This interview Vaitsekhovskaya did with Shpilband is an exerpt of a larger pre-Olympics article of Vaitsekhovskaya's. He talks about fine tuning the compulsories here, as well as about Olympic pressure. It is published here with Vaitsekhovskaya's permission. Translation is mine.
It’s obviously a standard procedure for the leaders to fine-tune their Olympic programs to the max. Nonetheless, journalists were visible amazed to see the US ice dancing champions Meryl Davis/ Charlie White, as well as Canadian champions Tessa Virtue/ Scott Moir, work on their compulsory tango for the Games with Elena Tchaikovskaya. She, of course, is the coach who has long ago created this dance for her now legendary team of Lyudmila Pakhomova/ Alexander Gorshkov.
I came up to the coach of the Canadian and American teams, Igor Shpilband, to get some clarification.
“Yes, that’s so. We turned to Tchaikovskaya once we found out which compulsory dance will be presented in Vancouver. This was the idea of Marina Zueva, who’s worked by my side for many years. Marina is Elena Anatolievna’s student. It was important for us to understand why Tchaikovskaya made this dance just so, what lay behind each step and body movement.
In fact, tango “Romantica” is my favorite dance as well. It was in Pakhomova’s group that I started my ice dancing career. Moreover, I would sometimes skate the tango with her during practices. So, it was very important for me to do everything in my power to make sure my athlete’s execution of the dance is as close as possible to the original. You have to see that even in a compulsory dance each movement can come off differently.”
“Did you acknowledge the possibility that Tchaikovskaya, as someone representing the country of your opponents, could decline?”
“Of course. We hoped, however, that she would see what’s driving us. Tango “Romantica”, far more than any other dance, deserves to be done right; to honor Mila Pakhomova, if nothing else. Frankly, I was deeply moved seeing Tchaikovskaya work with my students. When we called Elena Anatolievna, she was in Italy, and she flew out to US immediately. I can’t even express how grateful we are to her.
As for the athletes, they kept looking at Tchaikovskaya with amazement and worked with her with unbelievable abandon. They repeated some movements endlessly. It’s very different when you actually understand why you’re doing this or that in a dance.”
“Prior to the draw, did you favor the tango or the waltz?”
“I can’t say it made any real difference. Davis and White skated the tango at three championships this season, and it was always successful. They also performed a brilliant “Golden Waltz” at the US nationals. Virtue and Moir likewise feel equally comfortable in both genres. In general, we pay special attention to compulsory dances, as we want to give them a proper “sendoff”. It seems that those Olympics will be the last where the dancers perform three programs. According to very active gossip, compulsories will be retired after Vancouver.”
“What do the Games mean to your career?”
“In some ways, it is an end result of four years of work. This is the first Olympics for both our teams. As someone who’s gone through it four times, I obviously try to share something with them, to safeguard them against some things.”
“First of all, getting too emotional. I don’t want them to burn out. They come to the competition in advance. If you give it all at ever practice the judges attend for two week, no nerves can hold up. So, while we conduct the first practice session at the main rink, we then move elsewhere. It has no other skaters and no fans. We don’t do this out of fear of giving anything away too soon. Quite the opposite, we’re eager to show what we’ve got. However, we shouldn’t hurry. Human capacity when it comes to nerves, are, alas, not limitless.”
“How isolated are you from normal life now?”
“We don’t talk much to the press, but that’s because the kids competed a lot this season, gave interviews at each championship, and there just isn’t much left for them to tell. Therefore, media interest declined on its own. Both teams immediately said they’d love to attend the opening ceremony. I, too, got to march in the parade of nations for the first time in my life. Normally, the US teams only gives this right to the athletes and officials. In Vancouver, though, it was also given to two coaches – Frank Carroll and myself.”
“In Vancouver, both your teams are gold contenders. Even with perfect skates, one team will lose. Do you think that can be a tragedy for the losing duo?”
“That depends. Both Meryl with Charlie and Tessa with Scott are clearly set on winning. Nonetheless, this rivalry is in no way reflected in their relationship. If you could only see who they root for each other! It’s also important to see why a loss happens. It’s different when athletes know they did everything in their power. Actually, I don’t think even a subpar performance would be a tragedy for either of them. Both teams are very young, and they don’t have this pressure of knowing it’s their last Olympics. That’s why I think it’ll all be good. That’s what we all want.”