“The most hypocritical national championships I’ve ever seen. There is a Tutberidze cult of personality in figure skating.” frank interview with choreographer Elena Matveeva
Interview with Elena Matveeva, choreographer who worked with Moiseeva / Minenkov, Klimova / Ponomarenko, Anissina / Peizerat, Irina Slutskaya and Victoria Volchkova. About the results of Russian Nationals.
source: sport-express.ru dd. 30th December 2021 by Dmitri Kuznetsov
Often conversations with knowledgeable people at the last Russian Nationals began like this: “Turn off the recorder and I’ll tell you everything.” Therefore, when I heard that Elena Matveeva wanted to speak, of course, I was intrigued. For several years Matveeva was a senior choreographer of the USSR and Russian national teams, worked with Moiseeva / Minenkov, Klimova / Ponomarenko, Anissina / Peizerat, Irina Slutskaya and Victoria Volchkova, and before her career in figure skating she danced solo parts in Bolshoi Theater for a quarter of a century… In general, a person has earned the right to have her own opinion. And it’s very frank and direct.
Elena Matveeva: I really hoped that this championships would be interesting, truly decisive, such has not happened for a long time. I thought there would be an honest fight with real results, I focus on the word “real”. Yes, I watched it on TV, I wasn’t at the arena, this is an important note. But, probably, I did a lot in figure skating and I have the right to my own opinion. It turned out to be the most hypocritical championship that I have seen in my life. There was no fair fight.
How did this show?
Elena Matveeva: Let’s start with the positive. Pair skating – the whole world can dream of such a number and quality of pairs that we have. Both young and very young. You can see the work of coaches, choreographers, the music choices. Two young pairs from Perm, especially the one that came in fourth after the short program, it’s our future. I haven’t even memorized all the names, I’m absolutely not interested in someone’s advertising.
Artemieva / Nazarychev.
Elena Matveeva: Yes. Two pairs of Moskvina – I don’t know, even the coach may not know who is better now, who will take Olympic gold. Everything is great! Except for the Tarasova / Morozov. Well, a very good pair according to the natural data, exterior. But every time something happens, I’m already tired of it! Either the salchows will be under-rotated, now the lift failed. Whoever they train with.
Don’t you think that they could have lost the third place to Pavliuchenko / Khodykin?
Elena Matveeva: That’s what I’m saying! This pair gives me doubts. Whatever programs they have, whoever works with them, there is a failure in the same elements. Every year, almost every competitions. This is a biased third number, this pair cannot be with bronze medal now. They’ll figure it out on their own, without us, of course. But how long can you do mistakes? All the time they are pulled into third place.
As for the girls … – the choreographer continued after a pause.
It’s already scary.
Elena Matveeva: But I don’t understand why there are children, who will not go to the Olympics, at the senior championships? Why were they are here? They don’t give anything to the team. This is a selection for the Olympics!
What don’t you like about big competitions experience argument? To prepare the youth.
Elena Matveeva: Agree. But this way they do not allow senior women who have passed puberty to participate. Will kids always compete now? In my opinion, it is wrong. Either you are doing an Olympic qualifying event, or bring talents of all ages, from 12 years old, and show. If this is an extraordinary talent! Let’s show what 11-year-old skaters we have.
It’s clear about juniors. But the results in women’s single skating were even more controversial than in pairs. Did Shcherbakova really beat Tuktamysheva by 15.5 points?
Elena Matveeva: Are there 15 points between them? (Pause.) Well, if the judges have decided, then it seems to them that Shcherbakova is indeed 15 points stronger. And how should we, connoisseurs, amateurs, professionals argue?
I asked Anna as a professional at a press conference, she also said that the judges decide, and her job is to skate. And our judges rarely comment on the results.
Elena Matveeva: Was that your question? I don’t know what to say here. Probably, the European Championships should decide, since Shcherbakova performs there. After it, we will have to think whom to take to the Olympics.
Team Tutberidze is already writing that everyone has been selected, recently a video was released in support of Shcherbakova with the headline “Heading for Beijing.”
Elena Matveeva: And where we started – this is the most hypocritical championship that I have seen. This is sheer hypocrisy!
And ice dance – what was it all about? What was it? I worked in ice dancing for a long time and, probably, did a lot. In ice dance, for sure. I saw everything. Judging is objective, subjective. But what happened is no good at all. Probably, Eteri Georgievna should work in single skating, pair skating. And let her leave ice dance alone, even if her daughter skates there. In my opinion. Where are we going? Our dances are not developing. But with such actions, judging decisions, it’d the end of our ice dance. I’m telling you for sure.
Are we talking about the result of Diana Davis and Gleb Smolkin now?
Elena Matveeva: And what else? This year I watched and studied a lot. I haven’t seen better programs than those of Stepanova and Bukin. This is the best free dance of the season. I have nothing to do with these coaches and the pair, but there is a thought, an idea, it is expressed in a modern way. Many people approached Romeo and Juliet, I did a show program, a lot of programs were created. But this solution is absolutely amazing! The quality of performance at this championships is just amazing! This is even stronger than our first pair. The one that is considered the first now (Sinitsina / Katsalapov – ed). And the original dance, too, was certainly performed more strongly.
And when you see such a performance, and then you see the performance of the Davis / Smolkin… I don’t know, did they even look into each other’s eyes at least once during the program? Maybe I missed something through the screen. It’s just an abyss after Stepanova and Bukin.
They will answer you – but they lost to them. The question is rather an advantage over other young pairs.
Elena Matveeva: I won’t say anything. Because this is a disgrace. They have not won a single junior Grand Prix, they have never been world champions, they have never been a medalist at any senior Grand Prix. By what criteria did the judges put them in second place? The audience was whistling. Because the scores are wrong. They are very high for this pair and low for the others. Some kind of childish dance … I have nothing to fear. If this continues, there will be no ice dance in our country.
Many are afraid to say that.
Elena Matveeva: Why should I be afraid? What? Will Eteri throw a brick on my head? I don’t work there, I don’t depend on anyone, I don’t get salary. Why can’t I say my opinion? Yes, I really respect Liza Tuktamysheva, I do not hide it. For the fact that she is fighting these girls who throw themselves at the quads. Yes, she was unlucky, she fell from the triple axel in the short program. But here you are judging by the Russian Nationals. And why do you judge Shcherbakova by the World Championships which she won? You should ask this question to the federation.
We are trying. Let’s also say about Semenenko in the national team instead of Mozalev, who took bronze at the Nationals. Otherwise they will write us about double standards.
Elena Matveeva: For some, there are simply no selection rules.
But according to the rules, the third place is determined by the coaching council.
Elena Matveeva: I understand. But there are also general laws that are higher than the rules – the laws of justice. And they are violated. Whoever takes the third place should go, okay. But you did this to Tuktamysheva, you don’t take her anywhere, but throw her away – they say, wellsome Liza, a world champion. But she skated great all season, and not one, but several! Why didn’t you take this into account? But you have changed the boys, and everything is fine with you. Here there is a rule, but there it is not needed.
I prepared Klimova and Ponomarenko for one Olympics, Anissina and from Peizerat for another. No, what is this? Probably, I understand something about figure skating. I also worked in single skating with Slutskaya and raised her mark from 5.3 to 6.0 when she became the Russian champion. I remember what was accepted then and what was not. Now we have turned women’s single skating into figure jumping! Quadruple jumping. This is not figure skating, no. We have already forgotten what it is. Didn’t do a quadruple – you’re nobody. Yes, Valieva, thank God, has a symbiosis of different skills. Shcherbakova also had it … But I do not know where we will come along this path. Only jumps are appreciated and that’s it. Maybe someone will jump five rotations. Then don’t call it figure skating, it’s not here.
You said that you respect Tuktamysheva. Do you respect Eteri Tutberidze? Can you formulate your attitude towards her?
Elena Matveeva: I really respect this coach, of course. For her character, tough nature. She can bring together a strong group of people around her who do a lot besides her. But she collects them well. She’s an outstanding coach, how can you not accept that? I admit it.
But did she call us on the right path? Did we do right by following her? Not sure. I wish her health, her entire group, all girls, so that they are healthy and without injuries. But there are inevitable things. Puberty, which few people can survive, go into the shadows and then get out of it. And at the age when you become a woman, continue to skate. You can’t look at flat girls all the time. When will be the feminine skating? Valieva has also grown up, she is turning into a young women. Let’s see. I don’t understand how the situation will develop further.
I suggest not discussing bodies, but looking at another dimension – after all, the monopoly of one group is increasing. There are pairs in it, ice dance, as many believe, were influenced by family ties. All disciplines are collected in the hands of one group – Tutberidze.
Elena Matveeva: Not a group, but one person! This person. Because this group has influence in pair skating, singles skating, but what does it have to do with ice dance? Relationship, because there is her daughter. And because of this, other pairs suffer. Who are very gifted. What, Khudaiberdieva / Bazin were worse? They have interesting program! Morozov / Bagin were worse? They are beautiful, stately, excellent program, stretch legs, gorgeous lifts. Rimsky-Korsakov, Scheherazade! Don’t blindfold everyone! I just have no words about what they did at this championship. Federation, coaching council, judges. Who was in charge of all this? Someone did it.
Eteri has a lot of authority in figure skating now. But you can’t use it to such an extent! Well, wait a little. Until your pair gains high places, programs, so that growth takes place before our very eyes. How all Olympic champions had it! They went a long way through programs, sometimes changing of styles. How much it took to get to this Olympic medal! And tomorrow she (Davis) will get into the team and become the Olympic champion in the team.
It is not excluded.
Elena Matveeva: Yes. You see, Eteri Tutberidze’s daughter will also be an Olympic champion.
Is there a cult of personality for Tutberidze in figure skating?
Elena Matveeva: Yes. I repeat: she deserves a lot, she is a great coach and showed us what can be done in women’s single skating. She amazed the world. But there is no need to create a cult of her personality! It’s almost done. And it is not she who does it, many people around her create it. You can call it a personality cult, yes, I am not afraid of this phrase. For two days during the Russian Nationals, they show us how she cries, what she says about everyone, on Channel One in Let Them Talk. They show her daughter all the time. And it is already clear to everyone: the main thing for her is her daughter, and the girls go after. Because the girls are already made. There is a conveyor works. And how it will end is unknown.
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