Elena Vaitsekhovskaya's interview with Tamara Moskvina


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Elena Vaitsekhovskaya's interview with Tamara Moskvina after Rostelecom

- After the Games in Salt Lake City, you intended to retire from coaching, but you did not. After Yuko Kavaguti and Aleksander Smirnov left the sport, the situation repeated again, but you stayed in this sport. What is it: a kind of adrenaline rush or a desire to have more time to develop a replacement? And are there times when you ask yourself: "Isn't it time to stop?"
- You know, I have read a lot of various literature in my life. Russian authors, foreign, including ones in English. There was even a period when it seemed to me that my interest in reading started to fade away, but for some time now it intensified again, as a lot of interesting professional literature appeared, including in the sciences related to sports.
In coaching, something similar happens: one couple retired from skating, you seem like you have already read it's fate, then you turn the page - and suddenly you see two people who, in all aspspects: weight and height, age, emotional and technical, are capable of achieving great results in a team. Achieve victories, surprise the world, lure spectators to the arenas ...

- In other words, a high-quality “material” that allows you to reach a high result quickly enough in the future - the same 'bait' that a professional trainer can't help but try?
- Maybe yes. For me, this is the main interest in coaching. Especially when you have all needed conditions in order to fully realize the potential of your athletes. Think for yourself: why should I give up something I like? Our sport is not only about elements and programs, but also psychology, music and choreography, which means communication with very interesting and creative people, and not only in our country.
Plus management, diplomacy. You have to think a lot, which means you have to develop yourself too, in order to retain the ability to achieve some outstanding results, when no one seems to expect it from you. Although, of course, I hear others joking at me: "Tamara, you should have calmed down, grow flowers in your country house, and yet you are here again."

- For many years there have not been two strong couples in your group who would compete with each other and have equal opportunities to achieve some big victories. Now it is obvious that Anastasia Mishina and Aleksander Gallyamov, who have been training under with you since the summer, although they do not yet have high results in the international arena, are technically are as good as current European champions, Aleksandra Boikova and Dmitry Kozlovskii. Could you compare the current situation with the one that was 20 years ago, when Oksana Kazakova/Artur Dmitriev and Elena Berezhnaya/Anton Sikharulidze trained with you? What is the difference and is there any?
- I would not speak here about the difference, but about the fact that in each group, one way or another, a benevolent and constructive competition should be created - in this case, mutual progress goes much faster. The more intense the competition is, the better it is for the coach. There simply cannot be too many high-class athletes. Two pairs is quite a sufficient number to bring both of them to the level of the Olympic Games.

- Nevertheless, sometimes there is a feeling that it becomes more difficult to work with athletes every year. The next generations look more and more selfish and capricious, less devoted the sport and attached to their coach, and it seems to me that the latter must subconsciously keep all this in mind.
- This situation was constantly developing with all my teams. It seems to me that this happens in any team where a competitive environment arises. Athletes generally tend to be jealous of how much attention the coach pays to them. This is totally normal. As well as the fact that their shape at each event may be different, even when you work with these teams in the same way: someone was sick, someone recovered longer than usual, someone had an exam to pass...
The coach's task is to eliminate all these shortcomings as much as possible and bring each pair to the competition in the best possible shape, so that the skaters can show their maximum and, accordingly, fight for victory.

- This year there was a lot of talk about the need for contracts in figure skating that would stipulate the responsibilities of not only an athlete, but also a coach. Some of your colleagues have even stated that they consider it correct to first ask students about the possibility of their direct competitors joining the team. You took Mishina and Gallyamov into the group, when Boikova and Kozlovskii had already become European champions and, probably, had a reason to count on a certain exclusivity of your attitude towards them.
- Our entire coaching team works exclusively with all these athletes. As for Mishina and Gallyamov, let's be more precise in the wording: it was not me who took them, but the athletes themselves who came to our club and asked to join my group. In order to be able to skate on the same ice with the currently best pair in Europe.

- That is, Nastya and Aleksandr themselves were looking forward to this competition?
- Exactly. Although in their former group, the excellent specialists Lyudmila and Nikolai Velikovs, they were the first couple. To be honest, I would have liked to create higher competition in my group even earlier, when I invited Oleg Vasiliev to work in my school, who, not only was himself an Olympic champion, but also coached the winners of the Games in Turin - Tatyana Totmianina and Maxim Marinin. Unfortunately, Alisa Efimova and Aleksander Korovin, with whom he worked, failed to achieve the results I wanted and the results that would allow them to compete with Boikova and Kozlovskii.

- How did Sasha and Dmitry feel about your intentions to create competition in the group?
- The main competitors that the guys need to think about are the Chinese teams and the Canadians. Our internal competition is just a tool to fight against the pairs from these countries. Do not forget that our school is called 'the Tamara Moskvina Club', and not 'the Club named after currently competing athletes', no matter how many titles these athletes have. The decisions are made by the manager and the senior coach, and that is me. It is the coach who must complete the group so that the work goes as efficiently as possible. And the skaters who come to us do this not in order to choose their training companions, but in order to train with highly qualified specialists - regardless of whom else these specialists work with.

- It always seemed to me that your relationship with your students has some partnership nature.
- In a way it is so. In everything that concerns work, we are partners. I teach athletes from the very beginning that there should be a normal working relationship between couples who work together, no matter how fierce is the rivalry on the ice between them. Yes, they are all ambitious, they all want to be the best, to win - and I, as a coach, only welcome that.

- Whom are you more interested in teaching - athletes or coaches?
- Of course, there is a difference: you teach a coach a profession for his entire subsequent life. Moreover, each new specialist comes with some already accumulated baggage. Everything that you offer him, he passes through himself to a greater extent, compares with what he already knows. Working with skaters always has a much shorter time frame: your task is to bring people to the podium in big competitions. Accordingly, full confidence in the coach is required from athletes in the first place.

- But won't you say that everyone who gets into the hands of the coach is ready to do everything the coach says without a murmur? Especially athletes with character and ambitions?
- Sometimes a person needs time to understand that the coach is right, and one way or another, he still begins to obey. It also happened that my athletes convinced me that they were right. The path to success is always different for everyone.

- Do you have disagreements with Artur Minchuk, with whom you are now working together with both couples?
- Sure. Arthur is a young, ambitious guy, so that's okay. He grew up as a skater with another coach and also started his career as coach with another team. It is not surprising that his views are somewhat different. But after all, I am also interested in his point of view - at least due to the fact that we have a colossal age difference, and the world is constantly moving forward. Young coaches do not work the way we did 50 years ago, they have different approaches to the profession, so I ask Arthur's opinion on this or that account quite often: what he thinks, how he considers it right to act in a particular situation.

- Does this feeling of the world constantly running forward annoy you?
- Why would I be annoyed about this? Will this change anything? Right now I have a bunch of things that need to be done on my desk. So should I be annoyed that I was wasting time talking to you instead of hanging up the phone and doing business correspondence? I try to have time to do what I consider to be the main thing. If I didn’t have time to cope with some problems, it means that they were not that important.

- Last season, Sasha Boikova has established herself as a very consistent skater in competitions. And at the Grand Prix event, she suddenly got some problems on the throws. What was it - an accidental mistake?
- One can argue for a long time about the cause of certain mistakes, but I see no point in focusing our attention on this. There are griefs in life. Sometimes, you must admit, we cannot equally apply the make up on both eyes, although we, women, do it every morning. The main thing is - did Sasha landed with the throws in the end? She did it, and brilliantly. The rest is purely working moments.

- How do you tune your athletes to work when there is no clarity about the further part of the season?
- Due to the fact that I really do not have any official information on this matter, I generally cannot tune athletes to any specific situation. This would be to mislead them, and the coach should not do this, no matter how young their students may be. Therefore, I honestly tell them: we do not have any information regarding further competitions.
The 4CC has already been officially canceled, and we do not know what actions the International Skating Union is taking in order to keep the European Championship on the calendar. So we just continue to practice quietly. If the continental championship takes place, we will be ready for it. If it is canceled, we will continue to work according to the existing plans. Nobody is worried.

- Do these plans include a possibility to add more difficult technical elements?
- That is not in our current plans yet. Our life is scheduled until the Russian Nationals, so we are not going to change anything until the end of December.

- And if the season suddenly begins to develop following the least preferred scenario?
- So, we will start learning new elements and adding difficulties to the programs. It's not our role to sit quietly.

- You can start doing dancing or acrobatics. Or go to the theaters.
- By the way, yes. It is very useful, you know, even for an 'overall development' of each person, and it also cheers you up.
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