Sport24 spoke with Betina Popova.
Universiade champion Betina Popova She recently completed her career, but has already turned into perhaps the main choreographer of Russia. Each of her performances evokes a storm of emotions. For this season, Betina has prepared two new duets, which have attracted increased attention from fans – Alena Kostornaya/Georgy Kunitsa And Taisiya Sobinina/Denis Khodykin.
Sport24 correspondent Konstantin Lesik met with Betina immediately after her couples’ performances at Megasport. We discussed the guys’ debut, new productions of the entire Russian team and the scandal with the singles skater Pyotr Gumennik and the performance for the group Rammstein.
“My couples are great. Whatever they may have done regarding the cleanliness of the performances, the result they showed for our coaching team is incredibly valuable. The guys are completely inexperienced: Denis and Tasya have actually been skating for 3.5 months, Alena has only been in doubles for only six months. That’s why the guys here are great. They showed great skating. We will work, work and work.
Some were a little better yesterday, some were a little better today, but we are happy with the result. It’s clear that we see an endless number of mistakes, but that’s what we, coaches, exist for,” – Betina began.
— What grade will you give the guys?
– Probably a four. Of course, we could have squeezed a little more out of each program, but we did well in any case. This, however, was a serious experience for the guys. Especially for Tasya and Denis, because Alena and Gosha are a little more experienced in this regard, they skated a large number of shows this off-season. Tasya has never performed in such a public, it seems to me, ever. For her, this was generally the first experience, and the fact that she was lost today… We will work with it, learn to somehow clean it up.
– What happened today?
— The elements flew a little. In training we have completely different performances, a different quality of performance. Today we swam a little, but this is completely understandable, this is a work story.
— What ideas did you put into the programs? Was it difficult to choose the music? How involved were the guys in this creative process?
– The guys always participate with us – one hundred percent. Alena and Gosha proposed a short and free program. We put them together – in our community. With Alena and Gosha’s programs, everything is quite simple, because there are two films from which it is very easy to understand what is happening in the programs – “50 Shades of Gray” and “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay”.
In “Jay” Alena is a rebel. We are showing a story from the film. As she said today: “This is a program about their lives,” “The Hunger Games” is about Russian figure skating, haha.
Denis and Tasya have a short program – modern music from the series “Lucifer”. But we didn’t take the theme of the series itself. Rather, we have a very complex topic of mutual understanding between modern man and artificial intelligence. Someday the average viewer will see this and understand.
We call the free program “Egyptian Strength”. Tasya is a goddess, Denis is a pharaoh, who demands from her rain and all sorts of goodies for his subjects.
– Tell me about Tas? We don’t know her that well.
— Tasya is very cool, very cool, very positive. She is always smiling, she is always in a great mood, always motivated by work. This is truly a godsend. The only thing is that she has a serious failure in terms of experience in serious tournaments. That is, here Denis, of course, wins, because there the European Championships and an endless number of Grand Prix stages make themselves felt. He doesn’t get particularly nervous at such events, but for Tasya this is, of course, serious stress. But all this, of course, is gained with experience; this should not cause any problems in the future. We will work.
Of course, we understand that there will be times when not everything works out, we are ready for this. The guys are ready for this. And Tasya is very cool. He and Denis caught the wave with each other, they work very well. She studies very well. She knows how to listen and absorb.
— Denis told me in an interview that she herself wrote to him with an offer to become a couple. Do you remember their meeting, the chemistry at the very beginning?
— There was chemistry at first sight, from the first movement. It was amazing for us. There were other girls whom we considered, but there was such a working, routine moment. And then Tasya came, like a rainbow, the sun. And Denis beamed. His eyes lit up, something that hadn’t happened in a very long time.
The Pavlyuchenko/Khodykin couple had a rather difficult existence in recent seasons. Being the fourth couple is a rather heavy burden that the guys could not always confidently bear: growing up, ambitions, desires to be higher, and some attempts to be creative, and so on. In the last season, when Dasha had an injury, Denis faded a little.
When Tasya arrived, his eyes lit up again. He wanted to work. He had worked very hard before, when he was looking for a partner, when there was no one yet, but when she came, he really got involved at that moment. Almost immediately the match happened. Like Tinder, which is no longer with us.
— What is the main difficulty in the work of a new couple?
– Feel each other. There is the same story between Alena and Gosha and Denis and Tasya. Both couples faced this. You come to competitions, and you still don’t know how who behaves at the starts, who needs what. Alena is generally shocked in this regard, because she was the only one who was always tuning in, and here is some boy next to her, you need to somehow interact with him, he can also be nervous.
And here, it turns out, if during regular training everything goes routinely, everything is smooth, everything is great. And when you come to the big arena, some kind of nervousness begins, some breakdowns occur. We need to control this, level it out, and so on. This is where the main difficulty begins – you need to be able to find an approach, be able to adapt, be able to wait somewhere, be patient. This is the most difficult thing.
— Alena and Gosha are also husband and wife. Is this somehow reflected in your work?
— Specifically for the guys, absolutely not. That is, it is not displayed at all – neither as a plus nor as a minus. They come to the ice to work. And they don’t discuss during training who will wash the dishes today and who will bake pies.
— You are a great specialist, an expert in productions. How do you like the debut of the season for the entire team?
— I really liked the dancers today. The free program of the dancers really impressed me, because the rhythms of the 80s somehow still don’t appeal to me – neither ours nor foreign ones. But the outrages were very cool. Each couple could probably point out two or three interesting features in the performances. The dancers had a great off-season – that’s a fact.
The girls’ programs, I would say, are still rather crude. Today we saw not the most complex content. This is understandable, because there is still a whole month before the competition, complex elements are not needed at all. But the programs are still, of course, crude, to be honest. Although there are some interesting ideas. I liked the idea of “Black Panther” by Kamila Valieva. This is hers.
— Camila told us today that she’s glad she doesn’t skate lyrical images.
– She’s really enjoying herself. And it’s cool. That’s why it looks very cool.
— The topic with Rammstein and Peter Gumennik excites the public. What do you think?
— I agree with the position that it is necessary to separate music and the biography of the artist. If you look at each performer, what, where he plays… It seems to me that if you open the same rhythms of the 80s, short dancers and every track there… There are three tracks in the program for almost everyone. If you take it all apart, you can go crazy. I think music should remain music.
How was the opening of the figure skating season?