Q&A WITH RUSSIAN FIGURE SKATER EVGENI PLUSHENKO
By Mike Holtzclaw
HAMPTON -- A little more than 12 hours earlier, Evgeni Plushenko had been on the ice at the Hampton Coliseum, wowing the near-sellout crowd that had turned out for the Champions on Ice tour stop.
But on Friday morning, the reigning world champion was sitting in his room at the Radisson Hotel, waiting to get on the bus headed to the weekend show in Nashville. Just 20 years old, he already has won two world titles and has established himself as the top male skater in the world.
The Russian skater is fluent in English and eagerly accepted an interview request because he is trying to become more confident when talking to reporters in his second language.
Q: How was the show last night at the Coliseum?
A: Last night was good. The crowd was great. And yesterday we were watching a hockey game at a sports bar - I don't know the name - but we were at this sports bar and a lot of people recognized us. They were saying, 'Wow, you're the figure skaters!' They all wanted to talk to us. This town really loves figure skating.
Q: Are American fans different than fans in Europe or in other parts of the world?
A: Very different. They scream a lot. Europeans love figure skating, too, but they're not as loud. And some places are very different. Japanese people... When I came to Japan the first time, I go out, skate a clean program, and they just sit normal. They like it, but they don't have the emotional reaction. They have emotion... but inside. American people, they make you hear it. And when you skate, you love that. You love when they're loud.
Q: Of the skaters on the tour, who are your favorites to spend time with off the ice?
A: I enjoy all of them. Especially Phillipe Candeloro, Viktor Petrenko, Oleksiy Polishchuk and Michael Weiss. We've played a lot of hockey this year. That's something we do a lot of times, just for fun. We play hockey.
Q: Hockey? Are you any good?
A: No, not a good hockey player. But I like it. I like to play it. I like to play hockey, soccer, tennis - a lot of sports.
Q: Champions on Ice is a long show. After the opening group number, what do you do when it's not your turn to skate?
A: I watch. I watch a lot of the others, how they skate. I watch most of the show almost every night. Of course, I do warmups before it's my turn to skate. When I'm not watching the other skaters, I play pingpong.
Q: Pingpong? Another sport you're good at! Who do you play with?
A: I play with anyone I can find. It's something fun to do.
Q: Who are your favorite skaters to watch?
A: Viktor Petrenko, of course. I saw him skate the first time when I was 4. Of course, I like to watch Michelle Kwan, Sasha Cohen, Elvis (Stojko).
Q: Viktor Petrenko was like an idol to you. What has it been like meeting him, getting to know him?
A: I met him for the first time when I was 15, and of course it was amazing. I was just starting to skate with these guys on the tour - Viktor and Elvis, people who I grew up watching. When I met Viktor Petrenko, it was unbelievable. I spent a lot of time talking to him, asking a lot of questions. He was very nice to answer all of my questions. We've become good friends.
Q: I have a 5-year-old son who is very into trophies right now, and any time I interview a champion athlete, he wants me to find out where they keep their trophies. So where do you keep your skating medals, particularly those two golds from the World Championships?
A: I keep them at home in St. Petersburg. I have a big stuffed elephant at home, and every time I win a medal I take it home and I put it around the elephant's neck. The elephant keeps all of my medals for me.
Q: You just won your second world championship, and since taking silver at the Salt Lake City Olympics, you had a great season and pretty much established yourself as the best male skater in the world right now. How much longer do you want to skate competitively?
A: Of course, I want to skate two more Olympic Games. If I feel healthy, if I don't have problems, I would like to skate in competitions for eight more years.
Q: Why? A lot of top skaters are happy to retire from competition and just skate professionally in shows. Why is the competition important to you?
A: I like to compete. When I'm on tour, when I'm on Champions on Ice, not competition, I also compete. I compete with myself. I talk to myself each night. I say to myself, 'Should I do a triple axel or should I try a quad jump in my show program?' It's still competition, even in the show.
Q: As competitive as you are, is it difficult at all to go on tour and be friendly with these guys? These are the same skaters who are your rivals during competition.
A: It's friendly, of course. It's friendly here on Champions on Ice. I like to be here. I think of these people as friends. It's not hard. I compete with people on the ice, not in my life. I never compete in my life with somebody else. Just on the ice.
тнрнюкэанл : пегскэрюрш : яяшкйх
тнпсл : цняребюъ