EVGENI PLUSHENKO - COVER STORY
"Ice Skating Magazine" 2003
You could say Evgeni Plushenko maintains a hectic schedule but that might be putting it mildly. Rebounding from injuries, the four-time Russian national champion is in the midst of another season of arduous international competitions, Grand Prix and otherwise. The pressure is bound to mount when you're Evgeni, arguably one of the world's most elite male skaters. This is one World champion has long since move passed the title of Russian phenom. Night in and night out, audiences now expect perfection. ISM was set to meet up to Evgeni immediately following his victory at the Crest Whitestrips International Figure Skating Challenge in Auburn Hills, Michigan. A long evening nestled in the middle of a long season, we would've understood if Evgeni came across as less than energetic. Instead we found the 20 year-old skater bursting with excitement and liveliness. We found a young man who seemed completely at ease with himself and the progress he's making this competitive season. It probably shouldn't have come as a surprise really. History has taught us that it takes a lot to deter Evgeni's enthusiasm. Ask any of his competitors. This is the same skater who, after a disastrous 4th place finish at 2000 Worlds, rebounded to not only win the championship the following year, but every major competition he entered that season. It's the same gutsy performer who came back from 4th place after the short to capture the silver medal at the 2002 Olympic Games in Salt Lake City. A few moments with Evgeni and it suddenly becomes abundantly clear - his passion for skating is unwavering.
Ice Skating Magazine: First of all congratulations on your win here this evening.
Evgeni Plushenko: Thank you.
ISM: Did you know how the other skaters skated before you took the ice?
Evgeni: No, I didn't see them.
ISM: Do you normally watch the other skaters before you go out and skate?
Evgeni: Sometimes yes, but not always.
ISM: How do you feel about the American crowds?
Evgeni: They're great! I like it. They're fans - I mean, they like figure skating.
ISM: Are they getting to know you better?
Evgeni: I hope so. I try my best and I think this helped me.
ISM: Why don't you tell us your thoughts on this season so far. Are you happy with your performances so far?
Evgeni: Yes, I'm happy because I won two Grand Prixs, I won this competition, so of course I like it. I'm so happy because I did a new combination, the quad-triple-triple. Nobody landed it before so I think I'm the first on the planet to land it in a competition!
ISM: Can you talk to us about Bofrost Cup and your thoughts on performing at that competition?
Evgeni: Well, I skated good. I did two quads. They were not so clean but that's okay. I had new programs, the short and the free program. For me it's ok, it's not so bad. Right now I feel much better with my injuries. Last year I had big problems with my back, with my groin, and with my knee.
ISM: How did you feel competing against the other competitors there at Bofrost?
Evgeni: We had good competitors now. Very good competitors with the Chinese, the Americans of course, Canadians, Russians - and not just me! So I have to skate at one hundred percent all the time.
ISM: What do you enjoy most about competing in Germany?
Evgeni: I've skated there for about four or five years now so I know and like the atmosphere, the ice rinks, everything's perfect to me. But next year I'd like to chose America and Canada. I want to try skating here (in America).
ISM: Congratulations again on your quad toe-triple toe-triple loop. How long had you been working on it before you used it at Cup of Russia?
Evgeni: I'd been working on it for about three years. It's intresting actually because my coach says to me one day over breakfast, "Can you try a triple-triple-double loop?" I said, "Why not? Of course I can do it." So I tried and I liked it. The next break-fast he says, "Ok, can you do a quad-triple-double loop?" I said, "Well, that actually sounds difficult." But I did it. So we were working on this combination and then about after one year we tried the quad-triple-triple and I landed that. So I thought, I can do it not just in practice but in competition too. So the first time last year was at the Olympic Games, but it wasn't so clean and there was a small deduction. But this year I did it clean.
ISM: Will you be keeping this combination in your programs from now on?
Evgeni: Oh yes, I will keep it.
ISM: What other records would you like to try and set?
Evgeni: Well I've tried a few more quads, the quad lutz and the quad salchow, and those were actually pretty good. So maybe next year we will try it in a competition.
ISM: Can you talk about your short program this tear and how you came to pick the music?
Evgeni: I used some music called "Albinoni", it's classical music and I like it. I discussed with my coach, Mr. Mishin, what I wanted to skate to for the short program. I said, "I want some classical music." He said, "I'll give you something you should listen to." And I listened to it and I liked it because I can use more emotion. I can show the audience a lot of emotion. I just like skating to "Albinoni" for a short program.
ISM: Your free skate music was especially composed and arranged for you by a Russian composer, Igor Korneliuk. How did that happen?
Evgeni: There's this Russian movie that I liked. I've watched it many times, like ten, I don't know, eight times maybe.
ISM: What's the name of it?
Evgeni: Criminal of St. Petersburg. Actually I chose his music. We were at breakfast again, and I said to Mishin, "Alexei, I have some good music. Can we try it?" He said, "Ok. Can I listen to it first?" I said, "Of course!" So we listened to this music and he said, "Well, it's good that nobody knows this music, nobody will understand this music." I said, "I don't care. I want to skate to this music and then everybody will understand this music." Of course we are good friends with this Russian composer, Igor Korneliuk. He's great, very professional, so he composed this music and now we work with him.
ISM: How about the quad lutz? Will you be trying that again in the future?
Evgeni: Well, I want to try it. If I can do it in practice at 100 percent, of course I will try it in a competition.
ISM: How close do you think you are?
Evgeni: I'd say about 70 percent.
ISM: How excited are you that the Grand Prix Final will be held in Russia this year?
Evgeni: Well you know we had the Cup of Russia in Moscow and that's not my hometown but of course it's Russia. It's very difficult for me to skate there because everybody's clapping, everybody's smiling, and everyone is saying, "Evgeni come on! You can do it. You are the best." But I'm like shaking. I'm so nervous. (Laughs) But you know, I've skated many times in St. Petersburg and I like my hometown. But it should be great I think. I want to skate there of course.
ISM: So does it help you to skate in front of your hometown crowd or does it work against you?
Evgeni: I don't know yet actually. (Laughs) We'll see. I hope it'll help.
ISM: What's you goal for Worlds this year?
Evgeni: I just want to skate clean. If I skate good and clean, if I do this new combination, the quad-triple-triple, I think I can win a gold medal again. I don't want to think about medals. I don't want to think about competitors - who'll make it, who won't, who's skating better - I just want to skate clean.
ISM: You made a remark on a recent American broadcast that you might be moving to the United States someday. Is it true?
Evgeni: I want to move, but we're discussing right now with my coach, with my parents, what we need. Because now in Russia I have everything - I have my parents, a car, a house. But of course, I would like to try living here.
ISM: Where would you live if you moved to the United States?
Evgeni: I like warm weather so I like L.A. I'd also like to live in New York and New Jersey, but not too far from New York though because I have many friends there. Maybe Chicago or Florida.
ISM: What sort of things do you enjoy doing in your free time?
Evgeni: I like to play pool. I like soccer too but I can't play right now because I was injured last year. I also like tennis and bowling. I like walking my dog Golden. He's an American bulldog. I like driving my car and just being with my friends.
ISM: How are you feeling? Are you fully recovered from your injury yet?
Evgeni: Now I feel much better. I don't have problems with my injuries.
ISM: Are they still there though? Do you feel them?
Evgeni: Sometimes yes, when I wake up in the morning I feel something. Just a little bit of pain here and there.
ISM: How long have you worked with your coach Alexei Mishin?
Evgeni: Since '94.
ISM: How would you describe your relationship with Mishin?
Evgeni: He's a great guy. He's more than just a coach - he's my friend. I like him. He's perfect.
ISM: Could you ever see yourself coaching someday?
Evgeni: I like to teach the young, little guys and they like it. They look at me and wait for something new - something special. I don't know maybe after ten years, after twenty years I will teach somebody.
ISM: Do the young kids at your rink ever ask you for advice on their jumps?
Evgeni: Yes, sometimes they come in and say, "Can you help me?" or "Look at my jump please?"
ISM: What's it like being a hero to so many young skaters?
Evgeni: I remember when I was young, like fifteen, and I first came to Detroit at Skate America, I competed against Todd Eldredge. I looked at him like he was a god - like he was amazing. But this is a sport and all the time there's young guys pushing the older people. This sport is always changing.
ISM: A few other Russian skaters have complained that the ice conditions are a little rough in Russia. Do you agree with this?
Evgeni: Well, I don't know. I know for myself, we have perfect ice. There's good conditions in the ice rinks too - it's warm, not so cold. I don't know maybe somebody has some ice that's not so good but I've never seen it before.
ISM: We asked your fans to pick there three favorite programs of yours and they were "Once Upon a Time in America", "Bolero" and "Sex Bomb". Can you talk about each of these programs?
Evgeni: Well, with Once Upon a Time in America, I had watched that movie many times. I heard the music and I went to Alexei and said, that's good music. He said, "Of course it's good. It's very famous and that's a very famous movie. Maybe we can do it." I said, "Of course we can do it." So we made up this program and I think it was 200 percent! (laughs) With Bolero also, great music, very famous. We chose that music for the short program. I remember that was a difficult program for me - the steps, everything about the choreography, the strong hand movements - but I did like that program. For Sex Bomb I worked with David Audish on the choreography and he said we can do it like a muscle man. I said, "How do we do that? Look at me. I'm not very strong!" (laughs) He said, "Well we'll do it with a costume" I said, "What kind of costume are we going to use?" (laughs) Of course that was Tom Jones and I like him. I remember the reaction in Canada at the World Championships, where I won, everybody was like, "Unbelievable! It's Evgeni! Wow!" It was the muscles! Nobody understood what was going on. They were like, "What's that?" [Laughs]
ISM: Which of youe performances over the years are you most proud of?
Evgeni: Of course I liked when I skated at 2001 Worlds. I liked my performance at Cup of Russia because I did this combination (quad-triple-triple) for the first time so I was happy with myself.
ISM: Who are some of your favorite skaters to watch?
Evgeni: Well for the men, when I was four or five years old I watched Vicktor Petrenko all the time. He was my favorite male skater. He's also a great person. We are friends. I also like (Kurt) Browning and (Brian) Boitano. They're great of course. For the ladies, I like Michelle Kwan. I like Sasha Cohen also. She's a good skater. For pairs I like Anton (Sikharulidze) and Elena (Berezhnaya). I like the Chinese pair too. I love jumping and they jump so high. And they're also doing the quad throw. Just unbelievable.
ISM: Your coach has said that he's trying to get you to work with as many different styles of music as possible. What is your favorite style of music to skate to?
Evgeni: You know, I don't know. Sometimes I come to practice in the morning and I like rap. In the afternoon, I like classical. I mean, this year I have two programs with classical music. But next year maybe we'll chose something like Michael Jackson for example. I don't know. I like many different types of music not just one.
ISM: So you will be staying eligible until at least the next Olympics?
Evgeni: Yes. I told everyone, "It's not a problem. It's okay. I didn't win this Olympics but I'll try next time. If I don't win, that's life."
ISM: Okay, we have some random questions for you now. What's your favorite movie?
Evgeni: I like Russian movies. I watch a lot of movies actually. I watched Austin Powers: Goldmember when we were on tour. I liked it. (Laughs)
ISM: Who are your favorite actors and actresses?
Evgeni: Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt.
ISM: Do you have any pets? The answer is yes, of course.
Evgeni: Yes, I have a dog and a cat.
ISM: What's the name of your cat?
ISM: Last summer Champions on Ice performed in Las Vegas. Can you give us your impressions of Sin City?
Evgeni: Well that was my first time in Las Vegas. That's a great city. Casinos everywhere, all the shows, the performers, the lights, the hotels. That's an amazing city. I like it.
ISM: Do you get to do a lot of sightseeing when on tour?
Evgeni: Actually we have 92 shows and it last for about four month. So we don't have too much time to look around. But if we have time, like a day off, we go to the show, malls, something like that. This tour we played paintball. We'd run and shoot each other. (Laughs) I liked it! And of course, we played a lot of hockey.
ISM: I heard Mike Collins say that if you get a couple hours here and there you run in and play some hockey in the middle of the night.
ISM: Finally, is it true that you saw a shark in Daytona?
Evgeni: Yes, I was with Ari (Zakarian, Plushenko's agent) Oh my gosh, that was incredible! We went to the ocean and it was great weather, sunny, just perfect. I saw a big wave in the ocean and there were all these fish. Well the fish started jumping, the lifeguard warned us, and I saw the shark right near us. We turned around and started running! We asked the lifeguard and that the day before it had bitten two guys. No more ocean! (Laughs)
ISM: How far were you from the shore?
Evgeni: Oh not too far. About fifteen meters or less. Maybe ten meters. Not so far because we were running! (Laughs) The water was perfect though. Very warm.
ISM: Well thank you very much Evgeni. Is there anything you'd like to say to your fans out there.
Evgeni: Well I'd like to say big hugs, big kisses to all of them. I'd also like to say thank you and you've helped me a lot.
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