New coaches raise Kovtun's skating to next level

Junior Grand Prix Final champion to add second quad to free skate

Maxim Kovtun's collaboration with Elena Buianova and Tatiana Tarasova has worked out better than he could have ever imagined.
Maxim Kovtun's collaboration with Elena Buianova and Tatiana Tarasova has worked out better than he could have ever imagined. (Getty Images)


Related Content Top Headlines
By Vladislav Luchianov, special to
(12/17/2012) - The winner of the Junior Grand Prix Final, Maxim Kovtun of Russia has had to show character not only on but off the ice this season.

His collaboration with Nikoli Morozov did not bring the desired results last season, and before the start of this season, he faced a moment of truth.

The skater did not want to give up and called Elena Buianova, the coach of three-time Russian champion Adelina Sotnikova, with a desperate request to take him into her training group. (It's worth noting that Buianova works closely with famous Russian coach Tatiana Tarasova.)

At first, Buianova rejected the request, explaining the refusal with the rule of the Figure Skating Federation of Russia that prohibits skaters from switching coaches in the pre-Olympic period.

But Kovtun stood his ground and persuaded his future coach to take him on, on a trial basis. Thus began a new chapter in Kovtun's career.

At the beginning of the season, it was already clear that the skater has changed dramatically, as he had become much more confident in all aspects of his skating performances.

Kovtun, in his own words, "began to get pleasure from trainings." All of this was clearly seen when he confidently won a pair of gold medals at JGP events in Croatia and Germany and qualified for the JGP Final.

At that event in Sochi, Kovtun didn't just win; he won with confidently and cleanly performed elements worthy of not just a junior champion but a senior champion as well. After his performance in the free skate, Tarasova expressed her delight with just one, but very important, phrase: "Thank you!"

Kovtun talked to about his recent success, his work with his new coaches and his plans to become a member of the Russian national team. In a previous interview, you said that the original plan for this season was to win all the junior starts and then go to the senior level. You've already won all your Junior Grand Prix events, including the Final. Taking into account the upcoming Russian national championships, are you more focused now on senior competitions or are you also keeping in mind the world junior championships?

Kovtun: Yes, this (junior competitions) remains our main goal. But, at the same time, according to Tatiana Tarasova and Elena Buianova, now I have one more goal: to become a member of the national team, for competing at the European championships. This will be clear after the Russian championships. As for the junior worlds, my goal is to win it and then completely move to senior skating. You came to Moscow from Ekaterinburg. The city also gave us the 2012 world junior champion, Julia Lipnitskaia. Can we say that it's a city of sports talents?

Kovtun: In general, I would say yes. I know that there are a lot of talented figure skaters, but they get very little attention. Another problem is that not all parents have an opportunity to send their children to St. Petersburg or Moscow, for various reasons. How did you decide to dedicate yourself to figure skating? As I understand it, at some point you had even more confidence in that choice than your parents.

Kovtun: At first I skated because it's good for the health, and the ice rink was not far from the kindergarten. Later, at the age of 10, I had to choose between ice hockey and figure skating. I decided to continue with skating, and two years later won first place at Russian champs (note: the young age group, like novice category), and since then, it all began. The transition from one coach to another is not always easy, especially when it is from one high-level professional to another one. What can you tell about your switching to Tatiana Tarasova and Elena Buianova?

Kovtun: I can say that the transition was quite difficult. It was very difficult to get used to the fact that you need to work hard every day in order to be successful. All I need is just constant attention ... Previously, there was no attention at all. After switching, you have very much improved in all aspects of skating; your confident victory at the JGP Final confirmed it. In your opinion, what are the basic principles of the training approach of your new coaches?

Kovtun: I've gained this because I feel I am wanted here. I am pleased to work at full capacity. This is already like a habit, and as a reward, I get results and smiles from my coaches! I get a great pleasure from trainings.

As for the principles, everything is pretty strict, but I do understand what I need. Plus, my new coaches know how to find the right words at the right time. After your performances in Sochi, many experts believe that with this level of skating, you can achieve good results at any senior competition. What do you think about it?

Kovtun: Maybe ... As for me, I'm ready for that. My programs will be much more difficult, but I still have lots and lots of things to work on. Recently you said that at the upcoming Russian championships, you will fight for a spot on the national team and that you will add a second quad into your free skating program. The second quad will mean that you won't have any "free" time during the program. Will you take risks anyway?

Kovtun: This is true. And, yes, I will take risks. I can say more: We plan to add a quad to my short program. Do you have favorites among the top skaters? Whose skating inspires you the most?

Kovtun: I really like the style of Javier Fernández and Patrick Chan. Looking at them, I realize that I have to work a lot constantly, and I'm ready for it! Also, I often watch performances of Alexei Yagudin and know his history by heart. He had much more difficult times during the career than me, but he coped with everything. So, I can do it too!