Anjelika Krylova: “Benoit Richaud is a very good choreographer, but I would say more so for single skaters. And he’s very good at self-promotion.”

Posted on 2023-08-11 • No comments yet

Interview with Anjelika Krylova.

source: RT dd. 22d July 2023 by Elena Vaitsekhovskaya

Sports in general and coaching in particular are tough, and sometimes simply grueling work if you’re fully committed. Anjelika Krylova stated this in an interview with RT, celebrating her anniversary in early July. According to the former figure skater, she’s accustomed to putting everything into it not only in her beloved ice dancing but also in life. The two-time world champion also recalled how she experienced defeat at the 1998 Olympics, explained how she decided to take Annabelle Moroz and Igor Yeremenko and described the strengths of the Montreal school of Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon.

I had planned to interview her for the anniversary date (on July 4th Anjelika celebrated her 50th Birthday), but our plans didn’t align. And during the celebration, the former head of the Russian Figure Skating Federation, Valentin Piseev, suddenly said, “1998 was certainly Krylova’s year…” With this phrase, stirring up a whole layer of memories, our conversation began.

Regarding your partnership with Oleg Ovsiannikov, the theme of the dramatic defeat at the Nagano Olympics always appears in one way or another. How much time did it take before you came to terms with that situation, accepted it, and it stopped tearing your soul apart?

Anjelika Krylova: I wouldn’t say I dwelled on it for long. At first, yes, I experienced shock. It was a state that’s even difficult to compare to something.

Were you really not prepared for the possibility of losing?

Anjelika Krylova: When you’re going to a competition, especially aiming for the gold medal, you shouldn’t think about how you’ll feel if you lose. I’m absolutely sure that Evgenia Medvedeva in Pyeongchang, Sasha Trusova in Beijing, and Sasha Zhulin with Maia Usova in 1994 at the Lillehammer Games didn’t think about it either. You go for the Olympic gold, understanding very clearly that it’s the goal of your entire life. Perhaps your only chance. Yes, you can probably say that athletes are young and have their whole lives ahead, but you don’t think about that at all. You only think about the goal.

And then the day comes, the result arrives, you sit at the kiss-and-cry area, look at the scoreboard displaying the second place, and… of course, it’s a heavy moment in every way.

After the Beijing Games, Trusova received a lot of criticism for not being able to contain her emotions in a childlike manner after losing the gold medal to Anna Shcherbakova. But if you look at tennis, for example, completely grown adults throw rackets at referees and spectators. Hockey players break sticks, and sometimes even their hands, smashing them against the boards, causing them to bleed. From your point of view, is it even possible to maintain control in such moments?

Anjelika Krylova: In such heightened emotional states, you can’t really control yourself – it’s truly very difficult. That’s why we see people crying, screaming, getting into fights, arguing with coaches, and so on. As we’re discussing it now, I have goosebumps all over; I remember that state so vividly. In Trusova’s case, it was very difficult to choose a winner, and I don’t think the coach intervened in that process. It’s just the way circumstances played out.

Just like what happened between Medvedeva and Zagitova in Pyeongchang?

Anjelika Krylova: Yes, it was a tough loss for Zhenya, a very tough one. She had been preparing for these Games much longer than Alina. In the same way, Irina Slutskaya in 2002 had prepared and consciously pursued Olympic victory for a long time. And then a girl won, whose name I can’t even remember now.

Sarah Hughes.

Anjelika Krylova: Sarah Hughes, yes. She almost disappeared from everywhere right after. I don’t even know why they gave her the victory in that Olympics.

In Nagano, one of the employees of the Russian Olympic delegation told me how she sat outside the door of your room in the Olympic Village all night – afraid that in the heat of emotions, you might be capable of some extremely extreme actions.

Anjelika Krylova: Oh no, I don’t think that was the case. I’m a strong person; I’ve overcome many things in my life and continue to do so. Besides, I wasn’t alone – Oleg supported me very strongly then. I always felt his support, in any situation. In that regard, I was very lucky with my partner.

When you two became a pair, there were many discussions about how your coach Natalia Linichuk killed two birds with one stone. Not only did she get a great promising dancer, but she also got rid of strong competitors by breaking up Ovsyannikov’s partnership with Elena Kustarova. Did this topic somehow come up in your conversations at the time?

Anjelika Krylova: No, not at all. I just felt that Oleg and I had more potential than Vladimir Fyodorov and I did. I saw him as my partner on some intuitive level. Putting us together as a pair was Natalia Vladimirovna’s decision, but if I didn’t want to skate with Oleg, I wouldn’t have. Although initially, it was not easy for us to get along – for the first couple of years, we were adapting to each other very hard.

Listening to you, I’m thinking about how much chance plays a role in figure skating. Ilia Averbukh could have skated with Marina Anissina, and Anna Semenovich, with whom I know you’re friends, had a chance to remain Roman Kostomarov’s partner.

Anjelika Krylova: Oh, no. Anya is so happy in her post-sports life! She once told me, “Oh God, thank you for leaving this sport on time and pursuing show business. I love what I do so much!”

But in my life, there wasn’t even a situation that I could call accidental or adventurous. Moving to Moscow was well thought out by me. Changing partners was also planned.

If it weren’t for the force majeure in the form of Grishchuk’s decision, who after her first Olympic victory with Evgeni Platov suddenly wanted to stay in ice dance for another four years, switching to Tatiana Tarasova, the history of ice dance could have turned out completely differently. Although I still don’t understand: with the number of teams from different countries and, consequently, “their” judges that Linichuk had at that time, how was it possible to lose Tarasova?

Anjelika Krylova: Grishchuk and Platov were genuinely performing at a very high level. Specifically, by the time of the Nagano Olympics, they might not have been perfectly prepared, but they had a lot of experience, excellent skills, programs, plus they were already Olympic champions, had the corresponding status, and performed very well. So, I definitely wouldn’t call their victory unfair.

Was the topic of judging present in your internal conversations with your coach before the Games?

Anjelika Krylova: No, not at all. We never talked about judges, didn’t delve into that subject. We just focused on doing our job.

If we now look at your coaching career with a coach’s perspective, could the back injury that led to your retirement from skating have been avoided?

Anjelika Krylova: I believe so, but for that, I would have needed to stay in Russia. In America, it was impossible to receive quality treatment while representing another country. While they treated their own athletes there very well, it wasn’t the same for private arrangements.

Due to lack of funds?

Anjelika Krylova: Yes, that was also a factor. Plus, it wasn’t always possible to find the right specialist. Back in Russia, we have a different level of support, more opportunities for recovery, various procedures, massages. Every six months, all athletes undergo check-ups, and I think that’s the right approach.

Especially now, with ice dance involving so much acrobatics, jumps, complex bends, poses, lifts. Some experience knee pain, others back issues. And honestly, I don’t know how to avoid that.

Elena Tchaikovskaya used to repeat that our dance school is a truly unique phenomenon that the rest of the world looks up to. Can we say that the world now looks up to the Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon academy in the same way?

Anjelika Krylova: What they’re doing in Montreal is really impressive. I don’t mean just the coaching process or creativity in program choreography, but primarily the management and organization of the entire academy itself. That’s what I consider paramount.

Can you explain in more detail?

Anjelika Krylova: Everything is always well planned there. How to structure training plans. Who to send to competitions. Which coaches to hire. Which choreographers to invite. This is combined with strategic planning: which athletes to take into the academy to secure additional judges’ support for the whole team. In other words, nothing is done haphazardly; everything is meticulously thought out. Plus, it requires tremendous effort.

Of course, nowadays, everyone is trying in some way to emulate Montreal since their athletes are dominating. Many, including Russian coaches, are trying to imitate the style, music, movements. Although I believe that we should continue to follow our own path, focusing on the power of skating and accents, as we always have. We have a rich culture, music, and a strong ballet background. I think this is crucial.

Are you saying that classical ballet is not appreciated overseas?

Anjelika Krylova: In Montreal, for instance, contemporary dance is mostly practiced now. So, we need to continue doing our own thing. Embrace what we feel, what resonates with us.

When you began coaching in America with Pasquale Camerlengo, did you ever think that over time you could establish your own school that would be recognized worldwide?

Anjelika Krylova: I really wanted that. I feel like I could do it.

Did you and your husband discuss the concept of such a school?

Anjelika Krylova: Yes, but that was at a time when we had small children. Perhaps, we didn’t invest enough effort into developing the idea of a school purely on a political level. The training process was going well; we achieved high results with Federica Faiella and Massimo Scali, and later with Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje. If we had approached the process more thoughtfully and strategically from the beginning, things could have turned out differently.

Was the conflict that led to your separation from Camerlengo related to work or purely personal?

Anjelika Krylova: It was purely personal. There were disagreements in our work too, but now, when I reflect on certain moments of our coaching collaboration, I realize that I would have enjoyed working with Pasquale again. We were always very close in terms of choreography, understood each other. And of course, over the years of working together, we got used to collaborating.

Do you still communicate?

Anjelika Krylova: Yes, of course.

Then what’s preventing you from reuniting your efforts? Benoit Richaud comes to St. Petersburg to work with Alexei Mishin.

Anjelika Krylova: Pasquale is currently working with Igor Shpilband; he’s very busy and in demand as a choreographer. Besides ice dance, he creates programs for single skaters and pairs. Also, our kids are living in America now. But I’m considering this question. Unfortunately, everything has become much more complicated now: flights, visas, and so on.

Who do you find the most interesting dance choreographer at the moment?

Anjelika Krylova: I really like what Juris Razgulajevs is doing with Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier. Each of his programs is very intriguing, with fantastic elements.

Why do your colleagues praise Benoit Richaud so much?

Anjelika Krylova: He’s a very good choreographer, but I would say more so for single skaters. I can’t recall any exceptional dance programs by Richaud.

Why did you laugh before answering?

Anjelika Krylova: Because I coached Richaud when he was still skating himself. He and his partner came to Detroit with Pasquale. We’ve maintained good relations since then, and I keep a close eye on his professional development. He has talent, works hard on himself, searches, and in addition, he has outstanding “public relations,” as they say in English. He’s very good at self-promotion.

And are you good at that?

Anjelika Krylova: Much worse. We’re not quite used to it, not brought up that way. But I’m working on it. Cultivating self-confidence, so to speak.

My observations across various sports suggest that maintaining friendly relations with your competitors can be quite challenging. Is it easier for coaches in this regard, or does the rivalry between competing groups always remain intense?

Anjelika Krylova: It depends on upbringing, I believe. Some people just don’t know how to lose. Consequently, they struggle to maintain positive relationships with those who outperform them. They won’t greet you, they make you feel “invisible,” like you don’t exist. On the other hand, I think that sports are sports, and personal growth is personal growth, regardless of the work situation.

Even if things don’t go the way I’d like, even when I know I’ve been genuinely set up, I try to remain polite and professional. Of course, it’s not always easy: sports can be quite a conflict-ridden environment. But we still need to be human. Even behind the scenes.

What qualities should dancers have to capture your interest?

Anjelika Krylova: First and foremost, they should be hardworking. They should have a passion for their craft, devote themselves to it despite all accompanying difficulties. That’s what really draws me to athletes. When I sense their energy, their enthusiasm for work, for exploring and trying something new, it energizes me as a coach. It creates a completely different motivation. Of course, there are different moments, including challenging ones, when nothing seems to work out. However, if you live and breathe with figure skating, you handle it much easier.

Was Nikolai Morozov’s request to take his daughter into your group with her new partner unexpected?

Anjelika Krylova: Completely unexpected. Nikolai called on May 9th, Victory Day. He probably felt that I could offer something to his pair.

And did you agree immediately?

Anjelika Krylova: I took some time to consider it, of course. I asked Nikolai to send me a video because I had no idea how Annabelle looks now. After she teamed up with Igor Yeremenko, no one in Russia saw them perform, not just me.

What was your first impression?

Anjelika Krylova: I liked the skaters. Initially, I talked with my own athletes as well (Vasilisa Kaganovskaia and Valery Angelopol. — RT). I needed to have a conversation with them not just because I understood how they might feel if other strong skaters joined the group. We’re very close to each other, and as a coach, I value this closeness a lot, where we can discuss any issue and be understood.

Was there a fear that Kaganovskaia and Angelopol would say no?

Anjelika Krylova: I was a bit concerned about that. Although Vasilisa and Valery themselves have brought up the topic many times, expressing their desire for high-level skaters to join the group.

As they say, be careful what you wish for.

Anjelika Krylova: Well, it turned out something like that. The skaters listened to me and said that they finally have someone to compete with in training. I don’t know how this work will unfold, I’ll be honest. But the Morozov-Eremenko pair is undoubtedly interesting.

But you still need to divide your attention, working with two pairs.

Anjelika Krylova: That’s not too difficult. First, these two pairs are completely different. I will create different plans for them, have them practice on different ice, which our current conditions allow. And I really hope that Valery and Vasilisa won’t become overly jealous.

I’m trying to translate this situation into everyday terms. You have a pair that throughout the season, my colleagues and I, saw as the country’s top pair and one that was beginning to be taken seriously. At the same time, it’s clear that the Morozov-Eremenko pair probably won’t settle for second place anywhere. So, initially, there’s a conflict of interests that can manifest at any time.

Anjelika Krylova: Well, no pair wants to be second; that’s normal. There are also the Russian champions Liza Khudaiberdieva and Egor Bazin, who surely don’t intend to yield to anyone. My job as a coach is to give both pairs their maximum. Then, we’ll see how they compete. At the Russian Grand Prix, I’ll try to separate them; there’s no need for them to cross paths too early. But at the Russian Nationals, we’ll see what each has developed. I believe that working with a senior pair will definitely push Valery and Vasilisa forward; that’s a positive aspect.

If you were the PR agent for coach Anjelika Krylova, what would you write about her in her CV?

Anjelika Krylova: Oh, I would write all the best things. That she’s a good coach, a choreographer, a motivator, and simply a fantastic organizer.

And also absolutely positive, very friendly towards others. With this whole set of qualities, how do you survive in figure skating?

Anjelika Krylova: Well, of course, there are challenging moments. But I know how to adapt. I have many qualities and facets within me. I can be tough, overly assertive, or, on the contrary, soft, straightforward, cheerful, warm, friendly. Even if you look at the different images I portrayed when I was a skater myself, they were very diverse. Perhaps it’s a certain talent or just the essence of who I am, I don’t know. But, fundamentally, I am a very strong person, that’s for sure. Although, from the outside, you might not say that.

Well, not necessarily, it’s actually quite evident. But being a strong woman, you’d agree, is not always easy from a purely feminine perspective.

Anjelika Krylova: Sports and coaching, in general, are very demanding, sometimes just grueling work if you’re deeply committed, giving yourself entirely to what you love. And I’m used to doing everything that way — as they say, putting everything into it. In dance, coaching, love, and life in general.

Related topics: Anjelika Krylova, Annabel Morozov Andrei Bagin, Benoit Richaud, Marie-France Dubreuil Patrice Lauzon

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