‘The heroes are changing so quickly now, I’m happy that I skated till 32’ Sergei Voronov announced his retirement
The day before the official start of the season, the traditional open test skates of the Russian national team, the silver and bronze medalist of the European Championships Sergei Voronov announced his retirement. In the interview Voronov told what prompted him to this decision, about his plans for the future, why he “took credit” for missing three Olympics and how this could help him in the future.
by Veronika Sovetova for tass.ru dd.15th September 2020
Sergei, why did you decide to announce your retirement so quietly and modestly – the day before the test skates of the national team, realizing that all attention will be focused only on them? “Спасибо, thank you, arigato !!! My long journey as an athlete has come to an end.” And that’s it.
Sergei Voronov: That was the plan, to be honest. On the other hand, should they have carried me out of sports “in a box” with honors? Yes, we are used to loud send-offs, but this’s not a mourning, this is a deliberate decision. I don’t retire at 15 or 17, I don’t retire at an early age because of injuries – I have done what I wanted and I have done everything in my power. My career had many facets, but this spiral ended in an ascending one – any athlete can dream about it.
Well, long-livers of figure skating still had a louder send-off.
Sergei Voronov: Well, I don’t remember so many real long-livers. Of the Russian – only one.
Sergei Voronov: Not me – you mentioned this name. Can you name someone else?
I’m afraid that with the same experience as yours, no. A small retrospective – you were born in Moscow.
Sergei Voronov: In Moscow, on Arbat, in maternity hospital number two, which no longer exists, as far as I know. Born in 1987 in a country that also no longer exists – in the USSR. More than once I told that I got into figure skating quite by accident. My mother’s friend gave her daughter to figure skating. Then all our parents adored Rodnina, Gordeeva – Grinkov, they were idols. She suggested my mother ‘Let Seryozha also go to figure skating.’ And although my mother believed that figure skating was not a man’s business, and initially wanted to engage me in swimming for health, she agreed to send me there for the ride, just for health. This is how I skated just for health.
Sergei Voronov: Well, who knew that I would be so addicted to this figure skating drug.
Rafael Arutyunyan was your first coach.
Sergei Voronov: Not quite so – Arutyunyan, yes. But Narine Petrovna, it just so happened. With her I started to skate. And I got to Rafael at the age of 11, but a year later he moved to work in the USA. I did not see coaches for me in Moscow – at that time I wanted to be in St. Petersburg, where Evgeni Plushenko was beginning to shine. It always seemed to me that the St. Petersburg technique is so classic and correct. It’s like in ballet – there is Moscow technique, there is St. Petersburg technique with its academic character and prestige. And I have always strived for this – if make a jump, then do it with brilliance.
Weren’t you afraid to start working with Alexei Urmanov, who by that time had only recently become a coach?
Sergei Voronov: Firstly, Aleksei Evgenievich was an Olympic champion, and as a little boy I saw his victory in Lillehammer, I remember his gala number as now. And when an idol from TV becomes your coach, I, a young guy, was very impressed, inspired. When there is a charismatic famous coach behind the board, this is a good help.
For many representatives of our generation, the Urmanov-skater will always remain such a “prince on a white horse”.
Sergei Voronov: Stately, aristocratic – all the advantages with him.
But then sores came.
Sergei Voronov: I divide my career before 2013 and after 2013. Yes, sores. But also my youthful stupidity and unwillingness to work fully in some moments. Now it’s fashionable to say about sores. And of course, I had injuries, this is sport. But failures at competitions were often the result of my own shortcomings. With Urmanov we’ve worked perfectly for six years, and my first successes at the junior and at the senior level happened with him.
And then, you had to go through a barrage of criticism, including accusations of laziness.
Sergei Voronov: And where are those people now? The best refutation of criticism is to go on the ice and prove it with deeds. Even if it’s not so fast. Yes, first of all, I proved to myself that I am not as lazy as some heroes said about me.
Back then you, together with Andrei Lutai, provided us with spots for the Games in Vancouver.
Sergei Voronov: Let’s be precise, these spots were provided by the sum of points for taken places. But Andrei was tenth at that qualifying World championship in Los Angeles, and I was thirteenth. Let’s call a spade a spade.
But the score is on the scoreboard, as they say. But I like that you don’t take credit for that.
Sergei Voronov: I just perfectly remember how it was – I skated the short program very well then, but not the free program. What kind of achievement could we talk about? And after Alexei Evgenievich I skated with Nikolai Morozov, whom I am also grateful for a lot. He taught me a lot in terms of skating, in terms of steps. And in terms of organization, by the way. He taught me not to worry too much about many things, in particular, with him I became more mobile, easy-going. If you skate in America, the next day you can be in Moscow, and in a week in Japan. And if you are a professional, so be able to perform well, regardless of time zones. He broke some narrow-mindedness in my attitude to life.
Well, I can say that it was never possible to guess exactly in which country Nikolai could be at a given time. A true cosmopolitan.
Sergei Voronov: And it’s really cool.
And in 2013 you started working with Eteri Georgievna Tutberidze. As far as I remember, she did not take athletes with such a serious baggage.
Sergei Voronov: When I called her, she said: “Well, let’s try. But you have to work hard. Come to training tomorrow.” And thanks to her and her team, I was able to achieve my first medals at the European Championships, Grand Prix stages. Her team showed me how to overcome yourself, and for that I am really grateful to her. To her and her team. She believed in me when the then leadership of the federation told me: “You are already old for figure skating, think about the future.” It was a vivid example that at the age of 27-28, when your team believes in you, you have not reached the limit.
And then there was Inna Germanovna Goncharenko.
Sergei Voronov: It was she, with whom I finally managed to do a normal triple lutz after the injury. Many thanks to her for that. When she left CSKA, I stayed to skate with Elena Germanovna Buyanova. And I am also very grateful to her for giving me such a great opportunity. And, of course, I would like to thank Anna Valerievna Bilibina, who walked with me all the way to CSKA. And Tatiana Anatolievna Tarasova – she was a red thread through my entire sports career. There is no substitute for her experience.
How did you cope with missing the Games in Sochi?
Sergei Voronov: Why talk about it now? There was a difficult situation, there was one spot. At that time our great Evgeni Plushenko was skating. Everyone remembers that Russian Nationals, then the European Championships, that leapfrog. Everything happened as it happened, history does not know the subjunctive mood. It happened and passed. Yes, I didn’t get there. When they write that I did not make it to all three Olympics and this is my main “achievement”, it is funny to read. God bless them, I will take it to my credit. This only makes me want to fulfill myself in life even more. You need to be able to close pages on time, and close them not in agony. We are all not eternal, and sport is not eternal – new people come, new heroes. And how quickly the heroes and heroines are changing now, I feel happy that I skated till 32.
Having a result.
Sergei Voronov: Good or bad – I did it. I didn’t fold. At the age of 30, already at CSKA, I won Grand Prix stage for the first time in my life. There have been many good things in my career.
When you decided to another Olympic cycle, you said that you did not set yourself the task of making your way to the Games in Pyeongchang.
Sergei Voronov: Because loudly declaring and doing are not the same thing. Everyone has their own goal, and my goal was not to participate in the Games. At the Games, let’s be realistic, there are only first, second and third places. Just get the uniform and perform? What sense? I didn’t have such a dream. When our girls went, we knew there would be a medal, unless, of course, some kind of force majeure happened. It’s cool to represent Russia, but my task was to take a medal at every competition.
Sergei, no matter how hard it was for you to skate, I don’t remember you avoiding the mix zone. You almost always found the strength and time for journalists.
Sergei Voronov: Because you have your job, we have ours. If something didn’t work out for me – what are you to blame? It’s you who skated badly, neither journalists, nor coaches, nor fans interfered with you. And flash interviews are an element of work that, by the way, keeps you in good shape. You want to throw your skates and costume in the trash can, but you have to answer the questions sensibly, being able to take a punch. This is important not only in sports. Different situations happen. Plus, a lot depends, of course, on upbringing. Of course there were journalists who tried to provoke, but inside I thought at such moments – my work gives me happiness, yours hardly.
The decision to retire clearly did not come a day before the test skates. Did the pandemic spur you to this?
Sergei Voronov: Now we can talk about this frankly, and my choreographer, my circle knew about it – if there would have been clear Grand Prix stages, I would have skated there. And since the global situation has made certain adjustments, I made a clear decision for myself – it’s time to move on. If I were 23-24, I could wait. But life is not only about sports, there are other interesting things, and I would like to try them.
Sergei Voronov: I will not be original. If you have already come this way in sports, if you had so many wonderful teachers and coaches, from whom you learned so many important things, you must pass on this knowledge. All my coaches were interesting, so I have something to say to the future generation.
That is, after all, a coach?
Sergei Voronov: Did you expect me to answer “businessman”, “official”? I start from what interests me. Everyone knows my achievements, maybe for some they are not serious, but now I have a higher education, I can officially work. I have a diploma from the Russian State University of Physical Culture with a specialty “coach and teacher”.
With what feeling did you watch the test skates of the national team in the rank of a skater who ended his career.
Sergei Voronov: I watched from the different side, like a spectator who is well versed in figure skating. And I noticed a lot of interesting things for myself that in the future will be useful to me in the profession. And it was interesting primarily from a psychological point of view, especially after such a break. From the outside it was clearly visible who worked a lot and who did not.
Sergei, I want to ask a question about your family – how does it feel to be a close person of a skater for so many years?
Sergei Voronov: My family has always been not for questions. I can only say that loved ones are experiencing both your ups and downs. That’s why they’re family. In this sense, I have nothing to add. That’s why it’s called personal.
What was the most painful thing in your career?
Sergei Voronov: There is nothing worse when you get injured. You can go through a lot, you can understand and even justify betrayal. But injuries, they come fast and leave slow. Happen quickly and its consequences stays for a long time. This fate did not pass me by. And it was difficult to recover precisely in terms of returning to the ice.
The first emotion is fear?
Sergei Voronov: Fears that it will hurt again. We are afraid that we won’t be able. Will it hurt? How painful will it be?
And what’s the coolest thing in your career?
Sergei Voronov: There have been many such things in my career. From what I remember – the first junior medal at the Grand Prix, the junior world championship, the gold at the Russian Nationals, the first medal of the Grand Prix, the European championship. When you win it when you are very young, this is one thing, when you are adult it is completely different.
Do you like today’s figure skating with its insane popularity and the flip side of this popularity?
Sergei Voronov: There are pros and cons in everything. But figure skating has absolutely earned such popularity, it is very interesting sport. His heroes raised this popularity to such a level.
But you too have become such a hero.
Sergei Voronov: These are your words. I don’t count myself among them. There are much more successful heroes. Some had a long career, someone had short and bright. Everyone has his own path.
Do you remember your day when figure skating ended?
Sergei Voronov: Yes. The realization comes that there is no need to go to the gym, there is no need to do some daily obligatory things. The world is not spinning around me, and the sun will rise no matter whether I finished or not. Everything ends sooner or later, it’s time for a new job.
As a coach, are you still in free ride?
Sergei Voronov: For now, yes.
In modern terms “open to suggestions”?
Sergei Voronov: You could say that.
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