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Menshov moves to coaching after turbulent career

Former Russian champion wants athletes in federation leadership roles
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Konstantin Menshov named his European bronze medal in 2014 and his 2011 Russian title as two of his proudest accomplishments in skating. -Getty Images

At the beginning of June, former Russian champion Konstantin Menshov decided to retire from competitive figure skating. Menshov, whose career endured its fair share of controversies, plans to coach and work with young Russian skaters.

The Saint Petersburg native's nearly 20-year career was filled with various degrees of success, disappointment and despair. Injuries plagued Menshov over the years, as did the ugly business of sports politics.

Icenetwork talked with Menshov about his decision to retire, the most memorable moments of his career, the ups and downs of competing for Russia and his future coaching career.

Icenetwork: At the beginning of June, you announced your decision to retire from competitive skating. When did you realize it was time to hang up your skates?

Menshov: The main reason was the shoulder injury I got at Russian nationals this past season. I already had the same kind of injury with my other shoulder and, of course, it's quite problematic to compete with both those injuries. I was able to recover almost all of my jumping elements to the previous level, but the fact is that the performance of choreographic movements causes me pain.

Icenetwork: What are some of the more memorable moments of your career?

Menshov: Almost every event was an adventure and had its memorable moments. A whole book can be written based on all of them. The most positive of them were, of course, the bronze medal at the 2014 European Championships and the gold at the 2011 Russian Championships.

Another memorable moment was when I was not allowed to go to 2013 Europeans despite being qualified for it, and almost all the guys from our national team staged a "revolt" in my support.

Icenetwork: After that incident, do you feel that something changed within Russian skating federation politics?

Menshov: My opinion is that nothing has changed too much since that.

Icenetwork: Injuries also had a negative impact on your career.

Menshov: Yes, the most difficult moments were associated with injuries. Unfortunately, I have had too many of them. Once, I was even forced to leave the ice in the hands of (coach) Evgeni Vladimirovich (Rukavicin). I could not make even a step by myself. Then doctors said that I had to quit competitive skating, but I recovered despite all the obstacles.

You know, that is probably the worst thing: when a doctor tells that you have to stop your career. I've heard such a verdict seven times throughout my career but somehow managed to continue until the age of 33.

Icenetwork: Recently, Russia has been shaken by doping scandals, including one related to the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi. What are your thoughts on the matter?

Menshov: Russia is always blamed more than any other country. I think doping has always been (there); it's just some countries are forgiven, and we are not.

Icenetwork: Do you have any ideas on how to improve the Russian skating federation?

Menshov: I think it is time for generational changes in sports organizations. We need more former athletes working in the leadership of sports federations. We need a system that properly educates, trains and leads children, from the very beginning level up to national team membership.

This requires competent specialists with decent wages. Our coaches who work with children get pennies for their job. Of course, they do not think about the results but about where they can earn more. There is a real need for responsible officials, managers, coaches and athletes.

Icenetwork: You are transitioning into full-time coaching and have worked with children. Some say working with children is easier for various reasons. What do you think?

Menshov: Yes, probably in some moments, it's easier to work with kids. However, I had some children who could stage really big hysterics if something does not work as they wish. This all depends on the character. All children are different, and I'm trying to find a right approach to every one of them.

Icenetwork: With your vast experience as a skater working with different coaches, what will you try to avoid as a coach?

Menshov: In my career, I was to some extent not very lucky in that my first coach, Galina Kashina, and then Evgeni Rukavicin learned how to coach with me as a student, trying different techniques, equipment, approaches and learning from my mistakes. I will try to avoid such mistakes in my coaching career.