RUSSIAN'S YEAR HAS BEEN GOOD AS GOLD
Evgeni Plushenko deals with the good and bad of stardom with the elusive Olympic title behind him and his first child on the way
By Mike Holtzclaw
Life is good for Evgeni Plushenko these days. So good, in fact, that at times it gets a little difficult.
Like when he tries to walk down the street in his native Russia.
"Sometimes it is so hard to walk on the street that I would like more to be in my car," Plushenko says. "It is unbelievable - crazy, crazy, crazy. People screaming, wanting autographs, wanting to take pictures with me. I like it, but sometimes it is too much."
That's what happens when one of the world's most recognizable athletes turns in the finest performance of his career on the biggest stage imaginable - which Plushenko did in winning the gold medal in figure skating at this year's Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy.
Plushenko, who will skate at the Hampton Coliseum tonight as part of the Champions on Ice tour, did more than just win the last major prize that had eluded him in his skating career. He scored the highest point total in figure-skating history and won by the largest margin in Olympics history.
"I'll tell you the truth: This year is my year," Plushenko says. "I win the Olympic gold - that was my dream. I win the Russian championships, the European championships, the Olympics, all events. Also, my wife - she's pregnant. Our first baby on the way. I tell you, it's my year."
He came into the Olympics as the heavy favorite. Four years earlier, at the Salt Lake City Olympics, he had finished second behind his countryman and rival Alexei Yagudin. Almost from that instant, he was hailed as the heavy favorite to win gold in 2006. In the interim, he won two world championships, three European championships and three Russian national titles.
Even as he battled through injuries, missing last year's world championships while recuperating from surgery to repair a torn groin muscle, the expectations continued to build. But once he hit the ice in Italy, he found his own way to cope with the pressure.
"When I am skating, I just think about my wife and the baby we're going to have," he says. "I was trying to think about something different - not about the figure skating, not about the Olympic Games. A lot of pressure was there, and if you think about something different, it helps."
He is just 23 years old, so as soon as he had won the gold medal, Plushenko was asked if he would be back for the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver to try for the first back-to-back Olympic titles in the sport since Dick Button in 1948 and '52. The most he'll say on that topic is "we'll wait and see," but it is clear that he plans to keep skating.
Though his place is secure as perhaps the most athletic skater in history, Plushenko says he still would like to add to his legacy. He is one of the few skaters strong enough to land quadruple loops and lutzes in practice, and he was the first in the world to land a variety of jumps in competition that include quadruple jumps in combination with triples.
"I think I can do more," he says. "I would like to bring to figure skating a few more quadruples. For example, the quad lutz and the quad salchow, and a few more combinations of jumps. I feel like I still have much more that I can do."
тнрнюкэанл : пегскэрюрш : яяшкйх
тнпсл : цняребюъ