Ludmila Velikova, coach of the pair skaters Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov, thinks that her athletes were underscored at the Russian national championships.
Russian national figure skating championships, held in Sochi before the New Year, turned out to be interesting and controversial. Unfortunately, figure skating fans didn't get to see it. Mostly, the audience in the Iceberg skating palace consisted of volunteers, soldiers and construction workers, and it was broadcasted by the obscure satellite channel. NV correspondent asked Liudmila Velikova, whose pupils Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov took the bronze at the event, to speak about the championships.
Oleg Alekseev (OA): What surprised you at the Nationals?
Ludmila Velikova (LV): I'm going to start with the bad one, the story with Konstantin Menshov. I think that the coaches demonstrated great solidarity and decency. And the athletes, too. Everybody wants Konstantin Menshov to go to the European Championships, because he deserves it, having placed third at the Nationals. There are some rules, norms of conduct. You cannot just ignore the coaches. If there were no coaches, there wouldn't be others, either…
Maxim Trankov, of course, was very pleasant to watch. Yuko Kavaguti and Alexander Smirnov skated well. But I think, if you apply the same principle as with Menshov, my pupils have to go to Euros. Because by the same logic, what is the purpose, in perspective, to drag thirty years old girl to international competitions?
I have a great respect for Yuko and Sasha. They got themselves out from such a pit… They found the strength and courage to get themselves together. And after such an unsuccessful Grand Prix Final, they had great skates at the Nationals. So it's double standards. At some point, they want to solve "state issues", like with Menshov. But at the same time, there is an opposite approach to Stolbova/Klimov. Moreover, we re-watched our skates at the nationals. There simply aren't the mistakes the were "found' by technical specialists and controllers. Fedor is a very competent guy. He always analyzes our skates, trying to find the mistakes, how to avoid them… He says: "Today in the morning I re-watched it again. It isn't what it looks like in protocols. We didn't have a level 1 death spiral. Never!"
I will explain: in our case, it is impossible for us to do a level 1 death spiral. Because it is set up for level 4. And all our lift are level 4. And at the Russian Nationals we got everything downgraded a level or two. And thus they got rid of us. Why? Is it a statesmanship? No, I don't think it is. I see no logic in the Federation's actions.
OA: If you don't mind, a few more words about the singles.
LV: I would like to say particularly of Misha Kolyada. I didn't like some things in his free program, but in the short he skated great! He is a very talented boy, and, unfortunately, he also is being held off. But he still manages to outskate the rest. And he will continue to, because you cannot hide the talent. I hope he qualifies for the Junior Worlds and skates well there. Also I liked Zhenya Plushenko a lot. Most of all, his fighting spirit. He managed to get the program together, even though it was very difficult for him. As I know from Alexei Nikolaevich Mishsin, he hasn't had a single full run-through at practices. He performed it for the first time at the Nationals. He is great, of course. But it is such an abuse of his health… God help him.
OA: Was it a surprise for you that neither Alena Leonova, nor Ksenia Makarova didn't get even close to the top three?
LV: It was going to happen, to be honest. I was with Ksusha at training camp. You could have seen, that she is a person that has a choice: to skate or to study. It's completely different when there is only sport and nothing else, "blinders on the eyes, and forward!" I feel sorry for Alena, of course. Because there isn't anything for her besides figure skating. Ksusha is her own person. She is, if I'm not mistaken, in her second year of a very good college. Her life is going to be alright. It's just for now, life chose this variant, with the sport.
Actually, at the Russian Nationals ladies singles were the subject of the most heated discussions. Or, more accurately, the Federation's politics in that regard. I think, that the Federation was destroying both Leonova and Makarova with their own hands. Because it is one thing when 12-13 year olds do the jumps that they later lose because of their growth. But it is completely another matter when grown up skaters try to beat them up in difficulty. They cannot do that. And the olders lose to the young kids. And how are they supposed to go and compete at the European championships? After such psychological trauma?
Look at Polina Shelepen (at some point in time, she was considered to be one of the main hopes at the Sochi Olympics - NV). She has no jumps left. Because her body is changing. You have to get used to it - to the new height, new weight… Yes, we know how to prepare juniors. But very soon, we won't have any senior skaters left with such approach. And besides, you have to be careful with athletes. Especially the ones who are in the transition period. Look what is happening to Adelina Sotnikova. Liza Tuktamysheva has a difficult time now, although she deals with it amazingly well. Mishin, by the way, is very careful with her. He is like a grandfather for her. And he is an amazing coach, of course. Now he has a right attitude towards skaters.
OA: There are different variants after Sochi. It could happen that Volosozhar-Trankov, Kavaguti-Smirnov and Bazarova-Larionov all retire almost at the same time. Who will be left?
LV: That's what I'm saying. Why not to support young skaters? Of course, we got some kind of support, I cannot deny that. Fedor and Ksusha were granted participation in the World Team Trophy. But it will be only in April! And until then, I have to keep them in shape. With what? Russian Cup Final? As a matter of fact, the season is over for them.
OA: The main problem of today is the lack of "material" for pair skating?
LV: I think here, in Saint-Petersburg, the problem is that there are no candidates. If there is a boy, there isn't a girl. In Moscow, there are girls for pair skating. And everybody will go to Moscow. Because there are money, they can provide the lodging and meals. Like Natalia Pavlova did. She found a girl for Nodari Maisuradze. Very good girl, from somewhere close to Moscow. Pavlova has the means to provide lodging and boarding. And as a result, she's got a great pair.
OA: There is one more problem - the lack of coaches.
LV: Well, who wants to work? Alexei Gorshkov was right to say that all the young coaches work for money. They make money any way they can. Because they need a place to live, a car. And not only coaches. I have a student, Andrei Kositsin. He does not want to live off his mother. And he makes money - dances on the plastic ice, takes part in ice show. He doesn't train, and there are three weeks left until the Russian Cup Final. We made him good programs, prepared him well. And he doesn't want to compete, wants to make money. Denis Cheprasov, the friend of my grandson, Vasily Velikov, got 60000 rub [~2000$] in three days for moving the cards in the "Alice in Wonderland" show. Why would you sweat at practices when you can make money so easily? Nikolai Matveevich Velikov (coach, Liudmila Velikova's husband - NV) gets a salary of 13000 rub [428$] a month. Who will work for such money?