ST. PETERSBURG, Russia - "This year it's my year. I win everything," - acknowledged European and World Men's Champion Evgeni Plushenko, of Russia. "Last summer, we had so much practice. We were running, jumping, doing all sorts of off-ice work. We had special preparations and exercises. Something inside me turned on like a fire.
"There were no mistakes this year," he continued. "I just concentrate and look forward to the jumps and to the clean skate. I don't think about medals. Last year, I thank just about medals, how I could skate well and win everything. I thought just gold medal. For this year, I just skated normal."
Well, maybe not totally normal. At the World Championships exhibition, Plushenko, 18, debuted a number to the song "Sex Bomb," sung by Tom Jones. He continued to perform the routine, in which he strips down to gold bikini briefs and a padded body suit simulating enormous muscles, throughout Champions on Ice.
"My coach, Alexei Mishin, and my choreographer, David Audish, came up with this," said Piushenko. "When we started working on this exhibition, I was a little bit nervous, because it's new for me. Mr. Mishin said, "You can do it. You can skate to it."
After mastering the art of strip-tease, including maneuvering tearaway trousers, Plushenko began to find that the over-the-top exhibition bolstered his attitude for competitions.
"It helps me a lot," he said. "When I'm skating on the Champions on Ice tour, I skate for fun. When I have certain competitions now, like Grand Prix, I won't think so much about the competition."
At the conclusion of Champions on Ice, Plushenko took off for a brief vacation and then commenced summer training. He expected that he, Mishin and other St. Petersburg-based skaters would travel to Spain, Holland and the U.S. to find sufficient ice time. While he will do his utmost to prepare, he prefers not to discuss the 2002 Olympic Winter Games.
"Olympic Games is the same competition like the World Championships," Plushenko said. "If I win, if I lose, it's okay. It's life. It's sport."
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