not worth guessing, because the issue is very serious and global. I think that by the end of summer Europe will still feel the serious consequences of the pandemic.
In this regard, probably, we should focus more on the national calendar of competitions. What do you think?
Tatiana Tarasova: One hundred percent. We must concentrate on the stages of the Russian Cup. Up to the point that we should broadcast them on TV. I think these competitions will be watched the same as European and World championships. Because everyone has already missed figure skating. And it’s better to watch it than something else, because it’s “live”, because the competitions are held in real time.
Before the start of the season, many of our skaters went to the “B” competitions, where they had the opportunity to get the opinions of foreign experts regarding new programs in order to correct shortcomings before the most important starts. In the current situation, is it necessary to invite one of the foreign judges to the test skates or stages of the Russian Cup?
Tatiana Tarasova: We actually did this before. ISU has already decided to keep rhythm dances, short programs from last season. So there is clarity in this. But with the invitation of foreign experts there is no, because everything will depend on the situation in the world. If it’s possible, why not invite 1-2 representatives for each discipline? But competent one. Not someone who is not needed. Invite them before the start of the season. For the test skates.
Although we have competent judges. Professionals. There are many of those. Very competent. And they must help us. These people go to all international congresses, participate in judges’ meetings. Their opinion, recommendations and remarks are necessary and useful, if this are objective remarks, relevant.
Do you think that next season we will see programs with complex elements or will athletes prefer to skate easier programs, relying on cleanliness?
Tatiana Tarasova: It’s hard to imagine more complicated programs than our girls do.
Can we assume that there will be less difficult jumps?
Tatiana Tarasova: Why be a fortuneteller? We must restore the conditions of the last season, put new programs, compositions and so on, taking into account the new trend in figure skating, and not stop in our technical growth. But how we do it is our professional business.
Last season already several skaters performed complex jumps – quadruples, triple axel, and not only Russians …
Tatiana Tarasova: That’s it. We should write and talk about this. That Japanese do, two Korean ladies, an American. And other juniors will do.
Why then is there so much criticism about the Russians from “defenders of children’s rights”, articles appear in media that create a negative background?
Tatiana Tarasova: On this occasion, I will say this: no man is a prophet in his own land. That’s all. Many simply do not understand the essence of the sports, how these records are achieved, how athletes move figure skating forward. They don’t understand that people are driven by interest. That you cannot make a child jump quadruple. You can’t teach if inside he has no interest in this …
The fact that foreigners criticize us is understandable. They do not have the training system that we have. We start training from an early age. And from that moment on, foreigners are lagging behind. We have an absolutely professional system, so our girls were the first to start doing these difficult jumps. We have understood long ago how to train. Abroad, figure skating is entertainment. And we have a professional sport.
Therefore, I believe that the direction chosen by the ISU is wrong. Someone wants to determine the future of figure skating by the lower level of ability. And I personally want the rules to correspond with the highest standard. Tell Harutyunyan to forbid Chen to jump quadruples. Or other coaches. How, then, to become leaders, to come close to such like Yuzuru Hanyu, if you don’t get complicated? When Chen jumped five quads for the first time at the World Championships, they said that there were nothing but jumps in his program. And now Chen’s programs are called outstanding. And it really is!
Therefore, decision-makers should listen to us, the coaches who spent more than 50 years on the ice. At first, they themselves competed at the European and World Championships, then for a long time they worked as coaches, and now they continue. And all these years they searched, found new ways to develop figure skating. After all, it is also a matter of trust in those who direct us. And if you slow down the progress, then you can lose the trust of those who create figure skating, the trust of coaches and skaters.
Therefore, my opinion is: nothing should be prohibited. And you need to allow the quadruple jumps in the short program. Allow! Let everyone take what he can. This will be the development of sports! Well, why forbid? This will not bring athletes new victories. Even above yourself. Why bring figure skating back on 40 years? Why arrange a ballet on ice? And who can say what is difficult and what is not, if more than 6 skaters in the world are already doing it now. And if you look at the juniors, we will see that at least 10 people will do this.
All said above does not cancel the artistic impression of the programs, skating to music, creating artistic images … But technically complete marks cannot be without multi-revolution jumps. This is a trick, and people come to see the tricks. And do not think that people are not interested. This is only thing interesting for people. If you take the path of simplification, it will ruin the interest towards figure skating. Well, and figure skating also.
In other words, figure skating has decided on the direction it will go?
Tatiana Tarasova: Of course. There is already a way. It was opened by Sasha Trusova. Together with Tutberidze. With their group. Anya Shcherbakova, Alena Kostornaia. Valieva, Akatieva have quad. In CSKA there are girls with a triple axel and quadruple – Samodelkina, Berestovskaya. Liza Tuktamysheva jumps quadruple. They opened the way to space. And we strive there. All of us.
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