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4 Nov, 2021 16:09

‘I will survive’: Figure skating coach stunned by reaction of ‘rabid fans’ after bold brainwave about stars including Tuktamysheva

‘I will survive’: Figure skating coach stunned by reaction of ‘rabid fans’ after bold brainwave about stars including Tuktamysheva

A figure skating coach has caused controversy by claiming that the points scoring system could be changed for the likes of ice legend Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, with one former champion branding his ideas a joke.

Coach and former world and European champion Alexander Zhulin has been panned by some leading figures for a radical suggestion about how points might be awarded in future.

The two-time Olympic medalist has copped a backlash for suggesting that competitors over the grand age of 17 could be awarded an extra point per year of their age, reflecting the way the body "changes with age" in a sport dominated by teenagers.

The Instagram account of the team headed by legendary coach Eteri Tutberidze responded by posting a picture of a public information-style animation of an elderly woman on a bus.

"It is imperative to respect age and give [up your seat] on public transport," it added, mocking Zhulin for his brainwave.

Shortly after former world and European champion Tuktamysheva finished second to 15-year-old Kamila Valieva at the Canadian Grand Prix, Zhulin had pondered whether relative veterans – Tuktamysheva is 24 – would be more likely to continue skating if they were rewarded for their age.

“At 17, add one point to a skater; at 18, two – and so on," Zhulin told Sputnik after watching Valieva break two world records.

"I think such a system will motivate athletes to continue their careers. Tuktamysheva did not receive such a bonus, therefore she deserves great respect."

2002 Olympic champion Alexei Yagudin savaged the proposal on Instagram. “The joke of the day," he retorted. "I haven't laughed like that for a long time.

"And then, for example, give bonuses for knowledge of a foreign language – then what? There will be an incentive to learn. Bravo. I haven’t heard such nonsense for a long time."

In an exclusive interview with RT Sport, Olympic silver medalist in ice dancing and choreographer Ilya Averbukh shrugged off the row by suggesting that Zhulin was joking, but Russian head coach Tatiana Tarasova gave "full support" to the "interesting idea".

“Such a system will motivate older athletes to continue their careers – that's right," she told Championat.

"But we do not know how realistic it is to realize the idea. It would be interesting for me to observe such changes."

Zhulin admitted his surprise at the force of reaction his words received. "I was stunned myself – what resonance my words caused," he reflected to the outlet.

"Honestly, I didn't mean anything bad. It seemed to me that there was something rational in this proposal.

"I did not mean Lisa Tuktamysheva personally, but such athletes as Ashley Wagner, Carolina Costner and others like them.

"Wouldn't people like to see figure skaters of this level [lengthen their careers]? If we consider this seriously, and not when some rabid fans shout that Zhulin is against [17-year-old Anna] Shcherbakova and [19-year-old Alina] Zagitova, but only for Tuktamysheva – this is not true, [because] there is logic in the idea.

"If [skating governing body the] ISU takes and considers this seriously, then it is possible to add not a point, but half – there is certainly some rational grain in this.

"Anyway, at 23-24 years old it is more difficult for a person to compete and skate with girls who are 15 years old. Since this idea is being discussed in this way [given attention], it means that it is not so bad.

"It was not for nothing that [Tarasova] supported me in this. I began to be frightened by the lack of a sense of humor in people [who will] speak out [and take offense at] every word you say.

"Anyone can call... Zhulin a moron, but I will somehow survive it – it's not scary."

Zhulin was on safer ground discussing Tuktamysheva's latest exceptional performance.

"Elizabeth performed excellently with two triple axels in the free program," he observed.

"Few 15-year-old skaters can handle this daunting element. Tuktamysheva performs without mistakes and she herself enjoys her skating. She is an example for other skaters.

"Twice she found herself out of the team at the Olympic Games but did not give up. She fights hard, so I hope she will get a ticket to the Beijing Olympics."

Also on rt.com ‘Literally unbelievable’: Teen queen Valieva sets TWO world records to win Skate Canada as Russia sweeps podium (VIDEO)