Vaitsekhovskaya talks to Viktor Kudriavtsev for sport-express.ru We met with the known specialist two weeks before the worlds - right after the European silver medalists Bazarova/Larionov left their coach Ludmila Kalinina. Kudriavtsev became their coach for those 2 weeks. EV: You were advising the pair and Kalinina for quite a while. It's quite unexpected on of the leading teams in the country becomes coach-less right before the main competition of the year. Or it actually happened earlier? VK: It happened not long before the Europeans in Zagreb. But it was obvious earlier the misunderstanding between the coach and the athletes was growing. Guess their relationship came to a dead end. I was notified with what already happened. I was asked to undertake their preparations to the worlds under those complicated circumstances. It was unexpected: I came to the federation offices to finish the 10 days vacation paperwork which I was planning to spend with my family in Miami. EV: And you agreed on the spot to change your plans? VK: What could I do? Just leave them in the middle of the season? EV: For how long were you working with the pair as an adviser? VK: For two seasons. Starting the day they moved to Novogorsk from Saransk. I was present in all the athletes practices in Novogorsk and helped those who asked for my help. Vera and Yura needed help with their jumps and glides. EV: Perhaps it's about the coach's jealosy? Bazarova, Larionov and Kalinina always made an impression of being very remote from the others. Yet here except for you they also started working with a choreographer Ludmila Vlasova. VK: I don't think it's jealousy. It was Kalinina who was most interested to learn the new things. Especially in the first year. EV: Did you talk to Vera and Yuri about the break up (with the coach)? VK: Yes. They said their personal misunderstandings became too deep and interfered with their work. EV: I.e. the athletes overgrew the coach? VK: Perhaps. EV: Are you yourself ready to become a full time coach? VK: No, it was my condition from the very beginning I'd work with them till the worlds only. They will have to decide who will become their coach after. The fact the Olympics are not far away is another constraint. There is no point changing the pair's working ways. They need to work on the elements and the programmes only. EV: Taking all that was just said I have a feeling you will be offered to coach them for another year. VK: I don't want to switch roles. I'm willing to advice. But working with them full time - not anymore. I'm not sure I have enough left in me. And the pressure of the Olympics is too high. It's useless trying to guess now who will become their coach. I think it's a pair that will always demand special attention. I.e. they would have to be the only pair for their coach. EV: So that what it looks like: Nina Mozer works with Volosozhar/Trankov, who will probably not want skating with their main rivals on the same ice. Tamara Moskvina's situation is the same, besides, am not sure Bazarova's fragile health will allow them living in St. Petersburg climate. They didn't work out with Natalia Pavlova when they tried skating on her ice when they were in Moscow. There is also Oleg Vasiliev, but he doesnt' work with the Russian pairs. So who is left? Should they be sent to Detroit to work with Spilband? VK: We are flying to Detroit now, by the way. Except for getting over the jet lag before the Worlds we want Spilband to work with the guys on their LP - he was the one who choreographed it. This trip was planned in advanced. They would go to Spilband even had they not left Kalinina. They have a very detailed plan: how to train, how to warm up during the competition. They even have plans for the Olympic season. I will not voice of course, not the music nor the choreographer's name, but it is all already planned. Hence even such a stress as loosing a coach will not make much impact on their preparations. EV: Do you find easy working with them? VK: Very. They trust me a lot and do what I offer. Besides Bazarova and Larionov are very not spoil and very independent. EV: Your new team missed the Russian nationals and the Europeans. Was there a chance they will not be ready on time for hte worlds? VK: No. We had an agreement with the federation the guys will miss some competitions. First we had to take care of Vera's health and then Yuri had to undergo the surgery. He had a nasty injury - during a vacation in Saransk he fell on his right arm and broke the thumb's metacarpal bone. It's the working hand. He can't even do a death spiral with that injury, so he had to have a surgery. The only condition the Federation had was to show the programmes before they decide on the team. Bazarova and Larionov skated both their programmes in Novogorsk where all the federation including the judges and technical specialists came. I.e. there were enough professionals to make the decision. EV: Did you, as the Russian team adviser liked the way Kavaguti/Smirnov skated there? VK: Yes. If they should skate like that in Canada they will place high. EV: Let's take a break from the pairs skating. During the voting after the Russian nationals you were against sending Kovtun to the Europeans. VK: Not exactly. I have never seen it written that the 3rd spot is decided by the federation. I believe such papers exist, but what I had in mind is that the team is decided according to the Nationals. I was not against Maxim, but against breaking the rule. EV: What about the federation's decision now (to send Kovtun to Worlds) VK: Right after the Europeans I said there is no doubt Kovtun should go to the worlds without any additional test skates. He proved it in Europeans. The odds of him making to the top 10 are higher than of the others. EV: Why? VK: He is young. My quite a long experience tells me when a new skater comes to a competition and shows a decent, hard enough programme and good skating skills the judges will go wit hhim. EV: I recall Irina Rodnina once saying `The judges like fresh meat' VK: Exactly. Besides, Kovtun's technique is good. He is not yet expressive enough, but it's normal. In order to get there he has to skate for a couple of years with the best skaters, to be consistent with his elements. The athlete's mentality in that regard is easy: as long as the person is not confident in his jumps there is no point demanding he shows any emotions - his mind is not set on it. EV: Do you agree with Leonova's replacing Gosvijani? VK: Am a bit torn about it. On one hand I wouldn't change the girls team at all. They all skated well in Zagreb. Taking Gosvijani was Russia n.3 she placed very high. She did much better in the Europeans that was expected. I also had an impression all our girls- Adelina Sotnikova, Liza Tuktamysheva and Nicole were not just skating, but supporting each other. They formed a really good team. I personally wouldn't break it. On the other hand I think there are things that must be taken into an account. Leonova was 2nd in last year's worlds, she has high standings and she will be skating in a later group than Gosvijani would, which also gives her a better shot for a good final result. Taking it's an Olympic year every skate is important. EV: What are your expectations from the Worlds? VK: First of all I expect Volosozhar/Trankov to place high. They have all it takes even for the gold: very hard programmes, good looks, power. A good looking athletic skating. Our other two pairs also can fight for medals. I think they are quite equal, can't really name one. As for the ice dance - I like the fact the Russian dancers took a new direction. It's the softness of the skating, the amplitude, the programmes. In ice dance it's even more important to have a memorable programme than in other disciplines. On the medals level all the pairs are skating on the same level, hence what will be the deciding factor, in the Olympics as well is the music and the choreography. Both our teams can fight for the bronze even now. EV: What about the single skting? VK: Both Sotnikova and Tuktamysheva can fight for the bronze. EV: I.e. you are not among those who think should they skate clean they can beat anyone? VK: I take into an account the judge's usual preferences for the known skaters. If taking those preferences away both Adelina and Liza have a chance to win. But, as you know, it's impossible. They have to skate the SP really well - to show very high level from the very beginning. And then do the same with the LP EV: We are left with the single skater. VK: If Kovtun can do all he is capable and finish within top 10 it would be awesome.