Vaytsekhovskaya's interview with Oleg Vasiliev

TAHbKA

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Elena Vaytsekhovskaya's interview with Oleg Vasiliev for ria.ru

EV: Oleg, you have been working for the 2nd year in Tamara Moskvina's figure skating club. Can we say the club has strategic goals?
OV: Anton Sikharulidze who was one of the people who started the project voiced a simple truth that was exactly what I wanted: he wanted to return the past interest and glory to the pairs skating. Pairs skating is the most interesting discipline of figure skating: there is the hard technique, the jumps, the relationship between two people on the ice and the artistry - all that lack ice dance and the singles skating. To put it differently: a great pair can attract both the audience on the rink and the TV audience. Right now there are only several such pairs: Savchenko/Massot, Sui/Han. That's it. Anton's idea was to create a project that would change the situation in general. I work with Tamara Moskvina, we have a great team and think the project started to become alive.

EV: The result depends, in a lot of ways, on the `raw material' the coach is working with. There always talented kids lacking in pairs skating, according to the leading specialists. How do you plan solving that?
OV: Many would disagree with the words `raw material' when you talk about the kids, though it is a coaches' expression, a professional slang in a way. We did think about that, of course. Right now we don't only coach pairs, but the singles as well in our club. We know not all the single skaters will continue their career once they switch to seniors. Hence there is a chance that we'll get enough kids at the time. We will not have to look for the pairs skaters on the side and try to get them into our school.

EV: I always had an impression for the singles coach a kid who switches to pairs is always a painful process.
OV: True. It was always that way. In our case the difference is that the coaches were told in advance that it's the club's idea. I.e. the coaches know in advance what they are aiming for. Besides, no one is going to stand in their way if the good athletes will keep competing as singles if they want to and have a chance. On the other hand not everyone can become a brilliant single skater, which does not mean they can't have a great pairs career. What is needed is to spot it at the right time. The way our club works allows the athletes switching to pairs without too much pain. For the coach as well.

EV: You came to the test skates with 2 pairs from St. Petersburg. Tell me about them
OV: Alisa Efimova/Alexandr Korovin have been skating in our school for a year, previously they were coached for 3.5 years by Natalia Pavlova. It was a tough start, but hope we are past the adaptation problems.

EV: What were the hardships at the beginning?
OV: We treat the partners equally and they have the same responsibility on what happens on the ice. The mistakes, the executed elements. It was new for Alexandr- in his previous group the girls had most responsibility. But he is handling it and think even likes it. The guys are working hard, though it's obvious the way to the podium from where they are now is quite far. Our other pair - Alexandra Boikova/Dmitrii Kozlovskii were combining the junior and senior competitions last year and this is their first season in the seniors.

EV: How ambitious are you?
OV: You mean the athletes?

EV: First of all you, as a coach.
OV: Am a thinking man who can see the situation right: where my skaters are now, what are their misadvantages, who are our competition and where should we go to. We are on the right journey and this season we are aiming to make it to the top 3 with Efimova/Korovin.

EV: This summer you were having a training camp in your school together with the athletes and the coaches from Perm. I couldn't help thinking of Stanislav Zhuk's school who was constantly getting more pairs from Perm and Sverdlovsk.
OV: Ural schools always added the good skaters. Perm school were and still are the Tukov spouses - Valerii and Valentina, Sverdlovsk had the unique school of Igor Ksenofontov, while St. Petersburg skaters - hardly anyone was born and raised there and became champions - it was mostly kids from the different cities who wanted to do well much more than the locals. I.e. they knew exactly what they wanted. It was easier working with them. And, most importantly, athletes who come, from, say, Tukovs - there is no need to re-learn elements. The same as the local kids who went through Ludmila and Nikolai Velikovs school. Those specialists are the greatest masters of the juniors skating. It's not by chance 90% of the pairs who draw your attention on the junior level are from Tukovs or Velikovs. I think these people are the golden base of our country. We have to cherish them.

EV: Yet you can't argue when the talented kids switch coaches it always hurts their first coaches. I doubt there is a way to make the switch less painful.
OV: It's always a tragedy. You become so close to the skaters while working with them and parting with them, even knowing they are going to a better coach is like sending your own kid to a foster family. It's a hard process and if you are not mentally ready it's very painful.

EV: There is a popular point of view that in 4 years after the 2014 Olympics all Russian pairs skating went down and the blame is mainly on the Olympic champions coach Nina Mozer, who now took a break from coaching.
OV: There is nothing easier than blaming one person on all that went wrong, while having all the possible resources and now coming up with a result that would be worthy a mention. But if you analyze a situation that happened in pairs skating for many years we'll see the decline became earlier. It's the 2010, when we ended up with no medals in pairs skating, and also the 2006, when Totmianina/Marinin had to compete surrounded by 3 Chinese pairs all the time. I.e. it was obvious pairs skating was on the edge back then. Just that by the 2014 games Nina Mozer was able to gather all the resources - financial, administrative etc and throw them in Volosozhar/Trankov preparations. Of course, it's a different matter that all those resources did not create not a single juniors pair, even though Mozer was always a really good juniors coach.

EV: Well, the goals were different. In such cases seems a lot is left to run as is.
OV: In the juniors it's important to control the process all the time. If there is no control things fall apart. The girls gain weight, the guys hurt their backs and knees.

EV: I.e those coaches who go very strict with the juniors are right?
OV: All should have the right boundaries. You can't curse the kids, you can't hit the kids, you can't weight the girl 8 times a day. You can raise you voice sometimes, but it shouldn't become a system - the coach should control the boundary and never overstep it. The kids can't reply the coach the same way, hence their mental trauma will be much more severe than the seniors'

EV: Do you like what your previous pupil Maksim Trankov does with Tarasova/Morozov now?
OV: I certainly liked the result of their summer work: the programmes Maksim created for the guys differ from what they used to be like day and nigh. I have seen the great elements performed by Evgenia and Vladimir before, but there was no style, no characters, nothing that engraved those elements. Now the programmes are there, they seem to enjoy the skating. As for Maksim as a coach - we'll see it later - when we see his skaters compete and how they deal with the stress, how can they recover from the bad competitions. This is what defines the good coaching on that level.

EV: I was surprised such a nut case as Maksim all of the sudden becomes a well balanced specialist.
OV: I guess the reason is that Trankov achieved everything he wanted in sports and there is no more feeling of underachievement, which always bothered him as an athlete. Now he has a chance to pass his experience to Tarasova/Morozov and it's a very interesting process.

EV: What do you think about Ksenia Stolbova's chances, who started skating with a new partner a couple of months ago?
OV: Am being very careful. There are not so many examples in figure skating history when the older skaters became successfull with a new partner. I can probably count them on the fingers of one hand. There is an explanation: it takes time to get used to the new partner and not always that getting used goes smooth. There are exceptions, of course: Sale/Peletier had about 6-8 previous partners and they were nothing before they started skating together. Once their paired up they became world medalist a year later. But in most of the cases getting used to a new partner becomes harder with the age. It;s like a family life: when you are young you don't really care who to start the family with. The relationship on the ice is even harder because the work is so hard. When the person is tired it's harder to control and restrain yourself. The limit of your mental tolerance does not become better with the age, unfortunately. While you have to work harder, because the sport does not stop and wait for you - it progresses and becomes harder.

EV: How long does it take to create a medals aiming pair from two talented athletes?
OV: There is an Irina Rodnina example, who took 7 months. But the sport was different back then. The elements and the demands were different. Hence wouldn't compare. In order to learn all the elements and perform them on lvl 3-4 needs more than a year or two. 2 years are a minimum the athletes need to start standing out from the others. Take the 3split twist that Rodnina was doing - that is nothing now. All the elements now include additional demands and it's not yet the limit.

EV: Work on such an elements as the quad split twist, quad throw only begins after the athletes pair up, or is it possible to prepare the person to the elements so they would be ready once they start pairs?
OV: The jumps are something they learn as kids. There are girls who can spin very fast but there are those who can't. The closer the centre of weight to the spinning axis the faster they will spin. I.e. the girl has to be thin. There are a lot of other things the female partner must be. But then again, if the girl is capable of landing quad jumps at the age of 13-14, no way she'll switch to the pairs skating.

EV: Yet if such a girl pairs up with a guy who can land the quads the progress might be really fast.
OV: A good example in that are Boikova/Kozlovskii. Two decent single skaters who have all the triple jumps and the 3/3 combos, who paired up and won almost all their junior competitions the first year. But it's the juniors skating. The seniors skating is different. Teaching the athlete to jump is sometimes easier than teaching them to skate. The gliding is something they must learn as kids, just as the jumps. If that is lacking you can't compensate. Now, for example, am looking at Alena Kostornaya in the juniors and am happy to see her skating. It's really important that the talented kid gets the right coaching from the very beginning. It's not easy to spot the talent.

EV: A known gymnasitcs coach Alexandrov once mentioned the kids to walk loudly never become great gymnasts.
OV: Frankly, we never really analyzed how to select the kids, how to figure who will be better in the base jump and who for the ski slalom. There were some studies on the muscles and the moving ability, but it was very sporadic. There is no system.

EV: How did Moskvina choose the kids for pairs?
OV: She had an interesting system. She preferred small strong girls with short hands and legs and tall thin boys. It still works, by the way. I, for example, sometimes look at the long legged female pairs skaters and see how hard it is for them dealing with some elements the short girls easily do.

EV: How involved is Moskvina in the coaching process?
OV: 100%. She is on the rink almost every practice, in her skates, despite just going through a complicated knee surgery. I think it's so valuable she shares her coaching experience, offers, advice and explains things, while not attempting to demand a thing. Even though she could have: she is such a great authority no one would dare not complying.
 

hanca

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Wow, what an advanced idea! Each of the partner is equally responsible for what happened on the ice, rather than blaming just the girl! Pity that Pavlova doesn’t accept that.
 
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Wow did she actually call Maxim Trankov a nutcase in the interview? No need to be polite, tell us what you really think, Elena.

Aside from that, interesting interview. Pairs is a complicated discipline that's for sure.
 

starrynight

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Wow, what an advanced idea! Each of the partner is equally responsible for what happened on the ice, rather than blaming just the girl! Pity that Pavlova doesn’t accept that.
I have a new drinking game called *drink every time a Russian coach unprompted starts talking about female skaters' weights* lol We'll be sloshed by Finlandia!

It's quite interesting how they talk about the resources poured into pairs skating prior to Sochi not really producing a top junior pair.

I think pairs is very difficult in juniors because so much can change with young skaters and there is no way of quickly grabbing for medals straight out of juniors like there is in ladies. Most pair skaters don't really hit the senior medals until their 20s and win the Olympics until their late 20s.

You can get juniors and the girls grow too tall and the boys don't grow enough. They do not have the interest of continuing together for another 10 years etc etc. It's not like in ladies where you can promise the 13 or 14 year olds they'll be winning senior titles in a year or two.

He was very correct when he said that it's often easier to teach the skaters to jump than it is to skate. There really is an ocean of difference between juniors and seniors in pairs.

The really artistic pairs (probably with the exception of Sui/Han) really probably only developed this skill in their 20s. There isn't too many shortcuts. Perhaps all the coaches are under pressure from people pointing to Eteri T and asking why they can't produce champions like her ... but pairs skating is not the same.

But as a side note, for all the talk of things taking time, the last two Olympic pairs champions only skated together 4 years and won gold so...
 
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hanca

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It's quite interesting how they talk about the resources poured into pairs skating prior to Sochi not really producing a top junior pair.

I think pairs is very difficult in juniors because so much can change with young skaters and there is no way of quickly grabbing for medals straight out of juniors like there is in ladies. Most pair skaters don't really hit the senior medals until their 20s and win the Olympics until their late 20s.

You can get juniors and the girls grow too tall and the boys don't grow enough. They do not have the interest of continuing together for another 10 years etc etc. It's not like in ladies where you can promise the 13 or 14 year olds they'll be winning senior titles in a year or two.
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I think it was meant in Mozer’s group not producing the top junior pairs, despite all the funding. Traditionally Mozer was juniors’ coach. After she started working with Volosozhar/Trankov, then Stolbova/Klimov and Bazarova/Larionov moved to her, then all the changes Zabijako/Larionov and Davankova/Enbert into Zabijako/Enbert, and Tarasova/Morozov moved from juniors to seniors, and suddenly the whole school didn’t produce any decent juniors. Every season when they had the open day, there would have been at least 5-6 juniors that looked promising on paper, and they never got anywhere. No JGPs, no nationals... it was as if she completely moved her attention to seniors and stopped caring about juniors. I know that having top 3-4 teams is a lot, but it is not as if the coaching is done only by Mozer. There is several coaches in that school and no one seemed to have any decent juniors. Even Pleshkov got his first JGP only this season!
 

hanca

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Well I think that she did produce a good junior pair ... Alexandrovskaya/Windsor, but she was gracious enough to provide them to Australia :D
Well, she couldn’t even use Alexandrovskaya propely. Until she gave her away. Before being offered to Windsor, Alexandrovskaya was doing pairs for four years and her highest score was 121.62! Was it so hard for Mozer to find her a decent Russian partner?
 

hanca

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Vasiliev seem quite fair towards Trankov. I liked that he managed to let go of all the bad blood that was created by the triangle Vasiliev-Mukhortova-Trankov. There are coaches who struggle to let go, for example Zhulin was talking badly about Ilynikh even several years after I/K left him.
 

starrynight

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Well, she couldn’t even use Alexandrovskaya propely. Until she gave her away. Before being offered to Windsor, Alexandrovskaya was doing pairs for four years and her highest score was 121.62! Was it so hard for Mozer to find her a decent Russian partner?
Is the issue finding Russian boys or lack of them? There seems to be a never ending conveyer belt of girls. But skating is always more popular with girls I guess?
 

hanca

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Considering how many decent juniors they have currently, they can’t be doing that bad with finding the male partners (in comparison with other countries). It is harder to find a male partner than finding a female partner, but it is not impossible. The question is how hard Mozer actually tried to find the partner for Alexandrovskaya.
 

starrynight

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Although it is unknown if Alexandrovskaya would have experienced the same successes skating for Russia with a partner of the same general quality as Windsor.

Skating for a small federation like Australia is a probably quite different, as there is zero domestic competition and all of a sudden she finds herself the star of a country's skating scene. Maybe psychologically that has a boosting effect. I think there's a few Russian skaters where you would wonder if their careers would have been different if they were skating for a smaller fed where things weren't so cut throat.
 
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hanca

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It's also a question of if Alexandrovskaya would have experienced the same successes skating for Russia with a partner of the same general quality as Windsor.

Skating for a small federation like Australia is a probably quite different, as there is zero domestic competition and all of a sudden she finds herself the star of a country's skating scene. Maybe psychologically that has a boosting effect.
True, maybe they wouldn’t have the same opportunities skating for Russia, but she would at least be achieving higher scores than 120. Not that it would be that important how much she would score, but at least it proves that Mozer has had in her school juniors with potential; they just didn’t achieve anything since Mozer started concentrating on seniors. One of the coaches in Mozer’s school was for example Stanislav Morozov. He came there 2010 and in the last eight years didn’t produce even one decent junior pair! I know he was helping with Volosozhar/Trankov, but it seems that apart from that he did nothing.
 

TAHbKA

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One of the coaches in Mozer’s school was for example Stanislav Morozov. He came there 2010 and in the last eight years didn’t produce even one decent junior pair! I know he was helping with Volosozhar/Trankov, but it seems that apart from that he did nothing.
Wow, you must be following the russian pairs REALLY closely.
Morozov has beeb working in St. Petersburg for at least 2 years..Prior to.that he was working with the kids NOT in Mozer's group one VoloTran were done.


On a different note: Fedorova/Miroshkin were Mozer's successful juniors pair. So were Tarasova/Morozov.
 

hanca

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Wow, you must be following the russian pairs REALLY closely.
Morozov has beeb working in St. Petersburg for at least 2 years..Prior to.that he was working with the kids NOT in Mozer's group one VoloTran were done.


On a different note: Fedorova/Miroshkin were Mozer's successful juniors pair. So were Tarasova/Morozov.
Yes, I am aware of Tarasova/Morozov being Mozer’s successful juniors team. They seem the be the only Mozer’s junior team from recent years that were successful and survived the transition to seniors though, and that was 5 seasons ago. Fedorova/Miroshkin did not survive the transition. What other successful juniors the school had since then?

I am aware that Morozov is in St Petersburg though I admit that I thought he has been there only one year. He did work in Moser’s group though when he had Gainedtinova (after she and Bich split up). He didn’t manage to get her back on JGP, even though she had JGP experience from before. So it is not as if they don’t have ‘the material’ to work with. It just seems that their effort doesn’t lead to any results.
 

SLIVER

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He is right about basic skating skills being hard to learn later on but I remember Sui/Han's basics, when they first came onto the scene, were pretty awful particularly her backwards and forward skating. They've managed to polish and work on that substantially.
 

hanca

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He is right about basic skating skills being hard to learn later on but I remember Sui/Han's basics, when they first came onto the scene, were pretty awful particularly her backwards and forward skating. They've managed to polish and work on that substantially.
But they spent nearly whole season working on it. If I recall correctly, Sui was injured and they didn’t compete the whole season, and then when they came back, their basics were fixed. So I guess because they couldn’t work on any hard elements, they had the time to work on basics.
 

Tinami Amori

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Wow did she actually call Maxim Trankov a nutcase in the interview? No need to be polite, tell us what you really think, Elena.
No, EV did not use the term "nutcase". She said the following (verbatim):

- По правде говоря, для меня удивительно, что взрывной и не всегда уравновешенный Максим на глазах превращается в столь спокойного и рассудительного специалиста.

- To tell the truth, it surprising for me, that such an explosive (in personality) and not always emotionally balanced Maxim, right in front of your eyes turns into such a calm and reasonable (level headed) specialist.
 
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No, EV did not use the term "nutcase". She said the following (virbatim):

- По правде говоря, для меня удивительно, что взрывной и не всегда уравновешенный Максим на глазах превращается в столь спокойного и рассудительного специалиста.

- To tell the truth, it surprising for me, that such an explosive (in personality) and not always emotionally balanced Maxim, right in front of your eyes turns into such a calm and reasonable (level headed) specialist.
Oh good to know! Because "nutcase" isn't very professional and I'd be shocked if a journalist used the term unless it was a direct quote from someone else.

But then I hear Russian journalists don't pull punches. :)
 

TAHbKA

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Yes, I am aware of Tarasova/Morozov being Mozer’s successful juniors team. They seem the be the only Mozer’s junior team from recent years that were successful and survived the transition to seniors though, and that was 5 seasons ago. Fedorova/Miroshkin did not survive the transition. What other successful juniors the school had since then?
What other successfull juniors transitioned to seniors did Russia have in these 8 years in general? Or prior to that, except for Stolbova/Klimov? I can think of Totmianina/Marinin, Gordeeva/Grinkov and, with a grain of salt, of Mukhortova/Trankov. The rest of the Russian pairs who ever even made it to Euros did not skate together as juniors. Why would the last 8 years be different?
I am aware that Morozov is in St Petersburg though I admit that I thought he has been there only one year. He did work in Moser’s group though when he had Gainedtinova (after she and Bich split up). He didn’t manage to get her back on JGP, even though she had JGP experience from before. So it is not as if they don’t have ‘the material’ to work with. It just seems that their effort doesn’t lead to any results.
So basically, based on one Gainetdinova you jump to a conclusion Morozov is a terrible coach and he is to blame for the failure of the Russian juniors? Erm... ok
 

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