Interview by Elena Vaitsekhovskaya with Elena Chaikovskaya
Europeans 2000 in Vienna, Austria
Q. In your view, is the result of Russian ice dancers in Vienna a logical consequence of a situation?
C: “Everything was headed this way. Dance is an unique discipline. Today we have our methods, but I remember a time when we knew nothing about dance. When I began training Pakhomova-Gorshkov, I took every opportunity to travel abroad. I watched how the foreigners train and ate up each detail. I learned on my own mistakes while teaching Tanya Tarasova, who stopped skating with me fairly early due to injuries and became a coach straight away. That’s how the school was formed. The devastation began when people who had studied every detail and been very successful at getting results were being tossed out of figure skating.”
Q. Why did this happen?
C: “This was the decision of RFSF. In 1994 when I was working for the national team, and obviously took care of dances, my former students Linichuk-Karponosov wrote a letter asking me to be removed from dance. I guess I bothered them in training their athletes. And they did remove me. Natalya got results, she had her champions; there seemed to be a reserve. Probably the leadership thought everything was fine. The problem was there were no other young coaches of such a level in Russia. When Linichuk and Karponosov left for America with their group, the heritage line was broken. Those who remained in Moscow had nobody to look at or learn from. The result was sad: the best Russian dancers can’t even make top 3 in Europe.”
Q. Maybe it’s just coincidence? Last year Krilova-Ovsiannikov became 2-time world champions.
C: “Actually, their first victory already demonstrated the destruction of the Russian school. Professionals could see it clearly.”
Q. How so?
C: “Primitively speaking, the “straight back” of dance disappeared. And posture is the culture of dance. There were strange, perverted poses, innumerable movements in a second of time. Without any ideas to them. Many said you should never make a beauty like Krilova into a beast. Just the opposite, you should do everything to use the natural winning qualities of the athlete. The same is happening today with the top Russian pair of the day. The same trainer and choreography. When Lobacheva-Averbukh showed their free dance at their first competition in America, they had already lost. Is it worth being surprised that at Europeans everything was a mess?
Q. When you were head coach of the national team, couldn’t you see the direction?
C: “Of course, I saw it. I went to Linichuk many times and tried to give advice, I spoke at federation meetings, that the situation is becoming catastrophic. After that I was removed, with the explanation that I didn’t understand anything in contemporary dance. It’s not that I’m offended, I’m on the workhorse now. The thing is that you need to admit the catastrophe has happened as quickly as possible. And take steps. After all, the same is happening in juniors. First of all, our junior competitors are about to age out. Secondly, there aren’t going to be any champions out of the bunch competing at juniors now. Trust my experience. Because of the way teams are formed and the way they’ve been taught to skate.”
Q. Some journalists think you came back with the Lithuanians because you couldn’t accept that your own student destroyed the school to whose creation you devoted your life.
C: “Beating Linichuk isn’t my task. We compete in different weight categories.”
Q. 8 years ago Linichuk told us that she couldn’t make her students champions with Tarasova, Chaikovskaya and Dubova around no matter what she did.
C: “Everybody went through that. First Tarasova, then Dubova. And Linichuk only became a competitive coach thanks to crazy competition. Once there was a monopoly – and in America, constantly taking the talented skater of Russia, the end came.”
Q. You think a coach working abroad can’t be competitive in Russia?
“This is a forbidden topic for me, because my collegial friends Moskvina and Tarasova also left for America.”
Q. Reworded – is it harder to work there?
C: “It’s different there. There isn’t time to think each minute about your athlete, take care of his aches, pains and problems. It’s at home that I can call everyone I know and get my athlete to the best specialist. In America most coaches are working mainly to make a living. Otherwise, you’ll just get pushed out of this life. You won’t have enough money to buy a home and train your own athletes.
“I’ve been traveling abroad since 1956. I already saw and understood what it means to live all the time in America. I couldn’t work the way that I am used to working and love working there. I’m not a “conveyor” coach. I could live there temporarily, just working with my own skaters. But it’s impossible to create a school there.”
Q. How many pairs can you train at once?
“I always had a leader and 1-2 pairs coming up. If you aim for 10th to 15th place, then I could train 10 teams. But if you talk about top results and the athletes that can achieve them, then you need to spend each hour on them.” [Trans. Now of course we see why such talented skaters Soldatova, Lautowa, Oblasova, Volchkova didn’t get what they probably hoped for from Chaikovskaya.]
Q. Have you not considered that by working for Drobyazko-Vanagas, you’re working against Russia?C: “I’ll say honestly, I’d really like to make Russian champions. Though it’s harder now than it used to be. Because you’d have to start at the very beginning.”
Q. Is it realistic to be successful without RFSF support?
C: “It’s absolutely not realistic. RFSF (and I ask you to write this) really pushed down my junior pair this year – Yulia Golovina and Denis Egorov. They did everything so they wouldn’t make worlds. I run all the training camps without any help from the federation, including abroad. I make costumes on my own money. It’s even funny: at practically all compeititons, RFSF asks Lithuania to pay my hotel bill because I work with Drobyazka-Vanagas. I can pay my own way, but why? Moreover, we’re required to give over all the prize money that Butirskaya and Soldatova earn.”
Q. Even so you don’t think about leaving?
“I only cook in my own kitchen.”