Catching up with Maxim Zavozin
The 2005 World Junior champion Maxim Zavozin, who since 2007 represented Hungary with Nora Hoffmann, finished his competitive career in 2011 but didn't disappear from our sight. We saw him at international competitions, near the boards and in K&C, with the Elena Buyanova (Vodorezova) and her students. Recently we've got a chance to catch up with the two-time Hungarian National champion on what he is up to nowadays.
Let's start from the beginning. How did you happen to join the CSKA (Central Army's Sport Club) coaching team?
After I retired from competitive skating I started coaching kids. One day I was approached by the parents of a little girl. They asked me to teach her. Of course, I told them right away that I would not teach anyone behind their coach's back and that the coach's approval is needed. The coach happened to be from CSKA club. We got acquainted [with the coach] afterwards. My pupil's performance improved after our lessons, and I was invited to coach the entire kids' group. That's how I ended up in CSKA. Started from coaching kids, then other coaches noticed me and invited me to teach in their groups as well.
I know you worked with Adelina Sotnikova and Maxim Kovtun. Who are your students now?
Yes, I worked a lot with Adelina and Maxim in Elena Germanovna's group. Now I'm teaching Masha [Sotskova], we spent a lot of time focusing on the amplitude of the movements. We were working on the same area with Adian Pitkeev. Unfortunately his old injury precludes him from practising on the ice at the moment.
I'm also working with Sasha Samarin, student of Svetlana Sokolovskaya.
And I'm helping junior skaters in [Inna] Goncharenko's group, but I am not working with Maxim [Kovtun]. After Maxim moved to her group I stopped teaching him for ethical reasons.
It appears you're mostly working with single skaters. Is that right?
Not "mostly", I'm working only with single skaters as a matter of principle. I'm not coaching dancers, it just happened so. When I retired I got offers to work with dancers, but I was eager to try teaching single skaters. And when I started I liked it so much that I never got back to ice dance. I miss ice dance sometimes though. Maybe in the future... But it would be quite challenging to change as I'm so deeply involved with single skaters right now.
There is no ice dance in CSKA?
There are no ice dance teams in CSKA.
What are the specifics of a dancer coaching single skaters? As I understand, you cannot teach jumps after all.
Jumps, no. It's not that I cannot teach jumps, but I'm not a thousand percent proficient in jumps. Although Elena Germanovna teaches me this as well and now I can see the flaws [in jumping technique] and can help to fix them. But when I'm not a thousand percent proficient in something I'd rather not instruct someone. Speaking about what a dancer could teach a single skater. for example, we are working on skating skills a lot. I can provide solid basic skating skills, I can help a skater to show more effortless skating, because the ice dance approach to all these is somewhat different. But the teaching style is adapted to single skaters. When I was competing, we, dancers, did exercises that were different from what we are doing with my students. For example, many moves are compliant with jumps' entrances, this technique is very specific and the exercises should have been adjusted for that.
It seems ice dancers have to work a lot on partner relationships, making eye contact with each other and all that.
Naturally. There are partner relationships, but there is also interaction with the crowd, with the judges. In singles the interaction is with the audience in the first place. We are trying to teach our students to communicate with the audience the same way we in ice dance interacted with the partner. There are differences, but there are similarities as well.
What's your opinion, are your students good at this interaction?
The older students are quite good. But there are also younger kids, who are just incredible and enjoy performing for the public. So it depends on a skater. It's harder to "draw" it out of someone who is tense. It's easier to explain to those more relaxed.
Did you ever try choreographing?
I tried, but I have little experience with it. I'm practising this skill with kids. Cannot really say it's my thing because it's hard for me. But I'm interested, I'd like to learn this. When elite level skaters approach me, I respond that I don't do choreography. I cannot guarantee the outcome, I'm not sure it will be good enough.
I choreographed bits and pieces for some junior skaters, for example, step sequences or exhibition routines. It's easy to choreograph for some of them. On the other hand, to some others I need to explain in details where to look, which leg to push. When a skater has no ideas, it is hard for me. At my level it's easier when I showed something, and they suggested something, and we cooperate putting the program together.
I remember you and Adelina did a routine together on the ice. It was during a summer camp I believe.
Yes, we did, but these were only short pieces. We just played around a bit so that she could take her mind off the season then upcoming. Post-olympic season was difficult for her, it was challenging to get back into shape. She was so focused on that and I wanted to do something good for her, help her unwind a bit. It was all spontaneous.
Did you want to make something more from that, maybe a routine for a show?
To be honest, no. It was just a play, that's it. Even for a show I should have got back into shape. It was done mostly for Adelina. She's very talented. Even before she participated in "Dancing with the Stars" [Russian TV show] I tried to dance with her on ice, showed her this and that. She picks things up quickly. She could easily perform the ice dance routine, but for me getting back into shape would be challenging and impractical.
So you yourself are not so keen on performing?
Sometimes I'd like to, but I love my job so much, I love teaching kids, athletes. I moved to this part of figure skating and I love what I'm doing. I have no regrets and no desire to compete or perform. I skate a lot when I teach, I show a lot [of moves] myself. I try to skate while I still can, and I give my best.
When you accompanied Maxim Kovtun at competitions, your task was to support him mentally as well, right?
Sure, at competitions my primary task was to support him. Also all those administrative things, timetable - I was responsible for all this, I helped Elena Germanovna with these. I was responsible for some pieces in skating routines as well, helping both on and off ice.
You never accompanied Adelina though. How did you decide who's going to which events?
We have a big and friendly team, and I was assigned to accompany Maxim while Irina Anvarovna Tagaeva accompanied Adelina.
What about summer camps, you hold them all together?
Yes, naturally. I'm a part of Elena Germanovna's team, as well as Irina Tagaeva and Peter Tchernyshev. Peter Tchernyshev is more involved in choreographing, but he attends all practice sessions when he can. Elena Germanovna and Irina Anvarovna are primarily responsible though.
It seems from professional point of view you belong to single skating now. As a spectator are you still interested in ice dance or do you watch mostly single skaters as they are now "your" rivals?
In fact I did not watch ice dance for quite a while. It just happened. Not that I was tired of it, it's just when one is deeply involved in their work, it's hard to take one's mind off it.
Recently I started to watch ice dance when I'm at competitions. There are very interesting ice dance teams. But I watch for pleasure. When I watch singles I analyse, I watch rivals, I look for positive and negative things. Ice dance I watch just for myself. I don't understand levels, I lost track of rules and regulations that keep changing every year.
Which ice dance teams did you enjoy watching?
I like the French team [Papadakis and Cizeron] very much. They appeared unexpectedly, I did not follow them. I've seen them live at Europeans and I was lost in admiration. I like their free dance this year very much, I believe it's a masterpiece, I have no other words! I missed the Canadians, Virtue and Moir, and their return pleases me to no end. The world of competitions lacked something without them.
I like Russian teams: Vanya Bukin and Sasha Stepanova are a very strong team with a future. Nikita Katsalapov and Vika Sinitsina - I've seen their performance last season - they were impressive, although some did not believe in them their first season.
And the last question is about the "League of Figure Skating". I understand you're their head coach in Moscow. What is it? What is your role?
The "League of Figure Skating" is a public organisation developing figure skating in Russia and abroad. We help kids' dreams come true, we provide the leading Russian national team coaches the possibility to demonstrate their talent and to upgrade their skills.
My wife Vilena and I opened a branch in Moscow. We present the League as an organisation where kids of different ages and levels of mastery could get solid basic skills and get admitted to high level sport schools. They could continue their learning with us to improve their skating skills. We choreograph as well.
Another field of the League's activity is international ice camps which have been held for 5 years in Russia (in Sochi and in Bashkortostan Republic). Starting in 2017 we start our ice camps in Europe. The first city will be Prague in the beginning of February. We have a great team of Russian national team coaches and experts from CSKA. At the camps we teach skating skills, jumps and spins, we choreograph routines or step sequences. Our camps are attended by entire teams led by coaches from various Russian and European cities. The level of figure skating increases, we help coaches and entire regions to grow.
For example, the highest ranked camp (in terms of coaches) will be held in June 2017 in Courmayeur, Italy. The head coach will be Elena Germanovna Buyanova, she will bring with her the entire team of specialists and skaters. Applications can already be submitted.
The League also organises figure skating competitions for kids. The prises are ice camp packages. So far we held competitions within Russia only but we would like to hold ISU-level competitions in the future. We invite kids' idols to perform at exhibitions, organise autograph sigining sessions. We cooperate with charities and TV channels, we create sport-related projects for kids. Visit our website www.ligafskate.ru or our Instagram.