"Trud" March 13, 2008
By Irina Antonova

Professor, Honored Coach of Russia who nurtured the most famous Russian skaters, Alexei Mishin. He dedicated 15 years of his life to Evgeni Plushenko. Mishin jokes, saying he was spending more time with Zhenya then with his own son, and he is the subject of Alexei Mishin's exclusive interview with "Trud-7" correspondent Irina Antonova.

- You recently complained a little that Plushenko doesn't train that seriously.

- Yes, but I have to make it clear - Zhenya is preparing to perform the next season, and his practices now are more of a try-outs. We are trying to find out what's most important for him, where he is behind, and what's still good. Don't forget his practices are combined with his other activities as a TV host, a showman, and a council member.

- As a coach, do you support Plushenko the council member and the showman?

- Imagine your life is a river, and there are many different ways to swim it. Of course you have to try everything. After the Olympics, Zhenya became in demand. At times, our work and life was built like "I'm the boss, you are listening". Then, there were moments when I listened to him but I still was completely managing him, no arguments at all. Many coaches become the athletes' "owners". I'm just a coach.

- Where do you stand in Zhenya's life?

- At one point in life, especially when he father lived in Volgograd, I was an older friend for him or even a father who would help any minute. He is a grown man now. He still asks for my advice, but I will never tell him, "You shouldn't be a council member, you shouldn't perform in shows, it's not your thing". Zhenya has very interesting vision. The first issues he took up as a council member were pensions and sports schools. As a person from a world of sports, I think he is absolutely right about the schools - there are not enough of them now. This is a future for our children: it's health, not drugs, beer, or vodka.

- Alexei Nikolaevich, who are you coaching now?

- Saying "I", I also mean my wife Tatiana. She is also an Honored figure skating coach, and former National Ladies champion. We are working on the "Sochi-2014" project together. We have a large group of 10 to 12-year-old children.

- Do you think Zhenya will participate in Sochi 2014?

- My rule is I can only be responsible for my words. The way I understand Zhenya's form today is that there is still a plan to perform.

- Still, Zhenya can't start training seriously even if he wants to.

- Now it's not the time for tense practicing. This time will start in the summer. He can't decline the shows. Who'll pay him them? I often get the calls from the journalists, entrepreneurs, businessmen who just invite him saying, "Let Zhenya Plushenko come, walk around, talk to people, and he'll get paid." Zhenya has a big family and he has to keep feeding them. We are starting to prepare now, meaning there'll be expenses for the choreographer and the costumes.

- Do you sign contracts with your skaters?

- I never signed a contract with Lesha Urmanov, or Lesha Yagudin, or Zhenya Plushenko or any of my skaters who were really well-to-do financially. And none of them every cheated me out of one ruble. Personal issues, like who to be friends with, who to kiss, who to hug, are not the ones for the coach. If a coach tries to influence that too, he can become an enemy for his athletes.

- However, you were against Zhenya getting married...

- I wasn't welcoming to Zhenya's plan to marry. I was driving once and got a call from Zhenya. He asked me if I was sitting down or standing up. I said I was driving. Zhenya asked me to stop, promising to say something important. When I stopped, he told me he was getting married. You see, sometimes you have to give in to the fate and come up with something when life puts you into a situation. We had to find a compromise. I can't say I had a warm relationship with his wife, but we weren't enemies.

- Did she affect him professionally?

- You see, I never met an athlete who benefited from getting married before the competition.

- How was Zhenya when he was going through puberty?

- For boys, it's is difficult in two aspects: physiology and psychology. The first aspect of Zhenya's growing up wasn't that painful. When he started growing, he was clearly getting uncoordinated, but I have to say that my boys are mostly getting through that time normally. As for the psychology, I have to say that his mom was a construction worker, and his dad was a carpenter. It was very difficult living as two families: his mom was here, his dad was in another town. They were living very modestly, renting some corner. Zhenya's growing up happened at the same time he got the prize money: a thousand, two, ten thousand dollars.

- What was his reaction to his first money?

- It was very interesting. First he was buying gold for himself - rings, necklaces, bracelets. Then he was getting them for his mom, sister, and dad, he was giving me gifts, he was buying sneakers for his friends who were on the team. He was trying to find a place for these money. At that moment, he was happy not with the money, he was happy he could do something for himself, his family, and friends. There were some difficulties but they were over very soon. Zhenya was trying to be an adult very early. When he was very little, he would come up to the girls from a group who practiced next to us and say "let's go kiss". When he grew, he always picked one girl and tried to take care of her, and provide for her financially first of all. By the way, ever since he was a child, he wanted to get married and he saw a possible wife in every girlfriend he had.

- Is he that serious about everything?

- Yes, if it's an apartment, it has to be the best. If it's program, it has to be wonderful. Again, he was always thinking about a family and a child. His views and philosophy were always ten years ahead of his real age.

- What is that with him and Yagudin, competitiveness, rivalry?

- In that rivalry, Zhenya and Lesha found the strength to move forward. There are different people who don't make it if they don't feel they are leaders.

- Did you create that environment on purpose?

- No, it just happened. I had a group of skaters who could compete with the best men in the World. At first, Zhenya just skated in the group. He was third, then he became second, first, and then the only one. I just worked with him. You know, working with Zhenya now is big responsibility. It's important to give only right advice to a skater who is on that level, and God forbid you make a mistake. By the way, he believes in his strength and talent so much that even when he was depressed, it were just rare moments. I always said if you don't feel you are the champion, you'll never be one. He knows he is the champion.

- Is 25 years old a lot for skating?

- Pretty much.

- How much longer will Zhenya skate?

- Zhenya is 26, he is not old yet. I think he can work for another five years. It's all depends on the lifestyle. I saw athletes becoming the drunks...

- Zhenya doesn't drink.

- He does just a little, but he gave a word not to drink when he was training for the Olympics, and he kept it.

- Is it a complicated diet with many different no's?

- Of course. You can't eat too much, drink too much, be lazy, sleep too much. You have to move a lot, meaning you grit your teeth and go forward.

Brief Bio:

Alexei Mishin, born March 8th 1941. Graduated from Leningrad ElectroTechnical Institute. He became an Honor Master of Sports in 1969. he is a member of RFSF Coaching Council. Alexei Mishin trained several famous skaters, including Alexei Urmanov, Alexei Yagudin, and Evgeni Plushenko. He is married to Tatiana Mishina-Oleneva, one of his first students, 1973 USSR Ladies champion. Tatiana is Honored coach of Russia. They have two sons: Andrei, 31 and Nikolai, 25. Both of them play tennis,

Evgeni Plushenko, born November 3, 1982. When he was 11, his coach Mikhail Makoveev brought Zhenya to St. Petersburg to Alexei Mishin. Evgeni Plushenko is seven time Russian National champion, six-times European champion and two-time European silver medalist, three time World champion, World silver medalist, ISU Grand Prix champion and silver medalist, Olympic silver medalist in Salt Lake City, Olympic champion in Torino.

Translated by Trinity



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