Ermolina's interview with Alexei Mishin


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Olga Ermolina's interview with Alexei Mishin for Russian Figure Skating Fed's website

"You can skate for a long or for a short time, but you have to skate well. "

-Alexei Nikolaevich, how do you spend time during quarantine?

- In St. Petersburg the quarantine is a bit different than in Moscow. And theoretically, I understand what claustrophobia is and how to sit in an apartment, not having an opportunity to go out, run, go somewhere, visit a friend or practice at the rink. I understand it. And it’s good that most of the skaters in our group have dachas (cottages outside of the city), they can leave the city. I also at my country house and use this break to get and accumulate some energy, strength, health for the rest of the season.
If we are talking about my life: I get up, do a run, check who got into my fishing gear. There was a time to plant trees, bushes, do something else at my summer cottage, and I feel very comfortable to have this opportunity. There is a lake nearby, we go out on a boat, walk around. I can’t say that I feel some kind of oppression related to quarantine, and I think this forced break will contribute to my health, although I already feel quite good. I am accumulating hunger for further work.
I’m completely sure my athletes will be ok, because they are in the hands of Tatyana Nikolaevna Prokofieva, who daily conducts online choreography classes, gives them special exercises that every skater needs. Our physical coaches Yegor Chelyshkin and Igor Afonin are doing very well according to the general principles that we formulated during our joint work - every day is devoted to one of the areas to develop certain physical qualities.
- When the quarantine is over, how will you go out, start working? There are fears that athletes will not have time to fully prepare for the next season?
- I can draw an analogy, although any analogy is not 100% accurate. I recall our outstanding skaters of the past - Chetverukhin, Ovchinnikov, Bobrin, and others, they were also at the forefront and did extremely difficult elements of their time. So, then the holidays were long. Some went on vacation alone or with their parents; there were some wellness camps. Then, when the athletes returned, sometimes it happened that the ice rinks had not yet worked, they "drowned" the ice. It turned out, in total, the athletes didn't skate on the ice for about a month and a half, or even more. But a week or 10 days later, they practiced their difficult elements - the ultra-c of that time.
I don't believe that the past generation was more talented than the current one. Therefore, I suggest that the skaters of our time will also be able to land their difficult jumps a week after the start. And I would like to urge the skating community not to groan and grunt, but to keep an optimistic view. It would be nice if the athletes exchanged information: “Oh, it's the third day of skating and I did it!" or "I’ve been working for a week and this is what happened!” It seems to me that it will be better if the information space of figure skating is filled with positive news. It will be creative, helpful and fair.
- What “pitfalls" one can deal with during this period of preparation?
- I see that the problems may arise not immediately after we start working, but when the period of execution of separate elements ends, and it will be necessary to start working on putting these elements together, am not even talking about the whole program program yet. By that time athlete’s body will have to combine two rather conflicting qualities - physical strength and stamina. What do I mean? The execution of complex elements in the program, even in separate fragments, will require not only physical strength and not only stamina, but combination of both.
How to get it? I remember the times when Australian runners were top runners in the world - world record holder Herbert Elliott, others. Their coaches believed that the key to success is long uniform running sessions during the preparatory period. And if you draw parallels with figure skating, I think that in the current situation it might be useful to train by skating the lay-out of the programs. Although this technique was criticized a lot in one of the periods of the development of Soviet figure skating. This form of training is not so popular now, unlike it was in previous years. But the layouts will allow you to prepare the athlete for the execution of elements even when they are exhausted. Although it’s also wrong to practice such trainings often and on regularly, because the modern and most progressive way is to execute a whole program with all the elements. But this can be achieved only after going through the preparatory phase.
- That is, we calmly move step by step.
- I would not call the period ahead of us a calm one. It will be hard. It will be a period of worries and anxiety. A period of injuries that could happen because the functionality, the autonomic nervous system will start to falter. But with a competent approach everything is manageable. I have no fear that the skaters will fall apart and not be able to jump. They will start jumping. And very fast. But to get ready for competitions - this will be a problem.
- Your group often goes to foreign training camps, where you conduct seminars, training camps and you are able to take all your students, including those who have financial difficulties. What will you do now if the borders are not opened?
- I am often invited to conduct a seminar or some demonstrative open training sessions by federations of different countries. We go to such events as a whole group. And we can work with foreign choreographers, who often put programs for our skaters. And it happens that I, and our choreographer Tatyana Prokofieva, pay for it either by our own names, or by our work, and sometimes we pay our own money, but in the end all our students can become a part of such training camps.
The beginning of my coaching career coincided with the fall of the Iron Curtain, when it became possible to travel outside the country. At that time, we, very few Soviet coaches, took our athletes abroad in order to have an opportunity to live, to feed our students. In a broad sense of the word, to provide them with housing and food, normal conditions for training. In fact, we worked in order to be able to train the members of the national team of the Soviet Union.
I remember when we were just starting to go abroad, Moskvin, Zhuk, Pliner, and I recorded everything that was possible, we were creating a methodological base for Russian figure skating. Filmed at competitions and at practices. And it was unique recording, because in the Union it was impossible to find anything, they didn't show anything, not on TV, not anywhere else. We were "blind." Returning from a foreign business trip, we brought our 8-mm film, scrolled and watched. And now, I am also sure thatt the achievements of our strongest girls are also watched by others, they are carefully studying where the hand is, where the foot is, how they jump, what they do ... Yes, there was Soviet school of figure skating, now there is a Russian school, American, Japanese ... But modern high-class skater is a product of international knowledge.
And returning to the question of the upcoming training camps: if the borders are not opened, we will train at home, behind the "iron curtain" that is labeled "BB".
- Do you have an understanding of where you will be working, at Yubileiny, at sport centers?
-So far I definitely can’t answer this question. A complete picture of the timing and the way everything will be organized, has not yet been formed.
-If you look at the past season, whom of your athletes would you single out?

-In general, I am pleased with the results of the season. I can describe our beloved Liza only as “ever green”. Sonya Samodurova showed that she can fight against time, and she did it successfully and, I am sure, will show herself in the next season. Nastya Gulyakova found some subtleties and nuances in her skating, a refined musicality. The performances of Zhenya Semenenko are comparable to the good standards of adult male skating. And if it weren’t for the health problems of Gleb Lutfullin and Andrei Lazukin, who actually had a knee surgery yesterday, they would have also showed themselves better. As soon as everything will be ok for Gleb and Andrey, I think they will take their rightful place among the strongest skaters.
- Last season, Liza Tuktamysheva showed programs with a triple axel, both a solo one and in combination. At the end of the season she tried a quad. How will quarantine affect the execution of these difficult jumps? On what it will depend?
- If we talk about the upcoming season of Liza, I hope that the new programs will be the best in her sports career, and this feeling will help her to cope with technical difficulties. I know from my own experience: the athlete’s confidence in the “vitality” of his programs directly affects the result. When a person comes out and knows that he has wonderful programs, he will be jumping better and spinning better.
- What do you feel about the fact that the choreography of Liza’s free program with Yuri Smekalov took place online?
- It was my proposal to invite Yuri Smekalov, who we have known for a long time and with whom we have already fruitfully worked. But the initiative of Liza and Yuri went far ahead: with the help of a whole team of different specialists, they did something that no one had tried in figure skating yet. We really wanted to do something original. Judging by the plan and the first outline of the program - they were not mistaken.
- As Liza already said, her short program was choreographed by Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte?
- Yes, and this is also a non-trivial move. Two options were proposed - Madonna and "Spartacus". I grabbed Spartacus with both hands. And when we tried to play some fragments of this music, it was so suitable for Liza that it became clear - we were right to choose it. And in both programs Liza has a very unusual look for her.
- The well-known coach Irina Viner gave such a definition to rhythmic gymnastics - risk, beauty and performance. And what wording would you choose for figure skating?
- I won't say anything new. At one time, a sports journalist who had worked for many years in Soviet Sport, Anatoly Shelukhin, proposed a simple formulation: figure skating is power and grace. We can theorize on this subject, give other terms, but this will not change the essence. There is nothing you can imagine but a combination of these two sides of any sport related to aesthetic perception. And if we look at gymnastics, synchronized swimming - all these sports take the route of combining power and grace, complexity and art.

And this is a right course. And the essence of this formula will defeat any trends that exist and may appear in the near future, both in the rules of competitions and in the judges manuals rules. By competition rules I mean - the content of the programs, number of jumps, their placement in the program ... This may change and the judging rules may change as well. Some fluctuations of criteria for evaluating the artistic component are possible. They will occur. But no matter how far they are dragging the figure skating - to the left or to the right, the logic of sports cannot be defeated anyway. Life time will not allow to diminish difficulty.
- This can be compared with a tumbler doll: no matter in which direction it goes, it fall into place in the end.
- Yes, the heavy "butt" of the tumbler doll will remain in place, no matter where you put its head. Anyway, difficulty will be the basis.
- A discussion about longevity in figure skating has started recently. Your position..
- My answer is: for a long or for a short time, but you have to skate well.
- What in your opinion distinguishes a champion from an ordinary athlete?
- I will not answer exactly this question: what components must coincide in order for an athlete to become outstanding? Three components: an athlete must be born talented, he must be in the right place and in the right hands.
Example: Arthur Dmitriev. At one time, my former student Fanis Shakirzyanov wrote to me that he has a talented singles skater. Then I already had some goods athletes, and Arthur was quite large, and I did not see him in singles skating. Then Shakirzyanov contacted Moskvina. And Moskvina took a guy from small northern town Norilsk. And what happened? The talented athlete Arthur Dmitriev was in St. Petersburg, training in Moskvina's group. He was in the right hands and won two Olympics.
Second example. The talented Zhenya Plushenko ended up in the right place, in Yubileiny, in a group with Olympic champion Alexei Urmanov, other wonderful guys, and in the right hands - mine. You know what happened ...

I recall a film with Vladimir Vysotsky, where Marina Vlady played a role, “The Blonde Witch”. So, if the beautiful sorceress remained in the forest, then nobody would have seen her beauty ...
- To what extent does the athlete's success depend on himself and on the coach who works with him?
- A talented athlete and a bad coach will beat an untalented athlete guided by a wonderful coach.
- Brief answer, but concise.

Recently, figure skating in Russia became extremely popular, there are a lot of discussions on the Internet, everyone knows what needs to be done and how. As one comedian said: every gopher is an agronomist. How do you react to this?

- Let them say and write what they want. And gophers, and agronomists. It is impossible to stop it. You can not ban everything. There are many comments, some are bad and stupid. But long with that there are some wonderful analytics, the authors say reasonable things based on a detailed analysis. So my position is: let everyone speak out. The ban on alcohol will only lead to "home brewing".
- What do you like the most in coaching?
- I will say this way: I can do a whole lot of things, but what I do best is what I do at the rink.
- Thanks for the interview. Some of your expressions will certainly go into quotes.
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“Our beloved Liza,” indeed! 👸

And, you can’t ban everything, that will lead to “Home Brewing!” :lol: 😁 That’s our beloved Mishin.

Thank you. Always enjoy AM interviews. 👍

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