Interview with Igor

Trophée Bompard: interview with Igor Shpilband

Interview of Laura Sciarrillo

We offer you an intervie w made at the Trophée Bompard by our correspondent. This time the protagonist is ice dance, with the famous coach Igor Shpilband that brought two ice d ance pairs on the Olympic podium in Vancouver.

Question: What do you think about the beginning of this season? There were a lot of changes with the new SD in ice dance.

Shpilband: I have been teaching ice dance for twenty years, and I have seen changes every year. Every change needs some time to adjust. Ice dance has changed a lot in the last twenty years, so I don’t think that the SD is a different change compared to the ones that happened before. Everybody is doing well with this new format and obviously they will need time to become familiar with it, it’s something different from everything they were doing before.

Question: How is the SD from your point of view? At the beginning of the season your athletes had some problems with reaching the required levels, what do you think about that?
Shpilband: The SD is simple to understand, I mean, it was for us. Some were confused at the beginning, but we didn’t have any problem. The issue was how the Golden Waltz could be adapted as part of the SD, without losing the program value for the public. As everybody complained about people not watching the SD, the challenge is to make the GW section appealing to the audience. We were not worried about the technical aspect, but it is going to take some time for the technical specialist to understand how everything works in the SD. For most of the callers it was the first time seeing the SD at the GPs, therefore it is something different for everyone.

Question: Tell us about your ice dance pairs in this season.
Shpilband: This season is going to be particular especially for the top two teams. The post-Olympic season is always difficult, especially for elite skaters who achieved great results at the Olympics. In the Olympic season you have a peak and then there is a down once the competition is over. It’s normal, and we left to our athletes time to elaborate that. The top skaters from every discipline suffer that, Mao Asada is an example in ladies.

Question: Can you tell us something about Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir? How is Tessa’s injury healing, did she start practicing?
Shpilband: Tessa came back on the ice not long ago, she started to skate but not to train. She is doing physiotherapy on the ice. Tessa and Scott are planning to go to the Canadian nationals , but it all depends on Tessa’s healing. It could take a short time or a long time, we can’t be sure about that. Anyway they have two splendid programs, as the surgery was done after the summer and the programs were already complete. Two years ago she had just one cut on her front legs, this time the doctors made more incisions.

Question: About the injury, Tessa’s syndrome is caused by overtraining (exertional compartment syndrome), do you think you made any mistake in planning the skaters’ preparation?
Shpilband: Tessa’s injury is caused by the muscles’ condition, her legs muscles can’t bear the amount of training requested at her level and that’s why she had that syndrome. It could not be prevented. She is a very tough girl, she was brave training with all that pain.

Question: What do you think about Meryl Davis and Charlie White this year?
Shpilband: Their goal for the first part of the season was to reach the GPF, and they did it. They trained very hard this summer.

Question: Who chose the music for the FD? We know that Meryl loves Italy and is studying Italian, did she pick out the music?
Shpilband: Meryl speaks Italian very well, although she is very shy about it. We decided together to use the soundtrack from “Il Postino”, and as the ISU wanted more dance programs we picked the tango part instead of telling the story of “Il Postino”. In my opinion their FD is the most complicated of the season. If you carefully watch it you notice that there aren’t empty moments in the whole dance, they are always performing a step, a transition, a spin. We chose to skate to a tango together: trying something new is the only way to move forward, even if four years is a long time (as previously said in other interviews, Meryl and Charlie want to take the seasons one at a time; editor’s note)

Question: Do you think that Meryl and Charlie could be penalized because of starting late their training (due to Stars on Ice; editor’s note) and having unpolished programs?
Shpilband: No, because they are amazing skaters and could reach the final even if they started training late. The most important competition of the season are the world championships, and the programs has to be perfect for that date. We are making other changes in this FD in order to make it more appealing.

Question: What happened with the “Amélie” SD? We didn’t have many information about it as during the summer your team wants to keep the programs secret as long as it can, and right after we knew this SD music you decided to change it.
Shpilband: The problem with the old SD was that it didn’t have a strong ending. The end of a program is a very important part, and we didn’t want to give the public the feeling that something was missing. Moreover we didn’t want to use another music for the last part. If the program had to be an “Amélie” SD we wanted to use only that music. We decided then (together with Meryl and Charlie of course) to change music and to use the “Traviata” music, an Italian opera that in my opinion suits them very well.

Question: Let’s now talk about another US ice dance pair: the Shibutani brothers. Why did you choose those music for them?
Shpilband: Maia and Alex have excellent skating skills. This year the ISU wanted to see uplifting and dance programs, so what better music than “Let’s Face the Music and Dance” and “Smile”? The accident they had with their costume in Japan was an unfortunate event, they had trained a lot of times with that costume and never had problems.

Question: What about Madison Chock and Greg Zuerlein?
Shpilband: This year the goal is to show to the judges and the public that they can compete at a high level. They have done good so far, they were third at Skate Canada and they have a chance to go to the final (they are second alternates; editor’s note). Their programs have been well received from the judges and the public, so they’re doing great so far. Their FD is very particular and they are doing a good job in interpreting it, “Cabaret” has never been portrayed in this way on the ice before.

Question: What do you think about Emily Samuelson and Evan Bates? Can you tell us something about Evan’s injury?
Shpilband: First of all I want to say that I was very excited to work with them. They are nice people and amazing students, and I was looking forward for the new season to start with them, so I was very sorry for their injury. Evan now walks well, he’s had a quick recovery so far. He hopes to be able to go to Nationals, but honestly I think there is a slim chance for this to happen. Moreover they would not be enough trained, so it would not be easy for them. They are both handling well the situation. During these three months when Evan could not train Emily worked hard, she has improved a lot as a skater. She feels a better skater as well now; her lines, speed and flow has improved a lot. I’m happy because she has used well these three months, she was very motivated.

Question: You are training a lot of elite skaters now, with four from the US among them. Don’t you think having so many athletes at the same level is strange? Other coaches devote themselves to only one athlete at a time, it looks like you have a different opinion about that.
Shpilband: In 1998 I had the first five pairs in the USA, so this situation is not new for me at all. I’m happy to work with such great skaters. I think we can have so many students because Marina (Zoueva; editor’s note) has an individual approach for each team. We try to don’t make any favoritism and I think our athletes feel that. Moreover we offer an environment where they can learn from each other; the guys support and push each other. If a pair makes a difficult move, the others want to try the same to show they are able to do it. Tessa, Scott, Meryl and Charlie compete against each other every day, that’s why they are so good. The same for the other pairs.

Question: How can you manage all these athletes? Can you describe your typical day?
Shpilband: First of all I want to say that I love my job, and Marina and I don’t train on Saturday and Sunday, so we have some time to rest. Marina is better than me and can be at the ice rink at 6.00 am to train Maia and Alex. I am there at 7.00 am, I’m not able to be at the rink early! We finish to train in the afternoon: until 5.00 pm in the summer and until 3.00 pm or 4.00 pm in the winter. Sometimes we stay at the rink for some more time, but the training schedule is mainly this one.


Lilyia1 said...

That's good to know Meryl likes italian.I have two montages of them with italian musics.Check it out., and the other, you like it!!

Laura said...

I spoke a little bit with her in Italian in Turin and she has an excellent pronunciation!!

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