Alexei Yagudin: "You always have to find the little competitions for yourself"┬á
He made figure skating history in 2002, when he earned four perfect sixes for his long program at the Olympics. His tears in the kiss and cry will be always remembered as one of the iconic images of the sport. His Olympic short program, Winter has become a classical piece. This is Alexei Yagudin, with whom we talked after his press conference in Bratislava, where he promoted his show.
Your Olympic victory was one of the greatest moments in figure skating. How often do you think about those days in Salt Lake City?
It happened nine years ago, but those memories will be always in my head. But at the same time I don’t live in the past. There are so many bright things in the future and I’m trying to organize my future life and of course it is not figure skating. It’s going to be something else. I’m acting on the stage, I’m involved with TV and movies, I’m looking for something different, not figure skating. This time figure skating is taking 75 per cent of my life and of course memories are still with me. Even if I lost in Bratislava 10 years ago [at the European championship in 2001 against Plushenko], the memories of it are bright.
How is your life filled with shows and touring now different, or maybe better than the previous life of the competitor?
I was always an athlete who always enjoyed competing. There are a few people who are a little bit afraid of competitions, but I always enjoyed adrenaline that comes in my blood. Touring is completely different. When you compete, you are practicing day by day, then you just go somewhere, compete and return home, where you practice, practice, practice again. There is always stability. In the touring life you always see different places, different cities, different people. It is always changing. Physically it is maybe a little bit easier, but emotionally it is way more stressful, because there are completely different people, and every single day you are trying your main ideas just to make them happy. It is not an easy work.
Do you miss competing?
Not at this time, not any more. I did for several years after I finished my eligible career, because I always loved to compete. But still there are little competitions during the show, because there are another single skaters on the tour and we always compete like “Come on, lets play on this jump or on this spin.” Even besides figure skating, just in general life, you always have to find the little competitions for yourself. It is easier then to progress.
Which triples can you still perform?
I’m not going to lie, I’m not able to do all the triples now. Four years ago I had a hip replacement, it was really painful and stressful. For the next year I barely could skate, I was doing the minimum of what I used to be capable of. At this time I do flip, sal and toe, but the other jumps are just really painful. At the show I always decide what I’m going to do at that exact day according to my physical condition. For the people who are coming, it’s not the question if it was a triple sal or a triple loop or a triple lutz. They need the charisma, they need emotions.
Do you already now which numbers will you perform at the show in Bratislava?
I was here ten years ago and since then I have done so many programs. Of course I will choose the best ones for the show.
One of your classical programs is Winter which always has a great success. Do you plan to perform it in Slovakia?
When we travel across Russia, every single year when the tour is over, I always put away my Winter costume saying: I will never take this again, because I’ve been everywhere with this program in the world, there is no other place where I haven’t skated this program. But the next tour Ilia [Averbukh – the producer of the show] brings us new CD, we are in a new town, and I still bring this costume. So maybe I will ask Ilia to let me skate three times here, and then one of the programs is going to be Winter. It’s going to be a good present for the people, to see it live.
Do you still follow the figure skating competitions? What do you think of the future of Russian skating?
It’s definitely not bright. I think it’s going to be really bad in Sochi, but after that I think we will get up. If we take any country, nobody is on the top all the time. Of course it goes up and down. In Russia, we all know that there was a hard time when the Soviet Union was torn into Russian federation. It was the time when we lost our coaches, they left our country. We pay now for those years, and it will take some time to recover. But we will recover, I’m sure.
Do you think it’s real for Evgeni Plushenko to skate in Sochi?
He is going to be 31, it’s my age right now. If I my hip allowed me, if it was possible, I would probably compete, so yeah, why not? But he is not 18 anymore, injuries and health will be the major question. But I believe that he will be there.
There were legends about your rivalry, how you hate each other and don’t speak with each other. What was true about it?
It was always made by the media. We never hated each other. We were not friends, that’s true, but we weren’t enemies. We can talk to each other and we are fine, but we are never going to call each other and ask ‘how are you’.
Was this maybe caused also by your former coach, Alexei Mishin, who always preferred Evgeni to you?
Between those four people – Tarasova, Mishin, Evgeni and me – the main problem was given by Alexei Mishin, not Evgeni.
What was your relationship like with Tatiana Tarasova?
She was my second mother. There are a lot of friends in this world, but there are just a several really close people, like my family, my mother, my wife. Tatiana Tarasova is one of these close people and I would always call her if I need answers on some questions. We do communicate and the words are not enough to thank her for everything what she’s done for me.
A few years ago you also tried coaching, you were even here in Bratislava for a junior Grand Prix [with Andrei Griazev]. Why did you leave coaching?
It’s not that I specially wanted to do that, I just helped Tatiana Tarasova because she asked me. Honestly, coaching is the last thing I would do in my life, because it’s not the easiest thing to do. I want to try something else, some new profession. As for Evgeni, I just think he didn’t find himself in this different world. He knows how to do figure skating. And he knows it really-really well. But he doesn’t know who he is besides figure skating. Me, I’m trying to do something else, definitely not coaching. That would be the last option, if I really don’t know what to do in this life.
Brian Joubert of France is often compared to you. It is known that a few years ago you gave him some advice. Are you still in contact?
In general I don’t follow figure skating, but if I catch Europeans or Worlds on TV, I watch it. Of course I watched the Olympics, because Evgeni was there. As for Brian, I remember that we competed together: Salt Lake City was his first Olympics, which was my last. Now we see each other sometimes in the shows, we talk to each other. Yes, I tried to help him, but the French people are really stubborn and they really do what they think is right. I think this was his mistake. There are a lot of talented people, for example Michal Březina and Tomáš Verner. He is getting older and new people are coming, I really like Florent Amodio and also Samuel Contesti… They are all cool. I’m not searching for the news of figure skating, but I have information, as skating is still 75 per cent of my life! Of course I want to know who won the Worlds or the Olympics.
There is one more new role in your current life: you are now a father of a little girl.
If I try to measure and put the child on one beam of the scale, and the rest of the world on the other one, the child will win. It’s completely new life, different emotions, different responsibilities, huge responsibilities. It’s a completely different interesting life, which I’m really happy about.
Do you want your daughter to skate?
No!!! I don’t want it. It’s not about figure skating, it’s about sports in general. Me and Tatiana [Totmianina – Alexei’s wife] think that the major task for our daughter is studying. Languages, music, but not the sport. If we take any sport, millions of people try to skate or try some other sport, but only a few of them will get on the top and will win the Olympics, for example. I want a different life for my daughter.
How do you see your own future?
I think I’ve found what I’m going to do in the future, it’s acting and TV. That’s what I’m already doing, I act, do shootings and I enjoy it very much. It’s kind of similar to figure skating. In skating you try to create some story on the ice and that’s what you do on the stage or in the movies as well.
Alexei Yagudin will skate in Bratislava on 28th May, tickets to "Starry Ice" can be purchased on:
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