Vaytsekhovskaya's interview with Pluschenko

becca

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Since their own Russian men are not strong they feel the need to extend to “ethnic Russian.” - maybe we can’t produce them in Russia so we’ll take credit for what America has produced.
In fairness he is trained by his parents who grew up in the Soviet system. It’s not the same thing as Nathan Chen or Kwan. But they didn’t skate for Russia
 

skatfan

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In fairness he is trained by his parents who grew up in the Soviet system. It’s not the same thing as Nathan Chen or Kwan.
True, but the comment seemed to emphasize ethnicity, not parental training.
 

Amantide

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

The interview with the 2 times Olympic champion began with almost a 2 hours walk. On one side of the fence of his property - an ice rink, a parking, a 16 rooms hotel which should be finished by May, a 300sq.m sports hall and a bit further - a small river with ducks, a wooden house for the chickens and the green houses where in the future a tennis court will be. On the other side - several guest houses, the owner's house, a dogs place and a sauna near an artificial pond. The rink has a choreography hall and a gym, all equipped with the most contemporary stuff and the dressing rooms. On the 2nd floor - a cafe. Next to that a working office where I can finally turn the recording on.

EV: the question many still wonder about: why at the Olympics you were betting on Scherbakova?
EP: When Trusova started skating in my group we went to the Russian nationals together in December 2020, where for the first time I saw Scherbakova from the border. I followed her practices closely, how she warms up, what she does on the ice. She was competing after the соvid, and I knew what it is like first hand - I had it very severely, was hospitalized. That girl skated the SP and the LP clean. Then when I realized she has the character, she is not only focusing, but she is phenomenal at the right moment. I was certain in that conclusion after the worlds.

EV: In Stockholm?
EP: Yes. In the practices Scherbakova couldn't land anything - she was falling from her triples. She was attempting a 3lz3loop and fell every time, while Trusova was in a great shape and was beating everyone in the practice

EV: I remember seeing that.
EP: When I watched Trusova I knew such skating she can allow herself skating half arsely, not landing too many ultra-c elements, do her SP calmly and be 2nd or 3rd, then in the LP do 3 quads at the most and take her gold medal home. But unfortunately, that didn't work for us.Before the Olympics I was thinking that Anna's personal characters, her gained international experience together would be the right bet.

EV: I.e. you were doubting about Valieva?
EP: Valieva is an outstanding athlete. She moves brilliantly, her spins are gorgeous, she holds all the poses. And the gorgeous jumps with a good exists for which she gains a lot of GOE. Yet somehow I believed in anna.

EV: If you were one of the team leaders and were deciding on the team event who would you have on the team?
EP: I would have changed the ladies team first of all. Have Scherbakova skate the SP, Trusova the LP. Had Valieva won the personal event in that case - all 3 Russian ladies had a chance to come back Olympic champions. They all deserved it and they all were worthy an Olympic gold.

EV: You competed at 4 Olympics and never participated the worlds after. Why? Were you so emotionally drained?
EP: In the Olympic season Mishin and I always prepared to the main competition, i.e. the Olympics. The rest was not major: the Europeans, GPF. If these competitions bothered the preparations we withdrew. IF all worked well at the Olympics the worlds were as if not needed. At least that's how I always saw it. Besides always something happened to me after the Olympics. Either I was sick or some old injury popped up and I didn't want to risk it knowing I was scheduled to participate the shows of professional competitions. I had to earn my money somehow.
But most importantly - I had no motivation. I recall very well when Kulik won the Olympics in Nagano and announced at once he would be going to the Worlds. Mishin put me as a competitor for the first time then. He said Kulik will probably not compete and Yagudin and I will go to the USA and will be practicing in Minneapolis for 2 weeks. Till the last day I didn't understand will I compete or not. Though it you take my first Olympics we were planning to go to the Worlds after.

EV: Why didn't you?
EP: I felt very ill in SLC right after the competition. For 3 days I was lying flat. The fever was around 40, the whole body was stiff I couldn't get up and the doctors had to carry me around. I thought I would die. I was taken to a hospital in the Olympic village but the tests didn't show a thing. From the doctors' reaction I understood they had no clue what was going on with me. I still don't know what happened back then. Guess with all I went through it took over. The stress was too much.

EV: Your Olympic history includes 2 quite painful defeats - in SLC and Vancouver. Is what you went through comparable to what happened to Trusova after she lost her personal event in Beijing?
EP: In SLC I was defeated for a reason. Alexey was better. He was mentally more stable and he skated brilliantly. Hence am not ashamed of that defeat. I had a great competitor who was pushing me by the fact of his sheer existence and I was pushing him. Vancouver - yes, it was the same feeling like Trusova. The reaction however was against the judging system that diminished the price of the quads. I knew Mishin would support me in any case. The figure skating federation, on the other hand, did not support me unfortunately, they didn't even file a protest: I was the only one to land a 4/3 in the SP but was just 1.5 points ahead of Lysacek. Hence at that point it became clear how will it develop. But am glad that because of my speech at the press conference and the reaction of the press and the fans the ISU reconsidered the marking again and the quads became more expensive.

EV: I recently spoke to Arutyunian who said he would not be surprised if his pupil Chen will not want to continue the skating career after the victory in Beijing. How were you motivating yourself for so many years?
EP: After the victory in Turin I left for 3 years and I thought I was done for good. At that point I already had 2 Olympics behind me, 2 medals - silver and gold and I understood I don't need anything else. I had the money, the contracts signed for 3 years ahead and good contracts indeed, i.e. I was busy and needed and was not missing the competitions. How many times is one supposed to win the Worlds? 7?8? and what?

EV: Yet you came back before the Vancouver
EP: It was my wife's influece. When we first met Yana came with me to one of the shows tours. I was heavy - weighted 82kg - I gained a lot of weight after retiring. I looked big and had a long hair. I should weight 69kg, 71 at the most but... a nice life, good food. In the sport we were always hungry. I was preparing a bit for that tour, so I lost some weight and I got my 3A back. Yana saw it and said `oh, wow, you are not bad, apparently you can still jump. Perhaps you should go back to competing?'
It was a joke, but it got stuck in my head. I watched some competition on the TV and asked myself: what do they do that I can't? In the end in 2008 we went to the training camp in Germany, skated for 1.5-2 weeks and my knees started hurting immediately - my previous meniscus trouble came back. I underwent a surgery while in Germany - for the 6th time. The season was over. I told Yana and Mishin I can't come back but then I started practicing slightly again and well..

EV: Do you reckon Chen might come back in 3 years?
EP: He is a serious student. I would love to see him at another Olympics, but it will be hard for him. They have that new boy - our Russian - Ilya Malinin. A son of my friends Tatiana Malinina and Roman Skorniakova. He is already landing a 4/4 combo wit ha toeloop and a loop. If he can get all that to a decent level - consider him being ahead of everyone by 5 years. Otherwise I would love to see Hanuy in his 4th Olympics.

EV: Wait, but at the time you told me you want to attempt the 4th Olympics so no one could repeat it
EP: I didn't mean participating, I meant medaling. So unfortunately Yuzuru doesn't have a chance to repeat my record. It's a shame. He is a true fan of this sport, he lives it. I don't know another athlete of his kind. Skating just for the sake of skating not attempting the highest result can be done for a long time, till you are 40. There is the British woman in the pairs who has 3 kids.

EV: As a coach can you explain why the Russian ladies attempt all the quads while the boys not really?
EP: I have 4 great guys in my oldest group, I think their head works differently, as if they had a mental block till a certain age. It's hard for me to lean on my own experience here. I only started landing the quads at the age of 18. I once spoke to Mishin and asked him: why didn't we take 1 year off and learn all the quads? He said: Zhenya, it was not needed back then.
Now at the age of 15 they start thinking differently. They start thinking and training differently. But you never know when will it happen. My athletes changed their mindset within one day. And the quads happened. Nikita Sarnovski's lutz is very near, the 4s and 4t took him a week to land. His brother Kirill now lands the loop and the sal. The younger group - I have a 11y.o kid whose quads are very near. Though am not a fan of the idea of the kids landing such jumps at the age of 11. It's too injury prone.

EV: when Usacheva had the hip injury last November there were a lot of talks how hard injures in figure skating are a norm. Do you agree?
EP: The athletes injure themselves it's a fact. Especially now when the figure skating progressed so much. I wouldn't compare it to my time though. Back then we didn't have the sports medicine, the recovery procedures. Now it all exists: the pills, the machines, the massage, the swimming pull, the sauna, the vitamins for the joints, the muscles. I recently bought the school a recovery machine which costed like building a bridge. But when I say it's too early to land the quads at the age of 11 I mean the kids don't have the needed muscles and their joints are not ready for such a work.
While the girls hardly ever have the Osgood-Schlatter disease and if they do - it's really rare, for the boys it's a common problem. I was suffering from it, my son Sasha who is 9 had some complications. But many parents are thinking: you're in pain? No matter, go on and keep jumping. No one even considers the kid who is in a pain will not be able to jump much. More likely they will get injured. But the parents today know so much better than the coaches. And it's a common thing.

EV: They have no mercy for their own kids?
EP: No. I don't get it. My son only does double jumps now and I don't mind that. Should he land the triples in a year or two it won't matter. It will all be decided so much later. It's important how healthy and strong you will be when you switch to the seniors.

EV: I heard several times the physical preparation in your school is not something a lot can bear.
EP: I was working with Makoveev at the time - he was coaching me for 4 years in Volgograd and at the age of 11 passed me to Mishin. He had nothing to do with figure skating - he was a weight lifter. We had such an off ice training that can't compare to anything they do now. The cross runs, the shoot the ducks, the push ups, the jumps...
I am not even near with my pupils, though compared to the other schools indeed the strength work in my school is on a high level. Hence our beginning of the season was so great - all the kids did well. Zhilina and Muravieva began winning, a lot of them started landing the 3A. I was running with them together during the summer just like Makoveev was running with us. On purpose we didn't go anywhere for the summer camp, we stayed home since the base we have here allows doing a really good summer work.

EV: I forgot your first coach was from the weight lifting.
EP: Makoveev was a good friend of Ksenofontov of the time - they studied together in Sverdlovsk. After the uni they ended up in different cities but after a while Ksenofontov called and said: there is a figure skating opening in Volgograd and they need a coach. Go, I'll give you the books and you'll learn all that is needed. Makoveev learned the figure skating from the books - and taught me all the triple jumps. I came to Mishin with all these jumps. At the age of 11. At that time it was unreachable.
Hence now I take the off ice work very importantly and responsibly. We did a lot of work with Trusova in Kislovodsk. Though after a while she said it was too much and we reduced the amount a bit.

EV: Is it hard starting working with an athlete who is already used to a certain type of training?
EP: Not easy. I had a very talented skater, who we began working great, we choreographed the programmes, but not even 2 weeks passed and he got stuck: no matter what I said he didn't listen and did what he thought was right. I told him: you came here just for the ice time and train by yourself? It will not happen. He replied it's the way he is used to work, he was always training alone. The coaches would give him an advice as a by the way in the best case. We parted our ways in the end. When the athlete works without the constant supervision there is a very good chance some mistakes that were not fixed at the right time will be learned and become a feature. In the stressful situations, such as the major competitions they will pop up.

EV: When someone wants to join your school do you take into an account those who already are in the school? Do you need to take the athlets' point of view into an account at all?
EP: I always thought if you come to my home you have to accept my rules.

EV: You know how jealous the athletes can be
EP: I do. But then you have to figure it some other way, like I did with Mishin when I learned he was considering accepting Lambiel joining the team. Mishin came to the practice and said: there is such an offer. He named an amount. I told him on the spot: don't accept it, I'll pay more. That was it. It was a lot of money but that was the end of the conversation.

EV: Was it more about the emotions or being practical?
EP: The latter. I knew Lambiel is a great athlete. That Mishin can give him a good thing and it will be harder for me to compete with him. It is more common in figure skating to pay the coach and not the coach pays the athletes. Especially in the private schools. Take the Cricket club in Toronto where Orser coaches and earns a lot from the athletes just paying for the membership. We on the other hand supply our athletes with the flats, private sponsors and some other nice things.

EV: The Russian athletes are out of the international competitions now. Have you thought how to use that time off?
EP: They still need to compete. We have to hold the national competitions, perhaps together with China, Armenia, Belarus - whoever wishes. I already offered to create a Russian series Grand Prix like - hold 6 competitions at the finals on the same dates. But not for just 6 finalists, but have 2 groups so it will be 10 and 12 participants. You can't go on without the competitions. I think in a couple of years we will be back to the international theme we should be ready.

EV: Don't you think figure skating needs to change the rules again and stop noticing all these wrong edges and prerotations? Perhaps make the rules more primitive yet more clear and not question why the athlete's toeloop and salchow are the same and the judges don't see it?
EP: I was always for living by the rules. And according to these rules the flip must be performed from the inside edge and the lutz from the outside. If it's a toe jump it has to be a toe. Yes, indeed, after the toe the athlete is allowed to lean a bit on the edge, but surely not to a point where the toeloop starts looking like a salchow.
At the time when I was jumping the lutz I would lean a bit on the edge. I recall Browning who was commenting one of the worlds said it should be forbidden. But once they checked more closely they learned around 60% of the skaters were doing the same.

EV: Is it thanks to that one can prerotate?
EP: Yes, but it's not that straight forward. You need to start the rotation before the jump. It's wrong when it's too obvious. Remember the skater Gable? His jumps were tiny. But he stole the rotations on the ice so well that in the air he had to rotate 3.5 revolutions out of 4. I teach all my skaters to start the rotation on the ice. But not to the level that some girls do on the quads. It's not about me judging someone. Just that the time when they are penalized for it will come. And it will be impossible to re-learn.
Another example: a lot of coaches started teaching the kids jumping with their hands up because it gave a bonus. In the end we have plenty of the skaters who can't hold the classical pose. It's also wrong. The classical is classical for a reason - it is the base. If you can do the jumps great with the classical entrance it's easier learning different variations. The skater must be universal, it's important.

EV: You were really luck with the coach.
EP: I learned a lot from Mishin, it's true. When I first came to him from Volgograd I could only do the toeloop from the classical 3 turn. I was really upset I couldn't do that jump from any other entry. The element is not hard, I can do it and yet from any unfamiliar entry all my feeling of the element was gone. It was the same with Trusova when we started working together.

EV: Who choreographs in your group?
EP: Mainly it's Dmitrii Mikhailov. He is a great talented guy. Another interesting choreographer - Leonid Sviridenko. He worked with Richaud in the training camps for several years and learned a lot from him. Sergey Komolov did Veronika Zhilina's programmes, she also worked with Masha Stavitskaya, who was skating with me in Mishins' group when she was a kid.
If it was up to me I would prolong the LP to make the choreography more powerful. So there would be the characters, so the programme would be easier to understand and it was possible to make a pause and let the athletes rest before the 2nd part of the programme. I lack all that when I watch the figure skating. It seems no one minds the choreography today. There is some minimal character and ok. Everyone is just running, rushing... bracket, rocker, loop, twizzle, bracket, rocker....

EV: You'll be 40 this year. Looking back what is your biggest achievement - the 4 gold medals or your own school?
EP: My biggest achievement are my kids. My 3 sons. Egor, Sasha and Arsenii. Yana's sons are adults -they are 18 and 19. They live alone but visit us a lot. They study in the uni, they are smart and independant.

EV: As far as I know you and Yana planned a daughter?
EP: Hopefully more than one.

EV: The athletes your level are usually terrible egoists, you, on the other hand, seem to want to hug the whole world. Where is it coming from?
EP: I always wanted a big family. Really. I left my family when I was 11 and moved to St. Petersburg and was away from the parents for a long time. It was tough. There was nothing to eat, I was alone all the time. You do your practice and you are alone again - the older kids had their own gang. Perhaps am trying to compensate for that now?

EV: When you earned your first big money did you go temporary nuts?
EP: In a way yes. But my mom watched me.

EV: I'll explained my question: we spent almost an hour walking around your property and I haven't seen anything that shouted `wealth' and a will to impress. It's not usual in our country for a public person. More often the stars are trying to be flashy with their money. Your place is really homely and cosy.
EP: Yana and I could have bought any property, including some fancy stuff in the USA or Dubai. But as the business partners we decided to invest in the sport, in our school, even if for now it's only losing us money. It's not just a hall where your turn the lights on, put some nice wooden floor and go on and work. Ice rink is first of all a demand for a certain temperature all the time. And so many structures around it. But we took a risk and we are not sorry.

EV: Is it the price you pay for your dream?
EP: In a way yes. Ever since I started earning money with figure skating I indeed had a dream to build my own rink where my kids could skate. So they would not travel anywhere and everything would be right home. Though I thought it would be in St. Petersburg. I generally thought I'll spend the rest of my life in St. Petersburg but it happened that we moved. Now I have to build my coaching career. It'll take time.
Thank you for the translation. Great interview.

EV: If you were one of the team leaders and were deciding on the team event who would you have on the team?
EP: I would have changed the ladies team first of all. Have Scherbakova skate the SP, Trusova the LP. Had Valieva won the personal event in that case - all 3 Russian ladies had a chance to come back Olympic champions. They all deserved it and they all were worthy an Olympic gold.
Not that it matters now, but I think this would've been a good idea, which I didn't thought at the time.
 

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