Olympic Daily News: 1 August 2020
It's the first day of August and the vibe is summer hot, but yesterday the news came ice-cold that Russian figure skating sensation Alena Kostornaia is leaving coach Eteri Tutberidze to train with Evgeni Plushenko.
The news came as a shock, Kostornaia is European champion, ISU Grand Prix finals winner, holder of two world records, and spoke positively to Olympic Channel about coach Tutberidze only three weeks ago.
The 16-year-old was working on a new program skating to a Billie Eilish song, and her choreographer Daniil Gleikhengauz today posted about how the news came as a big surprise to him too.
Evgeni Plushenko also had his say, denying that he had been speaking to Alena since May:
"This is complete nonsense," Plushenko said to R-Sport yesterday, "Alena came to me with this initiative two weeks ago."
He also contradicted Tutberidze's claim that Kostornaia would not train with certain other skaters: "This is complete nonsense, she was ready to train with everyone."
Most explosive of all, Plushenko said that we should expect "more shocks."
Alena Kostornaia exclusive: “I’m a very emotional person actually”
Alena Kostornaia exclusive: “I’m a very emotional person actually”Alena Kostornaia was voted ISU newcomer of the year but how does this rising figure skating star from Russia tick? We sat down with the 16-year-old to talk about her new program, training with star coach Eteri Tutberidze, Beijing 2022 and life in the spotlight. “I’m a very emotional person actually. I find it hard to hide my emotions,” she tells us.
Kostornaia joins Plushenko
According to Plushenko, this is why Kostornaia left Tutberidze's camp to join his:
"She wanted changes, she sees that we are a strong team, she wants to grow further, learn quadruple jumps, wants to be given beautiful and interesting programs. She wants to completely change the team. In Russia, we have such an attitude to transitions, as if something incredible had happened.
"This is a normal situation. This means that Alena could not work there, something did not suit her there. Maybe an attitude. I would not want to inflate this story. The athlete has made a decision to go - please. The Federation does not mind, parents do not mind, Alena agrees, this is her initiative. We supported this initiative and intend to move forward."
Gleikhengauz gave a detailed account of what happened from his perspective in the run-up to Kostornaia's bombshell decision.
Speaking in Russian in a video he posted on Instagram that's 5 minutes 21 seconds long, he said:
"Alena Kostornaia is not training in our group anymore. The pre-story is rather short and I don't see much logic in it. Our training has started, everyone who is part of our team arrived here at our sports base in Novogorsk, where we currently are for the past 2 months. You can see it from my haircut!"
"It's funny that the first two programs were created for Alena... I even posted a video, which means I was very pleased with how the program turned out. The most strange thing about it is that Alena also liked it. She asked the girls to film her how she skates, you could see that she was enjoying it."
"What I've seen on Instagram from her recent programs is just awful. Alena doesn't like it, she said it herself."
Here's the video:
Asked if her programs would change, Plushenko said. "one hundred percent. Of course, we will change them and make our own."
When Alena told Gleikhengauz that she was leaving to train elsewhere, was as stunned as everyone else.
"I remember how I told her: 'Alena, you're probably just angry or going through a teenage stage,'" he says, "maybe you're emotionally hurt or just reacting to something... What really happened?'"
"And she told me: 'I made this decision two months ago.'"
The coach expressed disappointment that she would continue to train with the group when she had already decided to leave.
With Kostornaia following Trusova to train with Plushenko, suggestions of 'poaching' skaters reached Plushenko which he rejected:
"Alena herself [Initiated things], two weeks ago, she expressed a desire to join my and Serezha's group, to which I replied: "Why not, if this is your balanced decision. If this is an adult decision, we are ready to take you in and work with you."
Plushenko on Alena Kostornaia move
Asked if training Alena Kostornaia and Alexandra Trusova was a victory or a 'terrible responsibility' Plushenko said:
"For any coach, such athletes are a great responsibility. As for Trusova, Kostornaya is a big responsibility. We are ready for it. My team, Seryozha Rozanov, we are all glad that athletes are coming to us."
"This is devastating," she said.
Plushenko claims that Tutberidze's claims that Kostornaia had a list of girls she was unwilling to train on the ice with was untrue:
"This is complete nonsense, she was ready to train with everyone. She has no problems, she is ready to work with everyone, she takes all athletes very positively. She understands that sparring partners are needed, and she is ready to be on the ice with everyone."
Plushenko also sent more shockwaves through the figure skating world by suggestions that more sensational news and moves are still to come.
"The doors of my school are always open. We are open to dialogue and ready to work with any athlete," he says.
USA's top Black equestrian
Spinning our way gracefully from the figure skating rink to the equestrian paddock, check out the story of Genay Vaughn.
She is one of the top Black female equestrians in the world and is aiming for the Olympics, hoping to inspire other Black girls along the way.
"It's really cool to see if, you know, there's a little girl out there she can look up and say 'hey there's someone who kinda looks like me doing it, and I think that's important," she told CBS Sacramento.
Riding since she was four, Genay's father just happens to be Major League Baseball star Greg Vaughn, a 4-time All-Star left fielder.
"He taught me a lot of great things about professional athletes and sports in general," she says, "so just that advice is a little bit extra of an edge."
Training at the Starr Vaughn Equestrian in Sloughhouse, California, which she runs with her mum Michele - also an accomplished rider - look out for this rising star of dressage at future Olympics!
Robot gymnast better than Biles?
The robots are coming...
To a gymnastics mat near you as this latest creation from Boston Dynamics shows. But is it better than Simone Biles?
And finally, today's brain workout.
Yesterday we asked which of the following is not an event in modern pentathlon?
- Freestyle swimming
- Discus throw
- Equestrian show jumping
And if you said No.3 discus throw then give yourself maximum points.
Here's today's question: What does the Olympic motto ‘Citius, Altius, Fortius’ mean?
- Faster, Higher, Stronger
- Fitter, Better, Healthier
- Smarter, Stronger, Prettier
- We came, we saw, we conquered