Vaytsekhovskaya's interview with Goncharenko

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Elena Vaytskhovskaya's interview with Inna Goncharenko for ria.ru (please click the original link...)

EV: This season for the first time you had a chance to follow the skating as a viewer. What are your impressions?
IG: I was watching figure skating before as well. Just usually I didn’t have a chance to follow the whole competition. This season I did. I was slightly bored. There were no real surprises.

EV: I.e. you expected the main Russian favourite Zagitova to lose just like she did at the GPF and the Nationals?
IG: Of course I was hoping Alina would be able to pull it together and fight. But the thought it’s just a post Olympic season was in my mind. The mental tiredness that falls on you after the Olympics does not go away in less than a year. And it’s hard to get rid of. The venue was packed. On one hand it’s a good thing, on the other, when there are so many people there is much more pressure, which you can’t ignore when on the ice. You have to love it and use that energy.

EV: Like your pupil Elena Radionova used to.
IG: Right. Lena always took the crowd as a source of energy, the battery. She would get so much joy and power from it. But not all the skaters are capable of it. When you are not ready to skate the public’s pressure is not working for you, it stresses. And causes an internal confusion.

EV: I was baffled by another thing: the GPF, Nationals, Euros – Zagitova was looking great in the practices. I.e. she competed too early and was burnt out? Is there a chance?
IG: It’s hard to get your athlete on the top of the shape at the right moment. If there was a golden rule… But there isn’t, even if you are talking about the same athlete. Once he is on the top during the competition, next time you do exactly the same and there is no result. Besides, Zagitova, like many other athletes joined her current group later in her career – not at the age of 4. I.e. she had her technique, which was not always the best. She had to re-learn some things. When the athlete is under pressure those things pop out: the old mistakes, the old uncertainties. Mentally the post Olympic situation could only amplify it. And Alina is growing up. She is not yet completely done developing even now.

EV: After her unsuccessful skate in Minsk I saw a scary comment in the social network `this doll is broken, bring the new one’
IG: I’ll agree it’s a cute doll who made everyone happy and hope she’ll continue. The rest is stupid. Envy in silence.

EV: I.e. we should take for granted the ladies figure skating is a short term thing?
IG: It depends on several things. If the world wants to be in ave of the quad jumps performed by the ladies then yes, it is what we have now. The young girls, the hardly landed jumps, the high competitiveness: `you can’t jump? Go away!’. If the figure skating will go through a re-thinking and re-orientation and other components will become more important things will develop differently.

EV: Which side are you taking?
IG: I think figure skating should be an art and not a Chinese gymnastics, where the girls are 17-18y.o. in papers, but they don’t look older than 10. Small bodies, childhood faces. Perform something unbelievable and disappear. The next season there is a new army.

EV: And the most important is to be born in the right month, like Zagitova?
IG: Of course. But Alina was not only lucky to be born in the right month but to be in Eteri Tutberidze’s group. I don’t think even given her birthdate she would end up where she did at the Olymipcs had she been coached by anyone else. Eteri, having such a material in her hands did everything correctly. Hence congratulations to the team!

EV: When this season someone starts talking about Zagitova usually they compare her to Kikhira with her amazing jumps. Is the Japanese ladies skating developing the same direction ours does?
IG: No. Their whole approach is different. I have been following the Japanese ladies since I first started coaching. The Japanese ladies have a slightly different body type, which is lucky. They never had super high jumps, but they never attempted them and they used their natural appearance smartly. The lightness, the speed of revolutions. We are heavier and less maneurous. But the main difference really is that we have to motivate our skaters all the time: go, go, work, don’t stand back! The Japanese athlete needs to understand the practice: this is what you do, this is the pattern, this many times. You don’t even need to control the rest. I thought about it a lot – when you talk to our specialists who work in Japan and came to a conclusion it’s really all about the upbringing: till the age of 5 the Japanese kids do whatever they want to. And then they are put in a strict boundaries and are raised as a servant for the adults: not a word against, look down, everything the adult said is a law. I recall when Radionova was little and we competed in Slovenia, the Japanese who payed for a lot of ice time were practicing. I watched them: one coach and several athletes. They all had the same pattern, and quite a complicated one, the pattern included the elements and the speeding up – very well built. For an hour and half the athletes were doing the elements on the patter – till the coach told them to stop. The athlete had a run through, the music is on again, he does the same patter again and again to the top of his ability. That’s where that Japanese soft skating is coming from.

EV: Another thing I don’t understand is this: not long ago there was a video online where Kikhira lands quite confidently two quads. Yet she does not plan integrating them into her programme for the Worlds. I.e. the coach is in no hurry to get the maximum result from her pupil right here right now?
IG: That’s the mentality as well. In this case – the coach’s. By the way, I don’t think Rika is the only such a skater in Japan. After all we only get the top of the iceberg, not it’s underwater part. There is a chance there are more than 10 girls like Kikhira behind her. Or almost like her. With a great gliding, a perfect edge control. And a professional coach who works slowly, not in a hurry but that work goes up and up. It more or less covers the athlete with layers like a dough. Hence the coaches are confident with their work results.
Another case I can recall – when Radionova and I were switching to the seniors at Russian nationals we were doing so many complicated combos that the senior girls couldn’t dream about. But while being so much superior technically the components pulled us down all the time. Of course I wanted to understand why do we get such marks? SO I asked all the time, and explained that I need to know what to work on and what to put the stress on in the future. I was told see, it’s a little girl, what’s the hurry? The girl is a junior, her skating is still juniorish. Now we see those little girl getting the senior level components. While, excuse me, those girls still can’t point their toes or hold their legs in the right position. All the moves are of the little girls, they even step above their feet on the crossovers. Yet the judges assume it’s a mature amazing skating. Yes, there are exceptions, such as Alena Kostornaya, who even now has the most senior level of gliding and a very well balanced skating, but I know how much effort was put into that by her previous coach Elena Zhgun, how much she worked on that exactly. Of course the jumping technique is not in vain as well, but it’s impossible to figure who out of all these little girls will become a senior skater. It’s a lottery. And we need to keep in mind: if we want to see all these amazing little girls in the senior scene we need to look differently at what is happening on the ice now.

EV: Or hope we get a new doll.
IG: Yes. And that she’ll be prettier than the previous.

EV: What happened in Minsk to the 4 times national champion Kovtun came as a surprise for you?
IG: I don’t think I can be objective about Maksim, after all I coached him. He looked decent at the nationals, after which he had a month till the Europeans. It’s not enough. I don’t know how much time he had to rest, but let’s assume: Maks is a tall guy, with a big body and if he lets himself get some rest he’ll need a lot of time to get back. Sometimes in such cases it’s better not to let yourself rest at all.
The time we worked together I had a chance to witness this: when Kovtun is lacking something he becomes not confident. And this lack of confidence stays within him for a very long time. I feel so sorry for him. I am not at all for switching him with someone else now. He went through the nationals, he should have a chance.

EV: What do you think about the top team Tarasova/Morozov?
IG: I liked them better last season: there was fun and a spark. Now those are two separate people who are skating together against their will. It’s my personal point of view and I don’t udnerstand where it comes from. I have been thinking about it for a while. There is always a leader in the pair: sometimes a male one, sometimes it’s a female. In Volosozhar/Trankov team it was all about Tanya, who, with her inner strength held a line. Maks was following that line and the team looked as a whole. The energy was amazing, pretty much like one we get from Papadakis/Cizeron. When Tanya and Maks were on the ice I couldn’t take my eyes off from the first moment till they left the ice. Even when some elements went wrong it didn’t matter: Volosozhar and Trankov were still above everyone with that crazy energy that went through their skate. This season when Tarasova/Morozov go on the ice the only thing I think of is `just don’t screw the elements’. Am just stilly nervous. I don’t understand how come a girl, who used to be a great single skater with a full set of triples is now struggling with a 3T. Had there been some kind of a mental problem, had Evgenia spent so much time and effort learning the jump and was unable to at the first place, like Vera Bazarova at the time it would make sense. But now, I do remember Tarasova in the single competitions when she was doing all the triples! Where did it all go!? I don’t know.

EV: The year you spent unemployed – how did it go?
IG: I decided it’s a vacation I deserve. I spent a lot of time with my previous pupils – amazingly a lot of people wanted to see and talk to me. My daughter is having a stressful moment – the 11th grade, she is graduating. As a mom I try to do everything so she would be comfortable. My family needed some time to get used having me home. Son really loves eating like any man, so opening the fridge he would exclaim `Wow, how come we have so much food?’. Previously we used to have you know… half made food. I.e. you wouldn’t die of hunger but you wouldn’t enjoy it. They were as if used to that, but now all of the sudden they have a nice food home.

EV: Were you ashamed of your previous life?
IG: Looking back, yes. Having a 10 days vacation and in the certain dates only, if there were some school activities they would have to be done without the mom, spending the weekend together was not an option. And there were so many foreign people in the house all the time – first the nannies, then housekeepers, tutors, drivers etc. We had to put a stop to that as well. I.e. organize the household differently, so it would function right.

EV: Have you considered what would you want to do should you come back to figure skating?
IG: Well, obviously not pairs or ice dance. Though I was following the competitions this season in both with a great pleasure. Among other things I got sick of hearing that the French Papadakis/Cizeron are praised without a reason. I though `ok, so let me see it myself’

EV: What was the conclusion?
IG: The praising was right deserved. They dance while skating. And skate like living. In their own way, without copying anyone, just like Belousova/Protopopov used to. It is magical. I want to see them skate from the beginning till the end. And it’s me, a jumps coach who usually gets bored in the middle of a dance routine normally! You know how it is, when a single skater skates, does some elements, then he is tired and has a small break when continuing to as if skating to the music, while everyone really understands he just takes his time to rest. It’s the same in the ice dance really, just without the jumps. Hence we were taught from the childhood ice dance was for the losers. All the competition is about a more interesting programme, while the skating is really the same?
French stand out. Just like Bestemianova/Bukin were standing out with their charisma, their crazy energy – no one was looking at their elements or steps – their fire was enough to burn the venue. By the way I was very happy for Ivan Bukin and his partner Stepanova and their coaches. It was hard for them – they skated last, which is a crazy thing when it’s about the medals. Yet they were able to skate well and get their medal. It’s a rare.

EV: Watching figure skating were you regretting leaving TSKA into a void?
IG: I guess that moment when you have to stop, look back and rethink comes. I didn’t leave without a reason: I stopped liking what happens in my life because I saw how my constant stress effects my beloved ones. And I thought: if can I afford leaving the job for a while, figure what do I want – why not? There were a lot of job offers, including the ones abroad for a short term projects, but I knew at instance I didn’t want to leave my family. Besides, there aren’t so many opportunities working on such a high level abroad as there are in Russia, so should I go back to coaching it will be only in Russia.

EV: So guess the question is really – do you want to?
IG: Yes, I do. Think the moment will come and the right job will find me. Am not interested working with amateurs on the public rinks. Someone must need that coaching work. The unknown artist who die in the unknown – that’s not about us.
 

Spun Silver

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That's a great interview. Thanks. Interesting insights on the current state of ladies' skating from a non-Eteri perspective. And finally from a Russian coach I learn the secret of Japanese skating!
 

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