Elena Vaytsekhovskaya's interview with Alexey Mishin `Tuktamysheva is a jewel in a crown of ladies skating' for sport-express.ru Alexey Mishin came to Sochi test skates with three athletes. He replied a request for an interview in his usual manner `I have an hour. Shoot your questions' EV: The test skate is an event that in a way sums up all the summer work that was done. How satisfied are you with the result? AM: I think the test skate and the week ahead were one of the most productive and worthy events of the several years. First of all the technical specialists did a huge job. Second the atmosphere and the mood were so kind. Such meetups are a necessary. I'd say I would like such events to be hold not only at the beginning of the season, but at the very end of it - when the skaters are done choreographing the new programmes. It happens often that a skater has a new programme that just doesn't suit him, during the test skate the specialists recommend changing it, but the skater spent so much time and power on the previous one they just have nothing left. And it would be late changing the programme at that point. Hence I think it would be better figuring as early as possible all the programme questions: who would choreograph, what is the theme, where are the elements placed and which elements need to be worked on first. EV: In other words - to prevent a situation when a person finds out in the autumn all their summer work was in vain? AM: Exactly! Besides it would motivate the skaters and coaches working on the programmes before the summer break, rather than after. All we've seen in Sochi is not the final results, of course. But at least we can judge now who progressed compared to the previous season and who remained the same. EV: Do you think the skaters need to show a high level of preparations in the skate test event? AM: A good question. Some skaters are in a really good shape even now. From my experience: if the skater is in a great shape in September things will be tough for them in March. EV: What about your theory the figure skating should switch to a tennis regime, when the competitions follow one another throughout the whole year? AM: I meant something slightly different. The skaters perform all the time and if they aim high they should not get below a certain level. But not about being on the top shape the whole season long. EV: I.e. at any rate they'd better be in a higher shape if the serious events begin at the end of October and last till March. AM: I agree. For that we need to organize the coaching work differently. When following the skaters I firstly analyze 2 things. The general shape and the level of the programme polishing, and the state of the jumping technique. There is a technique that encourages the skater to pop a jump when tired or under a stress. The laws of mechanics are (some equation which I will not dare translating). One has to take that into an account if the skater and the coach aim for the perfect technique. When the jumping technique is right it rises the chances of not making mistakes when skating in the extreme situations. EV: If it is all so easy and logical, can you please explain what is going on with Liza Tuktamysheva's 3A? Why she can't get that jump back for so long now? AM: First of all let me say that no matter how Liza does now I respect her so much and grateful for allowing me being a coach of a ladies world champion. Just like Alexey Urmanov made me a coach of the first Russian Olympic Champion. Well, Panin-Kolomenkin aside. Just that the female body is very unexpected. Everything that Tuktamysheva goes through in coordination processes is very interesting to learn - at the very least for the future work with the ladies. EV: Perhaps Liza had too much after her successful season, which was so demanding both mentally and physically? It was not just the simple tiredness, but about getting accustomed to an unusual jump for the ladies. And then the reaction came. Which, by the way, is kind of expected. AM: One of my versions is about physiology. The rest - about psychology. Though it is related usually. What you mentioned seems quite logical. If we analyze what happened to the skaters who did brilliantly in Sochi - you'll see they are going through a similar process. EV: Do you plan repeating competing in lots of competition with Tuktamysheva just like you did in her great season? AM: Yes. Before the test skate Liza participated a competition in St. Petersburg. Before the GP events we plan participating the Oberstdorf, Finlandia Trophy and Nice. Am not quite satisfied with how she skated in Sochi, but during the practices I witnessed the skates which allow me to assume even now Tuktamysheva can skate much better. Besides, I'd say such a jewel in the crown of the Russian ladies skating will not be redundant. EV: Don't you love the expressions. AM: Let me out it simpler: the nonconsistent attempts of the 3A which Liza does during the practices are something most of the skaters can only dream about. We have something to show the world. EV: The tendency putting all the jumps at the last part of the programme, which Evgenia Medvedeva began last season is a technology in the ladies skating now. Do you reckon it causes a lack of balance in a programme? AM: I have a very simple explanation. I call it an ISU pendulum. Yes, now it swayed to one direction because that's how the rules allow you gaining most of the point. It will sway back and soon. EV: I meant something else. Remember the technique of Denis Pankratov, who became a 2 times Olympic Champion in Atlanta in his best years? He would swim half a pool under the water, thus creating a huge gap. In the end the ISF forbad staying under the water for that long, which leveled Pankratov with the rest. Do you assume the ISU might change the rules following the same logic? Say, making the American skaters more competitive. AM: Changing the jumps layout in the programme will not be a big deal for our girls. The gap, however, is not only there. Look what happens now: people take a nice musical piece and cut it in such a way that the most colourful parts would be left at the end of the programme - for the jumps. Not every musical piece allows such treatment. In general I view the situation rather simply: if those are the rules - use it. That's it. Arguing with the ISU insisting on my point of view on what beautiful is is not practical. However, our sport can develop two ways: developing the skating or developing the judging. Let me explain: take a look at the steps sequences. Almost all the skaters are doing more or less the same blocks. It's understandable: as far as the rules go the combination of a certain 3 turns creates a block which gives a maximum amount of points. But that causes a creation of standards. It's convenient for the judges: the skater missed a turn, the block fell apart, it is reflected in the mark. If we get away from these boundaries we'll get a bigger place to develop. EV: As a couch do you mind those boundaries? AM: Well, what do you mean - mind? If you are married- life with that. Take Stephane Lambiel - he used to be a kind of the spins. He could break any world record, had such great new positions your head was spinning. Now the spins are standard as well. EV: Perhaps it would make sense to set the adults and the juniors rules further apart? Leave those `blocks' to the junior, so at the very least they would learn skating them and set the adults free in their steps? AM: A right thought, but it needs working on. I agree the junior rules should be such that they would be prepared for a more wide rage of moves. Those who are setting the goals on the world/Olympic level should have clear, understandable rules and common for all - so they will not be running to the extreme sides searching `their own' path. EV: Who are more interesting to work with for you - those who are aiming to win only and would do anything to reach their goal, or those who just really like skating? AM: Those two different are really the same. I even have an equation - if the skater is happy to skate the result will come eventually. Working through `I can't' breaking yourself from inside might get to the result as well. But it will take longer and the work will be harder if at all. EV: Speaking of a potential result: are you satisfied with the current state of Arthur Dmitriev jr and Alexandr Petrov? AM: No. When Dmitriev and I were working before his departure to Moscow there were times when he was really getting Gatchinski. He chose, let's say, Yagudin's path. But it didn't work. EV: Do you think Arthur left you because he couldn't take the pressure in your group? AM: It doesn't matter now. But he came back with a serious ankle injury which took a while to heal. He missed 2 years. As for Alexandr: there are still things he is missing in the basic training: the lack of the base which should had been done as a child. But first of all his quad is getting nearer and second he has a unique feature. We have many athletes who can do a lot, just not at the right moment. Alexanrd, however, is always showing the maximum he is capable of. Besides, he is developing as an artist now as well. EV: Arthur Gachinski came back to your group. As a coach. And you took him back. Why? AM: Because it's my athlete. When he left I was indeed upset, but at the same time I knew it made sense - Arthur and I got into a place with no exit and I was not ruling out changing coaches might be a good thing for him. But it's not the most important. Arthur has nothing evil in him. Such skaters are always welcome back into my group. EV: Did you learn something from the story of a talented skater leaving you? AM: Definitely. I realized my biggest mistake was, as the late Igor Ksenofontov would put: not pull the skater to the top all the time. Sometime you have to leave them where they are and let them think. Arthur was doing really well really fast. Of course his ambitions rose higher. I had to lower that level before starting the new level of work, which I haven't done. EV: You wrote many manuals during your coaching work. Have you ever thought about participating the rules modernization? AM: Am not interested in that. At some point I changed my working attitude. When your colleagues ask me about my season plans and goals I tell them my plan is very simple: to get up feeling well, get to the ice rink, teach the skaters how to jump, create the programmes, cut the music the way I like it, think of the costumes, talk to the colleagues, invite friends to my summer house and if at the end of the season there would be a medal - great. EV: Was it always your attitude or it had changed with the age? AM: I'd put it differently: it's a philosophy of a person who started coaching in 1969 and will be celebrating 50 years of coaching in 2019. EV: Will you be celebrating? AM: If am still alive - why not? I really want my path to exist even when I stop working. And it will, because right now I work side by side with my wife Tanya, our pupil Tatiana Prokofieva, Oleg Tataurov, Alina Pisarenko, Arthur Gachinski. It's not a team, it's a family clan. We now coach Carolina Kostner, and you should see how much will and attention she puts into her work. Though when she came here for the first time she had no idea she would be coming to St. Petersburg again and again. EV: Coaching Kosnter do you really try teaching her something new, put your soul into it, or it's a client who pays? AM: I don't charge Carolina. Working with her is a challenge. Teaching her is interesting. When she came for the first time her easiest combo 3s3t was so so. Now she is confident in all her jumps, including the Lutz. Working with her is exceptionally interesting - she has an artistic view of the world. In her programmes she is exquisitely exact. And is so hard working, which is even more important. Such skaters don't win because of their moves or training methods, but mainly thanks to the huge work they have done. Or take Misha Ge, who also came to practice in my group. I would call such skaters as Carolina or Misha lacking the coaching attention their talent deserves. It's not something that happens to the Russian skaters. EV: When the leading Russian coaches first left to the USA many rinks would let them use the ice free allowing watching daily how the best skaters are working on the daily basis. Does having Kostner in your team has a teaching part for the younger skaters in your group? AM: Of course. Just that skating side by side to someone does not guarantee a progress. Like in the proverb: you can drag the horse to the drinking point, but you can't make it drink.