Russian original; translated by me.
Note: the tone of this interview is very respectable, in contrast to the often overly-familiar tone of many current sports writers.
[center]Irina SLUTSKAYA: "My presence on the ice shocks doctors"[/center]
On Thursday and Friday, in Odincevo near Moscow, the so-called test skates took place -- the first shows of the figure skaters in the new season. Despite the presence of almost all leaders, Irina Slutskaya was the certainly the public's darling. The best single lady skater of the country in the last few years has been forced to sit out almost all of last season; her popularity, however, did not suffer, if anything it just grew. Wherever Slutskaya shows up, hordes of fans with pads for autographs surround her immediately. In a break in this activity, the skater answered the questinos of "Izvestiya" correspondent VLADIMIR RAUSCH.
Have you noticed that the public applauded your skates more than those of others?
Sure, and it's really nice. To me, the rink at Odincevo is like a second home. Here is where I prepared for the Olympics at Salt Lake city, here is where I trained for the March World championship at Dortmund. There are lots of friends, acquaintaces (as if to underline the point, Ira jumps up to the two young men passing nearby, "Hey guys, why aren't you saying hi?!")
Today you looked more confident than at the skates before Worlds...
I was then just getting over the illness. I was upset that there was so little time left before the championships. Now it's all different, preparations for the new season went almost as planned. Correspondigly, I feel a lot more confident.
Where did you train?
I've used the same method for many years. First, I train for 10 days in mid-mountains in Italy. Though I was short on time this season. Then I start training on the ice.
I've chosen Shostakovich for our short program. Why?
I wanted to find a new image for this season. My choreographer offered this music. My coach Zhanna Gromova and I listed to it, and decided to try it out. The result, in my opinion, is an interesting program.
Are you satisfied with your skate?
I made a few mistakes. But I don't worry to much, since I still have time to fix them. In general, a lot is forgivable early in the season. Though normally, I am very demanding to myself.
You had to skip almost the entire last season. You have no health problems now?
Not on wood... laughs. Though I am still on medications, and will take them for a while. But my best medicine is my love of the sport, and my desire to skate. Many doctors are shocked by this.
You go against their recommendations?
In my condition, people are recommended bed rest, no strains, no cold. But figure skating is my life, I can't live without it. So everyone around just Ohs and Ahs. Though, of course, I am under constant medical supervision. They do tests, my doctor regularly examines me.
Right now, the fight against doping is becoming a real issue in the sport. Are you afraid of having problems because of your medications?
I have all the official papers stating that I taking medications is vitally important for me.
Vitally important? You do look excellent...
With my diagnosis, a person can hardly consider himself healthy. On the other hand, I try not to think about it, and continue my normal way of life. That, too, is a way of healing -- optimistm and strength of will. And my illness can get better. It just takes a lot of time, years may be.
What is that mysterious illness?
It has to do with blood vessels. I don't want to say anything more specific.
Last season you actively prepared for a career in television, you even went to the school of young journalists in "Ostankino". Do you continue the studies?
I had to postpone the studies due to new season training. Though I am officially on staff on "Channel One", where I plan to chair the sports news. I also have another small dream about my future career. I hope to soon announce it.