“There were several crazy parents of unsuccessful athletes who fueled the story with Russian skaters.” – former sports director of the Hungarian figure skating federation Gurgen Vardanjan

Posted on 2024-03-14 • No comments yet


Translation of the interview with former director of the Hungarian figure skating federation, Gurgen Vardanjan.

original source: MatchTV dd. 13th March 2024 by Maksim Khorenkov

photo alphanews.am

Gurgen Vardanjan was born in the USSR, in recent years, he worked as the sports director of the Hungarian federation but left his post due to dissatisfaction from the parents of certain skaters. They believed that Vardanjan prioritized athletes from Russia, thereby diminishing the chances of native Hungarians to progress.

Q: About a year ago, you stepped down from the position of sports director of the Hungarian federation. What does your day consist of now?

Gurgen Vardanjan: At the moment, I provide consultations, but I can’t help everyone, time is limited. I don’t have a steady job yet, but I hope one will come up soon. There are many job offers, and I will make a decision soon.

Q: Were the reasons for parting ways with the Hungarian federation an obstacle during negotiations?

Gurgen Vardanjan: No, I believe my contribution to the development of figure skating is evident not only in Hungary. Everyone understands that there were several crazy parents of unsuccessful athletes who fueled the story with Russian skaters. In that situation, I did everything right; I did not respond to dirty and unfounded accusations. Journalists who blew this up tried to pressure the federation president through me.

Conflicts arise because someone sees the results of others and starts to envy. Envy is a very bad advisor. It’s terrible when people start to envy without making progress themselves, living in a vacuum of unresolved emotions.

Q: Could native Hungarians have reached a decent level under your leadership?

Gurgen Vardanjan: Yes, but for Hungarian skaters to reach a good level, it would have been necessary to continue what had been started; it would have taken another 6-8 years. I took the federation in this condition. It is a difficult and long road. The same athletes who performed one or two years ago are still skating now; nothing has changed since I left.

Q: Could Hungarians progress compared to Russian athletes?

Gurgen Vardanjan: There were no Hungarian athletes who could compete with those currently skating. I will note that all the athletes who competed for Hungary are citizens of that country, and only two of them have permanent residency in Hungary. In ice dance, there is the duo Maria Ignateva/Danijil Szemko. Danijil has been living in Hungary for a long time, speaks Hungarian, he is already a pure Hungarian, his previous partner stopped skating, and Danijil found a girl from Yekaterinburg (Masha) on the internet, as there were no locals at all.

In pairs, the situation was also forced, they were looking for a partner for Maria Pavlova, whose Hungarian partner Nad Balaz decided to end his performance for Hungary in 2022 after the European Championships. There are no singles at all; only two brothers from Russia skate, who moved to Hungary with their whole family in 2018 for permanent residence. There was one Hungarian skater in women’s singles skating.

Did Polina Djumaniyazova (a Russian junior who moved to Hungary in the 2022/23 season) come to you by necessity?

Gurgen Vardanjan: Polina came to us with a Hungarian passport; her ancestors are Hungarians. She came to me with her parents asking to compete for the Hungarian federation. How could I refuse them in this case to compete for Hungary? If I had refused them, I would have prevented a citizen of Hungary from competing for this country. I didn’t even know her as a skater. And envious parents, whose children were significantly weaker than Polina, tried in every way to prevent Polina from competing for Hungary.

Q: Maria Talalaikina tried herself in Italy, she had to work in a bar due to financial problems. Did those who came to Hungary have such problems?

Gurgen Vardanjan: No, I haven’t heard about that. But many athletes who moved to different countries earned money in different ways – cleaned the rink, washed windows, tidied up cafes and bars to pay for the ice and have the opportunity to train.

There are financial problems in many countries; some don’t talk about it, they think it should be that way.

Q: How important was it for those who came to learn the language? Is it true that locals didn’t like that the Russian guys didn’t want to speak Hungarian?

Gurgen Vardanjan: It’s not true, the guys tried to learn words, ask and answer in Hungarian. Szemko speaks Hungarian perfectly, Ignateva knows the language decently. It’s more difficult for Pavlova/Svyatchenko since they train in other countries, but they asked me to find an online teacher for them. Single skaters know the language at the basic level.

Recently, an article came out that the guys were required to learn the language in order to be able to give interviews in Hungarian. But journalists who want to interview can do it in English, Russian, and publish it in Hungarian.

Q: Was there a possibility of your return?

Gurgen Vardanjan: No, I don’t want that myself. I think that after some time, everyone will understand that my work was right. If asked to return – I will refuse. Since my departure, nothing has changed; only athletes were required to speak Hungarian. I myself decided to leave; I am respected and listened to in the world of figure skating. I didn’t want to deal with inadequate parents – it’s not my level. Let the new leaders deal with them now.

Q: What is the current situation with the dance duo Ignateva/Szemko? There was a failure at the European Championships.

Gurgen Vardanjan: Last year they performed successfully, but then for three to four months, they could not train properly due to an injury, Danijil had a crack on his finger, then Masha sprained her leg. By the European Championships, they had just started to gain form, and there was an unfortunate fall at the competition.

Q: Ignateva/Szemko is a unique pair: a guy from Odessa and a girl from Yekaterinburg. It’s hard to imagine a union of a Ukrainian and a Russian nowadays; even at competitions, many athletes refuse handshakes.

Gurgen Vardanjan: People who refuse handshakes are narrow-minded. Danijil and Masha started skating together back in 2021. They have one goal – to perform well, no other questions arose.

Q: How do you deal with the fanaticism of parents?

Gurgen Vardanjan: In Hungary, the clubs are good, but they don’t understand how to work with kids and their dads and moms there. I talked to parents many times; almost everyone understood me, we found common ground, but I couldn’t reach one or two families. The desire to be in the forefront everywhere is not the best, I struggled with it for a long time, but it’s impossible to explain something to a parent who thinks his child is already on the verge of Olympic gold.

Q: You worked with Julia Sebestyen (former European women’s champion) for about twenty years. Now the Hungarian press accuses her of violence against children, is there any truth to this?

Gurgen Vardanjan: I’ve seen what the press writes about her lately – it continues now. She is accused of cruelty. Now it’s trendy. Parents whose children haven’t reached certain heights try to blame everything on the coach. Parents saw that they could write nasty things and try to appear solid in the eyes of their children. This is the wrong behavior, a big mistake.

Julia is a strict coach, but she knows how to work, I’ve seen many of her training sessions, and I’ve never seen her raise her hand to a child, I think it’s fiction because there is no evidence yet.

Q: You have many relatives involved in figure skating, your son was in this sport for a long time. How do you avoid building false illusions about the prospects of your loved ones?

Gurgen Vardanjan: I look at things realistically, I can clearly set boundaries: where I communicate with my son, and where – with a professional athlete. Tigran was a very talented figure skater, but we knew our son’s capabilities and explained Tigran his prospects. He understood that he would not become, for example, a world champion, but he loved and still loves figure skating.

Q: It seems that the Georgian federation is now following your path. There are more and more Russians in their team.

Gurgen Vardanjan: I didn’t follow any path. I had certain circumstances; I never invited or forced anyone to skate for Hungary.

Regarding the aforementioned federation – there are many athletes with Georgian roots there; the guys train in different places, but they are still ethnic Georgians. Yes, Russian guys have appeared, but look at the Junior World Championship – the top three places in ice dance were taken by Russian guys who compete for the USA, Germany, and Israel. In the US Championships among men, our skaters took several places – so can we say now that Americans are going this way? Sports is a whole world, and due to different circumstances, people make changes in life.

The Georgian federation is doing a lot for the development of figure skating: they opened a rink, try to train young athletes, invite coaches so that in the future, the guys from Georgia will have many opportunities. It’s a long way. I’ll note the president of the federation, Mariam Giorgobiani – she does an excellent job; under her leadership, the Georgian federation has achieved great success.

Q: Without Russians, the Georgian team would be weak.

Gurgen Vardanjan: Without Russians, all world figure skating would be in bad shape. Of course, there are many talented athletes abroad, but Russian guys played and will play a big role.

Q: Tell us in detail why you became a citizen of Russia?

Gurgen Vardanjan: I really wanted it, I submitted an application – and everything worked out. This news brought me great pleasure; I am happy. Grateful to everyone involved. If my experience and knowledge help Russian figure skating – I will be very glad.

Q: With obtaining Russian citizenship, will you have fewer options for continuing your career abroad?

Gurgen Vardanjan: I don’t think there will be fewer options. If someone needs my work – I am ready to consider.

Q: Has the level of figure skating in Russia decreased since the participation in the Olympics in Beijing?

Gurgen Vardanjan: No, on the contrary, it has grown. The level is the highest. This is my professional point of view.

Q: After returning to the international arena, won’t there be a setback of a couple of years?

Gurgen Vardanjan: It’s always hard to come back, but for Russian athletes, there will be no problems due to their high level of preparation. Yes, in the first year, there won’t be three athletes representing the country, but over time, everything will be like before.

Q: How do you feel about quadruple jumps among juniors in Russia? Many say it’s very dangerous and even harmful to the body.

Gurgen Vardanjan: There are athletes technically ready to perform these elements. Regarding the risk of injury: it’s dangerous even to go outside in freezing rain. Athletes perform jumps, no one forces them, juniors are well trained, with good technique. If the level is high – you can do anything. Very talented children skate now, they want to reach heights. Coaches raise their athletes excellently.

Q: Recently, the acting president of the FFKKR, Anton Sikhaurulidze, stated that the ISU is consulting with Russia regarding the organization of tournaments.

Gurgen Vardanjan: Competitions held in Russia are of the highest level. No other country can boast of that. Abroad, they monitor all Russian tournaments, they watch Russian athletes. Possible consultations between the ISU and the national federation are taking place, I’m sure of that.


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