Matvei Vetlugin: ”I am a creative, emotional and even eccentric person”



Matvei and coach Tatiana Prokofieva in Kislovodsk


Matvei Vetlugin, 18, is internationally rather unknown as he only got to compete twice at the ISU Junior Grand Prix in 2018 and 2019, finishing 6th and 10th respectively. However, he is an interesting and talented young skater that deserves some attention. We met him together with other skaters of Mishin's and Tatiana Prokofieva's group at the training camp in Kislovodsk.


*Why do we report on Russian skaters and publish interviews with them in spite of the terrible war (which is even not allowed to be called war in Russia) in Ukraine? We believe that these horrible events are not the fault of the Russian people and we feel that the civil society in Russia should be strengthened and not excluded.*


You have been in Alexei Mishin’s group since the past season, correct?

Matvei: Yes, I joined just a year ago at the training camp in Kislovodsk. Going to a new coach and moving to another city was a turning point in my life. Now I have to do everything on my own. I have to be completely responsible for my way of life, training regimen, nutrition, sleep, and so on.

As for training, I think my main achievement is that I came to Alexei Nikolaevitch as a "beaten duck", with a sore foot, and during this time, we were able to build a training process with minimal load on the foot, we found ways to bypass some points. It worked. Now I have much less pain in my right ankle. But my problem is genetic, sooner or later it was supposed to show up, and I worked a lot on all quads - loop, flip, Lutz - and this showed. Next season there will be no international competitions, I will have time to take radical measures – a surgery which will not take long to recover from. Or I could leave everything the way it is, but I have to take care of my leg, not to train at full force, and then there would be no pain.


You moved from Moscow to St. Petersburg, how did you adjust?

Matvei: I like it in St. Petersburg. It's a beautiful city, so many places of interest. They don't call it the "cultural capital" for nothing. At first the main difficulty for me was domestic matters - cleaning, washing, ironing, washing the dishes, cooking... Gradually I got used to it. I learned how to do everything, cook. I buy the food myself - vegetables, meat, poultry... I prepare salads, main courses, soups... Thanks to the move I got a great experience, and that decision affected not only my life as an athlete but also my whole life.


Why did you decide to move to another coach?

Matvei: The decision matured and there came a moment when it was clear: I had taken everything that could be taken from the work with my previous coach. Liudmila Alexeevna Sapronova put me in good hands. She helped me with my transition. She knew it, but continued to work to the very end with me, did not kick me out until I left for the training camp in Kislovodsk. Before that I had to take my final school exams.


Did you contact Mr. Mishin yourself?

Matvei: I did not call myself. I got some help. We were waiting for the right moment, so that we could do everything as logically as possible - finish school, get to the training camp. Mishin thought a week before agreeing. My parents didn’t let me go easily. Like a little bird out of the nest. We discussed it for a long time and we came to the conclusion that Mishin is the best option. I had to make a decision to take such a radical step. Not just to change the coach in Moscow, but to move to another city.



Matvei working with Kirill Aleshin at practice in Kislovodsk


Why did you want to go to Mr. Mishin?

Matvei: I discussed it with my parents for a long time, we decided it was the best option. Moreover, Alexei Nikolaevitch had a very successful "post-Covid” season. Zhenia Semenenko made progress, Misha (Kolyada), who had switched to Mishin from Valentina Mikhailovna Tchebotareva, skated great and showed by his own example that it was possible to reach new heights after changing the training environment after a long time. In addition, in my previous group I had no strong competitors, and Alexei Nikolaevitch has many athletes. But it doesn't affect me much in terms of motivation, because during training I do not look at others, I concentrate on my work. We have a lot of coaches in the team and I get as much attention and energy as the other guys. To a greater extent, there were changes in the construction of the training process itself, the technical approach.


What changes did you make?

Matvei: Last season, my first season with Mishin, was transformational, it was not an easy one. First I had to destroy the existing base of my technique, which did not fit the standards of Alexei Nikolaevitch's group, and only after that begin to build a new foundation. This does not mean that the previous technique was wrong. It was just different.

The restructuring took me the whole first half of the season. And in December, as bad luck, I got ill with Covid. I was recovering for several weeks, it was hard. Then I had decent performances in the Russian Cup Final and the Championship of St. Petersburg from January to March. Comparing the first and the last season, I can already see the improvement in technical elements, jumps. I was going in the right direction.



Matvei and Andrei Lazukin at practice in Kislovodsk


How did you integrate yourself in your new training group?

Matvei: I get along well with all the guys in our group. Sonia (Samodurova), Zhenia (Semenenko), Lisa (Tuktamysheva), Andrei (Lazukin). But we don't have enough time to go out together, everyone has his own plans, and Zhenia has such an insane amount of studying, too! We often discuss medical topics, I was good in anatomy at school. He asks why I didn't go to med school with my brains, but everyone is different. Last year I enrolled in Lesgaft (Sports University). I want to fully devote myself to the training process, and this is the only option that will not complicate my life in terms of studies and sports.


How do you feel about the training camp?

Matvei: The middle mountain height of 1,200 meters is a great place to gradually get into the work. The functionality that we are building up here gives us a big advantage in the season. Thanks to the training in more difficult conditions, at altitude, we have a fairly large reserve. It's also good that the base has a rehabilitation center, and if you have any health problems, you can get medical treatment and recover. In terms of ice training at this training camp, we pay special attention to skating skills and spins. We are trying to take everything apart and adjust the step sequences and spins to the new rules. We do our physical exercises.



Matvei during off ice training in Kislovodsk


You trained for a long time with your previous coach, Ludmila Alexeeva Sapronova.

Matvei: She really cared for me. I trained with her for 14 years, and we went a long way from the very beginning to the level of a master of sports. She taught me a lot, but she often said that I sometimes had a "woe from the mind" during my performance because I was good at the rules. But the truth is, I don't recalculate scores and don't think about what I'll miss if I do something wrong. I just focus on the performance and in case of a mistake I decide how to correct it, where, for example, to add a combination. The knowledge of the nuances of our sport helps me. But recently (and this is a plus) I began to concentrate more on the performance of the elements, because I've learned a clear algorithm for all the moves. Now I trust Alexei Nikolaevitch Mishin and Tatiana Nikolaevna Prokofieva so much, that there are no doubts in my mind, and this "woe from mind" has gone into the background.


So you are interested in judging?

Matvei: I have always wanted to understand how the performances are judged. As a child, after my performance, I would come up to the judges' tables, watch how it was happening, took notes of all the remarks. With the years, this interest has not disappeared, and after my career is over, I plan to become a technical specialist. In Moscow I couldn't take the exam, because the volunteer program is quite complicated, and I didn't have that much time during the season. In St. Petersburg it is easier with that. This year I took the data entry operator exam, I was recently awarded the second category. And I would be insanely happy if as an active athlete I would be allowed to take the exam for technical specialists.

You could say I was born into a sports family. My grandfather, Yuri Pavlovich Kolmakov, is a two-time world biathlon champion. I inherited my love of skiing from him. I like skiing very much, I go to the park in winter. As a kid, I had a toy machine gun with bullets. I drew a target with markers and shot, imagining I was a biathlete.


But you still became a figure skater.

Matvei: I was put into figure skating at the age of 3, when I didn't choose it myself, but I don't regret it. I have been watching biathlon since I was 6 years old and I am constantly interested in this sport, I am a fan. My grandfather, a man far from figure skating, but close to the sport in principle, gives me a lot of different advice. He is a very good and subtle psychologist. After he finished his sporting career, he worked as a coach for some time.

My mother brought me to figure skating. She was a figure skater herself, but she didn't achieve much success, she wanted her children to continue. My elder sister Nastia also skated, she was coached by Svetlana Vladimirovna Panova. Then she joined the children's ice theater in Moscow.


What are your plans for your programs for the new season?

Matvei: We'll keep the short program, which is about Pushkin. I absolutely love the Pushkin character, it's one of my favorite programs. Once I did a program to the music from a rock opera about Mozart. Both of these programs are close in mood, I think that's my style. It took us a very long time to select the music for "Pushkin". At first we wanted the "Masquerade Waltz”. Then we found Shostakovich's Waltz number 2 for the main part. Last season was difficult, I wasn't able to show everything in this program, so there was no point in giving it up. I love Pushkin's poems. In general, I am a creative, emotional and even eccentric person. I want to learn to play the piano or violin. I like listening to music, so every year I have such a huge selection of music for the programs that it's hard for me to decide which one I like best. For the new free program I would like something oriental. I've never done anything like that before. It could be very unconventional.


What happens next, we'll see. It's important for me to enjoy what I do, like judging. Over time, I'll have to make up my mind and find a second interesting job, that would be great.



The Russian version of this interview has been published on the website of the Figure Skating Federation of Russia (in the material about the training center Kislovodsk).




Русскую версию этого интервью можете прочитать на сайте ФФКР (в общем материале о базе Кисловодск)



Matvei during practice in Kislovodsk



All photos by Flade and are not to be copied, reprinted etc. without permission.