<a href="http://www.eg.ru/Publication.mhtml?PubID=4151&Menu=&Part=63" target="top">Express Gazeta</a>
by Sergei Dadigin
Translated and courtesy post: Maureen Diffley
She had an incredibly difficult task – to beat the American skaters on their field, in Washington. She was unable to do it at the Olympics in Salt Lake City, the judges only gave her second. Knowing people say that the judges will again play on the side of the home team. But Ira didn’t go to Washington and not because she was afraid to lose.
Q. Irina are you sure that the fate of the title in figure skating is always decided on the ice and not behind closed doors?
A. “I know that backstage intrigues happen in our sport. Therefore, I answer: I’m not sure. But I hope that this time it will be honest.”
Q. Olympic champion Sarah Hughes turned pro. Theoretically would this have eased your task? [Translator: Journalist was wrong. Hughes was at worlds.]
A. “After the Olympics, Sarah and I met twice and half-pro events. She won once and I the other. Ihad no problems with the judging at either event. But in Salt Lake City, I did. I think that I didn’t lose the Olympics, but they didn’t allow me to win. “Why Hughes is skipping a home worlds, I don’t know. Maybe she’s not ready for a serious fight. Maybe her one victory in Salt Lake City was enough for her and she calmed down. But in addition to Hughes, they have 4-time world champion Michelle Kwan and Grand Prix Final winner Sasha Cohen. I already beat them. Maybe I would be higher in Washington, but…. “At the Grand Prix Final… Tatyana Tarasova.. told her, “Irina, today you are a a hero.”
Tarasova had heard what the journalists didn’t know. Irina’s mother who came to Petersburg to root for her daughter suffered an attack the night before the final skate. For a long time, the doctors couldn’t tell what was wrong with her and how it would turn out. Irina spent a sleepless night. Fortunately, at the time of the seizure-attack, Irina and
her mom were in the hotel room together and Slutskaya was able to call the ambulance on time.
Q. Were you upset with your second place at GPF?
A. “Then I realized there are things more important than sport. The situation is hard now, I can’t leave at this moment, leave her. I already have this title of world champion and my mom is more dear than any title.”
Q. You had a hard time this season: only 3rd at Cup of Russia, 2nd at Nationals. What’s the reason?
A. “I didn’t have time to recover. After winning worlds, I went on an American tour right away. Five months living out of a suitcase, more than 80 shows. I was in New York, Boston, Chicago even small cities where there are modern rinks with all the skaters on the Collins tour. During this tour, I got bronchitis, but had no time to get cured. I took tablets and went on with the show. It was hard. True, I made money.”
Q. Zhanna Gromova didn’t protest this long tour?
A. “She gave her ok. She realized I needed it. I train with her since age 6. We’ve been through everything, but I’m very glad that fate put me together with such a coach. Of course, I’m no present. Working with me is tough. But she manages it. By the way, I wound up with her by coincidence. The coach who worked with us little girls for about a year went out on maternity leave.”
Q. During those 5 months, your husband didn’t go wild?
A. Twice he visited me for two weeks. And in June they gave us a 10-day break, Sergei and I spent them in Moscow. I rested and got better.
Q. The press writes that your husband is a physical education teacher. Is that correct?
A. He is a coach of OFP (general physical preparation) and works with children. I want to say something about the press. One newspaper wrote that my husband is a New Russian who steals. When my parents read that, they were in shock. From April to November of last year, I didn’t give any interviews because I was abroad. All the same interviews were published, people thought stuff up! here were questions like: “From where was figure skating born?” “Who was the first figure skater?” Believe me, I have no idea about these things and no Kolya Zuev is going to put answers from an encyclopedia in my mouth. I have no children, but a journalist writes that I dream of being an ideal grandmother. What lunacy! The newspaper “life” published a notice that my husband bought me a fur coat while in Kazan at the national championships. They even published the price. But my husband was in Moscow at the time!”
Q. So you came back from Kazan without a fur coat?
A. “They gave it to me – they love me very much there. Moreover, they gave me a choice of three and I took the one I liked best. That’s what they needed to write, why make something up. There are some publications for which I’ll not do interviews again ever.”
Q. At Europeans in Sweden, our skater Tatiana Totmianina wasn’t let in to a restaurant late at night. Have you had such things happen abroad?
A. “Only in Mosocw. When I was still single, I decided to go to a furniture store to get things for the new apartment. I asked the salesman to show me a bed set and he answered me rudely: basically, get out of here, little girl. I was about 18. I was offended and called my mom on the cell phone from the store. She immediately contacted the director who came up to me within five minutes and said, “Please, girl choose what you like.” I answered, “ I wanted to buy from you, but I’ve reconsidered. I’ll look elsewhere.”
Q. If I’m not wrong, at 18, you were already 2-time European champion…
A. “Exactly, but that’s not the point. I don’t tolerate boorishness.”
Q. Irina, are you a believer in God?
A. “I’m Christian, I was baptized as a child. I wear a crucifix. Sometimes I go to the Saint Danil monastery, where my husband and I married in August 1999. I think that marriages are made in heaven. It should be once and for the whole life. I also believe in fate. Some people are given the chance to be world champions, others aren’t. It seems I’m one of them.”