'Sometimes you have to take a break from good programmes' - Elena Vaitsekhovskaya for sport-express.ru
Nikolai Morozov and his skaters spent most of the summer in the USA. When he came back to Moscow he announced his quite a big group to become even bigger. The World champion of 2010 Takahashi came back to his old time coach. It was Morozov who brought him to his first Worlds medal in 2007.
We met in Novogorsk right after he came back to Russia. He warned me straight away not all the male skaters are there - the European champion Florent Amodio was supposed to come at the end of the week to be followed by Takahashi two days later. Lacking the foreign skaters Voronov was fighting his jet lag on the ice.
EV: Nikolai, after the worlds in Nice I had an impression you are not too eager to continue working with Voronov. Have you changed your mind?
NM: well.. .we talked.
EV: What were not satisfied with?
NM: All and all Sergey did a fine job, but he never crossed the line, which I think one has to cross in order to achieve something. In Nice he jumped everything he had to. Did the 4+3 in the SP but still became 17th. In Europeans his technical mark in the LP was not bad, but still he was 10th. So I asked him what are his goals. To make it to the team to participate the Sochi Olympics so he gets all the cloths? What's the point training so much then? So we had to work somehow differently
I think he understood what I meant. At any rate, I like what we do now. Sergey does a lot on his own and I just watch him. I see that his attitude to the sports have changed.
EV: Talking to Mishin not so long ago I quoted one of your colleagues who said that not many skaters understand what do they do during the practices and why.
NM: Unfortunately, it's true. I'd say the foreigners understand much better why do they waste their time on the sport. They want to be famous and understand the fame would give a boost to their future career. They see it as a beginning of their professional life, and that besides realizing they can earn good money in figure skating. Hence they are serious about their practices. For instance, they learn the new rules themselves, think how can they gain more points. After all it's easy now - take a piece of paper and do the calculations. I got used to my foreigners to show up at the beginning of the season with something they worked on. Not just level 4 spins, but some ideas how to increase the GOE of certain elements.
While coaching the Russian skaters I was always amazed no one knows the rules. They also don't attempt to learn something new every day.
EV: Why do you think it is?
NM: I reckon the male single skaters dont' believe they have a chance to compete on the top level. The competition is too high. Besides, only several would make it to the Europeans or the Worlds. The rest compete with each other only and have other Russian skaters to look up at. The other reason is that they have everything as it is: salary, skating camps, free costumes. I.e. they get much more than their foreign competitors. Take Amodio: when he trains in Novogorsk he pays 4000rubles (about 130$) a day from his own money. You think he would waste that money on nothing? Hence they try to learn everything they possibly can from their coaches.
EV: I though such eagerness is common for the Japanese skaters mainly.
NM: The Japanese are more disciplined and hardworking. It's kind of a national thing.
EV: When did you decide with Takahashi he'd join your group?
NM: I offered him to resume working together when we met quite by chance in Junior worlds before Nice. He had some problems with his boot, with something else.... So we decided we'd work together next season. Our parting was very civilized - it just happened. Takahashi changed a lot during that time - he used to listen and obey to what the others told him, but now he has a point of view on his own and a will to be the owner of his life. As far as his skating goes he improved as well, even though he never did two quads in this programmes. I still think had he not left in 2008 he would be the Olympic champion in Vancouver. The gap wasn't so big.
EV: Are you worried about potential problems with Japanese federation with Takahashi's comeback?
NM: There were no conflicts. Just financial disagreements. I took Daisuke when he was a no one. He even lived in my house for a while at the beginning. But once he started to deliver he was surrounded by some unknown people who signed the contracts with him and were earning money. As a coach I was offended. Now we signed all the financial agreements.
EV: If you decided upon everything in advance, why were his programmes choreographed by Camerlengo and Myamoto?
NM: We decided I'll choreograph his Olympic season programmes.
EV: Do you have the ideas?
NM: Not yet. It's an important job and demands a lot of thinking. I have to work with him on the ice and see how can some ideas com true, understand where would he look the best. Hence we decided this year programmes will be choreographed by those Takahashi worked with during the last couple of seasons.
EV: Which is harder: working with someone else programmes or your own?
NM: Not much difference. If the athlete or I dislike something in the programme it can always be changed. I invite other people to work on the choreography as well. The fresh ideas are always welcomed: sometimes things are more clear when you are not biased and not sucked in the process.
EV: Did you accept Pushkah/Gureiro to your group to have a sparring pair for Ilinyj/Katsalapov?
NM: Not only. When I was accepting them in the Spring I thought about working with a dance couple if for some reason I will not be able to continue working with Ilinyh/Katsalapov.
EV: Was that an option?
NM: When you work with such a pair it's always an option. Sometimes it's their moods, sometimes it's the outside pressure. Fortunately there are no such problems now.
EV: If not a secret, why have you invited Nechaeva/Chesnichenko to work with you in the summer?
NM: Those coaches have been working in the USA for a while now. I wanted their opinion. I don't judge the coaches by their talented pupils, but by their ability to create something great from very casual skaters. Yaroslava and Yuri worked with skaters who, in our books, are no ones and created two junior world champions. They gave some advice to my guys, worked with them on the ice. Besides, I needed to see whether the progress we make in one week is visible for the outsiders.
It's easier with the single skaters: sometimes a glance is enough to measure an element - it's level and figure how much the judges will give for it. In the ice dance I'm not that good yet. Hence I ask various specialists for their help.
EV: Have you choreographed Ilinyh/Katsalapov's programmes yourself?
EV: What do you expect them to do this season?
NM: If they don't make it to the top 3 in the GPF and the Worlds I think there is no point continuing working with them. That will be the time I'll be done with the ice dance. I'll gain some more free time as well....
EV: Why have you began at the first place?
NM: I don't know. Guess I was testing myself - many are certain a Russian pair can't win an Olympic medal in the ice dance. I think not only can they take a medal, but win. When I see the athletes who are capable and understand how to help them - why not give it a try?
EV: Is it possible to beat Patrick Chan in men?
NM: Why not? I think that part of his success is in the Canadian Skating Federation work. The Canadians always talk to the judges during the competition, create some `common knowledge', show, explain, tell what is in the fashion, what should be paid attention to...
EV: I.e. they are behaving in a very correct way.
NM: Yes, though they exaggerate a bit. It is nonsense when the skater receives the points Chan does after falling 3 times. The other athletes see it themselves and start thinking it's only possible to beat Chan if he falls 6 times and not 3. Going through the men protocols is another fun thing to do. Voronov's clean skate in the Europeans beat Joubert's by 13 points and lost 17 points in the 2nd mark. And it's not as if Joubert was particularly good int that either.
EV: What do you think about the recent rules changes?
NM: I reckon thanks to the new system all the skaters have the whole package now, so adjusting to the small changes is not a big deal. It's just about knowing what the rules are and working accordingly straight away.
EV: Who did you work with except for the skaters in your group this season?
NM: Traditionally - Volosozhar/Trankov. I also worked with Julia Lipnitskaya. The Chinese pair came to the USA - they just wanted to show their SP and hear my remarks. And well, my skaters, of course.
EV: I don't want to hurt you, but Amodio's last year programme, I think, was not particularly successful
NM: We weren't aiming for that last year. The goal was to make the quad consistent. So we took the whatever music we found. Working on both the jumps and the programmes made no sense. You have to take a break from good programmes as well from time to time.
EV: What, in your book, differ a good programme from just a programme?
NM: A good programme is everything - the style, the integration of all the elements and the music - like an art masterpiece. It takes a lot to create one.
EV: How many have you created this year?
NM: Amodio's LP, Leonova's SP - an indian hip hop and both Ilinyh/Katsalapov's dances, on which I don't want to elucidate yet.
EV: You have been working with Miki Ando for five years till last year. What do you think about her comeback?
NM: Miki spoke to me this spring, wanted to continue working with me. I declined.
NM: By working with Takahashi I don't think I deprive the Russian skaters from their potential medal. If I work with Ando I might deprive Leonova or Sotnikova or Lipnitskaya from their medal.
EV: I.e. you are not afraid to deprive Pluschenko in Sochi by working with Takahashi?
NM: The gold medal will not depend on how Pluschenko's rivals skate, but how he skates. If he doesn't skate well not only he'll loose to Takahashi, but to a dozen other skaters. He will be 7th. Or 9th.
EV: In other words, you still think if Pluschenko skates to the top of his abilities in Sochi he'll be unbeatable.
NM: I think if he skates a programme with two quads and good spins he has a good chance to win.
EV: Is there a danger having Amodio and Takahashi in your group will make the Russian skaters in your group second important?
NM: They will only gain from that. When it's just Amodio on the ice they skate differently, but if you add Takahashi.... As for the other skaters - there is no danger at all - we have as much ice as we need in Novogorsk.
EV: So if Takahashi and Amodio's presence only does good for Voronov, why don't let Leonova skate with Ando?
NM: Alena doesn't need it since she skates with the guys. Besides, I'm in a difference wave.
EV: Tatiana Tarasova once admitted working with the single skaters is the hardest. Do you agree?
NM: I think working with the girls is the hardest.