Zhulin: The Moscovittes cheer differently
September last year everyone threw stones on Zhulin: he was constantly blamed his Russian ice dance team Ilinyh/Katsalapov started the season too late, are not working enough and generally don't live up to the federation's expectations when moving to the seniors level.
An extra month of work the skaters got when the worlds were postponed was for their favour - while the others were concerned how to keep the shape for a month Ilinyh/Katsalapov were gaining that shape.
I was luckier than the major of Moscow Sergey Sobianin: his visit to the rink was planned for the noon, while I came to Zhulin's mornong practice and got to see both his pairs working there - the European Champions Pechalat/Bourzat and Ilinyh/Katsalapov.
The coach himself was staning near the borders and discussing something with a partner / collegue Oleg Volkov. There were also workers who were doing the final touches before the major's visit.
Once the practice was over Zhulin turned to me : `I'm ready to answer the questions'.
EV: Do you remember your reaction when you first learned the championship might not be held this year?
AZ: It never crossed my mind the championship will be cancelled. I was shocked by the tragedy in Japan, but yet I was 100% sure the championship will be held no matter what and not in August or September, but during the Srping. Just that it would be elsewhere.
EV: What do you think of it being in Moscow? The home competition is always harder.
AZ: I'm glad it's Moscow, that it's the ice rink where we always train. There is a saying `the walls help when home'. I don't know how exactly do they help, but it's a nice thought.
After all I have a positive experience when Navka/Kostomarov became world champions in Moscow in 2005. So for me Moscow is a lucky town. Besides, the crowd here cheers differently.
The only thing I can not make my mind on is whether it's a good thing or a bad having another month to practice. My innner feeling says there are advantages.
EV: You refer to Ilinyh/Katsalapov?
AZ: Mainly. Which makes sense - Pechalat/Bourzhat are older and it's harder for them to peak again.
EV: Not long before the original dates - in the middle of March Pechalat said in an interview she feels she can fight for the title in Japan. I came to conclusion then the pair must be in an amazing shape to allow themselves such comments.
AZ: They were in a very good shape. I don't want to say their current state is worse, but they were indeed in a great shape and were very sure of themselves. When the championship was posponed I did all within my power to get them out of shape - it's obvious being on the peak for a month in their age is very hard. As a result they went to a vacation to France, then came back and we started working again setting our goals now on Moscow.
EV: Did you agree with your skaters in March they could have become the world champions?
AZ: To answer that question I would have to know what was the state of the other teams. I haven't seen anyone. And even if I have.... It's only possible to figure where the wind blows in ice dance during the championship and not even on the first day, but on the practice before the free dance, when all the medal contenders are in the same group and take the ice at the same time. Then it becomes obvious who is ready and how.
If you recall Pechalat/Bourzat skate at the Europeans in Bern - they were certainly the strongest there. They were so far above their rivals taht no one had any questions. But I have no idea how will the things develop now.
EV: I think you have a kind of interesting yet awkward situation in your group when the young team progresses so rapidly that their older teammates start feeling uncomfortable and look for other options. It's obvious such a competition gives a huge stimulation to progress, but it takes an extraordinary character to stand that. Are you afraid Pechalat/Bourza might give in and leave?
AZ: Think during this season just about everyone warned me my skaters will leave. It was not only about Nathalie and Fabian, but about Elena and Nikita as well. I reckon the reason was to make me give up one of the pairs on my own will. But it's ridiculous. Indeed the situation is unique- Elena and Nikita is one of the most progressing pairs in the world, which is aknoledged by everyone. If you have a chance to work with them on the same ice - use it! Progress so fast that no one can get you. That's it. If you're weak and leave you have to understand there will be no progress.
I had such an example with Lang/Tchernyshev, who couldn't cope with the competition against Navka/Kostomarov and left. Remember how it ended? With nothing, exactly.
Of course I realize Nathalie and Fabiand might come to such a conclusion. But it is not dicussed now. My goal is to get my pairs as prepared to the championship as possible.
EV: Can you evaluate Ilinyh/Katsalapov's state compared to the one in January?
AZ: They indeed became better. They became older, wiser. Most important is not to push them too hard and try to do the impossible. That would cause the injuries and make them so stressed they would not be able to recover. When having such amazing material to work with one has to keep that in mind constantly. That was the reason I did not push them at the beginning of the season. And think I was right. For the same reason we didn't change the programmes at all since the Europeans. We only work on the expression, cleaningness, speed...
EV: You mentioned several times the ice dance today became much younger. Why?
AZ: The new system demads. The "older" generation can't do it. In order to be on the right level new muscles are needed, new state of mind and in general a different approach. Take the twizzles: for the young couples it's just another element. We were throwing all we had on them. Like the quad jump in the singles skating.Of course it doesn't apply to everyone, but for many pairs the twizzles became the biggest issue.
EV: By the way, why aren't you on the ice during the praciceslike many of your collegues? Have you decided to give up skating?
AZ: It's far less complicated. I spent the previous practice on the ice- was showing the guys how to perform the steps and some elements. And I got too excited, skated for the whole 45 minutes and was barely able to scratch myself from the bed the next morning.
EV: If your French pair will decide to retire or will leave to another coach after the worlds, will you look for another team to keep the competition?
AZ: It would make sense, but I have no experience in tempting other coaches' students. Unless someone asks to join the group...
EV: I don't get it: do you regret not having such an experience or you're proud?
AZ: Well, both. I see how some coaches do it so easily. See, if my goal was to be a coach number one in the world I probably would consider such things no matter what. But I have never done anything in my life in a `no matter what' manner