Re: PJ Kwong’s Article on the “Perils of Coaching Changes”

So, PJ Kwong has recently blogged about Mao Asada’s decision on switching coaches. For those of you who know me personally, I often disagree with Kwong on gold medal predictions – especially when her predictions are often heavily influenced by a clear and almost inevitable sense of Canadian nationalism which I don’t share despite my Canadian citizenship –  and during those rare times when we do agree, it seems that something horrible happens to one of my favourites. In any case, it seems our differences in opinion diverge even more on the topic of Mao Asada and her coaching changes.

While Kwong argues that Mao’s coaching change seems “strange” especially with her success at the Olympics and Worlds, let’s point out a few things. First of all, diva coach extraordinaire Tatiana Tarasova has admitted that she felt bad for not being able to coach Mao to her fullest extent because she had to take care of her sick mother. Mao also didn’t stay in Russia because her parents couldn’t go with her to all of these foreign countries to train, which compromised the quality of her coaching/training.

Secondly, if you haven’t noticed, Mao’s programs for the last two years have not been favourably received. Yes, she’s won competitions but face it, did any fan (or judge) really think that her Bells of Moscow program really suited her? Why do you think she’s gone back to her more lyrical and flowing style? Mao’s scores at the Olympics and Worlds last year were high but remember that a) she was former world champion b) she’s a figure skating superstar and cash cow for the ISU, therefore her name carries some weight in figure skating politics and c) her coach and choreographer was the diva and figure skating mafia boss Tatiana Tarasova who has nurtured more world and Olympic champions than any other coach in the past couple of decades.

Now, onto my biggest problem with Kwong’s article. She writes:

“It’s common knowledge that when a coach starts working with a new student, they will more often than not make changes to a skater’s technique in an effort to help them develop. But how much room for development can there be with a world champion?”

Being a world champion doesn’t mean that you stop growing and fine-tuning your technique. Mao has had HUGE technique problems that have been detrimental to her scores and is a reason why she can’t break Yuna’s records. Mao is famous for her triple axels but infamous for being able to land them 1 out of 3 times and underrotating or falling on the other 2. Her flutz (whose negative GOEs are equal to falling) has been equally as infamous thanks to the Yunabots on youtube and Mao herself has admitted to being uncomfortable with her salchow – which she hasn’t attempted in years and yet ironically enough was one of the jumps she landed successfully on her LP at NHK.

Also, being a world champion now doesn’t mean that you’ll be world champion forever. If Mao is serious about her intentions to compete for the gold at Sochi, she will have to fix all her mistakes seeing that her lack of lutz definitely had a role in hurting her scores at the Olympics and also because she will potentially face competitors who may be even better than Yuna Kim. The Russians will not sit still with such a horrendous showing for figure skating medals at Vancouver and potentially in their arsenal for Sochi is the immensely talented Adelina Sotnikova and Elizaveta Tuktamysheva who has Papa Mishin behind her and has shown that she is able to execute triple axels in practice. It should also be noted that Tuktamysheva’s scores at the junior level exceed the scores posted by Yuna Kim when she was a junior.

Finally, Kwong questions whether Mao can recover from her disastrous showing at NHK. A news article released shortly after the competition states that Mao has vowed a comeback. She may not be able to make the Grand Prix Finals but Mao states that she hasn’t fallen into pieces emotionally and that, ‘‘During the off season I have been rebuilding my jumps but I haven’t perfected them. They are getting better and better but are not in my system yet and that is part of the problem.’‘ Mao seems to be going for long-term improvement which shows a lot of emotional maturity. With this frame of mind, she might be able to improve herself in time for the next Olympics.

Thoughts? Opinions? I love comments!

~The Rinkside Cafe


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Helen
    Oct 27, 2010 @ 16:17:07

    kwong not so much, why did cbc hire her?


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