Sergei Voronov: "Eteri Tutberidze changed everything about me"

February 2, 2014
By Ia Remmel (Pia)
Photos © Mireille Geurts, Joy, Ia Remmel

This interview was taken a while ago, in October 2013 during the Finlandia Trophy. Sergei Voronov had changed his coach late in the spring, from Nikolai Morozov to Eteri Tutberidze.
Now at the Finlandia Trophy no one actually knew what to expect from him. After the end of the men’s short program he was doing well. He was in second position after Yuzuru Hanyu and was one of the few competitors able to perform a clean quad combo jump. He looked firm, calm and full of joy while skating and became the biggest surprise of the competition. As the season progressed, it was obvious that he had changed. He was the bronze medalist at the Russian Nationals where he battled with Evgeni Plushenko and Maksim Kovtun and a few weeks ago he won the silver medal at the European Championships.

You have a new coach this season, Eteri Tutberidze. What it is like working with her?
I believe that an athlete should sometimes admit that he can’t always be successful. Crises can happen. Eteri Georgievna figured me out and working with her is different from what I have previously experienced.  Now I am more confident and feel that my way of thinking is right. I also have gained a clearer understanding about how things should work. Like she always says: “If you don’t work, you don’t eat!” Simple, but true. That’s what all of her group does. At my age, I am an “oldie” in her talented childrens’ group.
However, it’s so classy and fun to work together with all those special children, with Adian Pitkeev, Julia Lipnitskaia, and Evgenia Medvedeva. I sometimes don’t even feel like I’m already 26 years old (laughs). Working together with them, I realize what a special and closed life athletes live. We live in our bubble, in a somewhat isolated world. However, while this life is very special and wide-ranging it is complicated and full of problems as well. I’m very glad and honored that I can train in this group. I feel the responsibility and want to improve with all my heart.

How did you come to choose Eteri Tutberidze?
For that, I have to be thankful to Tatiana Anatolievna Tarasova. She was the one who proposed her to me. She has a huge amount of experience and she gave me very good advice.
Now I enjoy everything I do. Training is always hard but at the same time interesting. Everything has become more and more fascinating.

What does she do differently compared to your previous coaches?
Maybe it sounds silly but – she does everything differently.

In what sense? Did she change your jump technique?
Here I have to disappoint you. She didn’t change it. Changing something so basic as jump technique is very hard for a 26-year old skater, I’d say – impossible. We redid everything, the whole package. Look at the skaters from countries like Japan or North America – their approach to skating basics is a little bit different than what we have in Russia. For instance, I never did compulsory figures.

Oh, never?
Really never, I didn’t have a chance. North American skaters do, for instance Patrick Chan. But here in Russia, as soon as a boy can stand on his skates – we start immediately with jumps. And you see the result.

What else does your coach pay attention to? Probably also to the choreography?
Not only choreography but we work a lot on skating quality, gliding, edges, the same skating skills and transitions. Besides jumps you also have to relay imagery. It’s extremely hard to unite all those aspects because mens’ figure skating has risen to a new level. Right now mens’ skating is extremely complicated. Your program lasts 4 minutes and you must do quads, triples, have good spins, transitions and good interpretation. It’s a really a hard task.

Who chose the music and image for your programs this year?
For my short I got advice from Tatiana Tarasova, it’s choreographed by Irina Zhuk, and my free is choreographed by Ilia Averbukh.

What do you think of your work with Averbukh?
For me it was a completely new approach, how he worked with music and with imagery. I’m really thankful that he found time for me.

You have already done very well. What are your plans for the near future?
This season my plan is to move forward step by step. And as soon as I accomplish one task, I will look forward to the next. The most important thing for me right now is to feel pleasure about what I’m doing. Every person should like what he’s doing. If you don’t like it, you have to change something. Now that I have a coach like Eteri Georgievna, I want to keep going as long as my health allows.

Who has been your inspiration in skating, who are your favourite skaters?
To name some interesting skaters – Jeffrey Buttle, Emanuel Sandhu. They are just original and exciting. Also I admire strong skaters with iron will – like Evgeni Plushenko and Alexei Yagudin. Their moral strength and stamina is extraordinary. They are two warriors who will always have a place in skating history. In that sense, they will always be role models.

Evgeni Plushenko is going to compete at his fourth Olympics now, which is really heroic. What do you think – will he be successful there?
You know, when I watch him, it seems to me he really enjoys what he is doing. And why shouldn’t he? I think Zhenia is doing everything right. However, time will tell. Of course no one wants to stop skating when it’s their passion. I don’t want to stop either. There’s also no doubt that Plushenko has greatness, that is sure.
His aspiration – I don't know exactly how to put it into words – for sure attracts interest, it's intriguing.

What inspires you off the ice?
I’m getting more and more into psychology, especially sports psychology. Of course I don’t have much time for it, the biggest part of my time goes to sport. It’s obvious that you can’t deal with many things at the same time and do equally well. But psychology is something I’d like to know more and more about.

Have you thought about studying it later in your life?
I have thought about it and I’d like to study it when I have finished with competitive skating.

In figure skating, the psychological aspect is extremely important.
It is very important in all sports.

That’s true but in figure skating it is very visible. The skater has prepared everything, knows everything. However, he can still fail.
I’d say that singles skating is a very lonely field of sport. You of course feel the support of the  audience, your coach supports you but when you are on the ice, you know that you can only rely on yourself. You must do it all yourself, solo. You are an individual fighter.



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