Kost­ner work­ing with Mishin to re­gain her Olympic form

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

EGNA: Carolina Kost­ner is com­ing full cir­cle. The Ital­ian has re­turned to her na­tive Alto Adige re­gion to climb back to the elite level of in­ter­na­tional fig­ure skat­ing af­ter a nearly three-year ab­sence due to a sus­pen­sion for help­ing her then -boyfriend evade dop­ing con­trols.

While the home­town fans gave her a hero­ine’s wel­come dur­ing the Ital­ian cham­pi­onships this week, Kost­ner was nowhere near her top form of 2014, when she won the bronze medal at the Sochi Win­ter Olympics with a near flaw­less free skate.

But if any­one can raise her back to Olympic lev­els, it is Alexei Mishin, the Rus­sian coach who trained Alexei Ur­manov, Alexei Yagudin, and Yevgeny Plushenko to great­ness.

Kost­ner has been train­ing with Mishin full­time in St. Peters­burg since Sept. 1. “‘When she came to me, she was de­stroyed,” Mishin said af­ter Kost­ner claimed her eighth Ital­ian ti­tle on Thurs­day. He said his first mis­sion, af­ter her long ab­sence from com­pe­ti­tion, was to give her con­fi­dence “that she is able to com­plete. And step by step, I think we did.” His sec­ond task has been to rad­i­cally shake up her ap­proach to the el­e­ments. Mishin’s skaters don’t learn by rep­e­ti­tion, a com­mon ap­proach to van­quish er­rors and cre­ate mus­cle mem­ory. In­stead, Mishin as­signs them a set of ex­er­cises for each jump to cre­ate the proper tech­nique.

LEARN­ING ALL OVER AGAIN

The pro­gram, call it cre­ative de­struc­tion, is noth­ing less than gru­el­ing, Kost­ner ac­knowl­edged. “He has re­vealed an in­ter­est­ing but not so sim­ple method that has pro­voked many mo­ments of frus­tra­tion, some curs­ing, many falls, and many mo­ments of un­cer­tainty,” Kost­ner said. She said she felt like she has been learn­ing all over again.

“‘In some ways, I feel like a 14-year-old who is learn­ing, al­most from zero. It is not from zero, it is only a change in per­cep­tion, which of­ten in life isn’t bad.” Kost­ner’s last com­pet­i­tive sea­son in 2014 was by far her finest. She won the Olympic bronze with a ca­reer-best 142.61 points in the free skate af­ter land­ing eight triples, three in com­bi­na­tion, to a flu­idly chore­ographed “Bolero.” She fol­lowed that with a best-ever short pro­gram at the world cham­pi­onships in Saitama, Ja­pan, where she fin­ished third.

She al­ways planned to take off at least part of the 2015 sea­son to rest, but the sus­pen­sion turned that into two full years. She called it “a pe­riod of mat­u­ra­tion” when ad­dress­ing re­porters af­ter reach­ing a deal last year to re­turn to com­pe­ti­tion. She ex­uded a new­found tran­quil­ity, along with a de­ter­mi­na­tion to get back into com­pe­ti­tion, sights set on the 2018 Win­ter Games.

Dur­ing the break, Kost­ner kept up ex­hi­bi­tion skat­ing, and she started train­ing with a dance com­pany in Rome to en­hance her ex­pres­sion. But she was miss­ing crit­i­cal ice hours work­ing on top-level el­e­ments.

Fast for­ward 2 1/2 sea­sons, and her level of dif­fi­culty has clearly di­min­ished.

In her fi­nal free pro­gram be­fore an ador­ing home­town crowd, the former world cham­pion skipped a sim­ple triple toe loop jump in com­bi­na­tion. As she came off the ice, Mishin gave her a quizzi­cal look and pointed to his head, as if to say, “What hap­pened?” The er­ror was sur­pris­ing, but Mishin played it down. “We did not plan to be per­fect right now,” he said.

He hud­dled back­stage af­ter the na­tion­als with Lori Ni­chols, Kost­ner’s long­time chore­g­ra­pher, telling her that they needed to add more dif­fi­culty to the pro­gram to be com­pet­i­tive. Kost­ner’s next chal­lenge will be the Euro­peans in Os­trava, Czech Repub­lic, at the end of Jan­uary. De­pend­ing on the out­come, the Ital­ian fed­er­a­tion will make a fi­nal de­ci­sion on whether Kost­ner will get Italy’s sin­gle world’s berth, which last year went to Roberta Rodeghiero, who fin­ished 16th. Kost­ner is spend­ing two weeks at home in Alto Adige with her fam­ily, at least part of that time she will be work­ing hud­dled with Ni­chol to add dif­fi­culty to the pro­gram ac­cord­ing to Mishin’s pre­scrip­tion.

Mishin is con­fi­dent in Kost­ner’s abil­ity, say­ing “Carolina is one of the most pre­cise and se­ri­ous pupils which I ever had.”

The mul­ti­lin­gual Kost­ner likened Mishin’s tech­nique to learn­ing to con­verse in a new lan­guage. The ex­pe­ri­ence has been noth­ing if not hum­bling. “Slowly, slowly, I am man­ag­ing to put into prac­tice what he is teach­ing me. I still have a lot to learn, and that is won­der­ful be­cause two years ago, I thought I had learned every­thing in my sport. In­stead, ev­ery day I am aware there is a whole new world.”

— AP

EGNA ORA: In this photo taken on Thurs­day, Dec 15, 2016 Carolina Kost­ner per­forms dur­ing the Ital­ian fig­ure skat­ing cham­pi­onships in Egna Ora, Italy. The Ital­ian has re­turned to her na­tive Alto Adige re­gion to climb back to the elite level of in­ter­na­tional fig­ure skat­ing af­ter a nearly three-year ab­sence due to a sus­pen­sion for help­ing her then-boyfriend evade dop­ing con­trols.

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