Ingo Steuer's interview by Elena Vaitsekhovskaya: "Main thing is not to stand in Savchenko's way"
Thursday was the only practice day for senior participants of the Grand Prix Final, and their practices were as popular as junior short programs, if not more. When pairs practice was over, I walked up to Ingo Steuer, Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy's coach.
When asked about an interview, the coach nodded: "Yes, I have time."
- Your students performed triple axel throws twice in short programs, at the Grand Prix events in America and in Japan, and both attempts were unsuccessful. Are you planning to experiment with this element in Quebec?
- I don't know yet. We arrived by the same flight as you. To have a full-on practice so soon after such a long flight would be silly. But tomorrow we'll see. I think you understand: if I saw in practice that the element was not 100%, we wouldn't include it in the competitive program. But Aliona and Robin don't have problems with it in practice.
- How important to you is the Grand Prix Final? In other words, is it worth so much risk?
- This is just one more competition. Naturally, we want to do our best, but December is December. Athletes of this level should peak a little later. But of course we don't want to lose.
- When Aliona and Robin announced after Vancouver Games that they were going to stay and compete for another four years, many thought that that decision was ill-advised, dictated not by common sense, but rather by the frustration with the Olympic defeat . And what was your reaction to that decision?
- I can certainly say that it was not spontaneous. Yes, we were all quite upset then. But the next morning we talked very calmly. We discussed the perspectives, and made the decision.
- Three years ago, when Savchenko and Szolkowy became European champions and Maria Mukhortova and Maxim Trankov took bronze, I spoke with Oleg Vasiliev, and he said that Aliona and Robin have almost reached their limits, while their competitors just started climbing up. And Tatiana Tarasova, quite the opposite, believes that your athletes haven't met their potential yet. What do you think, as their coach?
- I would rather agree with Tarasova. Limit - it is when you suggest something to the athletes only to realize that they are not able to do it. When I was competing myself, and skated with Mandy Wetzel, I knew that I did only 50-60% of what I was capable to. Yes, we won European championship in 1995 and World championship in 1997, but that doesn't change anything. Perhaps that feeling of dissatisfaction, inability to completely express myself became a driving force in my coaching career. If we are to speak about a limit now, it is only my limit as a coach. Will I be able to offer my athletes something more interesting, more complicated, more impressive?
- How do you manage to motivate your students for so many years, by the way?
- Motivation is always present in figure skating, I think. New music, new elements, new programs - that makes it interesting for you. Again, this is mostly my problem rather than than my skaters'. And it's a massive challenge for myself.
- Don't you have a feeling that Aliona, skating with Robin, has to adjust to his level just as you had to adjust to your partner? And, accordingly, don't you have a feeling that she doesn't reach her full potential?
- No, I don't. When Aliona and Robin just teamed up, it took them a while to work it out. First, they were taught different basics, and secondly, Robin was too "slow" for Aliona. But that problem doesn't exist anymore.
- But you're not going to argue that between the two of them, Savchenko is a leader, are you?
- So it's great. To begin with, there cannot be two leaders in a team, otherwise a duet is just doomed to failure. Robin is a brilliant performer. It is enough to tell him what he should do, and you can rest assured everything will be done thoroughly. Moreover, he is very comfortable with the situation.
- I always thought that dealing with a female leader was not easy.
- Aliona has good character. The main thing is not to stand in her way when she pursues her goal.
- As far as I know you, you always work with their skaters alone. You do everything yourself: you choose music, do the choreography, costumes drafts. Is it your principle to not turn to anyone for help?
- Not at all. I told Aliona and Robin many times that I wouldn't mind if they got their programs from someone else. But they firmly believe that I do best. For me, it is a very big additional work and responsibility, but there's nothing you can do.
- So your current coaching position is working with one pair?
- No, there are other skaters, although they are not so well-known. Not to mention that until recently I worked with Tatiana Volosozhar and Stanislav Morozov.
- I heard that when Volosozhar finished her former partnership and teamed up with Maxim Trankov, she originally intended to continue training in your group in Germany. Is this true?
- What prevented it?
- Savchenko and Szolkowy's decision to continue competing until Sochi Olympics. When Tatiana skated with Morozov, the difference between them and Aliona and Robin was significant. Therefore, they were doing great in the same group. I think it is impossible to work with two pairs of the same level. And, as far as I know, Russian figure skating federation wanted Tanya and Maxim to stay in Russia.
- What do you think of them as competitors?
- They are good competitors. They make for an interesting competition. So we'll compete.