Vaitsekhovskaya's interview with Mozer `The coach is not entitled to have emotions' for sport-express.ru
Calmness as a way of living
EV: During the last 3 years and during the Olympics itself you were acting as if everything goes by the plan, everything is under control and it will be ok. What was really under that calmness?
NM: But indeed everything was under control and relaxed. During the preparations period nothing extraordinary happened. I would write a detailed plan for each pair for a whole year every May. It was not just a list of training camps, competitions and skates, but a very detailed day to day plan including the days off. The only thing that could make us change the plans were injuries. Fortunately there was no nothing major.
After Volosozhar/Trankov and I had quite a successful first season together I didn't see a reason changing anything in those plans. It was obvious my system was working for the guys. Before joining my group or teaming up both of them worked with various specialists, gained a knowledge and an experience and were familiar with their bodies. In that way working with the juniors is much harder - the developing body changes every day.
EV: Bot Tanya and Maksim had serious injures. Nevermind Bazarova/Larionov.
NM: Indeed. But we solved all those problems. First we found the right professionals. Then when we came to a conclusion their treatments helped we kept using their services constantly.
EV: Trankov said after winning when he first started working with you he was surprised how nervous you were during the competitions.
NM: That was for a different reason. I'm quite an active person by nature, while Maksim and Tanya prefer absolute calmness. They are fast to react, but deep down they are usually calm. They wanted me to be equally calm. They were uncomfortable with any reactions or emotions coming from the coach.
I didn't understand it straight away. I needed a year to figure that.
Our first year together, when the Worlds were moved to Moscow from Japan and postponed gave us a lot. We had to get them out of their peak and then get them to peak again. Of course that caused an additional nervousness: none of us had such an experience and, frankly, I had no clue whether it'll be possible to get them into the needed state.
Taste of the victory
EV: When you started working with Volosozhar/Trankov there were lots of first timers. Had you make any mistakes?
NM: I'd say the results mean there were no mistakes. Out of top 28 competitions they took 4 silvers and won the rest. More than that Stolbova/Fedorov's performance this year showed my system works for them quite well too. They were coached by amazing specialists - Ludmila and Nikolai Velikovs. They gave Ksenia and Fedor a great base which allows to build on it. But the contemporary figure skating is not about the individual work with the skater, but having a team where every specialist has his responsibilities.
EV: You can never be sure the specialist who you invite to join your team will do the job exactly as you would though.
NM: Sure. But I'm getting into the tiniest details usually. The same with the human relationship. I am confident the team of coaches, choreographers, doctors and masseurs we have is amazing. Not only each of them is a true professional, but good people too. This is why I didn't hesitate offering them join the team. I won't even mention their experience: many went through more than 10 Olympics and prepared many Olympic champions. For instance the general shape coach Vitalii Moskalenko is an athlete in his past, a triple jump Olympian. They have a different type of energy. They can feel the flavour of the victory. First year with Moskalenko was quite hard, but now we can see the results. Ksenia and Fedor, for instance, didn't understand at all why do they have to collaborate with Moskalenko and what is the right foot work.
Bazarova/Larionov on the other hand, always inspired for the results, but their basics were never good enough to reach them. At first Vera had enough power to skate for two minutes only, then her legs would shake and give way.
Another trouble with that pair is their previous experience, which sometimes ended with a good result, did not allow Bazarova/Larionov switching to a different style of work. If Kesnia and Fedor were ready to dive in Vera and Yuri were going slowly and attempted to go back to the more familiar things.
The torture of the games
EV: I can't help but remember your words the Olympics are no different from the Worlds. Do you still think so?
NM: Olympics are a lot of nuisance. Much more than in any other competition. Since the Sochi Olympics were my first - everything was fresh and interesting. Yes, the Olympics are different. It's a celebration for the athletes and everyone who came. But only if you are not a medal contender. Then the games become a torture. The first 5 days of the competition I was so deep in working I haven't noticed what was going on around me. The 6th day when we went out from the Olympic village was a shock. We looked around and thought: life goes on! It was so strange.
I never limit myself by figure skating only. I have a lot of friends in various sports. I called Valerii Polhovskii from Sochi and said `Valerii, it was you who made me think I wanted achievements. Am all agog'.
EV: You were not looking forward before?
NM: The thing is the sport is always kind of a politics. There are coaches with a long list of achievements whom the federation believe in and let coach the athletes. If you are a middle rated coach you get all the `dirtiest' work: from the juniors till they become interesting as a potential part of the team. It's hard to move up there. Maksuta/Zhovnirski were the first athletes I attended the senior GP with. The team coaches included Tchaiskovskaia, Kudriavtsev, Tarasova, Mishin, Moskvina, Linichuk/Karponosov. And me. When I was asked what were my expectations I said `I don't know, it's our first GP'. We finished 3rd.
EV: What made you think Zhovnirski would make a good coach?
NM: After Vlad retired he worked in the Ministry of Sports for two years and would come to the rink during the lunch breaks of after the work. I advised him to decide what is more attractive: coaching or administrating. Then I let him coach my junior pair - Fedorova/Miroshkin and was glad to see how detailed Vlad's work with them was. He was calm, went into great details and was patient when working on technique. It was important when working with Stolbova/Klimov who had everything, but the split twist. Now all those troubles are solved.
The biggest problem in pairs skating is the female partner's heigh. You put so much effort, teach them, then they take a vacation and you get back a girl with a completely different body and you have to start from the scratch. When Tatiana Volosozhar offered to work with her after the Vancouver Olympics I thought `guess my time has come'. It was about time to stop running around and settle. Just that the timing was bad - my mother was dying and then I needed time to recover. For almost a year we were doing the paperwork for Tanya and her previous partner Stas Morozov citizenship switch.
EV: When Tanya joined the group she was in a relationship with Morozov. Then the relationship ended and a new one began. As a coach do you ever mind your skaters' private life? Does it cause an additional problems in your work?
NM: Adults often think they know everything and are ready for everything. That's not true. Life is unexpected and always surprises you. And you learn new things. As for Stas/Tanya/Maksim relationship I was not quite a buffer between, but always tried to stay neutral. My first coach Petr Orlov explained me the coach is not entitled to have emotions. If the coach will be hesitating the students will never fully trust him. So for my pupils am first of all a person who understands them. No matter what happens in their lives.
I was once sitting all down from what was going on in the group. A wise person told me `Nina, decide what is your goal: champions or people? Decide and don't try to combine'.
EV: Let me repeat that question: when you start working with a skater do you raise a personality or a champion?
NM: First and most of all am interested in the result. The human manners are important as well - I understood it when I started working with Tanya and Maksim and we were walking on the egg shells, when everything around... you have no idea how many people wished us the worse.
EV: Was it the hardest period of your work?
NM: Hardest is when people close to you die and you can't bring them back. The rest can be fixed.
Mistakes are ok
EV: Did it bother you that after a wonderful start of the season Volosozhar/Trankov suddenly started making mistakes in the most important competitions?
NM: Frankly we didn't expect the beginning of the season to be so good. There were lots of problems which prevented us from getting quite prepared to Oberstdorf, which made the guys very concentrated when they competed there. It often happens in the sport when the athletes are peaking they start feeling all goes great and the odds to make a mistake become higher.
First 3 competitions were full of mishaps. Nothing dangerous, more like ridiculous with lots of small things that went wrong. We hardly made it to Oberstorf spending 18 hours on the way and almost missing the beginning of the competition. We then flew to the GP in the USA while Stas Morozov attended another competition. We are always more focused when the team is smaller. We only had 10 days beetween the GP in the USA and in Japan. It was hardly enough time for the flights and jet lag. And again the competition went ok.
We were preparing much more seriously to the GPF. The guys were in a great shape and ready. And suddenly there was a situation we haven't forseen.
You see, Aljona Savchenko, Robin Szelkowy and their coach Ingo Steuer learned our behaviour and rituals. I'm impressed really - in sport you have to make your rival uncomfortable. Arriving to Fukuoka we faced everything being not as we expected. You want to have tea - there is none. You look for a napkin - it's not there. Small details, but you feel uncomfortable. Those little things attracted the next ones. For example usually before the competition I would talk to someone or send a text message. Suddenly my phone was off - I stupidly left the software updates running and the bill was such that my phone was blocked. Everything was going so wrong that after the skate totally shocked Tanya came to me and said `Nina Mikhailovna, how on earth have I made all those mistakes?'
Later analyzing Volosozhar/Trankov's previous seasons I saw they have a down in December/January. I.e. all that happened to them before the Games was ok,
Between first and fourth
EV: Did competing in the team event make Tanya and Maksim more confident going into the individual?
NM: I think so. It was important for them to feel the place. The acoustics there is unusual: all the sounds from the sits are going up the ceiling and then shower on the ice crashing the skater. Sometimes standing near the borders feels like being under a rock. Had we faced that in the individuals for the first time there could be problems.
Besides going into the individual event already being an olympic champion is different
EV: It seems there must had been a difficult situation in your group deciding between Stolbova/Klimov and Bazarova/Larionov who would skate the free programme in the team event.
NM: It was hard. Now we can talk about the medals being certain. But when you make a choice you have to understand it might be a first place, but it might be a fourth. Yes, the first day of the competition set the mood, but who could have thought it would happen?
The team event is a difficult thing. I received many calls in Krasnodar telling me everyone had hard feelings towards the others because of that team event. I was glad to stay out of that.
As for my choice - I could pick any of my pair. But I was checking till the last moment what went on in our skates. Everyone were skating great separately. But when I put all pairs together it was obvious who was better. It was for Stolbova/Klimov's advantage winning the LP in the Europeans.
When deciding on the team you have to put your personal preferences aside. You have to think of the best result. I learnt that in Japan last year. The championship was not serious, but it sucks when you do your best and then others come out and make your work count for nothing. Hence I only think of the results.
EV: Have you thought of the next year plans?
NM: No. I first need to rest a bit. I am not going to the Junior Worlds this year. I will take a vacation after the Worlds and then start making plans again.
EV: Will you attend the ladies (the interview took place during the Sochi Olympics) competition after the interview?
NM: Frankly, I stopped coming to the ice after Tanya and Maksim finished their skate. Guess I had too much. I can't even look at the ice.