R-Sport interview with Elena Buyanova "Radionova made a statement, she came to change her destiny"



- Honored coach of Russia Elena Buyanova spoke with “R-Sport” correspondent Anatoliy Samohvalov about new season challenges, how her new student – Elena Radionova, the 2015 world bronze medalist – is planning to change her destiny after switching coaches, and what new and unexpected images Maria Sotskova will show in her new programs after she was able to break through to the European and World championships in her debut season last year.

- Have you seen how Sotskova has changed?

- In her Short Program Masha gets such height on her jumps which is not easy to do skating to the waltz from “Swan Lake” - said Buyanova in the middle of our dialogue, which has started during Sotskova’s training session in front of the FFKR [Russian skating fed.] general manager Alexander Kogan and technical specialist Alexander Kuznetsov.

- How did you decide to use this piece of music?

- Peter [Chernyshev – creator and choreographer of Sotskova’s program] had suggested this waltz. For Irina Tagaeva [choreographer from Buyanova’s group] and I it came as a surprise since the “Swan Lake” waltz is such grandiose and airborne music. We’ve had our doubts that it would suit Masha. Yet Peter said: “Masha is a bright, soft person and this image is hers”. When we saw that everything is going well, and Masha has accepted the waltz, the process went even faster.

- For the duration of the day, Masha has undergone a prophylactic medical examination (a full health check) and in the end of the day the heads of the Federation came along to check up, in front of whom she had to look “fresh and anew” …

- It’s fine, such circumstances do occur. We couldn’t cancel the skate, yet isn’t this a good model representation of “we must do it here and now”? It’s like flying across the ocean and having to hit the ice.

- And she was able to save that 3T in the combo even though she barely had a warmup.

- For the time being these were not “her” jumps, but right now it’s not that important.


- Elena Radionova has kept her SP.

- Yes, however, many things needed work. We changed some things and have spent a lot of time on the spins and steps. The most important thing for us was that the visit form the Federation was a success. They liked the programs of both our girls. They appreciated our efforts and I feel so pleased that the girls showed the programs with conviction. That is most important, a key psychological moment. Because other times, you work the whole spring, you work the whole summer, and then they come in and tell you that your efforts were spent in vain. It is difficult to swallow that.

- Have you ever been told that?

- Me? Thankfully no, but in figure skating it is so important to feel your program.

- About Radionova’s FS…

- ...”Historia de un Amor”. We have it in a different arrangement. From the middle of the step sequence it differs from the classical variant.

- Were you the one choosing the music?

- Everyone did: Elena, myself, Tatiana Anatolievna Tarasova, Irina Tagaeva, Shae-Lynn Bourne… The situation was such that we didn’t like all parts of the original music sent in by Shae-Lynn [Canadian choreographer who designed both of Radionova’s programs]. Yet this “Love Story” sat well with me and Tarasova immediately. Shae-Lynn listened to it and gave a thumbs up as well.

- What was the technical specialist’s comment?

- He gave the necessary recommendations for the technical part of the program. The step sequence, the spins, all attention on them.

- Was Elena’s move to your group surprise you?

- Definitely! А complete surprise. Especially given the fact that the training camps were already planned out.

- Have you already found contact with her?

- Contact? You know, it helps that the rink here in CSKA is small and we already knew each other. For all these years, every day we were in each others sight. She grew in front of my eyes and I knew how her career was developing. There was no adaptation needed for me and now I almost feel like she’s been in my group the whole time. She went out onto the ice with such big eyes. The desire to make herself better overwhelms her, such people can only be treated with respect.

- In May, I visited Alexander Zhulin at the “Olympic” ice rink where I got to see Sinitsina and Katsalapov train. After a year of struggles they seemed so hungry to skate, they get energized by at least the mere fact that they have permanent ice and a motivated coach. Is Radionova the same? Refreshed and motivated?

- How should I say… She came to change her destiny. Such athletes are always focused on work. There is no point of changing a coach and staying in the same context you were in before. This is not a good experience. Lena came in, we talked, and came to a conclusion that if if she wants to keep progressing something has to change. Inside her. Yes, the person you talk to can nod their head and say “I am ready”, but at the age of 18 it is hard to become different because you are a developed athlete. Radionova holds World and European medals, she had everything! Yet here she comes to another coach and tries to start things over. Why? Anyone would ask themselves that being in her position. Not every athlete can manage such a move, and Radionova doesn’t have a lot of time to gain momentum. She is a girl with ambitions who joined our group in the wake of the Olympic season.

- What does she need to change?

- Do you not see it yourself? Has she not become different?

- Yes, she became more stoic and powerful in her skating. Before she has skated beautifully, but, somehow, on the verge…

- Correct. This hasn’t happened by mistake. We offered her the optimal training process and she was ready for it. She is able to change her destiny. Lena can absorb everything like a sponge and is never tired of trying. She works beyond what I offer her and I hold great value in a person with such efforts. Most importantly – this should continue further.

- What was the hardest adaptation for Elena in your group?

- She was raised by another coach to whom she is very used to and who is very used to her. There are many details regarding PE and choreography who which one has to adapt and sometimes, in the literal sense of this word, break themselves. Leaving a coach at the age of 18 who raised you from childhood – this probably is the hardest to do. It is clear to understand that Elena wants something new in her life.

- Even on Instagram she is different. If last seasons went along with interests in public life along with model-esque pictures she now seems a more down-to-earth and has a more sincere smile. [OK, I’m certain that she always had a genuine smile but I’m translating this as it is. :)]

- Right now she as a very professional attitude towards her training process. The period of growth is different with all the girls. Some girls grow up earlier, some late, and some are just slow pokes. Yes girls like to pose and dress up nicely, and that is good. It would be much stranger if they walked around in pijamas. However, it is important to know the limits, but when you’re young you want everything and you wanted as soon as possible. This is so key. I have said a million times that life in sport is very short, especially among girls. And all these fashions, nominations, presentations, demonstrations, they’ll find their time later on in life.

- Elena’s former coach – Inna goncharenko – said that Lena has turned form a warrior child into a dame.

- We discussed this as well. At periods of time girls want to be like that. As a coach you must understand why your athlete went a certain way. This is why Lena decided to make some kind of internal step. I see that she has made a change inside. It wasn’t me who helped with that. It was done by persona initiative. She has made a statement. You know, sometimes it might be better when a person falls onto something, onto a side which ends up being the pit.

- Is there fear that you seem to be the same athlete, but not really the same? Is there danger for Elena?

- No human is eternal. A person receives loads, a person gets tired. But together we try to maintain positive tendency. Elena – her character is first and foremost that of an athlete.

- What about Maria’s growth?

- Masha is at an age where she must work hard as it is her duty. She is a true worker with a strong backbone. What I like about her is that she doesn’t just execute programs as ordered by coach and choreographer, she makes it better herself. She knows how to do it. As she matures she becomes more in contact with the audience. Of course her “Moonlight” program demands that from her. Before she looked like a snow queen to me. There was something noble about her. But the “Duchess” is slowly changing and I like that in Maria. She becomes more communicative, more open.

- Is this the evolution of Sotskova that you wanted?

- Definitely, for in today’s figure skating one has to be versatile and cannot get trapped in a certain role or image, regardless of how wonderful it is. In her free skate Masha becomes such an… ethereal girl. We will try to improve ourselves in this very important year of sports.

- Do you use the word “Olympics” in the girls’ presence?

- We prepare for the season as to that of any other. You don’t have to talk about the Olympics for everyone to feel that Olympic wave gaining speed and power, ready to crash through. A coach’s saying “Don’t think about the Olympics for now” is doomed to be empty. Everyone will think about it and talk about it. It is normal.

- You already have experience with an athlete motivated to win the Olympics.

- Well, you know, I do.. It is most important that they, Lena and Masha, were motivated. Our jobs as coaches is to not separate them. We come to work making sure both get attention whether it’s off-ice PE, choreography, etc.

- During ice practice they are separated, as far as I understand.

- Naturally. This is needed that both can spend the maximum time working with program music.

- So this was not meant to remove sparring between them?

- They are already sparring. How else are they supposed to win? Sometimes they do skate together. I join and separated them when needed,

- Do you think they compete with each other?

- I think that if you were to ask them, they’d tell you that they do not. They do look each others way sometimes. Girls make it appear that they don’t look at each other but that is false. This is good. You do have to appreciate the fact that you don’t work alone. And thank god that everything is working well for us.
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Russian Nationals is going to need to upgrade to a "Kiss n' Cry Hysterically". There are so many good ladies skaters that want an Olympic Berth then medal desperately. If there was no per country restriction then the Russian Ladies could fill out the whole final flight at the Olympics.

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