Vaitsekhovskaya talks to Tarasova `Idiots don't become great champions' for sport-express.ru
Kovtun's skate in the Europeans was impressive: after working just for a couple of months with Tarasova and Buyanova he entered the seniors competition with the 5th place skating brilliantly his LP and landing two quads.
TAT: It doesn't happen often that a skater does more than he is capable in such a conditions. I actually expected him to do well in his short programme. Yet Maksim gave so much on the 4/3 combo that he didn't even notice getting to the 3A, an element he can perform any time. And failed. I was quite upset with that. I realized no one is going to give him any presents in this competition.
EV: Do you consider him competing at the Europeans at the age of 17 a present?
TAT: I think it was the right decision - whether it's my pupil or not. I can now admit it was the hardest competition in my life. I had to go against the flow before and `will he or will not' was my personal question. Here we didn't have to fight. Which put an additional pressure on Elena, me and Maksim himself. That's why I'm so grateful to him.
EV: Why was it so important for you and Buyanova that Kovtun competes at the Europeans?
TAT: I'm absolutely certain: when the skater progresses all the time and gains new experience you can't stand on his way. Maksim was learning every day. He landed the quad salchow in the practice from the first attempt, and, most importantly - he started working as a professional. And loving it. Yes, he became 5th in Russian nationals in Sochi, but even in the practices it was obvious how fast he progresses. Hence I didn't want to stand on the way of that progress.
I liked the way Maksim was watching the other competitors in Zagreb. He was all eyes. He later told me `No one is letting a single element go. It's not a juniors competitions'
EV: What did you like about Kovtun when in August you decided to start working with him?
TAT: I indeed liked him. His eyes, his smie. I noticed how gifted he is a year ago. I even told him in the USA `Boy, you don't work hard enough'.
Maksim is smart and he understands things fast. And he has a wonderful ability to filter things and avoid what is not needed. A typical single skater, I'd say.
EV: What's the difference between the singles and the pairs or dance skaters?
TAT: They are egoists. It's the right thing for a single skater to be an egoist.
EV: Don't they become too full of themselves?
TAT: They would be idiots if they did. But the idiots never become great champions.
EV: In the end of 2005 when you stopped working with Arakawa you said `I ran out of patience'. Are you afraid you might not have enough patience for Kovtun?
TAT: I'm not working with Maksim alone. Buyanova works with him a lot, our choreographer Irina Tagaeva, the physical coach. With Arakawa I was alone. In addition the sugar level in my blood was too high, which I didn't know and couldn't figure why I wasn't well all the time. I'm not always patient enough now either, but I understand things take time. In order to get a result you have to get deep to the hidden abilities of the athlete. It's hard, at least because each of us has survival instincts which come out when working very hard. So yes, things take time.
EV: Why do you think you and Buyanova were unable to get high with Andrey Griazev, Artem Grigoriev, Arthur Dmitriev?
TAT: I can't say we failed altogether - with each of the pupils the coach learned as well. I'm still sorry for the way things ended with Grigoriev - Artem is very talented. But he joined our group too late - his both legs were injured. It's hard to practice and enjoy the practices with such injures.
Griazev is a different matter. He could do all the needed elements, yet when the competition began he would forget why is he competing. He kept repeating he is not nervious. It was a completely wrong statement which we were unable to change. I always enjoyed working with Andrey so much. As for Dmitriev - Elena declined working with him. You can't have a pupil who decides how the coaching process will go without consulting his coach. His mother was too involved as well. I think that's the reason Arthur failed all of his competitions.
EV: Sometime ago you said working with a single skater demands all the time the coach has. Why?
TAT: You work one on one all the time. It's easier with the pairs - there is a team. With the singles you are dealing with every minute of their life. The last year of my working with Yagudin I lost all of my other pupils. I didn't work enough with the French dancers, with the Canadians - I realized I lacked energy and time. I would come home after the practice, collapse on the bed, close my eyes and re-running in my head all that went on during the practice. I don't know how to do things differently. I always thought: most importantly is to be honest with myself and know I did everything within my power. To study the elements, be in the right shape, weight, find the music, choreograph the programmes, make and check the costumes, and preferably several costumes, to organize the right nutrition and rest, the medical treatment, and so many other things. After you have done all that to the best of the ability and didn't miss nor a single practice - from here - whatever will be - will be.
EV: Do you think there should be a limit on the Russian coaches working with the foreign skaters in the Olympic season?
TAT: It's useless forbidding or limiting: we live in a free country. Besides, the professional world is very open. On the other hand each of us has to have a working ethics. The coach should decide himself who should he invest most of his energy in and under which flag to stand.
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EV: From what you've seen in the Europeans what did you like the most?
TAT: For the first time in a long time I liked the whole team. I liked both our dance pairs skating clean, even though I had my doubts about several levels. It just happened that I was sitting right behind the technical specialists during the skates and I saw what Gordon-Poltorak was rewatching. She payed attention exactly on the elements I would too. Hence my doubts had grounds.
I think the dancers programmes should be more diverse and more `dancy'. And there should be more new elements. Just like the Canadians and the Americans do. Can you recall any original lifts the Russians do? I can't. Bobrova/Soloviev do a beautiful lift through the whole rink, but it's not new. I want to see something that will leave me breathless.
EV: In other words, you were not impressed with the Russian ice dancers' programmes?
TAT: Look at the protocols. Take our skaters and see: without making any major mistakes they got 169.25 and 169.14. Davis/White in Grand Prix Final got 183.39, Virtue/Moir - 179.83. And the Canadias made quite obvious mistakes.
Davis/White impress me with their elements all the time. Or lets take Virtue/Moir's dance. You might not like their interpretation of `Carmen', though I personally like the choreography. There are things I would choreograph differently, for example in the most dramatic musical piece they do a circular step seq. I'd put something more expressive there. But if they improve their programme what will happen? They will beat our pairs by 30 points rather than 20?
That's what we should be thinking about. And work in a way that we'd shock the viewers every time those pairs go on the ice. And use all the available resources. Otherwise there is no competition worth mentioning.
EV: Perhaps it would make sense inviting choreographers from the outside?
TAT: If they can help - why not?
EV: Would you be offended if you skater said he'd rather have his programme choreographed by, say, Lory Nicole, rather than you?
TAT: Lory is an amazing choreographer. I know her work so well at least from working with Asada together for several years now. Usually Lory choreographs one programme and I do the other. I'm not jealous towards other's work. I programmed hundreds of programmes in my life. Including those that made people stand up. And it crossed my mind I'd like to see my skaters skate in a different style. It's necessary so the skater would progress. Especially when you work with a skater for many years.
I'd love Lory to choreograph a programme for Kovtun. But first she has to see him, to become `ill' with him. Just like I was `ill' with Takahashi: the first time he competed in the major competitions it was with my programmes.
As for the concurrent work: Adelina Sotnikova's LP is mine, the SP is by Irina Zhuk. I think it's a good thing : Elena Buyanova and Irina Zhuk are the same generation, colleagues and friends, they agree on many things. I don't think I would be able to do the job so well had I worked alone - I'm not what I used to be anymore. My legs hurt, I had a serious injury on my spine which I still can feel. So now I'm just glad being able to go on working and helping someone.
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EV: Do you agree with the final stands in the Ladies in Zagreb?
TAT: I loved Carolina Kostner. Lory choreographed her a great programme, Carolina had a wonderful costume, her lines are great and her skating is wonderful. But there are rules. And according to those rules some jumps are to be performed in the 2nd part of the programme. Just like Liza Tuktamysheva did. And she rightly won the LP.
Sotnikova and Kostner could compete just like Tuktamysheva did. Our girls were never so close to the lead. Perhaps they don't feel the music as deep as the Italian yet, they lack her experience, but one day they will.
EV: What about the pairs skating and Volosozhar/Trankov's winning?
TAT: I don't know where did Maksim find the resources to skate the way he did. The same with Tanya. We didn't speak about it. In such a situation you can just be grateful for what they do. Unfortunately it's the athletes and the actors fate - to go on the stage in whatever state, whatever tragedy you are going through. The most important thing for them now is to recover from what happened. It's hard. They have to keep in mind - Zagreb was not the end of the fight. It's just the beginning. Aljona Savchenko is not an athlete who'd give up. She is just as eager to win the Olympics with Robin Szelkowy as Volosozhar and Trankov. Those tow pairs are outstanding and I respect both endlessly.
EV: Are Volosozhar/Trankov better in anything?
TAT: They power and inner power. When you stand near the board and Tanya and Maksim skate near you have a feeling being blown away by their energy.
EV: And a final question: do you think the Olympic Champion Evgeny Pluschenko's skating in Zagreb was a mistake?
TAT: I think giving up the quad in the SP was a mistake. He put a 3l/3t there instead - a combination the boys perform in the junior competitions. He lost the concentration. I think that's the reason he fell on the 3A, which I can't recall ever happening to him. The fact he couldn't land the quad in the practices is not a good enough reason. The practice rink is a different thing: different ice, different air, no adrenalin. He should had taken a risk. Now the situation is more complicated: in order to skate in the final or pre ultimate group in the Olympics he'll have to participate several competitions to go up in the standings.
EV: Do you think skating in a lower group decreases the chance for a good final placing?
EV: As for the judging: do you see any positive changes?
TAT: I try not to think about it. It's wrong keeping in mind how will you be judged. You have to go out there and take what you can. If possible - what the others can as well.