“We don’t share this whole mania about the Olympics”: interview with Anna Shcherbakova’s parents
Interview with Anna Shcherbakova’s parents Julie and Stanislav. About figure skating from parents perspective, growing up, group of Eteri Tutberidze and Olympics.
by Dmitri Kuznetsov for sport-express.ru dd. 25th May 2020
Anna said that she is a rather independent child with her own opinion, and you trust her. But I happened to read the words of Julia that you are stricter than Eteri Georgievna.
Julia: Anya has always been very responsible and inquisitive. She went to kindergarten every day. And we managed to combine training with a full school attendance at least the first two years. Figure skating is an individual sport, and it is very important for a child to be socialized. Communication only with athletes is not enough. In kindergarten, school, the child understands that figure skating is not the whole world, but only its small part, albeit important for him. As a child, Anya was engaged with drawing, music classes, swimming, she even played tennis a little. Later, unfortunately, she had to stop doing all that.
I am strict because for me there is no word “tomorrow”. No matter how tired Anna is after training or would like to sleep in the morning, she knows that classes with teachers cannot be missed. Although lately I have started to treat this matter with more tolerance. But then dad appears, who says that physics must be taught, and mathematics brings the mind in order. (Laughs)
Can you advise her something in figure skating? Music for the program?
Julia: When children are just start doing figure skating, parents are often asked to help pick up music. Of course I did it too. Always unsuccessful. The coaches coped with this issue perfectly without me.
Stanislav: As for figure skating, I am a just a spectator. Yes, I tried to ask questions timidly: “Why is it so? Or maybe it’s better like that? ” The answer was always the same: “Dad, you don’t understand anything at all! So, so, and only so.” Sometimes, however, there was an explanation why this was so.
However, I like to be a spectator. I do not understand neither jumps, nor spins, nor other technical details. Even the steps sequence in the program I won’t always notice. I watch on the principle of “touches – does not touch.” When your child raises the whole arena, it’s an indescribable feeling. Pride because she has coped, revealed, pulled out, endured, and even kept the artistic image. After all, the arena won’t stand up if it doesn’t feel all this! And at the same time the understanding of how much had to be overcomed and gone through for this. At such moments you have a feeling you live for.
Is Anna alone at the rink? Who of you go to training more often?
Julia: I attend most of the training. I analyze for myself what has been done, and what, in my opinion, she should work more. Sometimes I can comment. But in general, I think that I should remain a mother. Moreover, I am not an expert in figure skating. My role is rather psychological support.
Stanislav: Me only during the summer camps – it is interesting to look at the creative process, the work on new programs.
Who goes to competitions more often?
Julia: I go to all competitions, but I don’t watch, probably from the age of 8. Nerves do not withstand stress. As a rule, Anya calls after the performance and tells how she skated. It is important for me whether she is happy with herself, and this does not always depend on the place.
Stanislav: On the day of the competition, Anya and her mother have their own ritual. And if I also flew came, then breakfast, control training – and then everything is without me. The right mindset is the key to success in figure skating, and girls should not be bothered to prepare. I walk around the city, look at the sights. I’m coming to the arena closer to the performance.
Who often discusses performances with Anya, gives advice?
Stanislav: This is mom. I just admire.
Julia: Since I spend much more time with Anya in training and competitions than dad, then, probably, she listens to my opinion more. But I definitely do not have authority on this issue.
And the last: Who last scolded? I hope this has not happened for a long time.
Stanislav: Well, why. We live together. Someone does not always live up to her mother’s expectations in terms of order in their room…
Sometimes seems that in Russian culture, parents are often much bigger fans of figure skating or the some music lessons than children. Dragged to the rink, forced. Is it crazy for you?
Julia: I do not consider sport something vital and necessary. This is Anya’s choice. She should not prove something to me on the ice, only to herself and with her own free will.
Stanislav: Anya does not need to be forced. Quite the contrary – if it seems to her that we are late for the rink, then she turns into a little devil. Neither eat eggs, nor tie shoelaces, nothing is possible to do. Curls in circles, shoves out of the house: “Dad, we’re late, don’t you understand ?!”
Julia, and when you brought Anya to the rink at 3.5 years together with her older sister, did you thought that everything would turn out like this – medals, prize money? When did this confidence start to appear?
Julia: We are both from academic campuses, where we primarily paid attention to education, and children were engaged in sports just for health. And I brought my children to the ice rink for health. I completely did not understand where I got. I began to realize something when Anya moved to the group of Eteri Tutberidze.
Inna, Anya’s older sister, began to skate on the open rink near the house. She just wanted to try skating. My friend, whose daughter was engaged in figure skating, helped us to get to “Chrystlny” in the middle of the year. At that time it was an ordinary sports school. There were no famous coaches and athletes.
A year later, the same friend persuaded me to bring Anya to the rink. We’re still joking – we don’t know whether to thank her or to “kill” her, as our usual life ended there.
You had to sacrifice a lot.
Julia: Firstly, I had to drive to take my children to training, but I do not like it, the first trips were a huge stress. Secondly, I had to quit work in order to take the children to training, which I still regret. And a lot of things had to be changed, just to bring the children to training. I shudder to recall the year when training began at 6 in the morning, we got up at 4.30. The day off from the rink was in the middle of the week, it was necessary to get up to school. And at the weekend again to the rink.
Anya began to train in a group with her older sister, where the children were two years older than her. It seems to me that these were ideal conditions: she was reaching for the elders, but at the same time no one had any hope in her. There were a lot of medals at children’s competitions. But we still did not think about sports career. It just never occurred to me. Before going to Eteri Georgievna. Anya moved to her group in the Olympic season, and we saw how Yulia Lipnitskaya was preparing, Zhenya Medvedeva has just started competing in juniors. Then we slowly began to understand that figure skating could be more than just hobby.
Were there times when Anya and you wanted to quit? After all there was a period of serious injuries, especially the last one.
Stanislav: If the question is about a broken leg, then the point was not even whether Anya would quit skating or not. After six weeks in a full cast, the leg looks quite unusual. Who faced knows. This is just a shapeless something that almost does not bend, and does not look like the second leg. Anya was 13 years old, a period of growth, and we needed a very big faith in the power of nature to calm ourselves – everything will be ok, legs will be the same, and the child will be able to walk like everyone else without limping. So returning to the rink I took as a miracle, no less.
Julia: I had such moments, it seemed to me that sport deprives a child of a full life, and does not give her any new opportunities. Now I have changed my point of view. Firstly, I see that Anya really can’t imagine her life without figure skating, and few people manage to find their destiny at such an early age. Secondly, I see that this is not entertainment, but an interesting and promising work.
As for injuries, it was difficult to overcome the very first fracture, arm. It happened on vacation. Then it seemed that something irreparable happened. A fracture of the leg was also a serious test, but there was no thoughts about quitting sport. By that time, Anya did not leave us any doubt that figure skating was EVERYTHING for her.
Anya says that she is doing a lot of study now. There is an example of her favorite skater Nathan Chen with Yale. Would you like Anna to enter, let’s say, not at a sports university?
Julia: If Anya decides to connect her life with figure skating in the future, then specialized education is necessary. And it’s strange not to get a diploma, just because someone thinks that sports university is not prestigious. But I will be glad if she can get more than one education.
Stanislav: Firstly, I would like Anya to have the opportunity to enter an unsportsmanlike university. And, secondly, I would like her to enter it. If she decides to devote her life to figure skating – okay, fine. But this should be a real choice, where there are other options, and not a forced decision, because she simply does not know anything else. Anya has a lively and tenacious mind, she will cope with both sports and education at the same time. And Nathan is a really good example. In Japan, I saw several times how he opened a laptop, a notebook and began to study between shows. And the way he built his life in the last season, managing everything and everywhere – indicates that the guy has complete order in his head and the highest self-discipline.
Now there is a big discussion about the duration of a career in figure skating. ISU can raise the age and, apparently, wants to prolong skater’s careers. Do you think this is really a tragedy when people leave sport at 17, or is it an opportunity to fulfill themselves in a new direction?
Julia: Figure skating is a young sport. Children begin to train at the age of three, at the age of 15 they go to the senior level. If all this is taken into account, then a sports career does not seem so short anymore. And I agree that there is nothing bad about being at the threshold of new discoveries and opportunities at the age of 17-18.
Stanislav: If Anya finishes her career at 17, then of course I will be upset. Besides the fact that she is a quad jumper, she is also an artist, revealing the images is her strong point. And it’s just to early to show some artistic images at the age of 17, and even 20. It will be an unfinished song, no matter what medals she will collect by that time.
What do you think about this season? According to its results, we can say that Anna achieved more than expected at the beginning? Or it’s a pity that at some competition she lacked a bit?
Stanislav: I am sorry for the Worlds. The rest of the competitions Anya has gone worthy, we can be happy about that.
I’ll ask specifically about the European Championships – there Anya lacked three points. Did it just happen so that even without a triple axel, Anya needed all clean quadruples? Or is it a superficial explanation, and the reasons are deeper?
Stanislav: Only conspiracy theology is deeper, this is not my profession. Anya performed well, judges gave the scores, and experts interpret them. I’m the dad of an athlete who understands points very approximately.
Julia: I think it was a successful season. There is such a competition among girls that sometimes several hundredths decide the place. Three points is a lot.
Eteri Tutberidze’s trio has a very tight competition, they called it TSChK, Anya liked Triple A more. Did you meet in families, discuss the successes of your daughters?
Stanislav: Anya likes neither TSChK, nor Triple A, nor any other abbreviations. For sure other girls don’t like it too. After all, they spend a lot of time and health to please the audience. And in response, to make them happy, the fans just need to take a minute to write their name. It is clear that the abbreviations are convenient in online communication, but you should not expect that the girls themselves will like it.
An active transfer campaign took place a couple of weeks ago in Russian figure skating, there were many rumors about leaving Chrustalny that were not confirmed. Have you and Anya got some offers?
Julia: No, there were no such offers.
They say Eteri Georgievna as a tough coach. But you definitely know more about this than many journalists. How do you delegate responsibility? Still, Tutberidze became a superstar, did not notice the “star disease”?
Julia: The training process in this group differs from others because parents not only can, but preferably should attend the training. It is believed that children work better this way. I agree with that. Coaches should pay attention to everyone, we only to our child. And even such ignoramuses like me, over time, begin to understand something and count rotation in spins. (Laughs.) In my opinion, there should always be a distance between the coach and parents. And trust. These are not just beautiful words, they are a necessity. If you doubt the coach, your child will doubt him. And then there will be no result.
Stanislav: Eteri Georgievna is by nature a very proud and independent person. And quite selective in communication. From the outside, this may seem like a star disease, but in fact it has nothing to do with her success. And look how much time she spends on the rink, and how many small children she has in the group. People with star disease don’t invest so much into unpredictable babies. It’s my personal opinion.
Julia: Eteri Georgievna is looking for an approach to everyone. It is very exciting to watch how she works on programs. She is so immersed in music, an image is created like a painting. Together with Daniil Markovich they are looking for music, think over choreography. And then, during the season, there is constant work on the programs. Everyone is working on the jumps in the group both Eteri Georgievna and Sergey Viktorovich and Daniil Markovich.
Are you thinking about the Olympics? Do you have a thought that everything that happens is its forerunner? Or is this the wrong attitude?
Julia: They say so much about the Olympics. It seems to me that it’s not fair that three years pass in anticipation of the next Olympics and in talks about preparing for it.
Stanislav: The real sports life is already happening. Grand Prix, main competitions, victories and defeats. And the Olympics is a special competition that happens every 4 years. And in the ladies’ single skating the result strongly depends on what year this competition took place. Therefore, I personally do not share this whole mania about the Olympics. In football, basketball, tennis this is not the main start. I have greater respect for athletes who have managed to build a long career, earn a name and authority.
Can you evaluate what is the annual figure skater budget? I remember that Serafima Sakhanovich told me that about 1 million rubles were spent on her per year (14 000 USD approхimately – ed.).
Stanislav: Our budget fell almost to zero when Anya got into the Russian national team. The main expenses were borne by the Federation, the Ministry of Sports and, of course, Sambo-70.
Julia: Classes at the sports school are free. Further, it all depends on the excitement of parents. Additional lessons are held at commercial ice rinks. When I brought my daughters to figure skating, an additional class cost 300 rubles (4,2 USD), then 500 (7 USD). Madness began after the start of the Ice Age on television. Demand began to exceed supply and prices began to skyrocket.
Once, in the younger group, one of the mothers said that her husband calls us a figure-skating sect. Indeed, I can say for myself whether you want it or not, but gradually you give in to the general mood, the arms race. It is enough one crazy parent to appear, dragging his child a few additional lessons a day, and you seriously begin to doubt: “Are you doing the right thing? Maybe your child skate too little?” In our time, two additional classes on ice and one stretching choreography per week were considered normal.
After all, this year was successful for Anya also in terms of prize money. Have you already managed to spend it on anything?
Stanislav: We save Anya’s prize money for the future. We are trying not only to save them, but also to grow them. We collect a portfolio of a novice investor, all according to the rules – part for a deposit, part for a currency, part for a stock. In general, we increase financial literacy and look at how the money works. Moreover, Anya decides where and how much she is ready to invest. She goes to the bank herself, understands deposits, signs contracts. Communicates with the operators, they are also curious: “Girl, where did you get this money?” “Earned.”
Related topics: Anna Shcherbakova