http://ptichkafs.livejournal.com/46677.html; translation by Ptichks, with permission from Vaitsekhovskaya
Elena VAITSEKHOVSKAYA from Vancouver
Long after the mixed zone of the Pacific Coliseum has emptied out, two drained people remained in the open; they were seating in the corner, staring at each other still unclear about what was going on. Those two were Marina Zueva and Igor Shpilband – the coaches who created a sensation. Never before have North American ice dancing teams won two top Olympic prizes, and never have the two top medalists been prepared by the same specialists.
Marina, were you nervous?
Strangely enough, no. If we’re talking about readiness, our athletes were physically, morally, and emotionally ready for the Games 99%. The remaining percent is chance. The Games are unpredictable, after all.
Meryl Davis and Charlie White, who won the silver, looked upset after the skate.
They got one point deduction for holding the lift too long, while they wanted a clean skate. On the other hand, one of the component marks was “10”. They just didn’t know about it yet, whereas the deduction was highlighted up on the screen. That made them think. Overall, however, they were quite happy. As opposed to Tessa and Scott, they never even had any major medals. They were always off the podium.
How many practice skates does one need to have such a skate at the Games?
A lot. Putting so much difficulty, quality and emotion into one program is a hard work. It’s huge. I kept thinking in Vancouver that such a colossal labor, both on the part of the athletes and the coaches just cannot go unnoticed. I’m very happy it all came to fruition.
One forum I read came up with an interesting question – how many costumes did Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir have to go through to arrive at the ultimate and victorious Olympic version?
Let me see… Five. Why?
Judging from your tone, this wasn’t a simple process?
Tessa is just 20. At that age, girls are very ambiguous about what they wear. They keep searching for their styles. This made it necessary to convince them, explaining why one version is better than another.
Were your athletes very nervous before the performance?
We’ve been practicing for the moment for six years. They knew well what the Olympics mean, and that they won’t just perform, but barring any injuries will fight for the medals. I kept reminding them they have not only talent, but also certain responsibilities. Talent in general is a great responsibility. It is, I guess, the ultimate feeling for an athlete – to give their all to their country. The last thing I told Tessa and Scott as they were taking the ice was that they had to feel proud to represent Canada. “Proud to be Canadian.”
What did you tell Meryl and Charlie? That they should be proud to represent America? “Proud to be American”?
Yes. And a lot more.
How did your athletes manage to improve so much in just one year?
It is mainly an improvement in marks. If you recall how Davis/ White skated at last year’s Worlds, the vast majority of professionals said they should have at the very least won the free program. They already had the mastery. An improvement in marks is nothing bur recognition.
Do Virtue and Moir plan to leave the sport?
We plan to skate for a long time. Moreover, there isn’t much to do otherwise – there are almost no professional shows left in America. In my opinion, those athletes still have much potential left; also, they’re still so young!
It’s hard to see how their skating can improve further. Where do you see the potential for their growth?
Why would I talk about it before the time comes?
Would you take on a Russian team?
Why not? So far, though, no one has asked.
Is that even a possibility?
When there is a will, there is a way. So far at least, we’ve never turned anyone down. On the other hand, Igor and I don’t have as our goal coaching teams from the biggest number of countries. Our goal is to move figure skating forward. I believe Igor and I have made huge steps in that direction. We’re very happy to see the quality of our athletes’ skating get reflected in the marks. Their win was decisive; all judges agreed, regardless of their national interests. One official I know even called me and said – thank you for making ice dancing a real sport.
Did you fear unfair judging?
Yes. We were afraid of the repetition of last year, when Davis/ White skated the best free dance but only came fourth. We were afraid the judges could also keep down Virtue/ Moir in Vancouver regardless of how they’d skate.
Did you see Domnina/ Shabalin and Belbin/ Agosto skate?
Honestly, no. I had no strength left. I sat there drinking in this feeling of having our athletes do everything we prepared them for.
I addressed my next question to Igor Shpilband.
Did you already realize what your dancers have done?
I’ve realized it, but I still can’t it take all in.
I’m sure you’ve looked forward to what you’d feel as the coach of Olympic champions.
I tried not to think about it. My coaching life has seen numerous examples of getting something very different from what you expect. I guess, I’ve become superstitious. I’ve always dreamed of my athletes skating such that no one could accuse them of winning undeservedly. That happened. Tessa and Scott got four “ten’s”. Figure skating hasn’t seen that since the new judging rules have come into effect. Davis/ White have also gotten one “ten”. No, I can’t take it all in yet. I still can’t believe it.
Your and Marina’s athletes started breaking away from the rest after the original dance. Did that soothe you somewhat?
Of course. I saw that good skating is getting recognized regardless of who sits at the judging panel. It was hard to believe, but it was hard to argue with facts. I didn’t worry much for the kids. I knew they’d skate well and fight to the end.
I can imagine how many skaters will now train with you. Admit it, Zueva and you must be expensive coaches?
I don’t think we’re more expensive than others. There is also an issue of living expenses. Athletes should have not only the desire, but also some financial options. Besides Davis/ White and one other team, none of our athletes are from Detroit. They rent places together, but it’s still not cheap. Their families, likewise, have different means.
What made you most nervous during the Games?
I couldn’t believe to the last that the judges would mark our athletes as they did. We already had the example of men single skating, where Zhenya Plushenko lost despite some technical superiority and a much bigger weight in the judges’ weight. Granted, he didn’t skate as well as he could, and in my opinion really didn’t succeed in the free program, but he still could have won if the judging were like it used to be.
I was afraid of the repetition of Davis/ White at the last world championships. I was very happy they didn’t despair at their fourth place but came home and started working even harder. It didn’t have to be this way – everyone told them they should have been higher. That isn’t easy on the morale.
How will you react if Virtue and Moir come to you tomorrow and tell you they got many commercial offers and plan to wrap up their careers?
If that’s what’s meant to be, it’s sure to happen. But why talk about it now?