Nikolai Morozov interview with Elena Vaitsekhovskaya
5 DAYS TO WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS
Nikolai MOROZOV: “IN JAPAN, THE FIRST THREE DAYS WERE NOT SCARY.”
Everyone in figure skating is used to seeing Nikolai Morozov at the boards far more any most of his colleagues. Moscow Worlds will be no different – Russian coach will accompany the 2007 World champion Japanese Miki Ando, European champion Frenchman Florent Amodio, Spain’s national champion Javier Fernandez, as well as Italian dancers Anna Cappellini/ Luca Lanotte. In addition, we should mention the Georgian singles skater Elene Gedevanishvili and Estonia’s Elena Glebova – Nikolai has already worked a lot with them this season. Also, Russian pair champion Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov owe their programs to that same Morozov.
Morozov brought his skaters to Novogorsk well ahead of time to allow the athletes to get fully acclimatized before Worlds. That’s where we met a few days ago. Nikolai, like always, was on the ice, showing various steps to young boys, whereas Russian skating patriarch Victor Kudryavtsev was observing from the coaches’ bench.
The famous coach’s eyes shone with so much enthusiasm, I decided to join him.
“It’s amazing”, voiced Kudryavtsev. “It’s just amazing, what Kolya is doing on the ice. He always had good edging, back when he skated single. I think he never got farther because as a youngster he wasn’t organized enough. As a teacher, he’s brilliant.
He told me himself how over the few years he lived in New York, he took classes at most of Manhattan’s dance schools”, continued Kudryavtsev. “He made a lot of connections in the dancing world. More importantly, he was able to bring that newness, so unusual and uncharacteristic for classical figure skating, onto the ice.”
“What can Morozov do that other coaches cannot?”
“First of all, there is style – it’s very modern. All of Morozov’s athletes exhibit both good technique and an exact biomechanical calculation of movement. That allows them to maintain a high speed on the ice even while doing most difficult steps and footwork sequences. The audience does not usually think why one athlete has “it” and another does not. Mostly, it’s technique. It’s the work of legs, knees, ankles, the angle of the foot in relation to the ice surface, the strength of the “push”… Judging by the exercises Nikolai is doing with his students, he’s working through those nuances, as opposed to just gliding on this or that edge.
Also, Morozov’s programs are not academic. His athletes’ moves are free and even laid back. The importance of this is greater than meets the eyes. If one enters jumps and other elements in a state of tension as do most skaters, this takes a lot of effort, As a result it becomes more difficult to keep the program going to the end, keeping the amplitude and speed exhibited at the beginning. Look at Sergei Voronov, who’s just been with Morozov for a year – he’s become a brad new skater with the new coach.”
“What do you think of the much-criticized free program of Florent Amodio that made the Frenchman an European champion?”
“I like about it what I already mentioned – it doesn’t have a “mold”. What it has instead is a brilliantly visualized image. I pay a lot of attention to those things nowadays. Under the existing system, it’s incredible difficult to depart from general tendencies and show something new. Few are capable of this, by the way. Bringing out the athlete’s individuality and developing it is the most difficult thing in coaching.”
Meanwhile Voronov and Fernandez were wrapping up their practice, and Miki Ando was already getting on.
“We can talk during Miki’s warm-up,” suggested Morozov as he skated to the boards. “I’m afraid I won’t have time later.”
“The additional month you got because Worlds were moved to Moscow – is that a problem or is it helpful?”
“It doesn’t make much difference to my skaters. They’re used to working such that they don’t have much fluctuation in their physical readiness whether they’re competing at Worlds or skating in the off season. Correspondingly, they can perform well even in summer.”
“Do you do that on purpose?”
“Yes. Constant readiness for success is needed both for the athletes’ confidence and to mine as a coach.”
“So, their practices are like a boot camp? Woken up at night, they could go and do it?”
“Well, I wouldn’t wake them up at night, but I know that any of my skaters could mobilize in 3 to 4 days. Therefore, I saw no problem even in moving Worlds to August. It wouldn’t do, though, to have it any later than that as it would turn the season upside down for too many people.
I think all the talks about conducting Worlds in fall were just due the Japanese not waning to lose their chance at Worlds. Correspondingly, they were ready for anything. In principal, I don’t agree with this approach. If such a disaster befalls a country, you should be thinking of things other than Worlds. Japan, after all, is not just figure skating?
“You and your group were in Japan during the first catastrophic earthquake. Is it true that the French and Spanish federations immediately demanded their athletes be sent home?”
“Well, the parents were worried more than the federations. Even my mom was going crazy. At first, nobody knew where we were and if we were OK. The TV coverage was not exactly comforting.”
“Honestly, were you scared?”
“Not during the first three days. Even in Fukuoke, ninety kilometers from the earthquake’s epicenter, we had no idea what was going on. Later, when nuclear stations started having problems, I realized we had to get out fast. I was able to send out a part of my group first, and then flew out with the rest a day later. I realized quite fast, of course, that there would be no Worlds in Japan. I therefore released my athletes to work at their own pace.
I’m glad actually to have a whole extra month to work with Sergei Voronov. In fact, it’s good that he didn’t go anywhere this season and cold just concentrate on work. Had he gone to Europe and Worlds, he might still believe deep down that he didn’t have any problems. As it is, he had to realize there were issues. Sergei started noticing things he never thought of before.”
“It’s often difficult to explain to a skater that he has to be unique as opposed to copying someone. The problem with most Russian boys is in this copying. One shouldn’t do this, one has to be himself. It’s important for the athlete to realize it himself. My group’s atmosphere is very free, I don’t pressure anyone and I don’t scold. If a student doesn’t understand something, I’d rather think of a way to make him confront the truth rather than yell at him ten times a day. It’s pointless to expect results from someone who doesn’t understand why he needs it.”
“Last summer, you moved to Russia permanently, but this year, as far as I know, you’re again brining your whole group, including the new students, to train in the US for two months in the summer. Why?”
Summer is the main choreographing period for us, and between practices I’m used to going to different places, look for and listen to music, meet people, etc. In Hackensack, were we train in the US, it’s very quiet yet everything is nearby; New York itself is just a stone throw away. In Moscow, though, every outing from Novogorsk is a colossal waste of time and not mention the stress. One can’t work like that. Why create problems that can be avoided?”