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Has Mishin lost young Plushenko? Loud transfer of spring

Winner of the Russian Grand Prix stage and one of the most talented skaters of the generation, Matvey Vetlugin left coach Alexei Mishin for Evgeniy Rukavitsyn. Read about why Vetlugin’s departure is a loss for Mishin, as well as what he will have to face in the new group.
At first it seemed that the union of Alexei Mishin and Matvey Vetlugin was made in heaven. With certain reservations, of course, but for the Professor, whose coaching career has absorbed everything, but has recently begun, as it was thought then, to slowly decline, the arrival of a sparklingly talented and extremely multifaceted junior in the group is something akin to a gift from above.
Sofia Samodurova was slowly leaving the sport, Elizaveta Tuktamysheva – the eternal guiding star of our figure skating – was “living out” the time allotted to her, the duration of which could not be anticipated, and Evgeniy Semenenko – now the god-emperor of men's singles – at that time was perceived rather as a reliable team player in a second or third role than a monolithic leader.

And here is Vetlugin. The skater, I must say, is absolutely not of the “Misha” formation. Alexey Nikolaevich constantly gravitates towards technique and considers it the cornerstone of figure skating, for the sake of whose development everything else can be sacrificed, while Matvey, at the age of 20, still has not stabilized a single quad. His jumping technique is good, but his overall technical application does not allow him to compete on equal terms with our modern leaders if they perform flawlessly.

At the same time, Matvey has something for which both the audience and, I believe, even Mishin loved him. The word “charisma” sounds too general and non-specific to describe what Vetlugin uses to capture the attention of the audience, but others, unfortunately, have not yet been invented in the Russian language. His ability to draw energy from audience interaction, which he has painstakingly honed year after year, has allowed him to become one of the most artistic young skaters in the country. And his characteristic appearance gave rise to comparisons with the young Evgeni Plushenko – also, by the way, a student of Alexei Nikolaevich.

At the beginning of this season, Matvey seemed to have begun the transition from just a promising skater to a full-fledged star with claims to the title. He won the second stage of the Grand Prix in Omsk, defeating not only Olympic champion Mark Kondratyuk and world junior champion Alexei Erokhov, but also a quadruple sheepskin coat (though only one of two declared). And judging by the way the spectators greeted him in the stands, they really liked Vetlugin in his new status.
True, he has not yet managed to hold the bar. Matvey finished his second Grand Prix in fifth place, the Spartakiad in 10th, and the Russian Championship in 14th. Apparently, a series of failures caused a slight discord in the relationship between the athlete and the coach, which in turn pushed Matvey to an important decision – to go to Evgeny Rukavitsyn.
This transition will have both pros and cons. Vetlugin is obviously a team player, for whom the words “comradeship” and “friendship” are clearly not an empty phrase. It’s worth at least remembering how, at the test skates last fall, he stood up for Pyotr Gumennik, who was forced to abandon his choreographed and practiced free program for Rammstein due to public pressure. While the overwhelming majority of other famous skaters tried to distance themselves from the situation, Matvey found the strength and courage to speak out. In Rukavitsyn’s group, which has existed for many years on the principles of friendship and camaraderie, such a “recruit” will definitely become one of their own.

In addition, Evgeniy Vladimirovich is famous for his individual, in some sense even family, approach to his athletes, as well as his ability to “get people back on their feet” after serious injuries. So, for example, Anna Frolova, who came to him last off-season, survived a series of stress fractures, spent an enchanting season under his leadership and returned to the elite of our figure skating. For Vetlugin, who clearly feels the need for a breath of fresh air, such a coaching background will clearly come in handy.

However, Rukavitsyn’s team also has a very noticeable disadvantage, which his students have been “burning” for many years – lack of stamina. By a strange coincidence, a number of Evgeniy Vladimirovich’s students periodically have difficulty completing their free program to the end. And even despite the fact that the penultimate international success of our men's single skating is associated precisely with his team (Dmitry Aliyev's victory at the European Championships 2020), his athletes often do not achieve their due precisely because of this. Perhaps the most striking example of this is Makar Ignatov – a technical, jumping, remarkably built figure skater, but with a catastrophically low reserve of endurance.
Given Vetlugin’s difficulties with jumping and a general lack of stability, catching this “virus of lack of strength” would be very sad for him development of events. However, if, thanks to the family environment in the group, he can finally find inner peace, this may already be enough for great achievements.

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