It's hard working with the Japanese
No matter in which country he builds his career - he always gets the attention. In his students list - the Olympic Gold of Shizuka Arakawa in Turin, the gold medal in Ice Dance with Shae-Lynn Bourne/Viktor Kraatz at 2003 and Miki Ando at 2007. Among the greatest programmes he choreographed - Yagudin's `Winter', Sasha Cohen's `Dark Eyes', Daysuke Takahashi's `Hip Hop', Nobunari Oda's `City Lights'. He surprised when with no regrets he parted with Takahashi after making him a world silver medalist and last season - with Oda. He made a decision to move from the USA to Russia and ended up in Daugavpilse in Latvia. He got Miki Ando into the Grand Prix Final with the best result though does not deny that his best programmes this year are not hers, but the French Floran Amodio, who is not even in the top 10 in Europe.
His motto is `When everything goes smoothly I loose the interest in work'.
Winning the Grand Prix in Moscow was under a huge strain for Morozov and Ando. After coming to the capital, when the group was getting ready to the competition in `Moskvich' rink Ando bumped into another 18y.o. skater during a jump and injured her back. After the Short Programme she was fifth and it was unclear whether she'll be able to continue at that competition.
NM: Well, now we have to change the plans and fly to Japan. I was not counting on Miki's getting to the Grand Prix Final, - was the first thing Morozov said when we began the conversation.
EV: A year ago, standing at the same place you were telling me what male figure skating should be like and what will it be like in Vancouver. If I remember correctly, you didn't even consider Pluschenko's not winning. What can you say now about his Olympics defeat?
NM: That indeed he shouldn't have lost. The Long Programme was judged fine, while in the Short - I think he should had received more. It is useless discussing figure skating from the `who skates better' point of view. Pluschenko's style is one thing, Evan Lysacek's is another. Each has it's own benefits. But don't forget that Pluschenko performed two quads. First in the SP the in the LP. It's a demanding jump. Hence I agree Pluschenko lost the LP, but I shall never come to terms with his marks in the SP. Attempting the quad at the Olympics demands courage. It's a different type of risk.
EV: So you are saying when a skater wins a competition without the quad you, as a coach, are against it?
NM: No, especially since it happened in figure skating many times. Now, by the way, with the change of the points the situation in male skating have changed. In every Grand Prix event of this season there were several skaters who attempted the quads. If the jump is rotated it gives enough points even if the skater falls. This is what happened to my skater Javier Fernandez in Moscow, for example. He got 7.73 for a quad that he didn't land, which is more than a well performed Lutz.
EV: How would you defined `a good programme'?
NM: The one based on the combination of the separate parts: gliding, steps, ice coverage, music. One can't only focus on jumps or foot work. And we've seen those opposites many times before. Take Takahashi: it happened he received 8.5 in components even though he fell 7 times during the skate. It is unspeakable, when Patrick Chan wins after falling three times, as it was in Grand Prix in Canada.
EV: From the protocols of this year I gather, that most of the male programmes this year have a certain pattern: five jumping elements at the second part of the programme.
NM: Well, yes. Those who are smarter assume such a programme will bring more points and start thinking how to train in order to make all that. But there are also those who put the jumps in the 2nd part of the programmes because the others do that. Whether they are able to land those jumps or not - well, whatever will be, will be.
EV: How does one need to train in order to skate such a programme? Does it require any special skills?
NM: No, it just takes more time. It's not a super hart thing to do actually. Alexey Yagudin used to jump five tripple jumps at the 2nd part of the programme at the time, while he sometimes had to skate at 5am.
EV: But there is an opposite example: during the time of the new system Pluschenko had always tried to perform all his jumps at the beginning of the programme simply because otherwise he wouldn't be able to complete the skate without loosing the speed.
NM: Am sure had Evgeny set the goal to jump five jumps at the second part of the programme in Vancouver he would. The fact he didn't have much time to get ready for the Olympics is a different matter. I think this is the reason he decided not to take the risk.
EV: When replying the journalists questions in the mixed zone you said you are not interested to coach a skater just so he would make it to the top ten at the worlds.
NM: Let me elucidate on that: I meant not once had we seen the Russian skater who will become, say, 10th, which, of course is nothing to write home about, but yet he is happy to beat another Russian skater. This is what I am not interested in. I would like my skaters to think not of competing among themselves, but to fight for the medals.
EV: How many skaters are there in your group?
NM: Four guys and two girls.
EV: And the dance pair from Japan?
NM: Yes. I like working with the dancers. After all I've been dancing since my childhood.
EV: Not so long ago I read a Japanese choreographer saying that the odds for Japan to have a good ice dance couple are low because of the traditions: it was never encouraged to show the feelings between a man and a woman in public.
NM: There is a point in what you said, yet in everything related to the sport the Japanese learned quite fast to aim for the results. If a Japanese ice dance couple will ever be medalled it will become popular, despite the traditions. The same way the figure skating in general became popular.
EV: After Shizuka Arakawa won the Olympics in Turin the amount of the talented skaters in Japan became almost epidemic. But that requires good coaches, traditions, ice rinks, schools. Where did they come from in such a short time?
NM: Thanks to the fanatic parents, as funny as it sounds. The parents watch the competitions on the TV, they learn what they see, bring it to the ice coaching their own children. The funniest Nationals I've ever seen was the Japanese.
EV: How come?
NM: It's the only place you get to see a skater who can land a wonderful triple Axel, yet has no idea how to jump a triple Toeloop. It's almost as knowing how to use a fork, yet not to have a clue what the spoons is for.
EV: A year ago by the time Daisuke Takahashi had left you Nobunari Oda still remained. But after the failure at the Worlds in Turin he left as well. Why?
NM: It was our mutual decision to part. As I said before: it's really hard to work with the Japanese.
EV: But you like the challenges.
NM: Yes, when the skater is the challenge. Not their surrounding. If, say, I leave for a month and give the skater the training plan, and when I come back I learn that during that month he was doing physical preparation because that's what Japanese federation had decided.
Despite parting with Oda we sill have great relationship. The hardest thing when working with the Japanese skaters is to make them trust you. In Vancouver Nobu came to me the day before the Olympics and was almost in tears when he told me his girlfriend called and said she was pregnant. Of course, I told him that it's great news and he should be happy rather than in tears. He was numb, was unable to think of anything else. Because, apparently, his mother had no idea about the future child nor his girlfriend and he had to find a way to bring the news to her. So Nobunari was trying to come up with a way to tell he and not offend her. Because the child-parent relationship in Japan is a complicated and a very different matter.
As a result of all those things Oda completely forgot that he has to train and set his mind on fighting. After the failure he was trying to prove the whole world that it was a one time thing. With such thoughts he came to the Worlds in Turin and lost again.
EV: Among all the programmes your choreographed there are some that are remembered more.
NM: I know. This season it's Floran Amodio's LP, which, in my point of view, is ten times more memorable than Takahashi's `Hip Hop'. I think it's the best thing ever in the male figure skating as far as the choreography goes.
EV: Taking the best programme is the one of a not really known skater, rather than your main student Miki Ando, it means you can't really control the process of creation of the outstanding programmes?
NM: You're right. Such programmes just come out. There must be a list of coincidents : the right music, the mood, the skaters' abilities at the time when you offer that music. Ando is more of a jumper, hence her musical choice is slightly limited. But I choreographed some really interesting exhibition numbers. I did it on purpose - to show that in Japan, where Miki gets to skate in the shows quite often, she is no worse than Arakawa, and may be even better in many things.
As the competitions goes Ando is not having the best time right now because of her back injury.
EV: The one caused by bumping into Abzal Rakimgaliev in Moscow?
NM: Yes. This, by the way, is another example of the Japanese restraint: I saw that Miki is in a terrible pain, that her back hurts constantly, that even while resting between the skates she can't find a pose in which her back wouldn't bother her, but she was not showing her feelings, was not complaining. She was keeping it quiet the while day and only at the evening she blurted `I don't like Abzal'.
EV: This year you choreographed programmes for Tatiana Volosozhar and Maksim Trankov, who, as it is known, are considered high by the Russian skating federation. Was working with them something special for you?
NM: I was mainly guided by the guys' ability to skate all I can come up with for them. To make it clean, with the beautiful lines and a good speed. We heard and spoke of many musical pieces before deciding on `Romeo & Juliette'
EV: Have you decided on that because this piece is known and popular all around the world?
NM: More like because this music allows them an endless place for improvement. I would say it sets the standards very high from the very beginning.
EV: When choreographing the programmes do you have to keep in mind who will the skaters compete with and how to overtake the rivals even before the competition begins?
NM: I don't even consider that. I choreograph the programme the way I see it skated by one skater or another. I try to overlook all the details, to put the elements in a way comfortable for the skater.
EV: From that point of view who is the hardest skater to work with?
NM: Oda in `The City Lights'. Nobunary is a sportsmen only. He always wanted to progress in the level, speed, the foot work yet he didn't give a damn about the character. Sometimes I got an impression he is lacking the understanding of what `liked by the public' is. I'd say it's a general problem of the Japanese skaters. This is where the goals come from: to jump two triple Axels or two 3+3 combination or something of the sort. The only one who I managed to realize the need of the artistic part is Takahashi. Hence he is the only Japanese skater who receives 8.5 for the components.
Another reason it's hard working with the Japanese male skaters is because they lack any special physical appearance. When the skater is really good looking it doesn't matter what he does - it will look good even if the programme is changed every day.
EV: Have you decided where will you be working from now on?
NM: No. Up till now I was preparing for the season in Latvia. Now we are going to Japan where especially for Miki her mother and her agent organized a training camp for the Grand Prix Final. I don't want to speculate what will come next. My daughter remained in the USA, so, of course, I have strings attached to that country. Now my daughter will come to Paris to be with me where Amodio will be skating in the last Grand Prix competition.
EV: I heard you had fantastic working conditions in the USA
NM: That;s true
EV: So why did you leave?
NM: I don't know. The idea to return to Russia came during the Olympics in Vancouver. I was asked to by some influential people. So I though `well, why not?'. After all everything I could have possibly done outside Russia I have already done.
Corrections, comments etc are welcomed.