Physical violence in figure skating is a complex and controversial topic. All sensible people who are far from sports have a bad attitude towards it. Especially these days, when mutual respect and respect for personal boundaries play an increasingly important role in personal and professional relationships. Nevertheless, history is full of examples when violence in one form or another was not only present in the training process, but also helped, in the opinion of the coach and even the athletes themselves, to achieve results. Sports tells the story of a tough coach who led legendary figure skaters to victories.
Jutta Müller's students won a dozen medals in the most important competitions. In particular, she trained Katarina Witt, a two-time Olympic champion who changed the landscape of women's singles skating.
Jutta herself did not achieve outstanding results as a figure skater – her best achievement was bronze at the GDR championship in 1953. There was also silver in 1949 in such a wonderful discipline as women's doubles, paired with Irene Zaltsman. However, at that time no one had yet talked about protecting the rights of same-sex duets, so the “twos” did not catch on and did not have an impact on Muller’s career in the future. She began training in 1955.
Her first important “project” was her own daughter Gabriele Seifert – the girl was supposed to grow into the best athlete in the world. It took ten years: during this time, Gabi did not lose a single national championship, became the best in Europe three times, twice in the world, and from 19th place at the 1964 Olympics rose to the second step of the podium at the 1968 Games. Gabi Seifert was idolized by the Soviet public. Her performance with a headscarf to the music “Cossack” became a real hit of that time. Girls wanted to copy Seifert's hairstyle and her costumes. Women, however, also revered Jutta Müller herself as a style icon. She was always dressed elegantly and not boringly, and wore a mink coat on her shoulders with some kind of regal chic.
Once Elena Tchaikovskaya gave Jutta Müller a fur hat. Müller was not exactly friends at all, but she communicated with many coaches of the Soviet school. Tatyana Tarasova even dedicated a page to her in the book “The Four Seasons.”
“We went on a tour of North America with her (Müller), and I noticed that even after the competition season she keeps her pets very strictly. But at the same time, I see with what adoration they look at her. Maybe It seems to me, but of all her students she loves Katharina Witt most, although, of course, Gabi is closer to her, Gabi is a daughter. But she also shows literally maternal feelings towards Witt. Even in the way Katharina dresses, Muller’s hand and style are visible “.
Olympic champions in ice dancing Lyudmila Pakhomova and Alexander Gorshkov also remembered the German coach. In the book “And Music Sounds Forever” they wrote:
“Jutta Müller's training methodology has its own characteristics, secrets, details that she prefers not to talk about. But the fact that her school works on the strongest foundation, that it is programmed to train masters of the highest class, is no secret.”
Jutta Müller worked in a system that is very reminiscent of modern championship schools. Her students spent many hours on the ice and in the gym, and studied according to a special schedule and practically lived at the skating rink – in a special boarding house at the school. It was a large training center – two skating rinks, a boarding house, its own canteen, stadium, gym, laboratory.
She never had many students of the same age at once, although the turnover of generations was at the level – one person always competed at the competitions. This made it possible to surround him with maximum attention and care. It is paradoxical that these positive qualities in Müller coexisted with the ability to offend or even hit one of her students.
For example, Katarina Witt talked about the slap she received for being hysterical after losing her debut World Championship. She was then 14. The figure skater told her father about what happened, but soon regretted it – the former wrestling champion did not want to tolerate this in relation to his daughter and wanted to take Katarina out of school forever. The incident was hushed up thanks to Katarina herself – having arrived at the skating rink early in the morning to “say goodbye”, she unexpectedly did a three-turn jump and realized that she didn’t want to go anywhere.
According to Witt’s recollections, when she At the age of 12, I found out that I would now train with Muller; at first I was horrified. Because several years before, I saw in the locker room how Müller’s student Anette Pötsch cried every day. It is significant that in 1980 Poetsch became an Olympic champion. Eight years later, Witt will do the same.
Müller made figure skater Günther Zöller a five-time champion of the GDR. He did not achieve great success in the international competition, except perhaps for bronze in Europe and the world in 1971. And in 1972, having arrived at the European Championships in Gothenburg, he suddenly withdrew from the competition and asked for political asylum. Among other things, Zöller told reporters about the “old kikimora” who constantly beat and humiliated him.
Here is what Alexey Mishin recalled about this:
“Zöller was asked in his first interview how he felt in the free world. He replied: “Well, first of all, there are such shops here, everything is so great!” – “Well, what’s the main thing?” – “And the main joy is that I got rid of this old woman Muller, who beat me.”
I must say that I deeply respect her, she is a wonderful coach, but also a person of her time and her country. She could easily smack Gabi Seifert or Sonya Morgenstern in the face.”
Perhaps Müller did not use her heavy hand with all her students. Jan Hoffman, for example, had mostly only good things to say about his training under Frau Müller. They argued, they could lose their temper, they could shout, but it never came to the point of assault. Moreover, Jan sometimes even managed to out-argue his mentor.
Jutta Müller played a fatal role in her own daughter’s coaching career. Gabi Seifert was initially very enthusiastic about working with the younger generation. She had a truly promising student, Anette Pötsch, but due to the strict coaching hierarchy that existed at that time, Anette was transferred to the Müller group. Gabi became disillusioned with her work and gradually resigned from her post.
Müller was both tough and cheerful, ruthless and caring, immersed in her students and busy with her own life. She demanded a lot from them and from herself – she did not allow them to gain weight and was in excellent shape herself.
“You know, if you have fat on your hips, you won’t be able to jump properly. And I constantly supervised the students: I weighed them, forced them to run extra cross-country courses in the forest, monitored their diet. I took them to my home for a while – we ate cooked food together. I have vegetable dishes and everything else that is needed in such cases. I am proud that they all later said: they say, Frau Müller was like a mother to them,” the coach said in an interview with Sport Express in 2007.
Jutta Miller is an exhibition of contradictions and a personality that cannot be assessed unambiguously. To some, she was the dearest person in the world, and to others, she was a “kikimora” and an “old woman.” None of the figure skating coaches in Germany have yet achieved anything close to what she was able to do with her students. Her training methods, normal for the second half of the last century and condemned now, either helped or at least did not prevent several talented athletes from becoming great.
October 3, 2023 Jutta Miller died at the age 94 years old.