I had some spare time at work, so I translated this interview with TT (original at http://plushenko.narod.ru/nov/112.htm). I skipped some places (always marked where I did). She does talk some about Gryazev and Sasha in the interview.
Interviewed by Irina Stepanceva, “Moskovskij Komsololec”, December 10 2002
<font color=blue>IS: In your American home there is once again someone sleeping on the floor in the corridor…</font>
TT: First, not in the corridor, but in a walk-through room. Second, not on the floor, but on a mattress. And finally – it’s my new student Andrusha Gryazev, who skates as a junior. Last year he was 17th at Worlds, this year he has won two Grand Prix events, and he is now getting ready for the GPF.
<font color=blue>That has become your trademark style – keeping the student close by. Lesha Yagudin has also slept in his friends’ kitchen…</font>
Never has Lesha slept at his friends’ – only at my place, on the sofa next to my husband’s grand piano. What are you going to do? There are training camps in Novogorsk, but it is in such as terrible shape. I have started working there 35 years ago, and nothing has changed since, nothing has been fixed.
<font color=blue>Andrusha sleeping at your place – is that a statement? In Nagano, your student Kulik became the champion, in Salt Lake City – Yagudin. Have you gotten used to having your singles win?</font>
No, one never gets used to it. I just wanted to take a 16-year old boy, and to help him develop. Then we will see where it goes.
<font color=blue>Did you want to spike those who say you only work with already-developed skaters?</font>
What do you mean, “spike”? I am not going to explain myself to anyone! It is just interesting for me. Gryazev has asked to train with me himself. He didn’t skate for a few months, totally abandoned all exercise. He called, I agreed, he arrived.
And, by the way, where else is he going to live? Besides, he is too young to live on his own. And one doesn’t throw a family member out of the house, right? Overall, it’s nice, though I realize it is a somewhat Soviet habit – to live in a flat with so many families (interviewer's note: Two dance teams and coach Maya Usova also live with TT). But we are used to it, it doesn’t tire us.
<font color=blue>What if he will start getting willful?</font>
So he will. I don’t like working with skaters who do are not willful.
I don’t think skaters will learn bad habits at my place. They are not lazy on the ice, and they cannot be lazy at home either. They help keep the place clean, they vacuum, they do the dishes. Not because I force them, but because it has to be done. Everybody does his own laundry, that’s a given. But overall, we don’t keep track of who does what, but they do all the cleaning. Andrusha always cleans the stove. “Son”, I tell him, “It’s time…” By now, I don’t even have to tell him, he cleans it so it shines. After a week of my cooking the stove gets awful. When the girls have time, they do some cooking, but I do most of it. In the morning, for example, everybody eats oatmeal.
<font color=blue>Made with milk or with water?</font>
Everybody does it their own way: some like it with water, some with milk, some with honey, some with meat, some with sausage, some with soy sauce. At my home, my mom liked sweet oatmeal, and my dad liked it salty, but in any case in the morning everybody ate oatmeal. There should always be soup in the house – actually two soups: a vegetarian one for the girls, and one with meat.
It’s all a part of the day-to-day routine. While we are working, we live like that. Sacrificing our lives. But that in itself is life. It’s not a sacrifice. It’s just how we live.
<font color=blue>You don’t feel you need your own space, where no one else is breathing?</font>
Who is going to offer me that? Life in America is very expensive, and they haven’t made much money yet. In order to afford something, you have to make the money first. Look at it yourself: the coach for the general physical fitness is $2000 per month. His trips to the championships are another few thousand. Psychologist, costumes, musical programs – all of that is done by outside specialists, and that costs money. For example, I have spent $5000 last year just for purchasing CDs. One of the had the now-famous “Winter”.
<font color=blue>By the way, how did Lesha always get the snow to throw it in the air with such effect?</font>
Ah, so you did not notice. He slows down, creating that extra ice. From the blade the snow flows like from a snow-removal machine. That snow he took into his hand, and then threw in the air. You know, many people tell me that they have the tape with that program at home, and watch it when they need a booster. Some listen to Chopin, and some watch “Winter”.
<font color=blue>Has anyone ever accused you of destroying their lives?</font>
I think the only person who has a right to say that is Vladimir Krainev (IS: TT’s husband, famous musician, currently a professor in Hanover conservatory). I have given life to the others. I am not a destroyer. By nature, I am a creator.
[Some more self-aggrandizing skipped]
<font color=blue>You often scold journalists for doing this and that wrong…</font>
It doesn’t come from the journalists, it comes from the coaches. Look, when Lesha had his rivalry with Zhenya Plushenko, the St. Petersburg press always set the tone – someone is mistreating our boy.
<font color=blue>Honestly, was their a “Plushenko complex”? Psychologist Zagainov asserts, that both you and Yagudin had it. </font>
I don’t know why Rudolph Maksimovich thinks I had it. May be he sees something, but I did not even talk about myself with him, only about Lesha. Hey, maybe Zagainov was the one with a “Mishin complex”. They are both from St. Petersburg, you know.
<font color=blue>How much do you let a third person into your relationship with your students? Does it become a third wheel?</font>
You know, I am never afraid to lose the closeness, because it can only be lost if there wasn’t enough to begin with. Me, I work for my athlete every day, and I will always do everything I have to for him, even if it hurts me. In terms of public opinion, the third person is the third wheel, and it hurts. But sometimes you have to put up with that, when it is necessary to tap into some spring of knowledge.
<font color=blue>But the stanger’s hand can lead astray…</font>
It takes a lot of strength and self-confidence to allow the stranger’s hand. But it is ultimately for the best. Not only for a particular skater, but for figure skating as a whole. If I did not create programs myself, and had to invite a choreographer – someone like Bejar, Grigorovich, or Moiseev, I think I would convince them to help.
[Next comes the part where TT talks about unfairness of Russian journalists, also talks a little about her father’s influence on her (her father was a world-famous hockey coach, about what she does to relieve stress… I am skipping that].
<font color=blue>Yagudin says he yells during practices, and that you can get into a whole screaming match. Will you deny that? When you were younger, you would scold everyone…</font>
I was different when I was younger. The more you know, the wiser you get. And while you are alive, you have to learn. I try. As for Lesha, he is very complex, intelligent, educated in both Russian and English, very talented…
<font color=blue>It’s more difficult with the talented.</font>
Who says it should be easy? And, by the way, I have never heard obscenities from him. He can say it, but out of my ear’s shot. I am even surprised myself. Actually… there was one time… but one time is forgivable. He can definitely hit his fist against something when something is not working, but they all do that, just to release the adrenalin.
<font color=blue> “Does the politician need brains? Sometimes, the rest depends on charm” – that, evidently based on personal experienced, said Shwartzeneger. What about athletes? Some say all their brains went into the physical development. </font>
It depends. Definitely, they need it. They are not automatons to just follow whatever they are told. One has to analyze the training process, and that requires brains; then, we see the difference on the ice. Also, all the personal qualities come through on the ice. Stupidity and mediocrity do as well.
<font color=blue>You let yourself really walk the line when it comes to talking to the press. Your students are sometimes quite cruel as well – do you scold them? </font>
I let them do what they think is best. They have to develop, and they have to have their point of view. They also have to know how to express that point of view, or even how to invent one, right at the press conference. It’s a part of the job. How would they think of anything if they were stupid? The journalist would just hold the microphone for a minute, and leave, and then just write that the skater won and that’s that, good bye.
As far the athletes are concerned, they have more freedom than the coaches, and they are more natural. They can say something without thinking, which the journalists like a lot, or sometimes they can just say something because they want to. We have to be more exact, really think things through; we are burdened by out age. We talk, but we can also bend the truth sometimes. But the athletes are like children. They are all good and natural, until the adults teach them how to bend the truth.
[Some more skipped]
<font color=blue>You took an American girl, who could have won the past Olympics. Many consider it a betrayal. </font>
Well, when you watch a Spielberg movie, what do you feel? Joy that you got a chance to see it, right? Before, it would have been impossible – someone would smuggle in a copy, we would hide while watching it. Same way we would read books.
The talent, it’s universal. Moiseev (translator’s note: Moiseev is a very prominent Russian choreographer, who was one of the first ones in the world to bring folk dances onto the big stage) created his ballet, his understanding of choreography, but look at the Irish ballet that was created from his dancers – it’s been working for many years. He is leaving something precious for everyone. His talent is universal.
<font color=blue>Moiseev does not have three steps with a flag and an anthem. What should we do with our patriotism? </font>
He does not have three steps. So what?! Three steps – that’s only 15 minutes a year! And then what? What are you going to do with those who come, and watch, and love it? Those who live by it? Anyone can see that Sasha is such a talent that can really advance our profession. How could I say no to her: I will not coach you because you are an American! Because you are only half “ours”. How could that ever be justified?
What about when Americans took us in, and gave Kulik ice time for free? And when they gave me and Lesha also a place to live, and ice, and lights, and a zamboni? It all coasts huge money! What about us? Should we be so ungrateful? Should we forget that they helped us create two Olympic champions, and actually more than two? Moskvina also worked in America. With both her champions. And Mishin does not sit in Novogorsk, her works in Spain, in Italy, he spends three months in Switzerland. Should we not say “thank you”? But no, we are so typically Russian – everyone owes us something, and that’s that!
<font color=blue>Wait, Tatiana Anatolievna…</font>
That’s not right. They help us develop. They give us work, ice, a place to live. At home, I get less than $200 a month for working with Yagudin. Why should I, a 55 year old sick woman, work for that? Some coaches get even less. We get some money to spend on all athletes, including ours, by working the foreigners. And after all that I cannot coach the American girl?!!! That’s not fair. I take talent, and I develop it. And love it. Regardless of what kind it is, be it Canadian, American, Jewish, French, or Russian.
[Some more skipped]
I respect talent as such. It can be born in any country. If I get asked to become a part of it, and I do it, I don’t understand how I am robbing our country. I always get up when Russian flag is raised, and I am directly involved with those victories.
<font color=blue> You took Cohen, you already coach Yagudin, Gryazev, and the dancers, you help the Chinese – does it mean you are going to continue for the next four years. </font>
It was hard at first. Sometimes, it is still hard. I would like to have more freedom. I would like to have a choice to go where I want, just to spend time with someone… But I am back in the life’s corridor. And only the seventh door is open – the one of the day off. All the rest goes by the schedule. I don’t know if it’s right or not, but it just is. I can’t be unfaithful to that.
The whole Cohen family just moved – from California to me. I can’t even imagine that, I feel such incredible weight of responsibility every time I think of it. Just think of it – get up and move. I was shocked. Sasha moved clear across the country with her whole family – mom, dad, sister, dog, and cat. Her dad flies to California for his job.
But Sasha – she is so unusual, so incredible, so moving. It is often like that with great talents. It’s good that no one in my group can be jealous of my attention to her. Actually, I don’t think one could do anything to hurt Sasha – those wide open eyes… But, of course, there will always be someone wishing to spit in those eyes as well.