Valentina Chebotareva: Big sport shouldn’t start too early

Posted on 2018-01-03 • 1 comment


Elena Vaitsekhovskaya’s interview with Valentina Chebotareva about her skaters Mikhail Kolyada and Stanislava Konstantinova.

Stanislava Konstantinova became the fourth at the Olympic selection, actually with a failed short program where she got zero points for one of the jumps. In your most daring dreams have you thought that with a successful performance she could be selected for the national team?

– Of course, we dream of high results, we work to show them. First of all I dream about it. But before the Russian Nationals I understood how difficult it would be for us, so Konstantinova’s task was to be in the top six. Stasya overfulfilled my plans – she made me a wonderful New Year present.

Didn’t Stanislava get upset when she realized how close she was not only to the European Championships, but also, perhaps, to the trip to Pyeongchang?

– I do not think that this could be the reason to be upset. We both aimed to be in the top six. Therefore, the fourth place is a very good result for Konstantinova. To be the first substitute in the Olympic season is great and honorable.

There are clearly not the most pleasant tendencies for mature athletes in women’s skating now, when the bet is made on small girls who haven’t gone through puberty yet and able to perform all jumps in the second half of the program. Your athlete is 17 years old. You intentionally didn’t try to speed up the preparation in order to bring Konstantinova to senior skating at the age of 15, or so it happened?

– I never force things for my skaters. I don’t give a big load. Therefore, at the age of 13-14, they simply can’t skate like Eteri Tutberidze’s girls do – they need time.

Don’t you afraid that you can just miss this time?

– Nevertheless, this is my position. I think that big sport should not start too early. I want my athletes to approach this level healthy and show their best results being adults. Figure skating is a very big load on the spine, on legs. When a child is heavily fatigued by a large number of run-throughs and a large number of hours of other work, the likelihood of injury increases.

If a trauma happens, it always requires a long recovery in the course of which all the work done wanishes and it’s necessary to start all over again. I make great efforts to ensure that my athletes avoid injuries, I love them and care about them very much. I’m even criticized for that sometimes. But I do not have a conveyor, there are no “substitute” skaters. And those that I have are very dear for me. Therefore, I will never give any extra load if I feel that a child is tired.

I know that in Moscow a lot of parents are just obsessed with a desire to see their 15 year old child a world champion. And they will do anything for this. Is there such a hype in St. Petersburg?

– Thanks God, no.

It seems to me that it is very difficult to set maximum goals, realizing that the starting positions for adults and small athletes are too unequal.

– You know, but it motivates me. When Konstantinova was very small, she lagged behind her peers very much. But I saw her potential and knew that I would definitely pull her out. This is a very gambling process. As fas as I know Stasya also thinks this way.

How did you cope with the puberty period? This is a very tough test for an athlete and coach.

– It was difficult for us, like for everyone else who is facing this. We talked a lot, including her parents, some things I forced her to do.

For example?

– I forced her to run, weigh, eat correctly and all the time – conversations, conversations, conversations.

Isn’t it really not enough exercise at trainings that you have also to run?

– In addition to ice, twice a week we have  physical trainings and four times choreography. So every day the athlete, one way or another, has such loads. But if suddenly I notice that Stasya has a little extra weight, then I immediately add  running. 40 minutes of running a day and no problems with the shape.

The main thing at puberty age is to avoid gaining a lot of weight because in this case, getting back to normal becomes much more difficult. And now you can see for yourself – with the height of 166cm Konstantinova’s weight  is 51 kg, she is not thin, but copes well with the loads, all the muscles are perfectly worked out.

During Russian Nationals Alexei Mishin said that he does not believe in the development of women’s skating in the direction of quadruple jumps, girls will rather start trying triple axel. And what do you think about this?

– I think that women’s figure skating should remain female. In terms of technique, it’s quite difficult now to try to make it even more difficult.

Doesn’t Stanislava say that she would like to try to jump something new?

– In fact, we try a quadruple salchow, jump it. Maybe this is not a hopeless option, will see. The point is not only to learn the jump. You need to jump it at competitions. It is very difficult. Moreover, you can do without a quad in the women’s program.

Do you plan to make any changes in Mikhail Kolyada’s programs before the European Championships? To change the jumps or their order?

– We will definitely have some discussion about this. Just after the Russian Nationals, Misha went to Germany, to consult about his back.

Something happened?

– Nothing critical. The back periodically aches, but it happens with all the skaters, we try to control the situation. We haven’t even analyzed the results of the Nationals. Before you think about any changes, you need to analyze: what did not work out and why? We, in general, like to talk.

For example, I do not see anything terrible in the fact that Misha fell from the quad salchow. But he didn’t do axel and loop and that’s bad. Everyone knows that Kolyada does these jumps very good, but for some reason he popped.

Do I understand correctly, that quadruple salchow, where Kolyada had mistake for the umpteenth time, does not bother you?

– If this jump really did not work out, I would have replaced it long time ago. But in training we have no problems with salchow, Misha jumps it very confidently. Therefore, when mistake occurs at competitions, it’s terribly pity. But it’s impossible not to jump it at competitions. Where else to train it in the program?

So, at the European Championships, will you  risk again to do three different quadruple jumps?

– Exactly.

Forgive me if I hurt you, but over the past years I’ve always heard talks that it would be good for Kolyada to work with a more experienced coach, perhaps a choreographer, for his further growth. How do you feel about such talks? They are surely reaching you.

– Oh sure. At first, I was upset, because from my point of view, it’s nnot polite and dishonest to say such things behind coach’s back. In person, the same people tell me completely different things: that Misha has the best jumping technique in Russia, the best spins, the best skating skills. Now I have stopped paying attention to all this: I have a wonderful student with whom we work together and completely trust each other. That’s all.

All my life I live according to a principle: if you’re well off you don’t seek better. If Misha’s program are extraordinary, unique, suit him a lot, then why should I, doubt the work of our choreographer? Olga (Klushnichenko) is a great talent, with a very unique approach to work. I would not trade her for any choreographer in the world.

But there is an opinion that you need to change choreographer from time to time, so that the skater could develop in various directions. After all, the whole world do that.

– Well, we worked with Lambiel, to get  some new energy in the programs, we plan to continue this work in the future.

To choreograph a programs also?

– No, we can do it ourselves.

I have a feeling that you take some kind of a protection position, while I’m not at all keen to offend you. Isn’t it interesting for you what for example Lori Nichol could do with your athlete, many figure skaters consider honorable to do their programs with her.

– If suddenly we get such a chance, of course Misha will deside. But you know, if you analyze Kolyada’s skating now, I can say for sure: his main shortcomings are not connected with programs, but with jumps. With my work, and not with the work of the choreographer. So, we need to work on this now, on what’s worse.

In our first conversation you confessed that you are dreaming about the Olympic Games. Now your athlete is a two-time national champion, the leader of the team. In this regard, do you have worries, fears –  feelings that you didn’t have before?

– Not yet. Maybe there was no time to think about it. On January 2 we’re leaving for a week-long training camp in Finland to  have a change of scenery…and on January 8 we will move to Novogorsk to prepare for the European Championships. All the thoughts so far about this.

by Elena Vaitsekhovskaya for


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One response to “Valentina Chebotareva: Big sport shouldn’t start too early”

  1. OlgaLV says:

    So nice to hear that someone cares about the athletes, and they have chance to develop healthy.

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