Did the pre-season go according to plan?
- As they say, everything has already been invented, and not by us: the same means, the same places of gathering, with the exception of Armenia - we once went there, but it was a very long time ago. Now they decided to reconstruct the base, and since we have a certain need for mid-mountain training, we gladly accepted the offer of the Armenian side to come to them.
- Can we say that now Tsaghkadzor is able to compensate for the shortage of similar bases in Russia?
"You could say that. Of course, there is still a lot to do there, our summer race was of a trial nature, but we were told: if we consider the base as a permanent option for training, all wishes will be taken into account. Tsaghkadzor already has everything for winter training, the food situation is perfect. The asphalt on the roller track has already been renewed, it just needs to be slightly increased.
Other than that, nothing has changed. Although there have been some changes within the group itself.
"In connection with what?"
– The men's part of the team has noticeably strengthened. Saveliy Korostelev, Alexander Bakurov and Ilya Poroshkin came. If earlier within the group the girls were somewhat prevalent, they were stronger and more enduring, now the guys have taken on the role of a locomotive.
Does it make it easier for you to work with the female part of the team?
— Absolutely. When there are strong guys in the group, there is an opportunity to reach for them. Accordingly, it becomes much easier to motivate people to work. This was not the case before. Therefore, it seems to me that it was harder for Veronika Stepanova to force herself without a serious guideline. There is no jealousy in the group: boys do not compete with girls on the track. Therefore, I see only advantages in the current line-up.
"I can imagine what it's like for a male coach when there are only young ladies around.
"It's really not easy. Therefore, from the very first year of my independent coaching, I tried to make my team mixed. In this case, it becomes easier not only for the coaching staff to work, but also for the athletes.
– Did you have to draw up individual training plans for such athletes as Korostelev and Yulia Stupak?
"No, I don't. We have common plans. The only difference is the choice of volume and density of work. That is, even if there is a general plan, training is built strictly individually.
— When large-scale figures appear in the team, does it require adjustment?
— Absolutely. Especially when a person comes at the peak of a personal result. On the one hand, he himself needs time to look around and understand how the work is organized. In one way or another, everyone has a certain fear at such moments: the method will suit him, it will not work for him.
Accordingly, the coach is tasked with conveying some nuances to the athlete. Explain how further progress is possible. If you don't talk to a person, he will most likely not survive even the period of summer training, when there is a lot of work, everything is very tired, there is no speed, and you have to force yourself to endure, not really understanding what kind of result this work will result in. Therefore, every time the team is renewed, I talk a lot with the athletes.
You've noticed that Norwegian coaches have much less contact with their players than they do in Russia. Don't you feel that athletes like Stupak don't need a coach as part of their daily work?
"Any athlete needs a person who can watch the training from the outside, assess the condition and opportunities for a given period. In other words, you need at least a consultant. Plus working on technique. Working alone won't make you any better technically.
— Have you ever wondered: what does an athlete look for when he leaves a strong specialist? After all, the same Stupak was clearly not satisfied with something in Yuri Borodavko's group?
"Possibly. In general, there was a difficult period after the Olympics, when motivation inevitably decreases, and strongly. In fact, Yulia didn't really start training – she missed the beginning of the season, then spent a lot of time on self-training.
"Athletes of this level almost always subconsciously expect an exclusive attitude from the coach. Weren't you afraid that Stupak would begin to experience inner discomfort from the fact that in the group, in addition to her, there are two exactly the same Olympic champions - Stepanova and Sorina?
"I didn't notice any jealousy on anyone's part. Although I constantly monitor the situation. I know from my own experience that if there is any friction in a women's team, it needs to be nipped in the bud. In this regard, it is very important that each athlete has her own personal, inviolable space within the team. The same Yulia asked me only to live in a single room at all training camps. We don't have any difficulties in terms of work.
— As with Veronika Stepanova?
"Yes. It's a fact that Nika likes to be a media personality, but so far this does not prevent him from continuing to develop in sports.
— Is there any fear that a person will play too much and just lose time?
"Last season, Nika progressed well, despite the fact that she didn't get some starts. Yes, according to the results, she is not Natalia Nepryaeva, although she can and should reach this level. It has a lot of room to grow. Stepanova is now 22, but let's remember what Natasha showed at this age: she did not get to the World Championship in 2017 and was not even in the top 10 at the World Cup. A year later, it was transformed.
When you were planning your wife Tatiana's return to sports in the spring, I don't think you expected that Russia's suspension from international competitions would last so long.
"Tatyana definitely didn't count on it.
"Has her motivation gone down because of this?"
- If Tatyana hadn't missed the season by going on maternity leave, her motivation would have suffered for sure. In this case, she simply would not have rested after the Olympics, three consecutive surgeries and a long recovery from them. That's why we decided to take a break. Now there are no problems in terms of motivation. The main task is to get back in shape, and it is absolutely possible to do this by running in Russia.
— At some point, it just seemed to me that Tatiana's main motivation was not to stay at home with the children, but to go to training camps with the whole family. Even if it means skiing twice a day.
"If Tanya hadn't enjoyed training, she wouldn't have gone anywhere. Even for my sake. And I wouldn't do it for the money. I can see very well that if an athlete loses his passion for sports, he will find many reasons not to train. Everyone who continues to run is in love with the sport, they can't live without it.
Are you satisfied with the pre-season based on the tests that have already been conducted?
— To be honest, I don't really like to focus on test results. Not all of them allow you to see the real picture. One hundred percent I trust only the result when the starts begin. We had the Russian Summer Championships, and we can see which athlete has added to which components.
— And what about the talk that roller skaters are different?
— I would rather talk about a different competition: not all the leaders come to the summer championships. Accordingly, weaker athletes have more chances to get into the top three. But, in principle, the rating remains: those who were stronger on skis in winter look better on rollers. Unless, of course, we take into account situations where some people act under too much pressure.
"The Russian skiers had to spend the whole last season inside the country on "slower" snow than in Europe. Did this require adjustments in the methodology?
"It would be a bit difficult if we had to compete on fast tracks. If we were to start the cup season in Kuusamo this season, we would naturally be looking for an opportunity to spend a couple of weeks on fast snow beforehand. But I don't see any problems in the current reality: we roll in and start the season in places where the snow is traditionally "slow", by spring it becomes less frozen and, accordingly, faster, and adaptation to this occurs naturally. In Russia, by the way, there are also enough places where snow is fast enough. In Khanty-Mansiysk, for example, now the snow is mostly artificial, so the skis roll noticeably better than a year ago.
– This season there is a lot of prize money in skiing. Is this definitely a blessing or is there a danger?
"The danger would be if we ran in Europe at the World Cups, and such prize money was paid to those who run in Russia. In this case, I think, many people would think about whether it is more profitable to compete with the strongest, having not the best chance of success, or to make money at home. Now that we are suspended, the prize money only spurs motivation. After all, everyone already has families and children. Without prize money, many people would not be able to spend their time training and performing, and competing without prize money would not be so fun. Although this is not such a lot of money in these times. Previously, you could get a car for certain victories, but now who among the sponsors can afford it?
– Previously, athletes reached the peak of their form by the main start – the World Championships. And now?
— To the Spartakiad of the Strongest, which will be held in Tyumen in February. This is our main start, and it is much more significant than the stages of the Russian Cup. At least because all the strongest will really gather there. Both Sasha Bolshunov and Sergey Ustyugov. Last year, for example, we did not manage to meet them at the same competitions in the same peak form. In February, Bolshunov won the Champion Heights, and it was clear that the entire group of Yuri Viktorovich (Borodavko – RT) was purposefully preparing for this very start. Ustyugov set himself a different goal and said himself that the main start for him was the Russian Championship in March. He was stronger there than at the Champion's Heights.
Actually, returning to the topic of prize money: people do not get this prize money out of nowhere. Try to be in the top three in today's competition! Even Borodavko did not finish the Russian Championship with medals last year.
– In biathlon, everyone is now looking forward to the club championship, which will be the first start of the season. Do you think the project has a chance to become long-lasting?
– In principle, the idea is good, but it seems to me that such a tournament can be successful only in one case. If it is integrated into the general calendar, which is already very busy. Holding competitions as opposed to existing ones is not an option. After all, we also have commercial starts. And this year we tried to do exactly what I am talking about: to put them in the calendar in such a way that there is no conflict of interest. After all, all our competitions, such as the Russian Cup and the Spartakiads, are primarily important for the regions. Accordingly, they will always be a priority, rather than commercial tournaments. At least for those athletes whose training is funded by the state. Will the clubs be able to compensate for all this? I highly doubt it.