Tatiana Tarasova: There is always a desire to equalize everyone, and hold these little upstarts who are ahead of time
Translation of radio-interview with Tatiana Tarasova. About her coaching experience, development of the sport, Tutberidze and secret sport bases where Medvedeva and Japanese girls train.
by Stanislav Kruchkov and Maria Maksimova for echo.msk.ru dd.27th April 2020
We are very happy to hear you. Traditionally, we start this program with the question of the most difficult decision that our guest has ever taken in life. Which, in some ways, may have become symbolic, determining or difficult for him. Were there those decisions that were difficult and at the same time, perhaps, spontaneous?
Tatiana Tarasova: It happened that I had to make instant decisions. When you have not even minutes or half a minute to decide. The right decision, the rightest in my life, was made when we went to the Olympic Games with Alexei (Yagudin). We were the first, and nobody could really got us. 12 steps left to the board – I measured then. He turned to me and asked how many jumps. In my opinion, you should never lower the bar. I did not want to talk about Plushenko, but said that Timothy jumped 3 (quads – ed.). And he was angry, because I did not answer him the question of how many jumps he should do and how many did Plushenko… I did not want to talk about it. But I had to answer instantly, because every second … It was probably the rightest answer in my life, such quick response that brought us a gold medal.
Where does it come from? From life experience, from such relationships, when you understand the nature of the person you work with? Maybe some other factors affect such instant decisions, which are then rethought, to which you return in your thoughts?
Tatiana Tarasova: Of course, from knowledge of the profession. Knowledge of the person. Just all these decisions … What decisions did I make? In life, I have made such decisions.
Natasha Bestemianova and Andryusha also had one such moment when we could lose. We could, because the championship was developing for us a bit unfair. So it was necessary to understand how to skate. And so I went to them. They sat waiting for me. They were waiting and looking at me with such inquiring eyes. I immediately told them: “Do you know how to skate? Today it’s necessary to skate not leaving anyone a chance. To make it impossible not to give us the highest scores. To touch every heart so that the audience does not breathe at all. How you do it is your business.” And we went. They skated – I never saw them skating like that. And I saw them a million thousand times.
These are some of the decisions you make – the most difficult, probably the turning points of your life. As well as with Zhenya Platov, two-time Olympic champion. He stands at his last Olympics and prays, prays in front of everyone. He never did that. He is doing something that he has never done before. And he says: “I am ready, I am ready, I am ready.” It is unusual for him. They are almost announced, a few seconds left before the announcement. And I’m standing with a bottle of water. And I splashed this water at his face! In front of everyone. And the water all over his shirt. And he suddenly speaks with an absolutely normal voice: “Oh, I was ironing it for 2 hours.”
This was Nagano, 1998
Tatiana Tarasova: Yes. And then the door opens, and she starts cry. Because she also sees that he is out of it.. And they skated – it was so quiet in the arena that you could hear a fly flying. Well, this profession is also built on that. You see, this is an instant reaction.
You just said about “unfair”. Talking not only about figure skating, but about all sports in general …
Tatiana Tarasova: I say, in my opinion.
Yes, of course. But this word “unfair” appear quite often in any sports. Should we put up with it? That this is some kind of element that is always present – both in the past and now. Does it mean that nothing changes?
Tatiana Tarasova: Do you know what does not change? If you are a little bit ahead of time – a little bit or much (or as it seems to me like my father who was 50 years ahead), then people don’t understand some unique programs. And there is always a contradiction between what was before…
That’s how it is with our girls now. Skated beautifully – such incredible beauty! And then suddenly such girls came and there are many of them. We now have a lot of them, and suddenly they try quadruple jumps. Of course, a Japanese jumps, a Korean jumps, one American jumps. But all this can be counted on the fingers of one hand.
You see, this is the next stage in the development of this sport. On the one hand, in the artistic part, on the other hand, sport is a technique. Higher, farther, stronger. This is a skill.
So, the technical committee immediately came up with the idea that this should not be allowed. They do not allow a quadruple in the short program. You see, there is always a desire to equalize everyone, and hold these little upstarts who are ahead of time. As they again want to accept the communique, that quadruple jumps should have a lower value. Not understanding that a million people jump triple jumps – that’s all, children at the age of 12-13 jump them. And only few people jump quadruples. These are those who have gone into space. And the world will follow them. Yuzuru Hanyu stayed in sport for his third Olympics in order to try quad axel. But you see, now they are fighting against. Of course, this is against … Because ours is doing that.
Well, it means against Russia.
Tatiana Tarasova: Well, sort of.
Tatiana Anatolievna, this cosmic level, these crazy quadruples is this from nature, as they say, God kissed?
Tatiana Tarasova: Yes, of course.
Or is it endless effort?
Tatiana Tarasova: Well, a born to crawl won’t fly. You see, when a person has certain abilities, and when he gets to a coach who has coaching talents. This is a confluence of many circumstances. This is progress, and progress cannot be stopped. In general, nothing should be forbiden.
In your coaching career, you probably met people who were talented and kissed by God, but in the end it didn’t work out and there were not these gold medals.
Tatiana Tarasova: You know, God was merciful.
You didn’t have such?
Tatiana Tarasova: I had, but they were very good skaters. The ones I led on which I bet. You see, I took them to make them golden and they became golden.
Tell me what should happen, are there some criteria, or, I don’t know, some kind of spark, you have to notice something – what should coincide for you to determine that you will work with this person?
Tatiana Tarasova: This is called “a nose for”.
And what does it actually consist of?
Tatiana Tarasova: It grows from knowledge of the profession. From what you feel. You see how it develops with this person, with this child. Who is your person, who is not. Who has what abilities, how they can be developed. What can you offer him to do, and to make a handsome man anyway.
Does this happen fast? Is this a decision you make quickly?
Tatiana Tarasova: When I had skaters, whom I raised from the junior level to honored masters of sports – I saw this. Of course, you might think this was impudent, but I was a 20-year old girl and I saw that something extraordinary could be made of these skaters. And only then, of course, I took someone and saw how I can remake him and what I can do. I never took people who are at the top. I took people who, for example, were already on the top and lost. Like Ponomarenko.
In 1996, after many years in pair skating and ice dance, you suddenly began coach Kulik. I read somewhere that …
Tatiana Tarasova: Single skating is space itself. This is a completely different matter.
To start working, as far as I know, you had an agreement that 10 trainings would be held. At what stage did you decide that you will work with this guy?
Tatiana Tarasova: No, I’d already worked with him. Before that I’d been doing him programs for 2 years. And then he said: “Either I quit, or you stay to work with. I want to train with you.” I just said: “Ilia, I’ll think about it. I love you and will not give you to anyone. But I have to think what to do with those people.” I had a theater at that time. They were all on tour already. Everything was arranged. But I had to understand how I could do both.
This human tenderness in the relationship between the coach and athlete… Is this some kind of unconditional need?
Tatiana Tarasova: For me, yes. I love them very much, I really care for them. They are so tortured by my love. Because in order to help, you need to know every cell of a person.
And coaching parting? It’s probably a hard thing?
Tatiana Tarasova: Hard. This is a hard thing. But God was merciful to me. Because Ilyusha just finished and went to the show. But now we have remained in very good relations and we will remember each other until death. You understand, loving each other.
Is there such jealousy between coaches when athlet leaves? Like Rodnina and Zaitsev, they came from Zhuk, and you had to take them. How are relations built in this little world? First of all, at the level of relations between coaches.
Tatiana Tarasova: I never called anyone to train with me. Never did and never will. They find me themselves. They saw me, they found me themselves. Like Grishuk and Platov. And then I went with them through a very difficult, but a very interesting life. This is not because I never thought about the fact that the person left. Things are never as simple as they seem.
It’s like a family. People are getting divorced, and I don’t want to listen who is to blame. But when you work with a person, with a child and you known him since childhood, if you do not love him today, then tomorrow he will definitely leave you. If he feels that you are his, jealousy will not allow him to be in some second or third roles when he aims for high results.
I immediately recall how many journalists wrote about Medvedeva when she left Tutberidze. How many unpretty things, loud words.
Tatiana Tarasova: Ugly. I almost started a fight with one of them.
Tatiana Tarasova: Yes, they were just killing the girl.
While it would seem that such things happen.
Tatiana Tarasova: They asked such questions that deserve to get punched in the face.
So in one of the interviews you said that over time, as a coach, you became softer. You mentioned it somehow. It’s true? And why so?
Tatiana Tarasova: You know, this is probably over the years.
Does an understanding of something new come? What exactly?
Tatiana Tarasova: You know, now I have no responsibility. Because I have no skaters. And I’m not responsible for any particular person. When you undertake to coach a person, you are responsible for everything. You see, for everything. For how he got up, for what he did. For how he ate, what he ate, how much did he eat, how warmed-up – absolutely for everything. Do you understand? We already know each other that way. When the he won big competitions – mainly the Olympic Games, this knowledge remains for life. Maybe you haven’t talked with each other, haven’t seen each other for a year, but you feel what he is doing what he can do in this or that situation.
Tatiana Anatolievna, this is actually a family story.
Tatiana Tarasova: Yes, I was very sorry for Zhenya. I think, of course, Eteri … She’s a grown woman. They got a divorce.
Just for the reason you talked about? That people part, if a person feels that he was not loved enough.
Tatiana Tarasova: Eteri is an excellent coach. She has a deep field. Outstanding coach. You see, she works fanatically. She works to the rupture of aorta. She works for 12 hours. I generally adore it and really respect. Yes, it’s hard for her to work. But who promised it would be easy?
By the way, she is accused of mocking the skaters, squeezing everything out of them.
Tatiana Tarasova: This is not true. She is not mocking. In her group they work more than others. You can see this from the trainings. For training before the championships. They jump 4-5 times more than others.
That’s why they have result.
Tatiana Tarasova: Sure.
Tatiana Anatolievna, we mention quite a deep field of skaters in Tutberidze’s group, who really work more than others. In such a situation, when you have many skaters, can there be favorites? How was it in your coaching practice? In general, does such a concept of favorite have a right to exist?
Tatiana Tarasova: You know, for example, I can say that I love talent. If a person has it, then I love him very much. You can love someone just humanly, but at work, of course, you love talent, because you see it and you are always delighted. You see, you don’t get tired at work. You don’t notice how this hours pass. Hours, days and nights. You don’t notice, because you are absorbed. Therefore, Tutberidze is so consumed by work.
Once we’re talking about talents, I just can not help but pay attention, because we have a lot of questions in our youtube channel chat. They almost beg: “Ask about Zhenya Medvedeva.” So I ask about Zhenya Medvedeva.
Tatiana Tarasova: I answer what I know. I know that she left because of the coronavirus. She was in Canada. She should have had shows in Japan, and she went there for 1.5 months. Flew, first had a 2 weeks quarantine. She moved from Canada to America, it seems, and then flew there, to Japan. And when she arrived, the show was canceled. But the Japanese – they have places, like ours, where no infection will penetrate, it will be tested right away. And she stayed there. And I know that she stayed there, and there she trains with Japanese girls.
Tell me, how will this coronavirus pandemic affect figure skating?
Tatiana Tarasova: And who knows? How can I know this?
The 2020 championships has been canceled.
Tatiana Tarasova: But we are all together for the first time in such a situation, the whole world.
But this lack of competition …
Tatiana Tarasova: What competitions! Lack of trainings. It’ will take two weeks only to break into boots. This is a very big question for us. By this time everyone is already with programs. But now they’re not. Because everyone was preparing for the World Championships, and the Worlds was canceled, and then sent everyone home.
This is a very difficult situation. Therefore, I really ask the leadership of our country to take the perspective of skaters and allow us to train carefully … Let at least the national team to train, plus another 2-3 people. We are ready to work around the clock. So that 4 people skate on the rink. And coaches. To coach them a little.
Because breaking into new boots takes 2 weeks. Then you need to put programs. It’s very difficult to put programs without shape, because at the end of the season, you have reached your best shape. You are quick, you can repeat and do anything. And now it will take more than one month.
The only thing, although it can hardly be called an advantage, is that everyone is in the same boat. That is, everyone will be in more or less the same conditions.
Tatiana Tarasova: No, not the same.
Tatiana Tarasova: I say, but you don’t hear. And if you don’t hear, how then will other people understand? I say that they train in Japan.
Ah, they are training. It was just in the news that they also have quarantine, the borders were closed.
Tatiana Tarasova: Of course, everything is closed. But there are sports facilities. There are doctors who work there. There are medical personnel who will monitor you every day. What are you talking about, this is professional sport. There are such bases in China where they train. And in Korea they also train.
And what about the States?
Tatiana Tarasova: These are the countries where there are athletes who compete with us.
And the training there didn’t even stop?
Tatiana Tarasova: No.
Another question from the audience is about the quad axel.
Tatiana Tarasova: This is a jump that no one has ever done. This is a very scary and very difficult jump. You can kill yourself on it. Because it starts with edge moving forward and therefore, and if you do not fully rotate, you fall right on your face. I don’t know, I would not advise doing this. He just wants to do it. Maybe not at Olympic competitions. You see, he also wants to go into space.
To stay in history or for himself?
Tatiana Tarasova: For himself. Everything is done for yourself. And we work for ourselves too. Do you give a report, what are you working for? Because you cannot do without it. Is it interesting for you. You are waiting for this adrenaline when you work. When I work, I am also waiting for it. Saying that I am doing this for you is not quite right. You do it for yourself, simply because you cannot do without it. You know how Shostakovich wrote: “If you can stay away from writing music, don’t write.”
Are there any options that even girls will jump it? Is this some inevitable future? Or maybe this is wrong?
Tatiana Tarasova: I am not a fortuneteller. Why is it wrong? Development. He is very thin, he spins very well (talks about Hanyu). He has a large axel and he is very thin. He spins like a pencil.
But if do not guess. After all, the limit to human capabilities obviously exists. You won’t do 7 revolutions, 6, 5 …
Tatiana Tarasova: Who knows. Maybe there will be some other blades, different boots… This is also a matter of inventory.
Since we are talking about modern figure skating, is there, from your point of view, something that this sport is lacking now? What could and should be changed, added?
Tatiana Tarasova: It seems to me that in the last warm-up … As always, all outstanding skaters skate in the last 2 warm-ups. It seems to me that everything is enough. I believe that now we have a very high level of development. Very high.
Our listeners note that figure skating was and remains one of the few sports in which Russia is successful. That is, fights for first places, for gold medals, for Olympic medals. Is there some secret why figure skating?
Tatiana Tarasova: Coaches work fanatically. And the conditions are better. It is very important that they began to show figure skating on Channel One. Because they did not show it for so many years. And now we have the audience.
Tatiana Tarasova: Abroad, figure skating is entertainment. And we have a professional sport