Alexei Yagudin: Onine Interview
Alexei Yagudin is an Olympic gold medalist, four-time World Champion and three-time European Champion. At this year’s Olympic Games Yagudin received scores of all 5.9s in addition to four perfect 6.0s for artistry. No other man in Olympic history has ever earned more than one perfect mark. He is the first man in the history of the sport to claim the triple crown of figure skating by winning the European, Grand Prix and World titles, all in one season and the only skater who won all of the major competitions in one season: Grand Prix, Europeans, Worlds and the Olympics. Alexei is also the only male amateur skater to win the World Professional Championships. At the recent World Championships in Nagano he changed the history of sport again when for the first time a skater received six perfect 6.0s for the short program including first ever perfect mark for required elements. ABC nominated Alexei for the 1999 Wide World of Sports Athlete of the Year Award. He was the only figure skater on the list, which includes among others, Andre Agassi, Tiger Woods and Serena Williams.
Alexei began skating at the age of four, encouraged by his mother, Zoya. Alexei’s natural talent was clear from the start. In 1994, he began competing internationally, finishing 4th at the Jr. World Championships. In 1996, Alexei won the World Junior Championships.
Alexei joined forces with the legendary coach and choreographer, Tatiana Tarasova, in the summer of 1998 Under Tarasova’s tutelage, Alexei has flourished competitively. At the age of 18, he became the first Russian man to win a World Championship and the second youngest World Champion in history. He dominated the 1998-1999 competitive season, by winning 9 of 11 competitions in which he participated, including the Worlds, European Championships and the World Pro. He always finds time to perform in various exhibitions throughout the United States, Canada and Europe.
The 2000-2001 season was a challenging and exciting one for Alexei. In the spring of 2001, he toured Canada with the Skate the Nation tour in Canada, as well as Scott Hamilton’s farewell tour with Chrysler Stars on Ice. This remarkable three-time World Champion captured the hearts and admiration of skating fans around the world at the 2001 World Figure Skating Championship in Vancouver. An injury hindered Alexei’s ability to perform at his peak, but it could not impede his determination and pride.
Alexei currently trains in Newington, CT at the Connecticut Skating Center. He completed his high school education in Russia with honors, ranked second in his class. His interests off the ice include playing soccer, tennis and golf and taking care of his American cocker spaniel, Lawrence (named after his favorite long program, Lawrence of Arabia). He is fluent in English and enjoys spending time in front of his computer, communicating with his friends and fans.
Kimberly from NY: Which was more difficult: 1) waiting to skate between the short and long, 2) waiting for your turn to skate in the long during the skate order, or 3) waiting for your marks after you had skated?
Alexei: It is the most difficult for me to wait before skating my programs. I’m always pretty nervous, but I also get very excited to get out there and perform. When I finish skating I usually have a good sense of how I’ve performed, so it is less difficult waiting for my marks. I just strive to skate a good, clean program, and I am probably the strictest judge of that.
Nádia from Portugal: How did it feel to stand in the middle of the rink with the whole audience on their feet after your LP?
Alexei: It was the most incredible feeling in the world. It is such a thrill standing in front of a global audience and knowing that I’ve brought some joy into their lives.
Heini: During your life and your skating career have you ever felt that you just can’t take it anymore, that you wanted to give up? If so, how did you deal with it?
Alexei: My 2000/2001 season was extremely difficult. I was training harder than I ever had before, but I wasn’t skating as well as I knew I could. With the help of my coaches and my family I modified my training routine and started to skate well again. The whole time I just kept thinking about all the support that I receive from my fans and everyone else around me- I knew that I couldn’t give up. That support has been a key factor in getting me to where I am today.
Zeynep: Are you entertaining possible thoughts to compete at the 2006 Olympics?
Alexei: I love to compete and I love to perform. I do not know exactly what the future has in store for me. I just know that I intend to skate for a long, long time.
Sara: You cried after knowing you had won the Olympics. Do you think that your victory is somehow an answer to those who questioned if you where a valuable skater and had doubts about your abilities to beat other potential candidates to the gold medal?
Alexei: I have always known that I could win Olympic gold. It was the best feeling in the world to know that I had gotten the skating recognition that I know I deserved.
Anonymous Fan: With so much attention on the quad lutz will you try to land one too?
Alexei: I don’t know right now if I will start to include a quad lutz in my programs. I am constantly trying new things and adding to my programs. With or without a quad lutz, I strive to make my programs as strong as possible.
Sandy A.: What is the one thing not related to skating you would most like to do and the one city or place you would like to see that you haven’t yet?
Alexei: I have always wanted to travel to South Africa and go on a safari. The next time I get a long enough break I would LOVE to go!
Anonymous Fan: Will you ever bring back your Gladiator program?
Alexei: I skated my Gladiator program in the qualifying round at the Worlds in Nagano. I don’t know if I will ever revive it. I have a feeling that I need to go forward instead of sticking with my old programs.
Anonymous Fan: Who designs your competition outfits?
Alexei: It is team work. My coach, myself and a very talented Russian costume designer named Natella Andulayeva design all of my costumes.
Anne S.: Were you concerned that if Plushenko and you skated a perfect program, that the judges would give it to Plushenko?
Alexei: I didn’t think about that at all. I just wanted to skate my best, and I think I did.
Jim H.: Now that you have secured your place as one of the best skaters in figure skating history, will you stay in CT? Have you give any thought to doing a movie in the future?
Alexei: As of right now I do not have any intention of leaving Connecticut. I love being near my coaches and my friends. I haven’t given much thought to doing anything other than skating, but anything is possible in the future.
Maria F.: What did you do to celebrate your Olympic win?
Alexei: The night after I won the gold medal I went out to dinner with my coaches and a few close friends to celebrate. I enjoy low-key celebrations with those closest to me.
Annette: What specific disciplines do you study to develop your artistry, expression and musicality (i.e. ballet, acting class), and approximately how many times per week do you practice these disciplines?
Alexei: I have taken a few acting classes, but mostly my coaches and I just work a lot on my expression during practice.
Megan L.: Thank you for sharing your Olympic dream with me, it was truly magical. What do you feel is the key ingredient to becoming an Olympic champion?
Alexei: First, I have always loved to skate, and I have always known that I had the ability to be the best. But the true key to my success has been the support of my coaches, friends and family. Without them I could not have achieved such great results!
Sarah C: How much input do you have in the choreography of your programs?
Alexei: Tatiana and I work together on the choreography of my programs. She is extremely talented and she lets me have a great deal of input. We truly have a wonderful partnership.
Sarah from UK: You have traveled around the world for competitions. Of all the places you have visited which did you like best, and have you any plans to perform in the UK?
Alexei: I was invited to skate in England in the end of July at the show for Queen Elizabeth II to celebrate her 50th anniversary on the British throne. If I can include it in my schedule I will be happy to come to England.
Renate: What are your short-term and long-terms goals for skating at this time?
Alexei: I simply want to keep skating the best that I can. As always, I want to continue bringing joy into peoples’ lives. These are my ultimate goals.
Saroise: What is the atmosphere like just before competition between skaters? Are friendships strained or tense?
Alexei: Before competitions we are all extremely nervous, but that doesn’t affect our personal relationships. We are all just trying to skate the best that we can.
Erin Currie: What is the toughest part about competing for you?
Alexei: The schedule is very demanding, and sometimes that can feel overwhelming. I still love it, though.
Lynn: Who was the first person that you thought of after you completed the long program?
Alexei: I thought about my mother and my grandmother.
Julie: If you weren’t a skater, what do you think your career would have involved?
Alexei: If I wasn’t skating, I think that I would be involved in some other sort of entertainment. I think that making people smile and bringing joy into their lives by entertaining them is the most incredible feeling in the world.
Hope: You have made an amazing recovery after Goodwill Games. Do you feel that you are your peak?
Alexei: Right now I am skating the best I ever have in my life. I don’t like to think of this as my peak, because that means that I can’t go any higher, but I do think I am performing very well right now.
Anonymous Fan: At what age did you first realize that you could become a world-class figure skater?
Alexei: Ever since I began competing I have believed that I could be the best in the world. I always got a great deal of support from my family and my coaches, which really made me realize that I could do it!
Kelly: Where do you hope to see yourself one year from now?
Alexei: I see myself skating for a very long time. In a year I hope that I am still skating very well, and I hope that people are still enjoying my performances as much as they are now.
Kelly from Vancouver BC: Have you ever been personally worried of being a victim of unfair or corrupt judging?
Alexei: I understand that the judging in this sport is not perfect. It is not something that I constantly worry about. I just try to skate the best that I can in every single competition, and I hope that the judges will give me the marks that I deserve.
Eleanor from Canada: Are there any times where you feel that you should have picked another sport? If so, what sport would that be?
Alexei: I fell in love with skating the very first time I got on the ice. I wouldn’t give it up for anything else in the world!
Anonymous Fan: Who is the person you most admire and why?
Alexei: I most admire my mother. She has had a very difficult life, but she has always been there for me. I owe everything to her.
A fan from Scotland: Where do you see yourself in ten years in terms of the skating scene?
Alexei: I intend to be involved in skating for a long, long time to come. I will continue to compete and perform for as long as I can, and then I think I would like to coach others and help them to try to live their dreams like I have.
Cyrielle: If you get some time off after the 2002 Worlds, do you think you’ll stay in America, or will you go back to Russia?
Alexei: I am planning on touring around the US and Canada for a while with Skate the Nation, Stars on Ice and Champions on Ice. After that I would like to spend some time with my family in Russia.
Uli: What keeps you motivated after winning all those competitions?
Alexei: I really love making my fans happy. As long as they enjoy my performances, I will never feel bored or unmotivated.
Shari: Can you tell us a little bit about your “Overcome” exhibition program? Who discovered the music for it? What does it mean to you? Did you help to choreograph it? It’s a beautiful program — one of my all-time favorites!
Alexei: Tatiana Tarasova and Nikolai Morozov choreographed this program. I agree with you- it is an absolutely beautiful program!
Charles from UK: I imagine taking a fall during a jump can be very painful. How do you manage to continue after such an event?
Alexei: During a performance I feel propelled by adrenaline. It’s strange, but I really don’t feel the pain until I have finished my program and stopped skating.
Canadian Fan: We love you in Canada! Do you find North American skating fans more appreciating and knowledgeable about the sport than European fans?
Alexei: To be perfectly honest, I love all of my audience around the world. North American fans are really wonderful, as are all of my other fans around the globe! I really enjoyed my recent experience in Japan. The audience was great!
Marian from CT: Who choreographed “Winter” and how did you work with the choreographer to make it your own?
Alexei: Tatiana and Nikolai choreographed the program. We all work very well together coming up with programs that really fit my personality.
Jam: Your change is diet and nutrition has been mentioned several times throughout the season. What is your new diet like? Do you feel better?
Alexei: I am eating more now than I was eating last season. I just try to eat healthy foods and avoid the things that seem to take away my energy.
Anonymous Fan: Can you explain why your countrymen favor Plushenko when your footwork and presentation is far superior to his?
Alexei: I really can’t explain that. I don’t think about that. It is up to the judges and audience to decide who is better.
Sharon: With so much emphasis on quads and triple/triple combos, do you think we are losing the artistry a little? Where do you think the sport of figure skating should go from here?
Alexei: It is very important to find a proper mix between jumps and artistry. Our sport is called “figure skating” and not “jumps on ice.” It is up to each individual skater to determine how his or her program will come together with the right combination of the two.
Gabriella: What do you love mostly about figure skating?
Alexei: I feel free and powerful when I skate. I love being able to perform and express myself in front of fans. I think it makes them happy and that is a tremendous thrill!
Mrs. Lobanova from PA: How are you managing to stay grounded with all the excitement and attention you’re experiencing?
Alexei: I very busy right now. I don’t really have the time to give into the excitement surrounding my achievements. I am very happy, though. Right now I am starting to tour with the Skate the Nation tour, which I am really enjoying!
Anonymous Fan: Now that you have finally realized your dream of becoming Olympic Champion, describe how you feel. Was the experience every thing you expected?
Alexei: It really has been an incredible experience! I always believed that I could win Olympic gold. Knowing that the judges and my fans around the world agree with my sentiments makes me so happy!
Anonymous Fan: Now that you’ve captured Olympic Gold, will you plan to make a trip to Russia to celebrate with your family?
Alexei: As much as I would love to spend a great deal of time with my family, my schedule will only allow me to be in Russia for the second part of August.
Sue: I think you would be the person to bring Stars on Ice out of its doldrums. Have you been approached to join the cast permanently?
Alexei: My agent was approached by the show’s producers. I do not yet know what is going to happen.
Anita: On ice, your emotional range and intensity is astonishing; the fusion of yourself, the character and the performance is seamless. Could you describe what you are “tapping into” – focusing on and building from – to create such haunting beauty?
Alexei: I try to really throw myself into the role that I am trying to portray. I always choose characters that I love and I feel connected to. That makes it easy really show emotion in my performances.
Paula from KY: Would you ever consider skating for the United States while pursuing your U.S. citizenship?
Alexei: While I love living in the United States, I am Russian and I am very proud of being able to represent my country and my people.
Rgirl: Your coach, Tatiana Tarasova, has now coached back-to-back Olympic men’s champions, both from Russia, each arguably the best skater of his time. What do you feel is the secret to Tarasova’s success? What does she do as a coach that, as you said, “opened your soul”?
Alexei: Tatiana has really made me believe in my skating. She and I have become great partners. We strive to create programs that really reveal my personality, and that allow me to get emotional. It feels like much more than skating- I feel free and perfect on the ice!
Bettina: You have thrilled us with so many wonderful long and short programs these past years. Which piece of music in the long and/or short program is your favorite and why?
Alexei: I love all of my programs, especially Lawrence of Arabia, Gladiator and Winter. Each has meant something special to me during each phase of my life. I am just so happy that you have enjoyed my programs!!! — Alexei Yagudin