Ilya Averbukh: 'As usual, Russian figure skaters will win many medals at the European Championship'
What are your forecasts for the upcoming European Championship? In your opinion, how many medals will Russian figure-skaters win?
Most likely, we will, as always, win a lot of medals at the European Championship. But we should not overestimate the importance of this tournament. This is no longer the same tournament that it used to be, when the vector of the figure skating development was concentrated in Europe. Now everything has transferred to America, Canada, Japan, and China. And if we win all four disciplines, we will see that, perhaps, only in pairs, where we will fight with Germans, it will be a real mini-championship of the world. It is far from being so in the other three disciplines. We often win a lot of medals at the European competition and fall into euphoria. But we should not do so, because if we take the world ranking, we’ll see that Americans, Canadians and Japanese dominate in men's single skating, Japanese and Americans - in women's single skating, and Americans and Canadians - in ice dancing.
Did Evgeni Plushenko surprise you this season?
Zhenya shows a good result, good skating, and an interesting program. So far, he is clearly lacking physical training in order to complete the program at a high level. But, probably, he is lacking motivation, because the championship of Russia or some commercial tournaments is not the place, where a person exerts oneself 100 percent. I think that the European Championship will most likely submit to Zhenya, because there are no figure skaters in Europe, perhaps, with the exclusion of Spain’s Fernandez, who show interesting skating. But all the same, all this is not on his level. To compete with Brian Joubert for the thousandth time - this is some kind of nonsense. That’s why, no doubt, all the forces will be tested at the World Championship and the Olympic Games.
17-year-old Maxim Kovtun became number three in the national team (5th place at the championship of Russia). What’s your attitude to that?
I very much sympathize with Konstantin Menshov (bronze medalist of the national championship) and his coach Evgeni Rukavitsin; I work with this group, help them. But from the political point of view, I agree with the decision of the Trainer Council, because we have to introduce new, young faces. There is clearly not enough competition in men's singles. We are in need of those, who could urge the same Evgeni Plushenko. Even within the team, his authority is too unshakeable, which partly plays against Zhenya. The more so, that we will be able to send only one athlete to the World Championship. Therefore, we must try different sportsmen. Yes, Konstantin Menshov is wonderful, but if you take into account his age (29) and potential - this is the right decision.
As far as ice-dancers Elena Ilyinikh - Nikita Katsalapov are conserned, in your opinion, what is their problem? Why do they still remain a pair with a lot of potential?
It seems to me, they are simply young. In ice dancing very much depends on whether a performance is successful or not. In my opinion, there is a struggle of characters during the training, because boys and girls are almost always “raw”, not ready for their first tournaments. This is one of the biggest problems. The rating of pairs is being set at the first competitions. And if this year, Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitry Soloviev have immediately seized the leadership and started to win back the position, which they had lost last year, the pair Ilyinikh and Katsalapov started the season late. At the Grand Prix stage in Moscow, they fell during the free skating, their original dance - a strange Uzbek polka - did not impress anybody. As a result, they came up to the championship of Russia with obviously worse results than Bobrova and Soloviev.
I think they should start earlier, spend less time having it out during the training process, and stop thinking they are very talented, though they actually are. But so far they need to forget about it and understand that nothing is won yet. Last year, they hurried up with interviews about becoming the first pair. I understand, it is their youth and inexperience, but they need someone to pour cold water over them, because, potentially, this pair should become the world leaders. I expected that this year they will compete with Americans and Canadians, but obviously, this will not happen.
What do you expect from the performance of Russian girls at the championship of Europe? We have three debutants...
I'm waiting for the first three places, because we have a very strong position in women's single skating, each girl can be the first. One of them is slightly better in something, another one is better in other things. But certainly, I think, that our women's single skating will make itself known at the Olympic Games. It seems to me, we can win gold at the Olympics.