Zhulin talks to Grebenkina and Rodak in "Triangular" @ 3channel.ru
Grebenkina; today in the studio the European champion, the world champion, olympic medalist, a great coach Alexand Zhulin. Hello, Sasha
Rodak: Sochi olympics, who are you going to root for?
Hopefully for my pupils, hope to get them ready and hope to root for them
Rodak: who are they?
Zh: my two Russian pairs: Bobrova/Soloviev and Monko/Khaliavin. Bobrova/Soloviev are more experienced and well known, but Monko/Khaliavin are younger but also have a great potential and I really hope at least one of those pairs will attempt even for the medal.
Rodak: you think there is a chance?
Zh: hope so
Grebenkina: what about the singles? Who will you be waching and cheering?
Zh: I guess Pluschenko, who they said is deep in preparations, hope he will be there, if he is not there I will be rooting for my compatriots. For the Russians.
Grebenkina: do you think the athlets should be watching the competitions? Whether it's watching their competitors, or, say, if the athlete is a dancer should they watch the singles?
Zh: I will ask you back Nastia- you were my pupil. Did you watch the skating?
Grebenkina: no, I never did
Zh: and you were right. I think bothers the skater's focus during the competition.
Rodak: are you emotional when watching figure skating?
Zh: Yes, I am when I watch competitions that do not concern me like pairs or singles. As for the dance I'm very calm (at least on the cerface) - I feel very deeply for my skaters and I don't want them to see it.
Grebenkina: I don't know, I saw you several times dancing along with you skaters. At least when Navka was skating at the Olympics.
Zh: No one forbade the coaches dancing during their pupils skates, besides back then Tanya was my wife and coaching your wife is not an easy task.
Grebenkina: Yeah, I guess. Nevertheless, it's so cute when the skaters are out there and the coach as if trying to help them doing their moves behind the bars.
Zh: and then you realize you can't help, but you're doing it nevertheless. Though I guess some energy passes through to the skaters and I hope they receive it.
Grebenkina: we are 1.5 years before the olympics and coaching switches are possible. About a year ago your very good skaters left the group - first Ilinyh/Katsalapov, then the French Pechalat/Bourzat. Did you feel your coaching career was over?
Zh: It was a scary experience. It happened that I went to Greece to heal my back for 5 days right after the Worlds and 2 days later I was notified on the first switch, then immediatelly on the other and I was left with no group. I was left with no one to work with. The thought to leave the country crossed my mind if there wasn't an option to coach in Moscow. I didn't mind taking young athletes. It was a blow below the belt.
Rodak: you took it as a treason.
Zh: Not the French. The French pair got a hint from their federation Zhulin would be putting more effort to coach the Russian pair, so I can understand their motives. We parted in a good terms: they invited me to meet them and we had tears in our eyes when parting. It was a French federation decision they obeyed and it's understandable: as French they would be uncomfortable skating on a Russian ice before the Olympics. I understood perfectly their situation.
As for Ilinyh/Katsalapov I still don't realy understand, but it's the 2nd time they left my group, so guess there was something that was bothering them.
Rodak: wait, leaving for the 2nd time? I.e. you already took them back once?
Zh: I did once and told them should they leave the group again I will not take them back. It doesn't seem they would want to go back to me, but even if they would 90% I wouldn't take them back.
Grebenkina: Taking you coached them since they were kids and Nikita more or less grew up in front of you and yuo made a skater of him and Elena as well, did they come and voice out what they didn't like in your coaching, programmes etc or they just burnt the bridges and that was it?
Zh: Frankly the pair was created not by me, but by Lobacheva and Averbukh - they skated in Lobacheva's group as kids, then they skated in my group, then they split and Nikita skated with another partner, then Elena came back
Grebenkina: but that was on your ice
Zh: Yes, it was in my group. It was under me and Oleg Volkov they became junior world champions winning with a huge gap.
They are extremely talented. If you remember there was once a Russian skater Alexandr Abt. Those people don't like working too hard. They are trying to avoid all the hard work behind. I think one can't become a great athlete without that work.
Rodak: i.e. in order to become a great skater one must be very hard working even if not extremely talented
Zh: Yes, hard work is the most important thing. My special talent is to work hard. It's like being very flexible or very charismatic. Hence
this pair and I really did not see eye to eye on that. As my good friend two times Olympic Champion Arthur Dmitriev says: if there is a problem take a mirror and look there instead of blaming the others.
You can blame the coach, the choreographer...
Grebenkina: So who were they blaming?
Zh: I'm not going into the details, but the parents had their say as well. I only figured later the switch was planned in advance and well, I'm not going to dig in the past.
Rodak: did you yourself ever try to get a pair or a skater into your group
Zh: Never! I only ever took those who asked to join my group themselves.
Grebenkina: Indeed, it's the truth
Zh: Am not into that. But when the athletes as to join the group I check all the pros and cons and think whether I can or can not help them. So far it was good - everyone who joined the group progressed.
Rodak: do you like the figure skating system now or you'd like improve/rework something?
Zh: I got more or less used to the CoP. I used to hate it. I still don't like some of the aspects, for instance the lifts are all the same, the programmes don't differ that much, the elements and the levels are so hard and so important that it's hard to come up with something that would be both difficult enough and creative, hence there are lots of look alike programmes. There isn't even enough time to work on the programme's choreography - there is no place for it left. But we are trying our best and the top skaters manage to skate interesting programmes even with the CoP.
It took us the longest to get used to the rules - the Canadians and the Americans were the ones to come up with the new rules and for five years they held various leveled competitions in CoP. So when the system was changed it was quite sudden for the Russians we were not ready. We later bought the computers, saw what the new system was and started chasing that train that was going full speed. The result of the new system are 2 amazing pairs : Davis/White and Virtue/Moir who are the best in the world and they are very far away
Rodak: do we have a chance to get them?
Zh: There is always a chance. We just have to work very hard. It's late now to cry over the spilled milk and claim the system is wrong and doesn't work. If would be silly. If the others could work with that system you have to just catch up with them and then overtake.
Rodak: what motivates the skaters to work hard now? Is it money? Fame?
Zh: I think it differs from athlete to athlete and from generation to generation. One wants a new car, another a good pair of jeans and for someone to see their flag rising is important.
Rodak: what about you?
Zh: Oh, I wanted that `USSR' read sweather to wear it and wave from the bus so the others woul wave back at me. That was my motivation.
Rodak: what about your pupils? Is the the same for them - just a sweather?
Zh: It wasn't just a sweather for me - I come from quite a poor family and going abroad and having that sweather meant a lot. We used to be much more patriotic. I don't think my skaters are equally patriotic, but I can't say they are working less hard. They realize how popular figure skating is, especially in Russia. Becoming a European/Worlds/Olympics medallist you ensure a place in those shows, theatre on ice, TV shows etc that will make you a famous and a well off person. I think it's quite motivating.
There are others- those whose parents were athletes and those who just really want to win and see their flag rising - nevermind even for which place, though, of course, they all want to win - it's in their blood the need to win.
Grenebkina: a personal relationship with a parnter - does it motivate? If, say, a guy wants to hit on a girl will he skate better?
Zh: No, he'll just try to hit on a girl. I think it's quite the opposited - the relationship in the pair bother. You should come to work and do your job, while that female partner who is always not making it to the end, she is always weaker and really bothers - you can stand her for 4 hours but if you have to face her the rest of the time... And it's the same for her
Rodak: but it's exactly what you did!
Zh: I was young and silly.
Rodak: i.e. you forbid relationships among the partners in your group?
Zh: Of course not. If they work hard, do their job and have great relationship - I'm all for it.
Grebenkina: does it ever happen?
Zh: Quite seldom.
Rodak: I heard quite a few times when the partners abuse each other, usually it's the guys abusing the girls. What does the coach do about it? Does he turn a blind eye or does he take a guy to a talk?
Zh: I know such pairs exist and I myself was far from a lovely partner. It's not an abuse, but you really want to get somewhere, you want that result and you want to win so badly
Rodak: but why blaming the female partner?
Zh: She is weaker to begin with, so she gets tired much faster than the male partner
Rodak: that's where the male partner comes in, gives a hand and..
Grebenkina: but it's hard for him too
Zh:That's right, but you just have a feeling of skating with a heavy weight on your shoulders. You woul be so fast running towards that medal, yet no, you have to carry that weight.
Rodak: then why not go for the singles?
Zh: Exactly! That's a very smart saying. This is what I tell the male partners who start complaining `there is no, well, let's say Monko/Khaliavin, so there is no pair Khaliavin, there is a pair Monko/Khaliavin, those are you 50% of success'. Note it's just an example.
Grebenkina: so you get in the way if things go out of hand
Zh: Sure. And I explain each is responsible for 50% of the success and if she can't cope make sure she can - help her, work harder.
Rodak: there is a rumour your wife Natalia gave up her career. Did you make her?
Zh: I didn't make her, I adviced her. When she retired she was 6th in Russia, she was 2nd in the Junior worlds. She is very talented, but there was no male partner such as Kostomarov or Soloviev or Katsalapov for her. There was no point skating for the 6th place in the nationals. She is young and talented, she can find another field. It would be a skating to nowhere.
it's the first 15 minutes, more to come