Vaitskhovskaya talks to Eteri Tuberidze after the JGPF
The coach of Yulia Lipnitskaya and Polina Shelepen - the gold and silver medalists of the JGPF 2011 told about her pupils and the state of ladies skating in Russia.
The interview with Eteri Tuberidze had to be postponed: she wanted to see the medals ceremony and the press conference where her pupils were present. I was trying to dig some information on her in the mean while and quickly learned no one could really tell whether she was a single skater or a pair and what were her achievements. I had to start the interview with asking her that.
ET: Probably I'm not known because I was skating when the perestroika began. First I was training in Eduard Pliner's wife group, then in Pliner's group. I was skating in the same group with Yuri Bureiko, Marina Tvceritinova, Anna Kondrasheva. I began as a single skater and later switched to the ice dance being too tall. Who haven't coached me! Tarasova, Tchaikovskaya, Linichuk, Akkerman, Tarasonva again...
EV: And what did you achieve?
ET: I became a Russian cup series medallist a coupe of times, made it to the final. But it's not really serious. At the age of 18 I moved to the USA and for 5 years skated in `Ice Capades' show.
EV: You were lucky to find a job so fast. The ice dancers were not that popular in the USA back then.
ET: I realized that immediately and had to switch. I couldn't revive my single skating skills enough in order to be interesting for the American audience, so I found a fairly good partner who used to skate in Velikovas' group and we started performing as `Adagio team'
My American adventure lasted for six years. After I left the show I coached for a year. Anyone who wanted to learn. Finding a job was easy enough - the Russian specialists were welcomed and well payed. I worked from the early morning till the late night, but it was so boring. As if my life stopped at the age of 24. After some thought I came back to Moscow.
EV: Was it easy to find a job?
ET: No. Nobody expected me. First I came to Tchaikovskaya. I was eager to do any job, but she had no openings. Then I tried on the other rinks and eventually found a job in Brateevo, then moved to Zelenograd and eventually found a job in the rink `Serebrianyi' - it's where I started a group that the 4 y.o. Polina Shelepen joined. Another skater who skated in my group back then was Polina Korobeinikova, who parents brought to me at the age of 3.
The problem was that `Serebrianyi' was a hockey rink. The most I could expect was a 1.5 hours a day and even that wasn't promised - during the competitions our practises were cancelled. When the first success came I was offered to move to Beliaevo where I teach till today.
Frankly, I was looking where to move myself. I started thinking about it when my skaters ran away to Alexey Mishin and Marina Kudriavtseva. There wasn't enough ice time for them in `Serebriany'
EV: Isnt' it a rink that threw away Tarasova?
ET: That's right. Right after Tarasova was thrown away we were `closed'. Have I stayed I probably would have lost all my skaters.
EV: When and where did you find Yulia Lipnitskaya?
ET: Her mother found me. Am lazy - I only care about what is directly related to my work. My skaters were competing in a certain age group, while Yulia was younger. I think I wouldn't have noticed her for quite a while if her mother hadn't called me and asked to take a look.
EV: What attracted her the most in Lipnitskaya?
ET: Her flexibility. Back home in Ekaterinburg she was doing both figure skating and rhythmic gymnastics. being quite good at both. I accepted her to my group immediately and was quite surprised to learn that in addition to the natural amazing flexibility Lipnitskaya spends quite a lot of time working on it daily.
EV: You mentioned you started working with Shelepen and Korobeinikova when they were 3 and 4 y.o. Is such an early start a necessary condition for figure skating?
ET: No, it just happened. I can't even call it a practise - the kids are just on get on the ice and I drag the malong. Though Korobeinikova at the age of 3 was different than the others.
ET: Her parents started taking her skiing when she was 2. So when they put her on the ice it looked as if she was skiing. She was wearing a slightly big overall and bended like on the slope when skating. And she had a beaming smile. She was so funny. Her smile is still the same.
EV: Why did you part?
ET: Polina moved twice with me from rink to rink, but I saw how hard it is for her parents. So I offered them myself to take her to `Moskvich' rink which was not far from where they live and stop dragging the kid in the endless Moscow traffic jams.
EV: I remember 2 years ago everyone were talking about Shelepen. Now all the attention is on Lipnitskaya. Are you afraid Yulia might collapse under the pressure like Polina did last year?
ET: It's hard to predict. It will become more obvious when she'll start understanding the responsibility. For example Polina can't carry that weight. She is more comfortable chasing after the leader. When she participated her first junior grand prix final she was the favourite. She became second. Last year - 5th. Now Lipnitskaya gets all the attention, which allowed Polina to relax and skate better.
Yulia is completely different. She wants to be a leader. There was a time when I saw how annoyed Lipnitskaya is not being able to beat Shelepen.
EV: There are a lot of talented Russian kids who are knocking on the team door, but everyone talks about only two - Adelina Sotnikova and Elizaveta Tuktamysheva. Do you mind?
ET: I did at first, especially seeing how it influences Polina. It was obvious she wanted to be talked about and unlike Sotnikova and Tuktamysheva she was a JGPF silver medallist. I don't mind it now. As a coach it's a good thing all the pressure is not on my skaters. Adelina is a fine example how such stress might be too much. She is the fulfil everyone's Sochi hopes. Liza starts to receive part of that burden and, as it showed, is not always able to keep cool.
Such an attention is nice when it's a single event, not when you are pressed by the other people's expectations all the time. Like it happens in athletics - in the long distance run - the one who hides behind the others backs, rests and then bursts right before the finish. I would like my skaters to do the same.
EV: Seeing how effortlessly Lipnitskaya performs the complicated jumps I can't help thinking she should be doing 3/3.
ET: She does.
EV: Nevertheless in her LP Yulia only did a combination with a 2A.
ET: I think it's enough for now. It's not in Russia we are competing.
EV: What do you mean by that?
ET: The judging rules are slightly different in Russia. The 3/3 gives bonuses and they are added to the final result. 2 points for a 3t/3t, 3 points for 3lu/3t or 3f/3t. In the international competitions those jumps, whether performed in a sequence or alone cost the same. Yulia can do all those combinations in the practices, but she lacks the competitive experience. I didn't want to press on her in Canada, it's a different type of pressure. Sotnikova gave all she had in the 3lu/3r combination in her GP in Moscow and was unable to finish the programme won the same level.
EV: Could it be because Adelina is going through puberty?
ET: Who doesn't. Look at Polina and Yulia. They are young women!
EV: Commenting on her skate in Canada Yulia said she've never been so emotional about her skating.
ET: I saw that. Usually Yulia hurries up - she runs before the music, while here she held everything as if she wanted people to enjoy the move a bit more. Besides, she was keeping the eye contact with the audience and blossoming in their reaction. It's the fist time I saw it in her skating.
EV: Guess it gives me an answer to the question whether the girls and the ladies should be competing together
ET: I think the sports like figure skating, rhythmic gymnastics are much easier for the girls than the boys. It's like game. And they are not exactly children. They are all different. For example I have a skater in my group - Zhenia Medvedeva, who is just one year younger than Lipnitskaya. This year of an age difference is a big deal. Sometimes I think it's 5-6 years rather than just one. Polina was a child when she was Yulia's age. Yulia is an adults. In every way.
EV: Will Zhenia Medvedeva participate the Russian nationals?
ET: It's a sore point. When we were leaving to Canada Zhenia was the fist substitute. She was not included in the participants, even though in the 5th Russian cup event she gained enough points and even beat Ksenia Makarova in the LP. I don't know what to tell her should she ask why Anna Ovcharova, who gained just 12 points in 2 events is going, while Zhenia jas 16 points from just one. Or why Masha Staviskaia , who Zhenia beat this season as well is in the participants list. Becasue Staviskaya and Ovcharova are training with a more experienced coach? I.e. the Federation when behaving like that gives a reason to ask questions.
EV: Do you work with the boys as well?
ET: Yes. I have many in my group, 8. But only 3 girls.
EV: How do you manage to do everything? Do you live on the ice ink?
ET: No, moreover: all my skaters train on the same ice rink.
EV: The Eteri Tuberidze group skating?
ET: You could call it that. But we are already used to that and to each other. So no one cares about the others.