new Alexey Yagudin interview




Translation of an article printed in Russian language
publication Sovsport.ru on February 28, 2008.

The life of Olympic and four time world champion Alexey
Yagugin is full of interesting and sometimes curious
events. For example, the winner of the European and World
Championships was never a National Champion of Russia. In
his autobiography titled "Stopping at Nothing," one of
the most talented figure skaters of our time frankly told
everything (or almost everything) that happened with him
since he started practicing as a figure skater.

How it all started.

I do not remember the very first years of my life when I
was not able to stand on skates. Turns, jumps, slides on
ice were for me as natural as breathing. Even now I often
come to the bridge of Lieutenant Shmidt. My feet bring me
here by themselves. Maybe with age I became sentimental.
To the left of the bridge, near the water, there was a
small church.
In its place a skating rink was built for the great
Belousova and Protopopov. Now the church is restored in
that place.
The parents were not allowed at the rink. They could
watch their children trough a wide gates of the former
church. Up until 12 years of age, I was coached by
Alexander Mayorov. Earlier he was a single skater. I do
not remember when I performed my first jump, but I recall
that by 10 years of age I could jump all double jumps, by
12 - I was jumping triples, and by 13 years of age I
landed my first triple Axel.

I was a naughty boy and was punished a lot. My parents
divorced. On leaving, my father left a collection of
stamps. I tried to continue collecting stamps, but I did
not become a philatelist. Although I developed a habit of
collecting stuff. Seeing that I am performing better than
other pupils in my group, my coach started paying more
attention to me. In the past, Mayorov was a student of
Alexey Mishin, and when he was offered a job in Sweden,
he asked Mishin to take me in his junior group.

About Mishin.

At first I did not connect too much with Mishin. He was
mostly working with advanced skaters, in particular with
Alexey Urmanov, who was supposed to compete in the
GoodWill Games in St. Petersburg in September. At the end
of August, they left and a few days later I had a phone
call from the Federation of Figure Skaters stating that
Mishin wanted me in St. Petersburg immediately. I was
supposed to replace Alexander Abt. I was really
surprised. My sports shape at that time would not allow
me to compete for anything even at the children?s level.
Mishin knew that, but nevertheless he wanted me there.

I came out on the ice as a nod of nerves and performed
the worst program in my life. I was so ashamed that I
wanted to disappear into thin air. I was depressed and
very angry with Mishin. I considered him to be a cause of
my disgrace. I felt like a laughing stock and I knew then
that I will never forgive Mishin for that.

After participating in "Skate America," I won a bronze
medal at the Cup of Nations in Germany and silver at the
Cup of Russia. The gold medals in all of these places
went to Urmanov. Usually the coaches themselves select
the competitions for their students. I was trying to
understand for a long time why Mishin always sent me to
the same competitions as he sent Urmanov. Why would he
not give me a chance to come out of the shadow of my
older comrade? Finally I understood that Mishin wanted me
to lose to Alexey all the time.

The season of 97/98 Urmanov missed because of a trauma
and now Mishin put all of his attention on me.
Unfortunately it did not last long. He started working
with Evgeny Pluschenko, who shortly became his favorite.
Mishin liked the character of Pluschenko. Evgeny, in
difference to me, never contradicted his coach. As
Urmanov, Pluschenko always trusted his coach, never
argued with him and never asked additional questions. If
Mishin would ask him to jump, he would just ask "how
high?"

In the 97/98 season I won the Cup of Finland. Pluschenko
was second. That was how our uncompromised competition
started and culminated in the 2002 Olympic games. At the
World Championship in Milan, I lived in the same hotel
room as Pluschenco. In difference to Urmanov, he never
talked to me.

The whole podium in Milan was taken by the Russians. I
got my first World Gold, Evgeny got silver and Alex Abt
got bronze. After that competition I was told that when
Mishin was congratulated that his two students got the
gold and silver, he was upset that it was me and not
Pluschenco who got the gold. I felt that it was time to
look for another coach. Our relations did not work out
and to continue with him did not make any sense to me.
Mishin himself brought up the subject and we decided that
I would look for another coach. I thanked him for what he
had done for me, promised to pay him his share of
winnings for the season, we shook hands and parted our
ways. I was upset how cold he was with me, but I felt
that it was for the best.


About Tarasova.

I started looking for another coach who could replace
Mishin. I considered some coaches, but they were working
with other
first class skaters and I was concerned that I may create
a conflict. Finally I heard that Ilya Kulik was leaving
Tatiana Tarasova. Known as a "polisher of talents,"
Tatiana Tarsova had a reputation as the "number one"
coach in the world. In the 60s she was skating in pairs
herself and was competing against Mishin, who was the
partner of Tamara Moskvina. When I called Tarasova she
asked me to send her a list of my performances in the
last year and briefly describe how I was preparing for
them. A few days later she told me that she would agree
to coach me.

My financial arrangements with her were the same as I had
with Mishin. I would get a free apartment, meals, skating
sessions, costumes and ice time until I start making
money. It was also expected that by the end of a season I
will pay the coach one third of my earnings. I always
considered myself a jumper and up until I started working
with Tarasova, I did not understand that figure skating
was something bigger that just moving from one element to
another. My performance was supposed to become an
artistic production, where everything was important - the
posture, the skating and the feel of music. Sometimes I
thought that she was overdoing on the artistic values,
but I followed all of her instructions without a word.

But the jumps were my domain - even if she wanted to
change them, I would not give in. The strength of
Tarasova was in her great creative abilities. My strength
was in my jumps. And even if I would change the approach
to the jumps, I would perform the jumps as I was taught
by my two previous coaches.

The night before leaving Italy, Mauricio and his friends
asked me out. For the first time in a month I did not
have to skate the next morning and decided to have a good
time. We had a great time and I came back to the hotel
after midnight. The plane to St. Petersburg was leaving
early in the morning and I had no more then 2 hours for
sleep. I missed the wake up call. An hour later, Tarasova
banged on my door until I woke up. She pushed me in the
shower and started packing my suitcase. She made me take
a cup of tea and called a taxi. When we left the hotel
she told me that from now on I was supposed to be in the
place where I needed to be at all times. And she was not
joking.

Accusations of homosexuality.

Once I was sharing a room in a hotel with Oleg
Ovsannikov. He was older and used to smoke a lot, while I
did not tolerate the smoke. At that time I was friends
with Tara Lipinski, while she was a friend of Rudy
Galindo. Rudy was staying alone in a double room and
suggested that I move in with him. I gladly accepted his
invitation. Rudy, a US Champion, was one of the kindest
men that I knew. He was a great guy and I was very
surprised when a few weeks later the gossip about our
relationship started circulating. I knew that he was gay;
he never concealed his sexual orientation. We set the
boundaries of our relations from the very beginning and
never had problems. When I told Tarasova that I was
staying in the room with Rudy she was terrified and asked
me if I knew what I was doing. She liked Rudy but she had
a better understanding about the environment in which we
lived and she realized how this situation could be turned
against me. I told her that I would move out immediately.
But I realized that she was right when people started
talking behind my back. This situation bothered me a lot.
Rudy did not get upset when I told him that I was moving
out. Up until the end of the tour I shared a room with
Anton Sikharulidze. Unfortunately my move did not help
me. For a few more years I was considered gay. There were
even some correspondents who were investigating my
relationships with other skaters. I was very upset and
wanted to quit sports.

About Olympics.

Tarasova found me after I left the hotel and told me that
if I was tired and wanted to quit sports it was fine, but
she suggested trying for one last time to go to the
Olympics. If it would work out, we would end up with at
least a silver medal. Being a genius coach she realized
that she did not have to push me, but she had to give me
time to work out my problems. She even suggested I see a
shrink. I agreed. Rudolf Zagainov was a well known sports
psychologist. He was working for many years with the
skaters of Stanislav Zhuk, and with chess masters, who
were becoming world champions. My communications with him
turned out to be very pleasant and somehow I told him
about all of my problems. I told him that I lost myself.
We talked about everything. He gave me written
recommendations of how to behave in different situations
and I always had them with me. A few days before the
Olympics, Dr. Zagainov gave me a piece of paper where
there was only one sentence: "Who if not you, and when if
not now?" Up till now I had some of his notes and when I
feel bad, I'd read them. I restarted my practice. My
jumps became more stable. I worked with Zagainov and
every day I felt better and better. In Salt Lake City, I
demanded that Zagainov would be with me at all the
practice sessions, because I could not be with Tarasova
before the competitions - she was very nervous.

The time came when I was called on the ice. At that
moment something happened inside me. I was floating in
the air above reality. I was surprisingly calm and
balanced. In this condition I stared my program,
"Winter." The stands fell silent while I was preparing my
first cascade with a quad jump. I looked back at my left
as to check the distance to the edge and came up against
the sharp glance of Mishin, my former coach. He was
standing at the edge where he knew that I would
definitely see him, and was looking at me with his
piercing eyes. I knew very well this was a tactical move
to get me off balance. I told myself that he would not
succeed this time and made my jump. At the completion of
the program, I jumped in exactly the same corner where he
stood and gave him a wide smile.

After my program, I changed and continued to watch the
competitions on TV. Todd and Elvis did not skate well,
but the others mostly skated OK. Finally Evgeny came out
on the ice and I held my breath. When he fell down, I
jumped and cried out - yes, yes! I knew that this
behavior did not become me, but there was too much riding
on his performance and I could not and did not want to
hide my happiness at getting so close to Olympic gold. At
that moment I knew that I would be a Champion.

When everything was over, I dropped on my knees and
kissed the ice. Than I got up and bowed to the
spectators. A minute later the fact that I became the
Olympic champion finally reached my conscience, and I
started jumping up and down. I turned around and saw that
Tarasova was crying and I rushed to her. I dropped to my
knees in front of her in a sign of my gratitude, my
respect and my love for her. She helped me to reach my
treasured goal, and the gold medal belonged to her as
much as it belonged to me.

About trauma and return to sports.

Haven?t you heard this? I am coming back into the big
sport! I want to participate in the Vancouver Olympics
and win a gold medal! I was surprised when that news
reached me. I did not make any such statements. Yes, now
it seems realistic, but what will happen next?

Today I am an owner of a transportation company in St.
Petersburg. I perform in the "Ice period" show. I am
being pulled back to sports because I did not compete
enough in my time. I would like to have again the sharp
feelings that I had before. There are not enough
competitions or adrenalin rushes, and without that I am
bored. Maybe it is all because I left sport too early at
the age of 23 and not of my free will, but because of a
trauma.

Beginning in 2000, I lived initially with periodic and
later with constant pain in the right hip. No one knows
what torments I lived through. Any physical activity
caused pain. I took handfulls of pain killers; otherwise
I could not finish my performances. In public I tried to
walk straight and not to show my pain, but as soon as I
would get behind the curtains, I would limp badly.

When my doctor and I were getting ready for the
operation, we discussed at length what prosthesis to use.
There were a lot of different options - ceramic, plastic
or metal. Since I decided to stay in sports, the titanium
prosthesis was the best. It is the strongest alloy that
the bone would grow in easily. A titanium joint head on a
rod is inserted in the bone and attached with titanium
screws. The rest of the joint is also made of titanium.

The operation took 4 hours. I came to at 12.30 and by 7
pm I was in the regular hospital room. I had catheters
and dripping intravenous lines attached to me and I was
given a lot of painkillers.

Now I have a special certificate to go through metal
detectors at the airports since I trigger them with my
metallic hip. When I am asked how I will skate after the
operation, I say - "Now I am a Terminator. I will be
back!"
.