Footnotes are mine - I find it hard to keep quite when Piseev is talking...
Valentin Piseev: You’ll see a different Plushenko in Vancouver
May 22, 2009, 9:23 PM
Russian figure skating federation president Valentin Piseev was a guest of “Soviet Sport”. He talked about how the team will prepare for the Vancouver Olympics, about the medal plan for the 2010 Games, and about much more. More importantly, Piseev, for the first time in a while, was optimistic about Evgeny Plushenko’s participation in the Olympics.
On Wednesday, Plushenko came to Moscow for one day to pass the medical exam mandatory for all team members at the Medical and Rehabilitation center on Ivankovskoe highway. Afterwards, Evgeny met with Piseev to discuss his plan for the preparation for Vancouver with the federation president.
Too early for quads
Last year we also made a plan, discussed it, and approved it,” recounts Piseev. “It was good for a couple of months, but then Zhenya changed his mind to skate in a show and to take part in the “Stars on Ice” on RTR TV. I was therefore skeptical when earlier this season Plushenko again decided to come back. Only after seeing him practice in Saint Petersburg after the World championships, I started changing my opinion. I saw how Zhenya took the ice – he was 100% ready following a decent warm-up and a consultation with the choreographer. Zhenya did a few triple axels as well as other triple jumps. He even tried a quad, but it didn’t come out clean. I then told Plushenko’s coach Alexei Mishin that he shouldn’t force the preparation too much. After all, Zhenya still has some extra weight, and quads are still difficult for him.
How much extra weight does Evgeny have?
At the time, it was 5 or 6 kilos, but it’s less now. So, I also talked to Tamara Moskvina and Igor Moskvin at the time, and they see Plushenko on ice regularly. Igor Borisovich was always skeptical about Evgeny’s comeback, but even he said he didn’t expect Plushenko to take practices so seriously. Tamara Nikolaevna agreed with him.
Most important, Zhenya himself realized he can still be the best. He believed in his abilities, looked at the World championships, saw those he’d be competing against, and drew some conclusions. Is he really inferior to Lysacek who became World champion in Los Angeles? Of course not! The American skated his programs cleanly and with good speed, but he’s not an outstanding skater. In Turin where Plushenko won he wouldn’t have even made top five.
By the way, Zhenya’s agent Ari Zakaryan was also at Worlds. He was also weighing our Olympic champion’s chances in a fight with the current competitors, and he also believes Evgeny has every chance to win.
Programs will be ready by August
How did the medical exam go on Wednesday, and what did you discuss with Plushenko?
Zhenya didn’t exhibit any serious health problems. His injured knee is in order. Both the skater and the doctor who examined him attested to this. Plushenko got some recommendations on which muscles he should work on to eliminate the difference between the performance of the left and the right legs.
We, meanwhile, discussed Zhenya’s plan for the Vancouver preparation, and he talked of his programs. He already has some ideas about both the short and the free programs; there are still some issues with music choices, but they should be settled soon.
In the course of our conversation, Zhenya said something quite wise – if he goes out now the same way he did three years ago, it would just be a repeat. He doesn’t want a repetition. In Vancouver, you’ll see a different Plushenko not only in terms of elements and costumes, but in terms of the very programs.
Personally, I’m sure Zhenya would win again with his Turin program. But Plushenko is a phenomenon in figure skating, and that obliges him. He must be original.
When will we see Evgeny’s new programs?
We agreed that Zhenya will do three or four shows in August.
So, Plushenko will continue to skate in shows?!
No more than three or four. That’s our agreement with Evgeny, his agent, and Mishin. He’ll show his new short program and parts of the free at those shows. Around the 20th of August, we’ll hold test skates in Novogorsk, and there Zhenya will show his programs to judges and specialists. They’ll give Plushenko feedback regarding element levels, components, etc.
There won’t be any honeymoon
What competitions will Evgeny take part in?
To begin with, he’ll do two or three Russian events, perhaps in Samara and Saint Petersburg. He’ll likely also compete at Finlandia. It’s now important for Zhenya to feel the competitive air around him. We’ve announced Plushenko for the Russian Grand Prix even in Moscow in October. In early December, Zhenya will do Panin Memorial in Peter. Then, there will be Russian Nationals and Europeans.
Valentine Nikolayevich, did you ask the Olympic champion about his motives for the comeback?
I did. He needs the adrenaline. He misses the competitions, the stress, and the victories.
Everybody wants to know what the price is of Plushenko’s comeback. If I recall, he said he’d only come back if he was fully reimbursed for the losses from missing shows.
He did not make any extra demands of the federation. We just pay for the costumes and the coach, nothing else. As far as I know, Yana Rudkovskaya found a sponsor for Zhenya’s preparation for the Olympics. Also, Olympic gold now brings good price money – a hundred thousand Euros and a car. That’s something to work for.
By the way, wasn’t Rudkovskaya against Evgeny’s comeback?
On the opposite, she really wants Zhenya to take part in the Olympics.
What about the wedding that was, I think, scheduled for August.
As far as I know, that’s still on. But there won’t be any honeymoon – Zhenya will go back to practicing almost immediately.
Shabalin bought a bike
It’s good we have prospects in man skating. What about other disciplines?
Obviously, we must fight for the ice dancing gold in Vancouver. It’s great that Domnina and Shabalin are now world champions. Los Angeles competition was a deciding moment for them – had they been unsuccessful there, it would have been very difficult for them to gain their reputation back in the judges’ eyes.
Did you support their switch to Linichuk?
I did. Natalya Linichuk had long kept an eye on them. When she started training them, she said she’d never dealt with anyone that talented. She said if only Oksana and Maxim trained with her earlier and Shabalin wouldn’t have had all those injuries, they’d have no equals now.
Why did Khokhlova and Novitski perform poorly in Los Angeles?
Yana and Sergei were in great shape at Europeans. Those sere the best skates of their lives. They peaked in Helsinki. That’s understandable – they wanted to win an important title, and they did. They were the best at Europeans, but then overdid the training. Also, the psychological atmosphere at the Los Angeles championship played against them. Many are looking for the underground reef to explain how one of our teams came first, whereas the other one was just sixth, but I assure you there was no “politics” involved.
So, we don’t have a first and a second team, both are equals…
Yes, we have two teams that are both capable of aspiring to the very top, so they are equal. Also, the coaches of Khokhlova and Novitski should draw conclusions to guide their athletes next season the peak at Olympics.
Finishing up with ice dancing how’s Maxim Shabalin’s health?
Maxim is still going through rehab in Germany. We’ve learned from past mistakes, and decided to take it easy this time. Let him heal completely, and then he and Oksana can start practicing. I know that Maxim, following his doctors’ advice, bought a bike and is strengthening the muscles and ligaments riding around.
What is Oksana doing?
She trained alone in Odintsevo for a week, and now went on vacation with Roman Kostomarov. She’ll be back in a week, and she and Maxim will go to America to get ready for the season in another week or so.
We can’t give Trankov a detention!
What can we expect in Vancouver in terms of pair skating?
We’ll fight for a medal. We’ve seen great progress from Kavaguti and Smirnov. Tamara Moskvina is preparing them very well. Sure, they still don’t always succeed with the quad salchow, but they do it consistently at practices. Most importantly, their popularity and reputation is growing, not least among the judges. They’ve always gotten high marks for elements, but they used to get a low second mark. That’s no longer the case. We’ve discussed it with Moskvina, and she’s sure they’ll be able to fight for a medal at the Olympics.
It won’t be easy to pass Savchenko and Szolkowy.
Yes, they have a lot of experience. They’ve won a lot. But we’ll see how they fare at the Olympics. It’s not the Worlds; if the Germans falter, which has been known to happen, the fight for the “gold” will become intense.
Our second team Mukhortova-Trankov has passed the Germans in the short many times.
That’s correct. They did it when Germans made errors. However, their duo, or rather their trio – Maria, Maxim, and their coach Oleg Vasiliev – must get along. I have some questions to Vasiliev in that regard. I think the skaters aren’t finding common ground with their coach. I pray the scandals such as we’ve seen don’t repeat themselves. Sure, Trankov is a difficult guy with an opinion on everything, but one must learn to approach him correctly. The skater wants to be heard, and that’s only fair.
There are other issues as well. For some reason, Vasiliev decided to prepare for the Olympic season in Chicago. Why? It’s unclear. Before, coaches could make money in America, but today Russia offers good working conditions, too. The fund of Olympic support pays decent stipends, and the federation adds almost as much thanks to the general sponsor “Rostelcom”. There is also the presidential stipend, and we rent apartments for all of the team members next the rinks so they don’t waste time in traffic…
Vasiliev says that Trankov is very social, and often comes to the morning practice unprepared. But that’s not an argument! We can’t put him in a detention! Wouldn’t it be easier to get the situation under control here rather then going to Chicago for the disciplined situation?
We’ll fight for medals in three disciplines
Let’s move on to the ladies.
What about them? We don’t have a new Slutskaya, sure, but we’re happy with Alena Leonova’s performance at Europeans and Worlds.
It must please you especially, since you were the one who insisted Alena be sent to Euros in Helsinki.
Yes, that was my decision. The think is, the girls who got the two top places at Russian Nationals, Sotnikova and Tuktamysheva, couldn’t take part in Europeans due to their ages. Gerboldt was third, and Petushkova was fourth. However, we’ve sent Petushkova to plenty of international competitions, and nothing ever came of it – she doesn’t have anything but the jumps. With Leonova, I saw an ardor, a willingness to compete, and a fighting spirit. That’s way I suggested we send Gerboldt (not because we had a choice) and Leonova to Helsinki. Alena proved she’s real fighter.
There were small problems – I asked to change her costume and hairdo prior to the competition. Also, she and her coach Alla Pyatova need to change their approach. Recently, they sent me their plan for next season – they plan to fight for third or fourth spot at Europeans. How so, I asked? She’s already been fourth, now she should only aspire to medals!
So, what’s the conclusion? What’s our goal in Vancouver?
Two medals, including a gold, in ice dancing, and medals in pairs and men singles. Also, we should have a lady in top six.
 Really, why on earth would Mishin who has coached 2 (some would say 3) Olympic champions know more about this than the paper pusher Piseev?! Well, thank G-d he’s got Piseev to tell him what to do!
 Huh? Didn’t Lysacek come in fourth in Turin, barely missing the podium?
 Oh REALLY?! I guess Gritchuk, Platov etc all nobodies, right?
 Sounds oh-so-believable, too!
 What’s he talking about? I’m not a Vasiliev fan, but last I checked both Moskvina and Dmitriev fired M&T because of their childish bickering. Vasiliev not only took a chance on them, but actually made them the superb team they are today!
 Why isn’t he questioning Linichuk staying in America? Could it be because she’s his wife best buddy? Vasiliev has a system, and while it’s far from perfect, it’s a system that works for him. Once again, no one has done nearly as well with M&T prior.
 Could it be that the reason Leonova has actually been successful is that her coach is not as well know as Gromova (Petushkova’s coach), Mishin (Gerboldt’s coach), etc. Could it be that this actually puts less pressure on the girl, making her perform better. All we need now is for Leonova to switch to one of the big names and see her skating go down fast.
 OK, a bit ambitious (especially in ice dancing) but nothing over the top.