Vaitsekhovskaya's interview with Mishin `The great athletes live by different standards' for sport-express.ru
On February 26th the known Russian figure skating coach Alexey Mishin was nominated for the international price `The Person of the Year'
The coach was short about it:
- Surprised. But it's really nice
EV: Which of your achievements are the most rewarding: those that the public sees, like your pupils numerous titles, or those that are not so visible?
AM: I was talking recently to a friend, who've been gathering the history of children figure skating for a while now. He said: there is no other coach who has as many men champions as you do. But it's all vain really. Take Nikolai Panin-KOlomenkin, the first Russian Olympic champion, who is remembered for that only. Yet for me he is the man who left a lot of figure skating written theory behind. He created the base of our sport. I think it's much more important than the Olympic medal he won. As for me - the knowledge my system is used by the coaches all over the world to teach kids jumping is rewarding. It became a common knowledge and people don't even recall the source. It's the main achievement of my life.
EV: It happens in the sports you are only remembered while you are there. The minute the results are gone the coaches are forgotten.
AM: I know it and I've been ready. Though I never really sunk in my profession. My career mainly included successes and wins. Believe me, even should I be forgotten I won't terribly mind. Tamara Moskvina once said `Lesha, we did so much we don't have to be ashamed no matter what we'll do from now on'
EV: And yet up till 2006 not only your pupils were skating decently in the competitions, but they usually medalled. After Pluschenko retired there is a void. Do you mind? Or relieved not stressting about the sport anymore?
AM: I was certainly not happy. While I was focused on Pluschenko only - a few years before the Olympics in Turino I was with him - my group was filled with.... Basically it was too late trying to make anything of them. I didn't see any potential there. I reminded myself that man who was planting the potatoes in the morning and digging them out in the evening because there is nothing to eat. I had no one to work with for the future. This is why I took Liza Tuktamysheva.
EV: How does it feel coming to a practice, working and realizing it is useless?
AM: Very hard indeed. I know many of my skaters were offended. They understood: they do something on the ice and expect me to watch, but I try to see with the corner of my eye what is Liza doing. Because that little nothing was showing some blinks of the talent.
EV: In the previous years you were talking about how wrong the CoP is and how the jumps are not given enough points. Are you satisfied with the direction the CoP is developing?
AM: I think at the time it was developing wrongly. I mean the so called `transitions'. Neither Lysacek no Cahn had quad jumps back then. It was all about : if you have horrid legs but a nice chest show the chest and cover the legs. There was a reason Chan was saying he'd beat Pluschenko without the quads. Now it all goes as it should. Not because the ISU wanted so, but the logic of development of the sport, which was always about faster, higher, stronger. The late Alexandr Zhuk was 100% right saying the technique will always come before the artistry in figure skating. I myself wrote in one of my articles in 1973 the ultra c jumps will be the most of figure skating. This is why everyone are attempting the quads now.
EV: Your skaters were always ahead of the rest of the world in jumps. Urmanov, Pluschenko, even Gachinski who started landing the quads while the skaters of his age were not even thinking about it. Now it seems Gachinski is not only not one of the top skaters, but no one can even really tell whether he should recover and come back.
AM: Gachinski is a different story. There were reasons and I don't want to go into them. He says he lost the feeling of the jump. But I assure you, that feeling will come back. I have reasons to believe so.
EV: Are you really upset with what happens to Arthur?
AM: Of course it's bad the skater lost his head, especially when there was no real leader in Russian team. Though you know, just before I left to Moscow Gachinski and our new choreographer Yuri Smekalov were working on the next season LP and I liked a lot what it looked like. He looks noble, I'd say.
EV: What do you think about the fact there is a new face in the Russian men team?
AM: I was recently interviewed for NTV+ and I was asked what do I think about the new Tarasova-Mishin rivalry.
EV: Am far from thinking there is a rivalry at this point. Not because Gachinski or Kovtun are better or worse, but rather because both are far from being `top'. Especially far from Pluschenko and Yagudin's results during heir years of rivalry.
AM: Nevertheless that question was voiced. I replied Tarasova and I are working together much more than against each other. Take Kovtun - when he was skating in his first coach's Marina Voitsekhovskaya's group came to St. Petersburg to me to work on his jumps. Then he went to Morozov, where he learned more things. I.e. in the end of the day it's not a rivalry but combining the work of various coaches to gain the result. If we should start working against each other, no matter which discipline it will be - we'll be torn to pieces in Sochi.
EV: How much of your time did Pluschenko take this season?
AM: Now while Zhenya is recovering after his surgery he doesn't take any time at all. When he was training - he overtook everyone. He projects such an energy that people became quiet and wouldn't even speak aloud when Zhenya was skating. I had no right to devote more time to anyone else. It would be a sin against Pluschenko.
EV: I remember at the time Stanislav Zhuk declined working with the great pair Rodnina/Zaitsev. He realized no matter what the result will be it will be awarded to them and not the coach. You realize any achievement Pluschenko had after Turino the public saw as his and not yours.
AM: It's not quite right. Say, tree years ago I decided to take a 10 days vacation. Zhenya called me 3 days later and said `Come back! I can't do anything without you!'
EV: Yes, those are the details you know, but not the public.Do you mind continuing working knowing it will never be appreciated?
AM: The greatness of the athlete, his fame, money etc will always be more than his coach's. It's normal, it's the way it should be.
EV: Are you getting tired waiting when will Pluschenko finally retire? By continuing working with him you deprive Gachinski, Tuktamysheva and others who, unlike Pluschenko, still have things to learn and to progress.
AM: You can't break a team after 20 years of common work. You can't. Don't you understand? You can't judge the great athletes with the normal measures. They open the window into the unknownn.
EV: What do you mean by that? The ability to land quads at the age of 30?
AM: It's deeper. Yuri Vlasov was the first to push 500kg, Armin Hari was the first to run 100m in 10sec, Bob Beamon did a 8.90jump. As for 4 Olympics in singles...
EV: Were done at the beginning of last century by the Swede Gillis Grafström, and he won 3 of them
AM: I didn't know about it. I think Evgeni doesn't either. Hence we were aiming for it.
EV: It's a shame all those records are long taken. Karl Schäfer won the Worlds 7 times and the Europeans 8. One more than Pluschenko did. There is no achievement your pupil would beat continuing skating. Hence many wonder: why after all those injuries and surgeries he continues torturing himself? Just because it's the only way to earn money?
AM: It's not quite that. Had Pluschenko decided to skate in the show instead of training he would earn much more. He had just cancelled 36 shows because of his back surgery.
EV: Are you afraid? You understand much better than me how thin the edge he would be balancing on should he decide to come back to the amateur sport.
AM: And yet I will still be interested working with him. When he comes to the practice you can't stop watching him - he projects to much will and interest. Let me tell you more: comparing Zhenya at the beginning of his career - those primitive crossovers and the one we have now I can see how mature his skating looks. He became a real artist, which he wasn't even in the years he used to beat everyone.
EV: The last question: about the upcoming worlds. At the beginning of the season you mentioned several times Tuktamysheva is not on the top of her shape. How would you describe her shape now - 2 weeks before the main competition?
AM: It's still not ideal. Liza is going through the hard time of becoming a young woman from a girl. We'll do our best though