Recent Tarasova interview with Elena Vaitzehovskaya
Tatiana Tarasova: “MOSKVINA ASKED FOR HELP”
Yet again, the end of Olympic season bring the question, “What next?” What will the next Games, to take place in Vancouver in four years, bring us? The restlessness is especially acute now, when the only Russian medal at the World Championships in Calgary was Maria Petrova and Alexei Tikhonov’s bronze, whereas all Turin champions have announced they were leaving amateur sport.
To find the answer to my question, I accompanied the coaching consultant of the Russian team Tatiana Tarasova to the training camp in Novogorsk near Moscow, where preparation work for the new season is well under way. Tarasova herself was asked by the renowned coach Tamara Moskvina to work with her Petersburg skaters Maria Mukhortova and Maxim Trankov.
“Tatiana Anatolievna, how did the idea for such an unusual partnership come about?”
“Moskvina called me and asked for help with the kids’ program. We discussed how to set up work such that both her and my goals would be accomplished in the shortest time possible. My consulting work is much like coaching. The main goal is to help Russia grow new skaters as fast as possible”.
“Do you feel that you have to start from scratch?”
“Quite the opposite. Following World championship, I saw a lot. For example, Nina Moser and choreographer Elena Maslennikova are doing a great job at TzSKA. There is a great base there, complete with a new rink. That’s also where Elena Vodorezova works with her students. Not long ago, by the way, we organized a ten-day camp in Novogorsk, and invited coaches and students from all over the country. It was very interesting work, I got so into it that by sixth day everyone was begging for mercy and we were forced to give an extra half day off.
At the camp, Vodorezova conducted two session with singles, Sasha Svinin and Ira Zhuk did one with dancers. Alexander Lakernik and Marina Sanaja visited from Moscow a lot to explain details about the judging system to the coaches, examining each element and each program. It all made for a busy schedule. It’s imperative that we use all of our experience, as well as the judges’. To avoid mistakes.”
“What did you do at the camp?”
“Mainly base work. I helped the Tukov spouses from Perm’ – they have no ice there, so they brought their pairs to Novogorsk. I madea program for Artem Borodulin, who also grew upin Perm, but now skates in TzSKA.”
“Have you counted how many programs you created?”
“When I worked with my own athletes, I got used to listening to a lot of music, and I still do it. Of course, I primarily looked for the music for “my” skaters – for Andrei Gryazev and others who now skate with Lena Vodorezova at TzSKA. Though we haven’t yet started on the programs with Gryazev, as he is resting until June following a knee surgery. Andrei skated at Averbukh’s show in Siberia, and he did very well – he was relaxed, he really roused the audience, I heard this from people who saw it live. But ice quality wasn’t always good, and during one performance Andrei’s edge got into a rut – so he got injured.
I did two programs for Arina Martynova – she had her debut at this year’s Worlds. Then I saw a good music for one of Zhanna Gromova’s students. I haven’t had a chance to complete that one yet as I had pneumonia, but I promised a program there, and I’ll certainly deliver. At the Calgary Worlds I got some ideas for Yana Khokhlova and Sergei Novitsky who are skating with Svinin, and now I found music for those ideas as well. I think I don’t need to explain what good music means for dancing. I did two programs for Yana and Sergei, and another two for Svinin’s seconds team – Katya Rubleva and Ivan Shefer. I think our ideas can give dance a new direction.
I’ve also had some requests from Ljuda Velikova, whose work I have a great respect for. She now came to Novogorsk so we can work together. In a few days Petrova and Tikhonov will join us here, and I have music for them as well. Then I’ll do a program for Vika Volchkkova – her coach Marina Kudryavsteva asked for.”
“You spend so much time behind the wheel, but I don’t see a CD player in your car.”
“I have everything. I just feel that I’ve had a bit too much music, so I just switched to news. I find what I now do incredibly exciting. I think this is exactly what Piseev had in mind when he asked me to be a coaching consultant.
As to the lack of big names… If you recall, just a few years ago we didn’t have many either. Basically, both Tamara Moskvina and I went to America in order to preserve the talents that could only be nurtured there at the time. It was very patriotic – to live there, but to work for Russia. Being separated from your family, renting housing, working to pay for it, paying for insurance… That was the price of the medals we won in Nagano, Turin, and Salt Lake City. Russia started building rinks only recently. Though, as TzSKA example showed, you can build a rink in eight months. At a reasonable price, too. And not just a box, but a whole complex with a choreography studio, weight machines, sauna, and even cafeteria.”
“Figure Skating Academy is finally opening in Saint Petersburg”.
“Academy is not a building or a sign. It always existed in Peter. It’s just that now they are getting a new rink. And they should keep the old one open as well. Ideally, each big coach should have his own rink and as much ice as he needs. Look at our hockey players – their performance is shameful, yet they get as much ice as they want! And we continue to support them despite everything. In figure skating today it’s like this – the coaches of little kids are better off then the elite ones. Work is easier, and there’s more money and less responsibility.”
“I heard that Petrova and Tikhonov are planning to stay in amateur sport, but frankly I didn’t take it seriously.”
“I consider their decision quite wise. The team must have a leader who sets the bar. Masha and Lesha are true masters. We really owe them – we did not fight for them at Worlds… Actually, we never fought for them. If it were up to me, they would not have attended medal ceremony in Calgary. At least that would have publicly accused the judges of scheming. I think such a step would have gone a long way to affect change. Especially since we wouldn’t have been risking anything.”
“In your opinion, how likely is it that Turin winners will return to the team?”
“It is all up to the athletes. It’s not easy to return – skating at shows is very different. I don’t know Plushenko well enough to venture a guess, but I’m sure that he’d be able to if he wanted. Yagudin would have certainly returned if not for the injury. He always loved competition, and still does – even though he now jumps on one leg.”
“Do you regret giving up work with your own students?”
“Coaching is for the young. It requires a lot of energy. It’s not for naught that our country calls 55-year olds senior citizens. I can still consult, but it’s not the same as spending 12 hours a day at the boards, as I have for many years.
I have though a lot about this over the past year. I came to the conclusion that the most important thing now is to provide more confidence for the younger coaches such as Moser, Vodorezova, Svinina, Zhuk, Oksana Kazakova and Artur Dmitriev, Natasha Dubinskaya, let them know no one will steal their athletes. Allow them to personally lead their students to the end. This way they’ll know that the result fully depends on them. Perhaps, then our coaching team will get more people like Oleg Vasiliev, who not only became Olympic champions but also prepared ones. It’s important to have coaches like that on the team.
It won’t be easy. Certainly, we will have a drop in results in the short run. It’s just that in figure skating this happened later than in other sports. So we haven’t lost yet. And we’ll try not to.”
“Perhaps it would have made sense not to step aside?”
“If we’ll be needed, they’ll call use. We’ve worked with great athletes. We made them great. Perhaps we know better how to get them to the top, though it’s different in every case. But now, however sad it may be, we must first consider how to support young coaches. I allow that not everyone agrees with me, but that’s my opinion.”
“Why then are you talking about it with so much sadness?”
“Because it’s always sad to give up work you want to do. Many want to work with me. They still ask. But that would be wrong. If we think not of ourselves but of figure skating we will all understand this.”