Vaytskekhovskaya talks to Druchinina about her and Dmitriev jr `Itís hard living up to the otherís expectations'
Choreographers in figure skating are almost invisible. Even those who have years of experience working with the best athletes. The rhythmic gymnastic champion Tatiana Druchinina worked with Navka/Kostomarov before the Turino Olympics. Later she collaborated with Moskvina helping her with Kawaguti/Smirnov.
Still, after the split with her husband - the two times Olympic champion Arthur Dmitriev Druchininaís main job for quite a few years was being a mother. She came to Oberstdorf with her son - Arthur junior.
EV: Tanya, every time when I see you next to your son I recall how I visited you in St. Petersburg in 1998. How the little Arthur would tell me about his cat Dusia, about the ice skates, how much he wants to play with his dad but he just skates all the time. It seemed ideal. I wanted to believe Arthur junior has a glorious skating career ahead of him. What did you think back then?
TD: Nothing. Arthur liked skating ever since he was akid.
EV: Even after that horrible accident in Hackensack?
TD: It was when he realized how much he loves skating and insisted to continue. Depp down I was sure I will never be able to step on the ice again. But he kept asking: mom, will we go to the ice rink again. And that was after he had 280 stitches on his face.
TD: Yes. Most of them were small cosmetic ones, but still
EV: Did you see the accident happening?
TD: I wasnít present on the ice - was working with a girl upstairs. Her mom ran in and shouted `What are you doing here?! Run down! Your son is bleeding!í. It was terrible: instead of a nose Arthur had a bone sticking out, the blood was everywhere. He remained contious all the way to the hospital and was calming me down. He was 11 y.o. back then. He was performing a simple combination 2a2t and fell. At the same time a girl was landing her jump on the other side of the rink. Kids that age do not yet know how to care about each other and land correctly. So her blade went into Arthurís face. A Russian surgeon Baikov was performing all the operations on Arthur. We were lucky he was there when Arthur was brought in.
EV: I recall not many skaters had a good health insurance back then in the USA
TD: We were no exception. We didnít have an insurance. Or, rather, we did, but it had just expired. We even discussed back home with which company weíll sign the new insurance, but we just didnít have enough time to actually sign. So we had to pay the full fee. Parents of the girl who crashed into Arthur helped. All and all it was about 10K$.
EV: Who was coaching your son then?
TD: My husband. And Vladimir Karpov. We split with Arthur sr. in 2005 and he left to Moscow. I didnít see it coming, but things happen. I dontí really want to dwell into that frankly.
EV: Did you have any plans back then?
TD: Job wise I was busy from the morning till night. I was helping Zhulin and Platov with their skaters and I had my own pupils. I used to work with Sarah Hughes and Sasha Cohen prior to that. Till 2002 I was working with Tamara Moskvina - till she returned back to Russia.
EV: What made you leave the USA?
TD: After Arthur sr. and I split up my son was coached by Zhulin, who was putting quite a lot of time and effort into Arthur jr. I think itís thanks to Zhulin Arthur can glide. Zhulin was coaching Sasha Abt at the same time, but after the Olympics in Turino where Navka / Kostomarov won Zhulin decided to move back to Moscow with his family. We had to decide what to do next. I was thinking Arthur will give up skating altogether- it was a year he had to decide where to skate and with whom. But then Arthur really wanted to skate..
I decided to consult our past skater Rashid KAdyrkaev, whoíve been a friend for many years. He said: get into the car with your son and come to me to Virginia. Mishin is here.
Mishin saw Arthur skating and said he would accept him into his group. If it wasnít for that I would probably stay in the USA - my life there was quite in order.
EV: What expected you in St. Petersburg?
TD: A void. By then we didnít have a flat anymore, I had no idea whether Iíll be able to find a job, I didnít know for how long would I be leaving the USA. I just packed my stuff and put it in storage. I had some money after the Olympic victory of Navka/Kostomarov.
First we lived outside the city, but quite fast we reazlied we canít drive to St. Petersburg every day to the practices. So we rented a flat.
My job was quite surprising: while Arthur and I were boarding the flight from NY I received a phone call from Tamara Nikolaevna Moskvina, who was very straight forward: I know you are coming to ST. Petersburg. While you are in the air think whether you want to work with me. I said I didnít need time to think - I would work with her.
From St. Petersburg to Moscow
EV: Why had Mishin stopped working with your son?
TD: I Guess every skater has to find `hisí coach. I love Alexey Nikolaevich and consider him a great specialist. But there were fights within the group among the guys.
EV: How confident is your son in life? Can he deal with conflicts, changes, lack of comfort? In other words - how involved are you in his life?
TD: It differs. I was always trying to raise him to be independant. I wasnít much involved in that conflict, by the way.
EV: I.e. you just decided to take him to Moscow from St. Petersburg?
EV: I canít really imagine that. Having a comfortable life, a challenging job - I saw how much you were into the work with Kawaguti/Smirnov and to leave all that and move to a city where you had no garantees, a city where people donít support nor help each other.
TD: I had a lot of help and support from Tarasova. The plan was that Arthur would join her group. First alone - I would remain in St. Petersburg. When he was skating under her guidance I didnít worry. Just that she was going through a lot at that moment and Arthur ended in Vodorezovaís group
EV: Where again, things didnít work out?
TD: I regret so much things happened the way they did. I never interfered with the coachís work, I never even came to Arthurís practices. By the time I got involved it was too late: Lena didnít want to work with Arthur anymore, he didnít want to work with her. He was no longer 5y.o. so I could just make him. So we had to look for another solution
EV: And that was Nikolai Morozov
In the shadow of his parents fame
EV: What is your current job in Moscow?
TD: Rigth after I moved I started working with Alekseeva and Kustarovaís ice dancers. When my son switched to Morozovís group I started coming to his training camps.
EV: How much influence do you have on your sonís actions now?
TD: Arthur needs to be talked to all the time. He needs to understand exactly why this or that is done. Pressing on him is useless - he resists. That is how he was ever since he was a kid.
EV: Perhaps he had found his right coach?
TD: I would be thrilled if Nikolai would continue working with Arthur. Itís a kind of coach for my son I dreamed my whole life
EV: What makes Morozov a unique coach?
TD: Everything! He has all that is needed to be a successful coach. He can give his pupils everything they need. Besides, he is quite a psychologist and always finds the right words for his skaters. And, most importantly, he knows how to turn a `poor unflexible thingí not just into a good skater, but into a personality.
EV: Tell me about the injury that made Arthur sit out the whole last season
TD: An accident, as it always is. We had just switched to Morozov and during a landing of a simple jump his coordination went wrong. Arthur put his leg badly and had 2 broken bones: one under his knee and one in his foot. In the end we spent the whole last summer in the cast.
EV: Do you discuss Arthurís goals in the sport?
TD: The main thing now is to go back to the level he was before the injury. If that works - youíll have to ask Arthur what are his goals. But I see his mind is set.
EV: What are your goals for him?
TD: I want him to be happy and healthy. I want him to have a good family, job, kidsÖ Right after the school Arthur got accepted to 3 diffedent universities, but he picked the physical education. First of all all the athletes are studying there and the university takes that into an account. Secondly if you are serious about your studies itís a good education which is always demanded in the sports. I have 2 different educations and one of them is sports. I know what Iím talking about.
EV: I often come across the athletes kids and I can see how much the parentsí fame pressures on them. Were you able to escape that?
TD: No, it happened to us as well and I can see how hard is it on Arthur sometimes. His mom is a known gymnast, his father is a 2 times Olympic champion, so everyone has very high expectations for him. No matter whether he is ready or not. Living under all that pressure is hard. I can see how badly Arthur is trying to show what can he do and how hard it is for him to keep that at the back of his mind all the time. I think the kid should develop slowly, while in his case itís : look at your mother, look at your mother, everyone have high expectations of him
It was especially visible when Arthur sr. and my relationship were falling apart. Arthur jr was in a black hole and it took a lot of effort to get him out. I was quite in a state myself and by the time I came to terms with the things I realized Arthur jr was not training and not studying. I followed the shrinkís advice and moved him from the home schooling to a school to cause a change and make things normal again
EV: Is he fluent in English?
TD: Yes. At first when we came back to St. Petersburg from the USA he had troubles with Russian. He would translate his maths assignments to English first and only then solve it. We were always lucky with the people who surrounded us and had a lot of help.
EV: Guess by now you are fearless.
TD: I guess. I get a lot of job offers in the USA, but I donít want to think too much ahead - I learned to live a day by day. Everything I had ever planned fell apart and at some point I decided if thatís the way life is I might as well adjust to it. And solve the problems when they appear.
EV: Do you live with your son now?
EV: Usually kids his age aspire to independance. You, on the other hand, are always near - both at home and on the rink. Are you getting tired of each other from time to time?
TD: I never tried controlling his every step. If he needs help I offer it.
EV: Are you afraid one day Arthur will come home and say `Mom, am getting marriedí and your own life will become aimless?
TD: That doesnít scare me. I even hope he will have a family of his own. Iím not worried about myself either. There are so many things I would love to do.
EV: What, for example?
TD: Iíd love to learn to sing. It seems so niceÖ