In the pink
An interview with Ingo Steuer
December 4, 2010Â
By Nadin Vernon
Photos © Absolute Skating, Art on Ice Productions
Aljona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy took to the ice for their
free skate at the TropheĂ© Eric Bompard last weekend, I couldnÂ’t
help but for a moment think of last yearÂ’s performance at
the same event, one they would not be keen to repeat. As it
turned out, I neednÂ’t worry as this memory was completely
wiped out within the first 30 seconds of their programme,
as an incredibly high triple throw flip set the scene for
the next four minutes. Not only did Aljona and Robin execute
their elements to high standard, they also completely drew
the crowd into their flirtatious programme and claimed a lead
of more than 14 points over Vera Bazarova and Yuri Larionov
(RUS) in second place. With the Bercy audience on its feet,
Aljona and Robin won their second gold medal at this seasonÂ’s
Grand Prix events and qualified for the Final.
I caught up with their coach Ingo Steuer
to talk about new programmes, the seasonÂ’s challenges, his
skaters in Chemnitz and how to team up new pairs.
Congratulations on winning this event,
Ingo. What a great performance. How have you settled into
the season so far?
We started a little later than usual this
season and it worked out really well for us. There was more
time to test things, and especially after the Olympic season
- which was a difficult season - we just allowed ourselves
a little bit more time. We participated in some shows in Europe
and then also went to Korea and the US. And we just didnÂ’t
put ourselves under pressure with a deadline in terms of having
to be ready for a certain date. And as we could see, the long
programme is really well suited to Aljona and Robin. All in
all we probably have more issues with the short as itÂ’s very
difficult, but weÂ’re getting there.
short programme is to Korobushko, a Russian folk song. Was
this something Aljona wanted to use?
No, actually I had suggested this music for
the long programme in the past. I had cut it and proposed
it to them, but they didnÂ’t like it. Aljona hadnÂ’t liked it
as a free programme in the last few years but this year she
liked it. I usually give her music from my list which she
has already heard 20 times, but then listens to again and
then there may be the decision that now is the right time
and itÂ’s the right music.
Ah ok, so that happens too. ItÂ’s not always
a case of listening to something and categorically saying
yes or no, opinions can change on a piece of music over time?
ThatÂ’s right. Most of the music that we choose
is music that IÂ’ve had for longer but where the time hadnÂ’t
been right in the past.
And how did you come up with Pink Panther?
For the long programme, I actually asked Aljona
and Robin for their input. Music suggestions generally tend
to fall into my lap, as I have a huge repertoire of music.
So I usually propose something, then there is always the big
discussion, I like it, I donÂ’t like it. So I said to the two,
why donÂ’t you come up with some ideas this time and think
about what youÂ’d really like to skate to. To Robin it doesnÂ’t
really matter actually, heÂ’s very flexible in this respect.
The day after I had spoken to them, Aljona came up to me and
asked what I thought of Pink Panther. So I downloaded the
music, listened to it and thought it might work. I cut it
there and then and the very version that I cut in the middle
of that night, is actually the one we kept. ThatÂ’s quite unusual
to go with the first version.
Aljona choose it because she liked the music or because of
the whole pink panther concept?
Because she liked the musicÂ…(thinks)Â….then
again, I think she just likes the pink panther (laughs).
She could really get into the character from the beginning
and itÂ’s very important that the athlete can develop that
feeling. If itÂ’s something that comes naturally, itÂ’s a bonus.
The programme is very different to those
you had in the past seasons, itÂ’s very playful and not so
Actually this season I wanted to do something
that would be more fun.
OK, so that was a conscious decision.
Yes, even before Aljona suggested the pink
panther idea, I had already cut Austin Powers, both as a short
and a long, so I already wanted to go in that comical direction
and I mentioned it to Aljona and Robin. So thatÂ’s probably
why she thought of the pink panther.
The programme was very well received here,
not only did Aljona and Robin get a standing ovation after
the performance, the audience was also clapping along from
the very beginning.
Yes, weÂ’re really happy with the response
and of course Pink Panther has a French theme, so that helped.
got some interesting new elements in your programmes that
are very creative, like the positions in your lifts and spins.
How do come up with new positions, do you just try things
Yes, exactly. You just play around. We always
practice our lifts off-ice anyway, and thatÂ’s the same with
new positions, you just have a go and sometimes come up with
something thatÂ’s new and different.
Are there any other new elements that you
are currently working on?
WeÂ’ve been training the quad throw flip and
thatÂ’s coming along quite nicely.
Wow, will we see it in competition?
We probably wonÂ’t be showing it this season,
we decided to spend more time training the sequence and getting
that right for the moment.
Generally, what is your main focus this
The most important thing for us this season
is winning back the titles. We said we would continue until
Sochi and this is the first step.
At the beginning of the Olympic season
last year, I asked you about your plans after Vancouver and
you said you had taken a decision but werenÂ’t going to announce
it until after Turin. Was the decision to keep going, even
back then, before the Olympics?
Yes, even then we knew we definitely wanted
to continue, but at the time we were thinking more of an extra
season. And while weÂ’re committed to keep going until Sochi,
we have to take things year by year. Four years are a long
time, so weÂ’ll see, but weÂ’re planning to be there.
have been quite a few changes in your training camp this season
with AnaĂŻs Morand and Antoine Dorsaz splitting and Tatiana
Volosozhar moving to Moscow to team up with Maksim Trankov.
WhoÂ’s in your team now?
Yes, initially AnaĂŻs did a try-out with Ilja
Glebov, but he had to go back to Estonia to fulfil his army
service and there were nationality issues as well. Now she
is skating with Tim Leemann from Switzerland; they mainly
train in KĂĽsnacht with Birgit Brandt but when they are in
Chemnitz, they train with me. Tim is still finishing his school
though, so theyÂ’re in Switzerland most of the time.
Which competitions will they be skating
at this season, will they be at next weekÂ’s NRW Trophy and
at the European Championships?
No, they wonÂ’t be skating at either of those.
ThereÂ’s not much point in diving straight into it and then
experiencing the big disappointment. They have to get used
to each other first and just find themselves this season,
so this season they will focus on Swiss Nationals.
Is Dasha Popova also in your team?
Yes, but she doesnÂ’t have a partner, weÂ’re
still looking. So for the moment, sheÂ’s training as a single
skater. Dasha will obtain German nationality soon, but even
then, there isnÂ’t really anyone suitable out there for her
at the moment.
What do you look for when it comes to teaming
up a new pair? Is it more important that the two skaters are
on the same technical level, or do you mainly watch out for
a connection and harmony between them?
Of course it would be ideal if the two skaters
youÂ’re trying to team up were on the same level, but the overall
harmony is really important. The level is something you can
work on, so IÂ’d probably say the harmony comes first.
And how quickly can you tell whether or
not two skaters would make a good pair?
Very quickly, in fact I can see it right away. And then I have no qualms being honest about it. Dasha and Ilja also had a try-out for example, and they werenÂ’t a match. Dasha has very long lines, and IljaÂ’s lines were overall shorter and it just didnÂ’t work.
Generally speaking, of course itÂ’s great if skaters want to come to me, train and improve, but especially with the younger teams that are supported by sponsors, the sponsors want to see results. So itÂ’s only fair for me to be honest if I donÂ’t think that a pair can achieve great successes.
Coming back to Aljona and Robin, how do
you rate your competitors this season?
ItÂ’s going to be an interesting season, and
especially the Russian pairs are very strong. All in all there
are a few teams that are pretty much on the same level, so
weÂ’ll see. Of course we have the two new teams. IÂ’ve already
seen Tatiana and Maksim and they look good together, I like
them. There isnÂ’t that much emotion between them yet, but
that will come.
werenÂ’t any French teams at the start here in Paris.
Yes, thatÂ’s right. I was here earlier in the
season for a try-out between Vanessa James and Maxim Coia,
but that didnÂ’t work out. Vanessa is now trying with a new
partner, so in time, the French teams will come.
YouÂ’ve got the Grand Prix Final coming
up in a couple of weeks, are you planning any other events
Yes, weÂ’re looking forward to the Final. After
that weÂ’re doing a few Christmas shows, a couple in Germany
and in Bolzano.
Well, best of luck in Beijing and see you
Thank you. See you in Bern, and donÂ’t forget to wrap up warm, itÂ’s going to be cold!
The Grand Prix Final will take place in
Beijing from the 9th to 12th
December. It will be the first time for Aljona and Robin to
face Chinese pair Qing Pang and Jian Tong since the Vancouver
Olympics. Will we see the revenge of the Pink Panther?