Morozov has big plans for Sochi Olympics

Coach helps plot return to top for Russia's skaters

Nikolai Mozorov shepherded Miki Ando to the 2011 world championship and insists that he will continue to work with international skaters.
Nikolai Mozorov shepherded Miki Ando to the 2011 world championship and insists that he will continue to work with international skaters. (Getty Images)


Top Headlines
By Lynn Rutherford, special to
(06/30/2011) - It takes a spreadsheet to keep up with Nikolai Morozov's students these days.

For every skater who leaves his group -- like Spain's promising Javier Fernandez, who now trains in Toronto with Brian Orser -- two more come aboard.

"I'm going to help absolutely everybody in Russia who wants my help," the Moscow-born Morozov said earlier this month. "Of course, I don't want to train all of these skaters by myself. I'm working with other coaches. But I have a lot of Russian students."

For the last few months, many -- including 2010 world junior ice dance champions Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov, and world pair silver medalists Tatiana Volosozhar and Max Trankov -- trained with the 35-year-old in New Jersey, but only temporarily.

Morozov relocates to Novogorsk, Russia's national training center in Moscow, at the end of the week, so he can better help his homeland's skaters gear up for the 2014 Sochi Games.

"Novogorsk is the national training center, I will be there most of the time, and other coaches will visit," he said.

Russia's skating federation hopes for a big showing in 2014; its top skaters are now fully funded and monitored regularly. Still, Morozov downplays his official involvement.

"It's a comfortable situation [financially], and everybody is working together," he said. "I do have more Russian students. I continue to coach Sergei Voronov and Alena Leonova, and some junior men, and Elena and Nikita. I am helping Tatiana and Max with their programs.

"But some of the skaters I have still communicate with their [other] coaches. For example, Alena still goes to St. Petersburg. I want to involve their [current] coaches, because they know the skaters very well." caught up with Morozov between sessions at Montclair State University's Floyd Hall Arena.

With Sochi on the horizon, will you continue to work with international skaters?

Of course. I still have the [Japanese] world champion Miki [Ando], the [French] European champion Florent [Amodio] and I still work with [Italian ice dancers] Anna Cappellini and Luca Lanotte. I just did a program for [Qing] Pang and [Jian] Tong. It is just some rumor that I am limited to Russians. I don't know where it came from. For example, people were saying Florent was going to Colorado to train, but he is with me. I don't have a computer. I don't pay attention to rumors.

I've [often] had so many skaters. I used to have six dance teams, and three or four singles skaters, but because they were always from different countries, no one paid attention to it. Before, I had Fumie [Suguri], and Valentina [Marchei], and Nobunari [Oda], and others. Those people are not working with me any more. I want to work with Russian skaters to help them, but not only [because they are] Russian. It's not like I don't want to work [with other skaters].

So there's no pressure to restrict your efforts?

Some people think I can't work with international skaters, but I have no problem with it. No one has told me I can't, but some people think [the Russian skating federation] did. After worlds, Florent said, 'I guess I can't [continue] with you.' I said, 'Of course you can.'

The only [exception] might be the Japanese Federation, but of course if [a Japanese skater] were to ask me, I would think about it. I say this because I've done so well for the Japanese, and they don't even say thank you. If it weren't for me, there would be no Daisuke Takahashi. [Morozov coached the 2010 world champion to the 2007 world silver medal.] Now [world silver medalist Takahiko] Kozuka is skating so well, because Takahashi, he pushed all the Japanese boys to skate to a new level. Miki won two [world] gold medals for Japan. They just don't understand this.

You're not working with any Americans at the moment.

I like to have a very good connection with skaters. That's why it's hard to work [with U.S. skaters]. I worked with a great skater, Adam Rippon; he was happy, and then the [triple] Axel didn't work at competitions, and I told him just wait, it takes time. Then he moved to [Brian] Orser, and the Axel still didn't work all of the time. Now he has another coach. That's how things happen.

Florent, he won Europeans this year, and his federation pushed him to do something different [for a coach], and he said, 'I'm not even going to talk about it, I'm going to go to Nikolai.' I like to work with people I can trust. Many times the Japanese skating federation told Miki not to work with me, and she said, 'I'm not going to listen to you.' That's how I like my skaters to be, because after [they stop] figure skating, they have to think for themselves.

Many men did quadruple jumps last season. Will Amodio add a quad to his programs?

Florent can do quads with no problem, toe and Salchow. You will see it next season.

I've been working so many years, I know when to put a quad in a program, and when to leave it out. He didn't need the quad to win Europeans. The most important results [come] when you can do everything else plus the quad. If you do a quad and then fall a few times after that, like Kevin van der Perren and Michal Brezina sometimes do, you will be out of the medals.

I would rather prepare skaters slowly and consistently. Next season Florent will do quads for sure, because everything else is easy for him now.

How are your Russian students progressing?

Leonova, I just helped them do her programs. I'm really excited to try some new things, especially with the boys. It will be interesting to maybe make something really special, because overall the Russian men are weak. I know [Artur] Gachinski just got third at worlds but that was also because everybody [else] made mistakes. He didn't do mistakes and he has great jumps, but then the Japanese have jumps and great skating [skills]. Russians, they either have jumps or skating [skills].

You're choreographing for so many different skaters, in all of the disciplines.

I really study the [International Judging System] rules. I just adjust everything for the rules. I look at a skater, think about what he can do well, what kind of good things he has, and start from there.

I also really want the audience to have fun, because it's hard to listen to the same music every year. I want to go a new way, because in the audience we don't see so many young people. We need new music, new styles; honestly, to make a program with any classical piece of music is so easy. You can do it in five minutes, especially if you have a good skater.

Miki won worlds using classical music.

I'm pushing her more in her exhibition [programs]. I don't want to try anything new with Miki because there is no point; if she does her jumps, she will win anyway. Usually her exhibition I make in one or two weeks and her free program I make in two or three days.

Will Miki sit the entire 2011-2012 season out?

She won't compete next season. Maybe there is a small chance she will [return] for Japanese nationals. She needs to rest. She's been competing for so many years, I think she just needs to enjoy [herself], but she will return.

A few years ago, you said you were not interested in coaching a top ice dance team.

I was really tired of ice dancing but I'm excited now. Ilinykh and Katsalapov are very talented. I think they can be stars, they just need more time and work. It's not just adding difficulty to their programs; they have to do something more interesting. I didn't work too much with ice dancers for three or four years, but in my opinion, the Americans and Canadians got to the next level, so it will be not easy to catch up.