Samokhvalov's interview with Buyanova

TAHbKA

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Anatoly Samokhvalov's interview with Elena Buyanova (Vodorezova)


AS: When a skater leaves you do you feel robbed?
EB: Not at all. I always said and will be saying the athletes have a right to choose. They can change their lives as they see fit. Of course it's painful because Danielian had the whole team working for him. I don't understand why did he leave in August-September, after the new programmers were made.

AS: I can understand why do skaters leave to Tutberidze - to win, understand to Pluschenko - for the fame and, guess, money. But what the switch to Rukavitsin is for?
EB: I think discussing my colleagues is wrong, hence I will not comment, despite the public words of Arthur's new team about him being on a low level with just triple jumps right now. Danielian is a talented skater, he has a 4lz and a 4loop. He has the whole set of quads, the problem was that he couldn't work because his legs hurt. We waited for 3 years till he recovers. Perhaps in the new team he miraculously recovered. If so we can only be happy for him.

AS: Rukavitsin said that Danielian doesn't need the medical help right now, he needs the medical support. What is the difference?
EB: The medical support is something Arthur always had - our doctors are miracle workers and they were doing their magic on him daily.

AS: I understood from these words that Danielian is healthy
EB: 2 weeks ago he couldn't step on his food and now in a different city with a different coach he is healed?

AS: If you put yourself in his shoes how can you explain his coaching switch?
EB: Arthur grew up in front of us and we can understand some of his reasons, but I am sure he can't claim we have done something wrong. Both us and the federation did all we could for him.

AS: The first thing that comes to my mind for the switch is the sparring. Aliev, Ignatov is in Rukavitsin's group, besides Kondratuik and Samarin in Sokolovskaya's. The productive fun.
EB: But the only one with the result is Kondratuk. Having fun is one thing, the sparring is another. The sparring should work for the result. Of course he was lacking something thus he left, but usually the athlete understands what does he lack during the working process, while we didn't have such a working process for 3 years.

AS: If he switched for a better company why move to St. Petersburg? Kondratuik and Samarin are right here.
EB: I also don't understand how did he end up in St. Petersburg. It would be much easier for him to stay in Moscow.

AS: What if he switched to Sokolovksaya, would there be a blow up within the TSKA group?
EB: I grew a thick skin, so I wouldn't react too much.

AS: When did your skin become thick?
EB: I've been participating the Europeans and the Worlds since I was 11.

AS: You were the little baby of the Olympic team, everyone loved you and your ponytails.
EB: Of course I was loved, but the sport makes you stronger. I now watch my 11y.o. - they are not ready for the major competition. At their age I was thickening my skin.

AS: So whose coaching switch made cracks in your thick skin?
EB: Artiom Borodulin.

AS: That was a long time ago.
EB: I was young and was reacting with pain, now am wiser and calmer. The coach can feel the athlete's switch. Half a year ago I told my team that Danielian might leave. No one believed me.

AS: Why did you think so?
EB: Experience. The athletes change their behaviour, treat the practices differently. They might not see the changes, but I do.

AS: Was he being rude?
EB: I wish he was. It would be easier for him. He keeps everything inside.

AS: Do you eat yourself that you did not give the athlete enough?
EB: Yes, but I come up with the objective conclusions. See, the athletes are always trying to survive and their parents are fighting with them. They are all are in pain, the skate through the injuries, because there is no such thing as a not injured athlete. I went through it all myself skating through the pain and now am worried about it, take care of it. Sometimes too much.

AS: Tutberidze calls it a profession `a skater's mom' and they should take care.
EB: I let the parents decide. Moms are different - some know it better than anyone which music should be used, some just give us the kid with `do whatever you want with them'. Radionova's mom was perfect. Arthur's mom Armine is a very grateful and sensible person. But her son grew up and she will not become his enemy. She has to support him. The thing is that there are not enough moms to cry on their shoulder. I make the kid work on the ice, the mom makes them do things home. At the end a lot of times the kid has no outlet. When at the age of 15-16 the conflict of generations begins, when they lack their own `me!' they start growing apart from their parents. And it's a normal thing as well.

AS: Who is the best example?
EB: Maria Sotskova. She is not too gifted. She was a cute girl who combined the womanhood, the huge will and ability to work. She once had an inflammation in her ankle. It was a size of a fist. And she had to fit it all into a boot. `Masha, let's give that competition up'. `No, that was my goal'/
She then started gaining weight. She is tall and all her objective disadvantages showed - the underotations. She was eating right, but was at that age when the girls become bugger from breathing the air. One coach once told me `oh well, so it didn't work, so what, what can we do about the weight?'. I disagreed. For me it's a coaching tragedy when the athlete does not live up to her potential.
You ask whether I eat myself, well I still torture myself thinking: perhaps my problem is in my attitude: `tough but fair'? I always tell them straight what is going on and it's hard for the athlete to hear that ugly truth. The conflict begins and then the athlete escapes the reality into feeling a victim. I can't explain things nicely, that's my problem, but I still think you'd better be harsh but fair. We were shaking Sotskova quite badly, but there are always people who will sooth and calm.

AS: Sotskova insisted on her ego, which, I think, ended her. No one believed her except for herself and she went for the radical measures.
EB: She chose the easiest way.

AS: A forbidden substance.
EB: It's something the coach can't control, but I always explain my athletes: don't look for the easy way out, it will come back and bite you in the end.

AS: Who couldn't understand your toughness?
EB: Don't make me sound like a monster. In some things am softer than the others.

AS: Like what?
EB: For example instead of dragging to the ice I let them heal. A lot of coaches don't mind the injures.

AS: I.e. Danielian should had been dragged to the ice more often?
EB: It's not related to Danielian! Everyone is injured.

AS: Did you ever blame yourself?
EB: Of course. Am not a god or a king and I realize my mistakes. I sometimes pushed too hard. Felt the athlete can do more but they feel sorry for themselves. Some were jealous and I didn't mind that. But if I could turn back the time I would still make the same mistakes.

AS: Did you have to be harsher with Kostornaya at some point?
EB: I was harsh in stopping her training process because I don't want to see her broken bones. I made her do the MRI and understand her hip problem, what stress can she take. In the end the MRI showed she needs a surgery.

AS: She didn't want to do the MRI?
EB: She didn't. `I'm used to it' she insisted. But then she agreed. I'm over-checking things.

AS: Did she hold grunge against you?
EB: For saving her from yet another broken bone?

AS: No, the months you are trying to start working together.
EB: We only really worked for one month, during which we created the programmes that she more or less has, just without one spiral. I have no problems with her work.

AS: Does it mean she works hard during the practices when she is healthy?
EB: She works as much as needed, but again: we are talking about just one month of work. Once we get to work normally at least for half a year we can come to some conclusions. The first year is based on what the previous team gave. It has always been so.

AS: I think she peaked at Europeans 2020 and since then she did not improve in anything.
EB: We will not execute her for that. I can only feel for the Tutberidze's coaching team having all their 4 leading girls the same age. They should had had their own generation, but they were born at the same time and they are competing with each other. Trusova, Scherbakova, Valieva and Kostornaya are an outstanding skaters.

AS: As for Kostornaya - what had Tutberidze's team done for her?
EB: They created an exceptional athlete. Taking that girl I take a huge responsibility. I understand how much hate I'll get if she is not ready.

AB: Why your responsibility? Yes, they made her a European champion, but she switched to Pluschenko, who, as far as I know, gave her all the possible conditions which she did not use, all that deepened because of the соrona, came back to Tutberidze, then again they were not able to pick her up. Now she is in your team and quite far from her champion condition. Had she switched in February 2020 I would not be asking that question, but what is your responsibility now?
EB: I think I'm responsible for her health knowing she came to me not in the best condition. It's not about her professional abilities, but her health. Hence we made an agreement - let's just give it a try.
So she and I both can understand how can she work after 2 broken bones that happened for a reason. She came mentally defeated being afraid of the jumps. She was afraid she can land and break an arm again. There are a lot of risks when facing a talent like Kostornaya's. She needs an opportunity to reload. If she wants to, of course. And she does, she is very curious - too much. We didn't really have a chance to try something yet but I can't dump her in her current condition. I accepted her with my soul and became close.

AB: You didn't get to work together yet but you are compatible?
EB: It's not about being compatible but about the health. It was worse than I thought. The compatibility I think is fine, we can communicate like adults.

AB: You were kind of a rules breaker just like her, like Sotnikova, like Radionova in a way. Does that connect between you? You could all be friends if you were the same age.
EB: I never let my athletes that close. I did with Adelina, the way we were so close in everything.

AB: Sure, she gave you an Olympic medal!
EB: We were close before Sochi. She trusted me completely. We are together since she was 8, I spent more time with her than her parents. When it was announced the Olympics will be in Sochi Sotnikova told me `I will become an Olympic champion there'. A year before the Olympics she had a chance to retire. There was a time when she couldn't do anything. The practices went great, the competition came and she would miss 6 elements. I was raging. But that's Adelina's psyche.

AB: Sotnikova calls you her second mom. But if she needed the second mom Kostoranaya probably doesn't - she is too old for that.
EB: I am not and will not be her second mom. She is completely different and can't be compared.

AB: What is Buyanova-Kostornaya connection?
EB: Me accepting her as she is. Am not going to educate her, am going to coach her.

AB: Does she follow you as a coach or does she understand herself what does she need?
EB: There are followers. Like Adelina. She would do everything I told her. But I'll repeat - I coached her since she was 8. I recall Tchernyshev coming to work on her programme and being in awe she can do everything. Tarasova was also in awe. Tarasova always asks them to do things with a twist - she wants to see them in an uncomfortable move. But Adelina was comfortable with everything. She went there and did things with no doubt. She is an executor. Kostornaya is not an executor, she is a co-author. For example she can offer the programme ideas, and it's not something every athlete can do.

AB: What did Tarasova say about Kostornaya's switch?
EB: She was not happy. The first times she came and she was not happy. I explained her Kostornaya had not been skating for half a year but she was not convinced. When a month later we showed her the programmes she liked them. Though she added `you need to work more'.

AB: Think taking the pink glasses off the brain and the experience hints Kostornaya will not compete and she is aiming for the shows. Does my lack of believe in Kostornaya have a point?
EB: A point in how she behaves? I can assume so. We don't know how will the surgery go, whether she will be able to recover. She probably has her own fears. But: I have no right to demand or be upset. Kostornaya is an athlete who understands: even if she will be doing the shows only she will be the best there. Even now she did not let me down in any way: it's not her fault she has that injury.

AS: And yet you are a coach and you need an athlete for the competitions.
EB: Of course am not working for the shows. We all are the coaches. If an athlete tells me they want to compete we should get ready for the competitions. You can't have it both - do the competitions and earn money in the shows.

AB: Did you discuss Kostornaya's wrist injury?
EB: Of course I know what happened before me, but it's not interesting. It's not my story.

AB: She was injured, withdrew from the most important Nationals of her life that could give her an Olympic ticket. Tutberidze said she could had skated with that injury and fight for an Olympic spot, Kostornaya said she couldn't. What do you think?
EB: I don't know and I don't know whose decision it was to withdrow her from the nationals. And I don't want to get into it.

AS: You once told me Sergey Rozanov who was at the time Kostornaya's coach in Pluschenko's team wanted to join your team. Did he want to come together with Kostornaya?
EB: Yes. It was right after the Nationals.

AS: You declined Rozanov. What if Kostornaya asked to join you then?
EB: I would take her.

AS: Do you recall that moment?
EB: What for?

AS: To be sorry. She was younger and the Olympics were ahead of her.
EB: It's their sports life and I will not be sorry for them. She didn't talk to me about it. Besides, she said in an interview she does not regret her actions.

AS: Do you think it was sincere? If you are so talented and you haven't made it to the Olympics you can't `have no regrets'.
EB: Perhaps she has some regrets but she can't admit it. The talented people are harder to work with because things come easy for them. Of course it's easier working with an athlete like Sotnikova who thanks to the daily hard work and her abilities was able to achieve the best possible result. Kostornaya is a sparkle. Such people can't survive a routine. They can take it as the kids but then that talent bursts out and the `yaaaaaaaaaahooooooooo' begins. They can do everything. The coach, even the best one, can fail there.

AS: Medvedeva. Were you close to become her coach?
EB: No. Evgenia explained herself when she came. She asked for our help because she couldn't go back to Canada due to the соvid restrictions and all her practices were with Orser online. We never discussed working together with her.

AS: When you saw her state of healthy including her back did you not ask `Evgenia, what is it all for?'
EB: There were a lot of such talks but Medvedeva is hard to understand for a simple person. Such people - the fanatics from their childhood and Evgenia in an addition to that is also a leader. After Korea she have been living with that pain and she aimed for a better result. She once told me `Even if my back becomes one ball of pain I will still practice'. I can only respect that. I saw how hard it was for her. But her mother's support, Evgenia's belief in herself gave her hope.

AS: In the end with these practices her injury worsened and there was no result.
EB: I think she made a right choice going back to Tutberidze. All the hate she had magically disappeared

AS: Were you surprised with the news of her going back to Tutberidze?
EB: Hm... A bit, but first thing I thought about was the hate she was getting. She was being hated for moving to Canada.

AS: But it wasn't because of the hate that she went back
EB: No, not her.

AS: Why doto they go back? Trusova, Kostornaya, Medvedeva.
EB: They go back to the coach who they had the result with. Because those who did not decide to retire altogether go back. I noticed if you raised the athlete from the childhood they remain somewhere close. They train with someone else, but they come for your advice.

AS: Tutberidze has an authoritarian way of coaching and everyone is leaving that. Medvedeva found her second home with Orser and was sharing how much she is loved, she has a new life, she had a right to have a point of view and, in the end, a right for freedom. And then she goes back to the same people who had not changed in these couple of years.
EB: It's for her to answer. Even if I know something I can't share it.

AS: But why are they so dependent on that coaching team?
EB: I'll put it this way: they have a very well built process. The athletes are sometimes smarter than us, the coaches. And Evgenia became so well loved when she came back. I am thrilled, by the way, with Kostornaya's such devoted fans. They support her so much! But our fans don't really love our athletes. They pick a favourite and don't see anyone else. They don't appreciate and don't respect the others' victories. You have to love your athletes and not hate them.

AS: What you said belongs to the past. Get used to it.
EB: I'm just a person and I don't mind. I have a thick skin and I don't live in the internet. I don't have the social networks to post my cup of coffee or a haircut.

AS: You should. You should sell yourself, show your work, your team..
EB: I don't suffer from the lack of self promotion. For me the social network PR - all these quads in the practices, the 5 revolutions on a harness is an online marketing. There is some noise but the results do not improve. The coach's promotion is their result.

AS: But soon without the social networks no one will know who you are.
EB: And I work in order to be known who I am? We have a professional team and there will be results sooner or later. I believe in professionalism and not stupid talks. I don't accept it. The life will put things into the perspective. I do get a lot of requests to coach. A shame the mature skaters come in a state when they can hardly continue working.

AS: Were your coaching ambitions satisfied in 2014?
EB: Why? How would I load the skates with the ambition? I don't understand the coaches who work for the money only.

AS: I.e. you don't miss the Olympics?
EB: I had plenty.

AS: You had enough?
EB: No. How should I put it... I'm happy with my current working period - I work with the 12 y.o. kids and even learn from them, recall my abilities that you loose when working with the adults only. I'm on a break of that constant responsibility of the Olympic fight. Besides I have a family who are not less important than the Olympics.

AS: That's what I'm aiming for: for you missing the Olympics is not a tragedy like for Mishin or Moskvina?
EB: I admire them. But I have a different understanding of the Olympics. If I have a great athlete who I didn't get to the Olympics or didn't give them a chance for the Olympics I will be very upset. Recall Sotskova who made it to the Olympics because of her strongwillness only.
I admire her. We got her ready for a battle that she won. If Maria hadn't made it to Korea it would be my defeat. For her just making to the Olympics was a triumph and for us - a reason to be proud and crying in the dressing room. Radionova's not making to the Olympics is a tragedy and a pain of all our team. Because we failed her and she was worthy. Just going to any Olympics is not a goal for me.
 

rfisher

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Thanks for the translation. I'm insatiably curious given the unspoken backstory between Buyanova and Tutberidze. And, curious that Kovtun didn't come up in the interview.

I too am very sad Radionova fell into the wrong time period for the Olympics.
 

Holy Headband

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I'm still making my way through the whole thing and I'm sure there's juicier stuff yet to come, but the opening section is already cracking me up.

AS: When a skater leaves you do you feel robbed?
EB: Not at all. I always said and will be saying the athletes have a right to choose. They can change their lives as they see fit. Of course it's painful because Danielian had the whole team working for him. I don't understand why did he leave in August-September, after the new programmers were made.

AS: I can understand why do skaters leave to Tutberidze - to win, understand to Pluschenko - for the fame and, guess, money. But what the switch to Rukavitsin is for?
EB: I think discussing my colleagues is wrong, hence I will not comment, despite the public words of Arthur's new team about him being on a low level with just triple jumps right now. Danielian is a talented skater, he has a 4lz and a 4loop. He has the whole set of quads, the problem was that he couldn't work because his legs hurt. We waited for 3 years till he recovers. Perhaps in the new team he miraculously recovered. If so we can only be happy for him.

AS: Rukavitsin said that Danielian doesn't need the medical help right now, he needs the medical support. What is the difference?
EB: The medical support is something Arthur always had - our doctors are miracle workers and they were doing their magic on him daily.

AS: I understood from these words that Danielian is healthy
EB: 2 weeks ago he couldn't step on his food and now in a different city with a different coach he is healed?
This is slightly more subtle than Eteri's brand of character assassination, but my God, Russian coaches are such inveterate mudslingers. "I respect skaters' right to choose who they train with, but [aggrieved whining]. I'm not going to comment, but [passive-aggressive swipe]." You just gotta laugh.

Of course, part of the responsibility lies with the style of journalism on display here, which invites these kinds of statements by poking at the interviewee relentlessly until they say something catty, but I'm sure Buyanova knew very well what kind of questions she would face and what kind of interview she was about to give. She could have just turned it down if she didn't want to throw shade.

Again, she's not on Eteri's level and she may even believe that she genuinely wishes Danielian well, but I don't understand why coaches won't just keep their traps shut in these situations.
 

hanca

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Again, she's not on Eteri's level and she may even believe that she genuinely wishes Danielian well, but I don't understand why coaches won't just keep their traps shut in these situations.
That would be a boring world! Everyone would be giving just highly sterile and boring interviews, all of them very much same because no one would want to say anything that could be considered offensive, because God help you if you dared to say your opinion!
 

clairecloutier

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Juiciness can be overrated at times. I felt like this interview focused on a series of unpleasant situations/conflicts/personal acrimonies that we've heard about before and that aren't real fun to revisit or contemplate. The questions were pretty sharply angled and the answers frequently equivocal, yet still reveal more than Buyanova perhaps intends. What is she really saying about Sotskova, for example? ("If only she hadn't grown so tall, what we might have accomplished, she really needed to do something to lose weight, it's just too bad it was illegal!" :unsure: ) Interviewer prods repeatedly on whether Danielian is really injured or not, Buyanova eventually responds with somewhat discrediting the skater. :( The basic fact that Kostornaia's career is a mishandled mess is again apparent ... and Buyanova both claims and dissociates herself from Kostornaia (which is her right and even prudent, yet also a bit troubling). We have the series of basically no-comments in regard to other coaches, and the discussion of the "return" (i.e., public humbling) of Medvedeva to Tutberidze. ("I think she made a right choice going back to Tutberidze. All the hate she had magically disappeared." There is so much behind these words!) I guess what is one person's "drama" is another's "dysfunctional infighting." :(
 
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Holy Headband

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That would be a boring world! Everyone would be giving just highly sterile and boring interviews, all of them very much same because no one would want to say anything that could be considered offensive, because God help you if you dared to say your opinion!
I love drama more than most on FSU, probably, but I'm a random person on the internet. If I was a coach in charge of a young person's athletic and personal development, it would feel like a huge betrayal of trust to air all my grievances with them in public.

One, children and teenagers are not as mature as adults, as a general rule. They are expected to be petty, thoughtless or ungrateful at times; it's part of growing up. It's the job of the adults in their lives to react maturely and model correct behaviour for them. Publicly responding to, say, a 15-year-old going behind your back to talk to a different coach or not showing up to practice or whatever with spite and wounded pride instead of keeping your negative emotions to yourself (at least in front of others) means you're not qualified to be in charge of young skaters.

Two, following from the previous point, the public nature of these negative interviews makes them even more irresponsible. A coach like Buyanova or Plushenko has longstanding relationships with journalists and can basically get a hit piece on a pupil published any time they like. Someone like Danielian or Kostornaia doesn't have the same media connections; all they can do to get their side of the story out there is post about it on social media, and any direct reaction to snide insinuations such as what we see here will immediately be framed as the skater being rude, mentally unstable or out of control. So we get Buyanova's (no doubt subjective) version of the story, but we're unlikely to get Danielian's until a journalist approaches him with the intention to stir up more drama at his expense.

Three, again, someone like Danielian is very young, and what is more, he has been in the care of Buyanova since he was 12. He never chose to work with her as a fully autonomous person; that decision was most likely made for him by other adults. Buyanova is acting like Tutberidze usually does in these situations, albeit with slightly more decorum: as if she's been betrayed by an associate who owed her loyalty, transparency, an extensive notice period, public flattery & probably their firstborn child as well. (The subtext of every Tutberidze character assassination interview, of course, is that there's absolutely nothing the skater could have done to avoid incurring her wrath and leaving her is always going to turn the Russian figure skating community against you.) But children who have been entrusted to you by other adults don't owe you stuff; they're not your partners or employees. They were never in a position to enter a contractual agreement with you. Instead, you owe them stuff by virtue of the power differential between you.

You owe them, at the very least, privacy and dignity. Turning the inner workings of your relationship with a teenager you were responsible for into grist for the gossip mill is already a breach of ethics, and making sure that gossip reflects poorly on them is extra bad.

Anyway. Sorry for the rant, but I'm not sure how to articulate the basic notion that adults should respect and protect the teenagers in their care instead of acting like teenagers themselves and doing so in public. I never denied it's entertaining to watch from the outside, but it shows a basic moral deficit and makes me feel sorry for all the young skaters working with people who think acting like this is no big deal.
 
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rfisher

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The thing is, apart from Aliev winning Europeans, Rukavitsin's track record isn't comparable to Buyanova's. She knows that. We know that. Danielian knows that. He had to move all the way across the country from Moscow to St. Petersburg. So, she's probably wondering why.

And, there is a cultural issue as well. Russian coaches, all of them, speak their minds to the press. More than coaches from other countries. The skaters know this. The other coaches know. The parents know. Agree or disagree with them, but this is the culture. Or at least in figure skating. I've no idea if the same holds true for gymnastics or other sports.
 

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