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The Damage of Tutberidze

Updated: Jun 18, 2022

By Emma Ferraro

April 7, 2022

UPDATED 12:00 PM EST


[Photo Credit: The Sun]


Eteri Tutberidze’s traumatizing coaching techniques have destroyed the physical and emotional wellbeing of several generations of Russian ladies’ figure skaters.


Many parents push their children into figure skating not long after they first learn to walk on two feet. From there, choosing a coach can determine the young athlete’s future with the sport. Tutberidze takes in very young skaters and coaches them with strenuous techniques so that, by the age of 13 or 14, they’re suddenly hopefuls for being titled “one of the best in the world.”


This process that Tutberidze uses to stay on top is often compared to a factory. She herself has called the girls that skate under her “materials” that have been brought into the competitive skating world before the age of five to thus be overworked and abused to then be considered her “products.” These “products,” mind you, are people. They are her students that are in the condition to compete from approximately ages 14-17, or until they hit their “Tutberidze expiration date”―puberty.


Evgenia Medvedeva is one of Tutberidze’s most notable now-retired skaters. She was coached by Eteri from the age of seven, and grew to become a gold medalist for two seasons at the European Championships, Grand Prix Finals, and World Championships. This meant she had two fully undefeated seasons, and was often noted for her stellar consistency. However, at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics, Medvedeva fell short and came in second to her own, younger teammate: 15-year-old Alina Zagitova. Zagitova had been kept away from her mother, told she was not allowed to fly back to Canada to see her if she was unable to bring back the gold.


At this point, Medvedeva had reached the age of 17, commonly believed to be the aforementioned “Tutberidze expiration date.” Tutberidze’s coaching strategies are geared towards young girls, thus why Zagitova came out on top, commodifying their small frames and low weights to formulate an unsustainable and dangerous jumping technique. This led Medvedeva to be out of competitive figure skating for good shortly after, with a back injury widely suspected to be due to the way in which Tutberidze had taught her to jump.


This jumping technique relies on the skaters to jump with their arms and backs first, as opposed to their legs, which allows for a prerotation to take place. The three toe-jumps in figure skating are also executed with the skater’s entire blade under Tutberidze, rather than just their toe picks, which is also dangerous and sloppy. Many of her retired skaters, including Medvedeva, had to leave the sport due to back injuries stemming from this prerotation method. This unsustainable, dangerous technique is used for the quadruple jumps that Russia is known for, executed by all three Russian girls in the 2022 Beijing Olympics―Alexandra (Sasha) Trusova (17), Anna Shcerbakova (17), and Kamila Valieva (15).


These three had been next in line for the top under Tutberidze’s plan―to train young skaters until their bodies can’t handle it anymore, and to have even younger skaters ready to compete before this point is reached―so that she would never fail to have skaters in the number one spot. Valieva, the youngest of the three, was also the favorite to win the gold medal. She is reportedly coached 12 hours per day, and was able to land a double salchow at the shocking age of five. Being the youngest, Tutberidze’s technique is more suited for her body as opposed to that of Shcherbakova or Trusova, leading her to be able to land quadruple jumps with more ease than the two 17-year-olds. Even still, the three ladies’ programs were packed with quads. Trusova had five quadruple jumps in her freeskate―a number that is nothing shy of inhumane and alarming. She’s stated that she’s begun attempting quintuple jumps, which have never been attempted by anyone of any sex at any age.


Only one woman over the age of 18 was able to land a quadruple jump in the history of competitive figure skating. The fact that these three children are consistently landing several quads per program is absolutely terrifying, especially considering the long-term effects that these actions will have on their physical health. The fact that children are becoming figure skating world champions should be eye opening that there is something wrong with the competitive nature of the sport, for such damaging coaching methods should never be pursued on a young, developing body.








References

"Tears and Sobs, and Not Just from Kamila Valieva, Follow Her Crushing Olympic End." The New York Times - Breaking News, US News, World News and Videos, 18 Feb. 2022, www.nytimes.com/2022/02/16/sports/olympics/russian-reactions-nbc-valieva-fall.html.

Wang, Rita W. "The Culture of Child Abuse That’s Poisoning Figure Skating." Slate Magazine, slate.com/culture/2022/02/kamila-valieva-coach-eteri-tutberidze-abuse-russia-doping.html.

The Washington Post, 14 Feb. 2022, www.washingtonpost.com/sports/olympics/2022/02/14/eteri-tutberidze-russian-figure-skating-doping/.

"What is wrong with TUTBERIDZE/DUDAKOV'S QUAD LUTZ." YouTube, 9 Nov. 2019, www.youtube.com/watch?v=bmJr1KKkuL0.






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