Tursynbaeva from Orser to Tutberidze
In reversal of the summer’s normal pattern, old student of Eteri Tuberidze leaves Brian Orser to return to her.
We might have foolishly thought the coaching changes might have been done with along with the month of May. That’s when the Russian skaters were supposed to announce all of theirs anyway. And by the end of the month, so many changes had happened the world over, one wondered if the summer could really have any left in it.
Nor would it look like a good week for coach Eteri Tutberidze. She’d lost two of her top students last month, including the one that won the World title twice before tragically losing Olympic gold, and she hadn’t come out of it looking very good. Now, as of today, her remaining herd of young female students, while not having to worry about keeping it up until they were seventeen after all, have lost one of their big technical weapons. Today the ISU Congress officially passed a measure giving bonus backloading points to only one jump in the short program and three in the free. Many of them, including Olympic champion Alina Zagitova, were getting a lot of points by backloading them all.
But there was always the possibility that when three top skaters had all come to Brian Orser the previous month, his training group might then lose others. And he already had a former student of Tutberidze’s in Toronto. Elizabet Tursynbaeva was forced to leave her for Orser in 2013, when she chose to skate for Kazakhstan, and the Russians were unwilling to coach foreign students during the Olympic season. But it seems Tutberidze was willing to take her back now, because she’s returned to her.
When she left her previous coach, Tursynbaeva was just about to hit the junior scene, and she did well for herself there. But since moving up to the senior level she hasn’t been as successful. In the most recent years especially she’s struggled with consistency, getting the kind of bad results at the big events that often will provoke a coaching change. Though even when she’s skated well, she’s had neither the technical content nor the top presentation scores required to contend at the top. Those are both things Tutberidze’s students are very good at getting, so from that standpoint, the move’s an even more logical one.
The main question is how not only Tutberidze but the Russian federation will deal with her. At 18, she may be one of her new coach’s older students, but it’s looking like she’s planning to continue on until 2022. Unlike her new training mates, she has no other ladies under her flag looking likely to threaten her, meaning she could probably stay on until 2026 if she wanted to. But even if the Olympics are done for another four years and the Russian federation doesn’t care right now, that might not remain the case. There’s the danger they might force her out again.
Even before that, she enters a crowded rink where she’s unlikely to be her coach’s priority. But that, at least, is something she’s a little used to, training amid the Toronto crowd. There’s also the question of how much questionable behavior from a coach she’ll put up with. Tuberidze has received heavy criticism for pushing her students possibly hard enough to damage them in the long run, physically or psychologically. And what her fourteen or fifteen year olds might not protest, Tursynbaeva might refuse to be subjected to. But she’s not the first student Tutberidze’s had that’s been of age.
Nobody’s quite sure how the Tutberidze group is going to shake out over the next four years anyway. Today’s ISU rule change means her girls are going to have to change their tactics a bit, though those with the hardest triple combinations and the quadruple jumps should still have a sizable technical advantage. If those become what the ladies need even more, then at least Tursynbaeva’s with a coach who teaches them, even though she’s a bit late to be learning them. (But not necessarily too late; there are ladies who have mastered difficult triple-triple combinations in their twenties.)
There might even be further changes to that coaching group anyway, now that non-Russian students can apparently join. The summer’s still only beginning.