Ekaterina Kulinicheva (EK): Elizaveta Tuktamysheva has finished the Grand Prix series on a positive note - with a brilliant performance of the long program and second place in Paris. After that skate, didn't you think that she might win the event?
Alexei Mishin (AM): I think that she certainly should have placed first. No one, even among our girls, has shown recently such jump set and such quality of jumps, but ... Looking at all the manipulations with program components that take place today in figure skating, you cannot help but think: was the judging system change even worth it?
EK: At her other Grand Prix, Skate Canada, Tuktamysheva was 0.03 points away from the third place. If she ended up on the podium, she would have a very good chance of making the second Grand Prix final in a row ...
AM: Maybe. But I'm not sure if she needs this final or not. Last year, we've been in the final, which resulted in failed Russian National Championship. I wouldn't want this story to repeat itself.
EK: Elizaveta was not upset?
AM: Girls like her, who had made their way from periphery, have certain resilience. Furthermore, Liza has been training for many years in good company of elite male skaters. When you see an Olympic champion not in the movies or on YouTube, but "live" when he is talking to you, making jokes, it means a lot. In general, Tuktamysheva is not that easy to upset. By the way, I want to thank all the experts who work with Liza. Coach Svetlana Veretennikova, choreographer Tatiana Prokofieva, general physical preparation coach Andrey Milonov, basic skating coach Vlad Vladimirov. Because I, as a public person, am being the only one getting all praise. I would like to share it with these people. Also special thanks to Liza's mother. She raised a girl with a true fighting spirit.
EK: How difficult was the growth spurt for Tuktamysheva?
AM: It's not that difficult. Maybe it is not easy sometimes for Svetlana Veretennikova and me (smiles). In fact, except for the weight gain, Liza has no problems associated with growing up. Her coordination is still all right. Her jumping technique is all right, like all the athletes' in our group. She is not falling apart because of height and weight changes. If the same Plushenko had incorrect technique, he would never be able to make a comeback, let alone to do it twice. So let's go easy on Liza and just wait. If this girl has already defeated the strongest adult skaters in the world, it means she has something in her.
EK: You once said that when you were a young coach you were in a hurry to prove that you are capable of much, and made mistakes because of it. Isn't the same thing happening with Liza?
AM: Why would she be in a hurry? She has a correct understanding of the situation. Sometimes, skater in the transition period starts falling on all jumps. But Liza has the ability to get everything together and fight. Even at the Grand Prix in Canada, she did not get on the podium, but, considering the condition she was in there, she did an A+ job.
EK: Will Evgeni Plushenko skate in Dortmund?
AM: The decision is still pending. Recently, Zhenya underwent a preventive procedure under general anesthesia in Germany, after which he missed a week of training. We understand perfectly well that we need this event - both for ranking points and for competitive experience. And just to show that he is alive. After all, he hadn't shown up anywhere, except the test skates. But on the other hand, I do not want to let him in the battle unprepared. It is one thing to show fragments in a show, and quite another to skate the entire program. This requires a different level of preparation. Actually, I plan to organize a special event later here in St. Petersburg. Invite serious athletes, judges, and give Evgeni a test run.
EK: Recently, Plushenko celebrated an anniversary. And at the celebration in St. Petersburg you presented your student with a portrait of himself and his wife.
AM: Evgeni is a wealthy man. It's pointless to give him a watch, a ring, or even a car. He is having a time of his life when he does not have to buy cars - companies themselves are fighting for the right to give it to him. Why I gave him such a picture? His wife Yana is portrayed on it as a guardian angel. Due to the anniversary I was often asked what I wish Zhenya. As an athlete, I wish him victories, there is nothing to explain. And as a man and a person, I wish him a good family - and certainly with Yana. Of all the women he met in life, she is the right one.
EK: They say you have not been in Moscow for his birthday party.
AM: I just arrived from Canada, and on Saturday I had a practice to attend. That's why I didn't go. I considered it would be wrong.
EK: You weren't afraid that Evgeni might be offended?
AM: Time of taking offense for us has long ago passed. Actually, there never even was such time, I think. Most people, in case of failure, tend to blame it on the timing, on the music, on the ice, on the pants that got in the way. Evgeni lacks this tendency completely. A rare quality for an elite athlete, and for a person. Even at such difficult time that was for us, for example, Salt Lake City, I have not heard from him a single reproach.
EK: And after Vancouver?
AM: After Vancouver either.
EK: Does he tend to blame himself, then?
AM: If he blames himself, he doesn't to it in the form of public statements. Each difficulty generates additional forces in him. Now, for example, Zhenya understands perfectly well what high a level of competition waits him in Sochi, and therefore he increases his demands to himself, working ability. I would also like to say about age. 30 years seem like a lot, as far as athletes go. But I still cannot find in him any indication of coordination aging. And if you look at his attitude to sport, what is called the fun of skating - he is really having fun. Often, if something does not work out in practice, Zhenya starts jumping on two feet, fooling around, teasing. You can see the unspent youth. And now, maybe, you see it even more than during the Turin Games. Then he was less cheerful and dynamic.
EK: You said you do not like parties and celebrations. But Plushenko seems to like being in the spotlight. Was there any tension because of that?
AM: It's a wrong impression. It's just that his wife belongs to show business world, where one cannot just go into the woods and live in a tent. In this world, you cannot exist without a certain number of magazine articles, television stories and so on. But as an athlete Plushenko is very tough in selecting the communication channels.
EK: Is it final, that he will skip the Worlds this season?
AM: If possible, I wouldn't answer this question yet.
EK: Then I will ask a different one. Russia will be represented by only one skater at Worlds. And the Olympic quota in Sochi will depend on the result of said skater. Naturally, many people hope that Plushenko changes his mind and will get us two or even three places at home games. Do you and he feel any pressure because of that?
AM: We need one good place, not two or three bad ones. This is our position.
EK: Is there any news about Artur Gachinsky's health? Not long ago, you said that he has problems with immunity.
AM: There really are problems. Perhaps this is due to the second wave of adolescence. We thoroughly examine Artur, looking for reasons why he lacks stamina. After all, this leads to mistakes, and they, in turn, lead to psychological insecurity. Artur is in a difficult situation. His current mistakes are, of course, inexcusable, and I am dissatisfied with his performance. But he's a very gifted athlete. Recently his was doing quadruple Salchow jump in practices - I've never seen such a performance of this jump of anyone in the world. At the Grand Prix in Canada Gachinski did two quads, and only the winner, Javier Fernandez, did the same. I'm sure Artur will overcome the current difficulties. He's got everything for it.
EK: How is Gachinski coping with the current situation?
AM: Human body is a whole. When he feels that due to lack of physical strength he cannot do something, it messes up his head, too. Now Gachinski is stressed psychologically. Because of the contradiction between his potential, which he is aware of, and his current results. After all, Artur is able to do quadruple toe loop, quad Salchow and quad loop. In addition, he is very gifted artistically. I repeat: I believe in Artur. I believe, that for him there are no insurmountable barriers. And, I, of course, like everyone else, want everything to go back to normal as soon as possible.
EK: Last year you were saying that it was too early to give Sochi 2014 gold medal the two-time world champion Patrick Chan of Canada, and to pay attention, for example, to young Japanese Yuzuru Hanyu, who has already updated the world record in the short program this year. And what about Javier Fernandez, who beat Chan in Canada, could he be a potential "king of Sochi"?
AM: Yes. Fernandez, and another Japanese - Tatsuki Machida. At recent meeting with the Minister of Sport Vitaly Mutko, I said that the main danger in Sochi will come not from the well-known ones, but from those whose names are just beginning to appear at top positions in protocols.