Vaytsekhovskaya's interview with Pluschenko

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Elena Vaytsekhovskaya's interview with Evgeni Pluschenko for rt.com


The two times Olympic champion and I were supposed to meet in `Megasport' right after the test skates, but that didn't happen. `The postmortem took too long' apologized Pluschenko. And immediately offered: `Perhaps you can come to my rink tomorrow? I am there every day from the early morning and there will be no distruptions.'. Next day at 8am I got a message `Am here, waiting'

EV: 3 years ago when we spoke about being a coach you said `The Angels of Pluschenko' is mainly a managing project. And you don't plan being an actual coach. At which moment your plans have changed?
EP: First my partner and I were not even considering the sports results. We were only considering opening the beginners' school.

EV: So it was business only?
EP: No. When you start a business you first have to calculate it all: the income the loses. We didn't do that. We didn't even negotiate. He had a place, I had the will and the ability. There were suddenly so many interested to skate, yet my life was scheduled for several years in advance: the shows, the contracts in Japan and Europe and I understood coaching the skaters on the professional level will simply not be possible.
Hence when the athletes started approaching me I was sincere: `There are coaches who you can work with. I will curate you as much as possible'. It was good enough for many. 3 years have passed and I got sucked in.

EV: And decided to build your own full size rink?
EP: Two rinks. Now we are at the end of the building. I invest there myself - my wife and I decided to do that without the partners but build ourselves with the support of Moscow municipality. Sobianin (major of Moscow) and Vorobiov (head of Moscow area) rented me the land which helped a lot.

EV: Is it just a rink?
EP: The one built at South-West of Moscow is a pretty big centre, it's an actual building. There will be a gym, the choreo place, the fitness and the medical centre - all that is needed to work with the high level athletes. We decided to build there at the first place because many of the kids are already in the schools and many families moved there or rent there. In Moscow area the more `home' rink will be built - smaller but with the Olympic size rink near the house where I live with my family. I really had enough of renting the ice.

EV: Too expensive?
EP: First of all that. Second you depend on the owner. Besides there are many kids, the school grows all the time hence I decided to build my own. For more than a year I've been seriously coaching: I have my groups which I dind't have before and I spend the whole day on the rink.

EV: Is it fun?
EP: It's a hard work, but I love it. Am lucky with my team. We have a great physical strengh coach, the rock-n-roll world Champion Erem Gazarian. Two groups are led by Aleksandr Volkov. Dmitrii Mikhailov, Sergey Alekseev and Sergey Rozanov joined us recently. Rozanov is, in my books, one of the best specilalists for the technique, and, apparently, a great choreographer - he created two programmes for Trusova and one of Kostornaya's programmes. I invited Lena Ilinykh to join after the girls came. I decided they need to work with an ice dancer, and a female ice dancer. Lena has a great blade, she feels and understands choreography great.

EV: I.e. you bet on the young specialists.
EP: The young guys are first of all - the energy. Working on the ice for 8 hours a day giving it all is tough and not everyone can do that.

EV: You are talking about the specialists with the great blade control, but I heard Trusova is going almost daily to the other side of Moscow to work with Denis Samokhin on gliding.
EP: True. Sasha works daily in our school for 5 hours - the ice, off the ice, choreography. I.e. she works for 7-8 hours a day. If she feels she needs to work on her gliding even more, and with a person who she worked with in the past I will not stand on her way. I just ask for one thing: do not jump, do not change the technique. The spins, the gliding, the choreography - go ahead.

EV: You consider Trusova's jumping technique the best or you're afraid should she change something all will go wrong?
EP: We partly changed her jumping technique on some of the jumps. If we measure the entrance speed - it became faster in her case. Perviously her jumps included a stop - up and an open positiong and only then she would rotate. It works when the girl is tiny. Once her body changes all hsa to change. It's possible to keep the jumps only if you speed up the inicial rotation.

EV: I heard something similar your coach Alexey Mishin saying a year ago.
EP: I began with buying Mishin's machines for my school. We worked a lot on them this year - spinned, worked with the weight, the rubbers, worked in Kislovodsk and I can see the result. As for the gliding: Trusova understands she has to work a lot on that. She does not need to be pushed to work, I actually sometimes have to stop her.

EV: When Trusova first came to you many thought she'll go back to Volkov who she already worked with for many years.
EP: It was never an option. Let set it straight, even though I already talked about it: Sasha Trusova was not asked to join. It's important to me to mention because many think there were some behind the back long talks. Two years ago when Sasha's dad called me I frankly told him that I don't have a full size rink and it's impossible to work there seriously and I haven't even decided yet whether I want to coach really.
When the time came the parents contacted me again and we made a decision to work together. I don't know what happened in her previous group. As for Kostornaya - she explained in her interview it all. I think simply: the person wants to skate and I have the means to coach them, so why not? Frankly, I don't get all the scandals about: how can you switch from Tutberidze to Pluschenko? How did Trusova switch from Volkov to Tutberidze? Or the others? There are so many spoken about switches in figure skating.

EV: Figure skating, despite being so popular, is a very niche sport. How uncomfortable are you when the figure skating family is mostly against you and not supports you?
EP: It's not the information I have. I spoke to the RFSF, the coaches and I know that many of my colleagues faced their skaters being taken in an ugly way, including scaring them. In my case people come to me. Perhaps I give an impression quite soon I'll have enough of the coaching or that I treat it differently, but the only way to prove them wrong is by deeds. This is the reason I build the rinks, create the comfortable training environment, find the sponsor or sponsor many myself. Why would I do that if I were not serious about that work?

EV: I can't get rid of an impression that you are trying to give your athletes all that you lacked.
EP: You're right. Yes, I skated for a very long time, but why did I have to undergo so many surgeries? Because there was no recovery. No massages, no sauna, no swimming pool, no stretches, no correct warm ups. You skated and ran home. As a professional athlete yourself you understand it well: after the practice you have to stretch, do the procedures, let the muscles recover with the massage. Only then you can talk about the longlivety.

EV: Do you need to taking how short the ladies' career is?
EP: I personaly want my athletes to skate for a long time. Not to be a sparkle, a one time story: jumped, won and dissapeared.

EV: Then I guess you must understand Evgenia Medvedeva's attempt to grab any chance to prolong her competitive career
EP: I can only feel sorry for Evgenia and the situation she is in. It was tough for her training in the last several month. Even if you are an Olympic or a World champion you always need a coach. Someone has to see you from the side, see the errors and guide you. Most importantly: the skaters need someone to lean on.
The thing is that in order to be competitive at the Worlds or Olympics Medvedeva needs a quad. From what I have seen in the test skates Evgenia is not really ready. Perhaps she'll work on that, we'll see. Medvedeva is a fighter and she will not just give up. I can only wish her to work well with her new, actually old team, who made her a champion.

EV: I.e, you don't believe in Evan Lysachek option?
EP: Not anymore. Look how many girls are behind them and there will be more by the Olympics. The all do the 3A, glide great, spin, they have a charisma and the choreography and quite consistent quad attempts. Hence am afraid you can't get far with the triples. Especially when there are technical troubles.

EV: Trusova landed 3 quads in the test skates. Is that the top or you plan to integrate more?
EP: We plan adding a 3A instead of a 2A, besides, we plan a 4S. Sasha lands it great.

EV: When offering Trusova the R&J what did you want to depict on the ice?
EP: A collection. Fate, love, suffer, passion, bad luck... frankly not everything we worked on and planned happened at the test skates. Am not worried about the technique, though the 4lz should had been landed. Of course I read the comments `there is nothing new, speed up, jump, speed up, jump'. But go ahead and do a quad in some other way. It's impossible.

EV: Hence I assume Mishin and you were known getting rid of any moves in the programme that were redundant and make the choreography the minimum. Yet now you invited Bourne to choreograph for Kostornaya - one of the most sophysticated choreographers in figure skating. Why?
EP: Because Alena does not yet do the quads and is capable doing that choreography beautifully. She has an unique choreographic ability hence I wanted Bourne to work with Kostornaya. Bourne agreed immediately.

EV: The ladies skating become such that you have to work with the athlete's parents as well, who are an active part of the coaching progress. Is it a good or a bad thing?
EP: Bad. 90% of the parents are trying to do, what they think, is the best for their kid, but it turns out to be the opposite. They start managing their kids, giving them advice during and after the practice, take them to the additional private lessons, work with the additional specialists and it's never enough. Not enough ice, not enough off ice, not enough choreography. When I was 7 I practiced 3 times a week in Volgograd. Now the 7y.o. have two ice practices a day. I.e. 14 practices a week! And then we wonder where do all these injuries come from. At the age of 11-12-13 the knees are hurting, the ankles, the back, the head or something else. I explain the parents: you can't eat the soup, add some yougurt, put a sousage into a kompot and hope to feel well after. The most important thing is the routine and the right training strategy.

EV: Do the parents present at the practices?
EP: I often hold the open practices, but it's not a system. In the older groups I allow the parents being in the practice, but if I see they start telling their kid where should they skate and what should they jump - I remove them from the premises.

EV: Do you allow yourself raising your voice?
EP: I can, but I would never raise my hand. I would never put the skater down or be rude. I never curse. You mustn't curse and call the kids names. When I accept the new specialists in the school we first of all discuss that. In the time the academy exists I fired 17 coaches. The discipline, the cursing, the cussing of the kids, the beating.... I always tell my skaters: you are the professionals. I will support you in every possible way, I will laugh with you, I will create the training process that will be fun, but you have to work hard. And they all do.

EV: What can make you kick a pupil from the practice?
EP: Slacking, not doing what I say, the lack of will fixing the technical mistakes. I don't even kick out. It's sometimes enough to make them sit on the bench and watch the others skating. If you start praising the others in front of them - even more so. I can kick out for the popped jumps - when the skater as if plans to jump but really had already decided not to.

EV: Speaking of the popped jumps - many noticed the changes in Kolyada after switching to Mishin,
EP: When Kolyada started experiencing hardships with his jumps we spoke about it with the federations and I was saying back then it would be great to send him to Mishin together with his coach for a consultation. They wouldn't even need to fill the papers for a switch or anything. Mishin has a system, has a way, the tactics and the methods. We now witness the result: Kolyada's jumps have the axis, the right angle, the right exits and the right speed, that if should be increased a bit would be superb. Once the jumps became less demanding the lines and the choreography came out.

EV: Would you send your athletes to Mishin for a consultation?
EP: Alexey Nikolaevich and I already have an agreement for that.

EV: What is your idea of such a collaboration?
EP: First of all - communication. For example during the test skates I had an impression no one every communicated with the girls before. It was obvious by how they tried to distance themselves: they set themselves up, they warm up alone. Mishin and I were talking all the time. During the warm up, the competition, on the ice and off the ice. Alexey Nikolaevich is a top level teacher - he always knew what was going on with me, I could ask his advice on every subject: the girls, the clubs, the cars, the apartments, the business -everything.

EV: Not everyone is that lucky with a coach.
EP: I was extremely lucky. And I want the current and the future skaters to realize the communication is a great part. Adrenaline bursts out, how will you cool it off? Only when switching your attention. You can't do the jumps during the whole 6 minutes warm up... If we talk about the long career the athlete must understand: chasing someone and beating them is not the toughest thing in the sport. Keeping where you are is. If the athlete is all alone they will never make it - no parents will be able to help. Only the team who leads you every day, guides you and who are with you at the worst times and who you trust can. And who knows how to lead you to the success.

EV: If the situation where Trusova or Kostornaya will come to you and say `Evgeni Viktorovich, thanks for everything, we are leaving' will arise, will you be very upset?
EP: Of course I will be, I invested so much time and so much work and energy in them. But you know what? I'll live. Recently we spoke about that with my wife and I said `Yana, the most important is that we've been together for 11 years and keep being together'. The rest is really not important.
 

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