"The champions must push their sport forward" Elena Vaitsekhovskaya speaks to Marina Zueva for sport-express.ru
During the Moscow Grand Prix competition which took place in `Megasport' palace Zueva was the living example for a saying by the legendary Moskvina `The coach's place during the competition is in a restaurant!'. Zueva was giving interviews, talking to friends showing all she her skaters are ready and don't need her to be around all the time. It was obvious Virtue/Moir, the Olympic champions are unreachable.
MZ: All their lifts this season are new. They are unique in combining the complicated positions with complicated changes. Hence the lifts are interesting to watch. I'd like the ISU to mark the complication of such lifts next season with GOE or levels. In our case work on the lifts took about half of the time, hence we needed the B competition at the beginning of the season to try out and we picked Oberstdorf.
EV: Why didn't you show up there?
MZ: Scott pulled his neck a bit before the flight when performing the final lift of the SD. Our phisio said there is no problem continuing training, but the 8 hours flight during which they will be almost motionless can deepen the injury. Hence we had to give Oberstdorf up, though I already checked in to the flight.
I offered Tessa and Scott to change the damn lift or at least give it up on the first competition SC, but they insisted : they are champions.
EV: Speaking of which - what happened with that lift in Canada that it was not counted?
MZ: Tessa's dress was on Scott's head and they got `stuck'. If it happened at the end of the season they would cope, but it was so sudden that instead of changing the position Scott just stopped between the rotations.
EV: Even putting that lift aside I've never seen your skaters skating with so many little mistakes throughout the programme.
MZ: Indeed. It was caused by the final stages of the preparations: after the injury Scott got a cold so we just didn't have enough time to do all the work that was needed to be done. Hence we were not 100% prepared. Which is why am especially thrilled with how Virtue/Moir performed in Canada: for their state back then they did all they could and even more. Let me repeat: it's easy to show good skating at the beginning of the season if you are not doing anything new: the transitions, the spins, the lifts. But all Tessa and Scott are doing this season they had to learn from the scratch. I'm not complaining, just explaining why the beginning of the season was as it was. Anyway, I always thought the champions should push their sport forward, must be innovative.
EV: What can you tell about your american pair Davis/White?
MZ: The same as about Tessa and Scott: all their programmes are new with the new elements. The only thing they kept from the previous season is the starting lift which was the judges' request: it's such a beautiful and an unusual lift that it shouldn't disappear after just one season. But I was attemtpting to do the same with them as with the Canadians: the maximum difficulty combined with the maximum originality. Everyone is looking up to the champions and the rules are changed according to what the champions do.
EV: How and when have you decided they should skate to `Carmen'?
MZ: I was thinking about it about 5 years ago when Tessa and Scott had just started skating on the seniors level. Everyone were saying Scott is the one visible in the pair. He is the real dancer, while Tessa is a beautiful shadow. Besides she wasn't a brunette back then. So I started thinking why is it? She is well built, her technique is superb. So we just have to think of a theme that would show her potential. Previously all the `love' stories were about `how much Scott loves Tessa'. I guess she could pull the Carmen when she was 17. But I don't think it would be as good as this season.
EV: What were you trying to achieve when working on the choreography?
MZ: I was trying to come up with something completely new for figure skating?
EV: And you decided to go for sex?
MZ: I'd call it `dramatic sex'. Of course before getting down to work I watched all the possible carmens in figure skating. I still consider Bestemianova/Bukin's `Carmen' the best. The fact Tessa have been working with a ballet teacher and was learning both classical and modern ballet ever since she was a kid made things easier. I even invited a ballet choreographer to help: after all the things in ballet and modern differ from figure skating.
EV: When you were parting with Igor Spilband during the summer there were many talks it'll effect the skating of your pairs. Were there any negative consequences of that story?
MZ: Of course. For me the parting itself was a tragedy. But I couldn't go on working under the conditions he offered.
EV: You mean his desire to work with the new pairs alone?
MZ: Yes. He wrote me about it. That he wants to have a group of his own and he'd take the best ice time etc. I tried to explain that in my point of view working as a team means there are no private pupils and common pupils, but Igor said he already made his mind. So it was his decision, not mine.
EV: Was it easy to find a replacement for Igor?
MZ: It wasn't easy. On one hand I knew I'll find a coach - there are many specialists in the USA who are doing a great job, even if their ways are different from mine. On the other hand even Oleg Epstein who joined the team (he used to work with Staviiski, Kostomarov, Averbukh) didn't agree immediately. Besides Oleg I collaborate with other specialists: now it's Margaglio.
EV: When Virtue/Moir became world champions with Davis/White being secons I had a feeling it wasn't completely fair : I like Davis/White better than Virtue/Moir in Nice. Were there differences within the group?
MZ: We never talk about the results or it's fairness in the group. The competition is over ,the medals were given, that's it! No talks and no moods. I teach the athletes all the time no matter what the result is you have to accept it. You have to know how to win and how to loose gracefully.
EV: It might happen that the skaters will only endure so much and leave the coach eventually?
MZ: If it's `enduring' then yes, it might blow at the worst moment possible. But if the attitude is right you understand not winning is not a tragedy. You didn't win today - you will tomorrow. Davis/White beat Virtue/Moir just 2 weeks after the Worlds in the Team Trophy.
EV: You said Shibutani/Shibutani can place 2nd in Moscow.
MZ: Yes. I think Maya and Alex have all it takes. There are things they do better than anyone else. They are creating lace rather than skating. I'd say their blade is the softest, they skate on a very deep edges. When they skate well even the hardest elements look easy. Of course it was hard for them in Moscow - it's their first competition with the new programmes, but I can tell it'll be great by the end of the season. And the pre olympic season is going to be a hard one.
EV: Do you have the Olympic programmes in mind?
MZ: Yes. For a while.
EV: There is a saying the Olympic programmes should be special.
MZ: They will be, of course. Any programme is an Olympic one. I'd say it's not about the programmes, but about the champions bringing something new to the sport. This is what I think about when I start working on the new programmes. Guess it worked this time?