Here is an interview with the Russian Figure Skating Federation president Valentine Piseev. Intersting how he attempts to bad-mouth Yagudin (toward the end). Also interesing is that he acknolodges many problems in the team, but doesn't take any responsibility for them.
October 20, 2004
Valenitn Piseev: This season, we have a problem with singlesRussian skaters started the season a few weeks ago. The first National event took place in Nizhny Novgorod, and its results effected Grand Prix assignments. Talking about those changes and about our prospects for the upcoming international season with “News Time” correspondent is the president of Russian Figure Skating Federation Valentin PISEEV.
Valentin Nikolaevich, let’s start with what’s on all fans’ minds. What’s really happening with Evgeny Plushenko, and will he participate in Grand Prix events?
No, Zhenya will skip two of the three planned Grand Prix events – Canada and Japan. This season, he’ll limit himself to four championships: Moscow Grand Pix, Nationals, Europeans, and Worlds. Such decision was dictated by the athlete’s health. Following several consultations with the doctors, the skater and his coach Alexei Mishin had to plan a lighter season. You see, as it stood Plushenko was most stressed in the fall – in October and November, which led to serious problems. The stress took its toll, and consequently old injuries got aggravated. On the eve of the Olympics, Mishin and his student chose to avoid risk. The coach declared unequivocally that the Olympics are more important to them than all the prizes athletes earn in Grand Prix.
Then, why did he participate in exhibition in St. Petersburg this fall?
It’s true that some journalists wrote afterwards that the skater is healthy, is just playing games, and that his refusal to take part in the series is a tactical ploy. Let me say: it’s a lie. I went to Saint Petersburg, and saw both Zhenya’s performances. He only did three triples, and not one quad. The rest of the time, audience got to enjoy his skating, wonderful spinning, and footwork.
Does this mean that our single men, without the team leader, will have a tough time?
The problem is that we don’t really have a team. Almost everyone is injured. Ilya Klimkin has recently undergone a surgery on his Achilles’ tendon that got damaged back at Worlds in Dortmund. Now, he’ll probably only participate in championships. It’s also possible that things won’t go well, and the skater will have to skip this season. At Grand Pix, Elena Tchaikovskaya’s student Andrei Lezin will replace Ilya. He won men’s competition in Nizhny Novgorod. So far, it’s certain that Lezin will compete at the second event in Canada. Then, we’ll analyze it and see how to proceed. Another team athlete got unlucky – Andrei Griazev. After local training in Russia, which went spectacular according to his coach Tatiana Tarasonva, Andrei took place in one competition, and went straight to the hospital – Central Trauma Institute in Moscow. This means we won’t see Griazev at Skate America. Alexander Shubin who skipped last season is not fully recovered either. Today, though, he appears the healthiest of our men. As to Stanislav Timchenko, he wanted to quit figure skating altogether. He had the same thoughts last year. I, however, managed to talk him out of it. Honestly, he didn’t have any weighty reasons for such a step. Timchenko appeared to agree, but this season again said he won’t compete, so he won’t take part in Grand Prix.
Ladies skating doesn’t inspire optimism either, though at least five ladies will compete for the two places on the team.
I have no idea how you came up with number “5”. I only see one athlete capable of fighting for medals. That’s Irina Slutskaya. During pre-season skates, she was alone among Russian ladies to do a combo of three jumps – triple salchow, triple loop, and double loop. Now that was inspiring. As to the others, they’re still a work in progress, including Lena Sokolova, who promises much. To be fair, that skater always takes a while to get into the season. I am more concerned with her inconsistency. For example, recently in Helsinki, Sokolova skated a great free, but bombed in short. Though the Finland championship used the old judging system, and Elena as much experience as anyone. In pre-season skates on Odincovo, Victoria Volchkova didn’t look bad. She is clearly more confident in performing the most difficult elements. Another skater, Tatiana Basova, still has the same problem as many of our other girls – consistency. Absolutely bewildering is the situation with Julia Soldatove.
She was awful in Odincovo. The new program is there, but skating is not. She looked like a beginner. She then refused to go to Nizhny Novgorod. I’ve heard she has feet problems. At a team conference, though, I told her directly, that we did so much to have her in the Russian team, we’ve soiled relations with both Belorussians and the ISU, and all of that apparently for nothing! I understand that following a taxing season an athlete can be fatigued, and need the summer to recuperate, but Julia didn’t compete last season due to citizenship issues. The ice should be melting beneath her feet, but…
So, single skating is our weakest link?
This season, yes. Meanwhile, single skating international isn’t staying in one place. For instance, two Japanese ladies do three different quadruple jumps, and another two do two different quads. That’s not even counting Arakawa and Onda. The fight will be as tight as ever.
I hope pair and ice dancing is calm, with no changes?
There, thank God, everything is OK. Two new duos join the team – Elena Romanvksaya/ Alexander Grachev, and Ekaterina Rubleva/ Ivan Shefer. Yana Khokhlova and Sergei Novickij debuted at Grand Prix last season. Tatiana Navka and Roman Kostomarov remain the team leaders, presenting very difficult programs. I hope they’ll re-assert their rank this season. Alexei Gorshkov’s students Oskana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin have interesting programs. As always, Tatiana Tarasova’s charges Svetlana Kulikova and Vitalij Novikov look very passionate.
As for pairs, I liked Tatiana Totmianina and Maxim Marinin. Their coach Oleg Vasiliev already informed the federation that they’ve taken into account all the critique they’ve heard at test skates. Julia Obertas and Sergei Slavnov have innovative programs. That’s not surprising, as Tamara Moskvina always creates unique programs for her students, that’s her ace.
By the way, all three leading teams, including Maria Petrova and Alexei Tikhonov, had to take part in the first Grand Prix event, and the pair championship would have looked like Russian Nationals. However, I’ve recently gotten a letter from Saint Petersburg, or rather a doctor’s note, saying that Masha and Alexei are over-stressed, and need rest. So Petrova and Tikhonov won’t to USA.
What can you say about foreign skaters, who’ll sit this season out?
There hasn’t been anything sensational. All skaters realize that the pre-Olympic year is very important.
Alexei Yagudin left our skating. So, his skating at the next Games is impossible.
It hasn’t been possible, since Yagudin has gone pro. As for his farewell show, I don’t get it. Just a few days prior, Tatiana Tarasova was sitting in my office on Luzhnetskaya, and hasn’t mentioned the upcoming event. I then received invitation from Artur Dmitriev. Alexei’s farewell had to take place during his show, but Dmitriev hasn’t mentioned it either. I refused to go because the invitation came too late, and I had other things to do. And if I went, I can imagine how it woud look – the federation president coming with no gifts. Furthermore, Peter has a federation vice-president, he also leads the figure skating federation of Saint Petersburg, and he wasn’t invited to Yagudin’s farewell either. He came on his own, people knew him and let him in. Overall, it was strange.
Another thing. Usually, tickets to the top rows of such events are given away for free to pensioners, students, and kids from orphanages. When the director of the children’s athletic school in Peter went to the organizers with the request, she was offered to buy the tickets at half price. She couldn’t believe it! They invited everyone, but couldn’t find place for the little skaters from their own school. That’s the human relations for you. I guess, life in America changes people. Different homeland is a different mentality.
interview by Olga ERMOLINA