Results 1 to 15 of 15

Thread: Article on Russian Men Skating. Interview with Klimkin.

  1. #1
    Forum translator Ptichka's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2003
    Location
    Boston, MA
    Posts
    4,430

    Post Article on Russian Men Skating. Interview with Klimkin.

    This article has some opinions about the state of Russian men skating, followed by a rather depressing interview with Ilya Klimkin. If you are just interested in the interview, go straight to the "Lost Season" subtitle.

    At he Salt Lake City Olympics, where both gold and silver of the men single skating was expected to go to two Russian athletes – Alexei Yagudin and Evgeny Plushenko, few could conceive of Russia ever having problems with this Olympic discipline. However, not three years have passed, it it’s evident that the man single skating is balancing at the edge of disaster.

    [center]DEFAULT
    THE PIE CAN END?
    [/center]

    Pre-Olympic season start was discouraging for Russian single skaters. Almost overnight, right after the test skaters of the candidates for national team, it was announced that the world champion Evgeny Plushenko will skip Grand Prix series and will concentrate on the later competitions, the most important of which is the World Championship in Moscow; and that 2003 European bronze medallist Ilya Klimkin and Junior World champion Andrei Gryazev will have to take time off to cure old injuries.

    The paperwork about all top of Russian figure skating skipping the series went to the ISU, which obviously elicited no joy – no one wants to see an expensive and super advertised championship turn into something hardly interesting even to the specialists. In addition, the first Grand Prix event made obvious that Russia has no replacements for the top of the team – the difference between the leaders and those who had to take their place is insurmountable.

    When things go wrong, it’s one step away from panic. This step almost materialized in the form of one Russian newspaper’s announcement that Plushenko intents to skip Russian Nationals and 2004 Europeans. The world champion’s coach Alexei Mishin whom I called in Saint Petersburg responded to this publication with rage.

    “I ask be quoted verbatim: neither Zhenya nor I have made such statements. I had serious reasons to decline Grand Prix participation, yet despite this we continue to train as usually to prepare for an important season. Clearly, I could not and would not give any guarantees, since there are still more than two months to go before the planned competitions. But, I repeat, we are not even considering and withdrawings!”

    …A few years ago I was talking to a sport leader whose career bloomed in the old Soviet times; he claimed that the whole Russian sport is nothing but the leftovers of the huge sports pie that whose dough was mixed in the old days. And that very soon those leftovers will be eaten up.

    Example of man’s figure skating is an illustration of sorts. High bosses of the sport did not strain their minds with the question of who will come take the place of current champions. The first Russian Olympic champion Alexei Urmanov was crowded by several athletes. When it turned out that Urmanov cannot continue in eligible sport due to injuries, Ilya Kulik took the team leadership. Just as he wrapped up his career after the Nagano win, Alexei Yagudin, Plushenko, and Alexander Abt were battling for the leadership. As Yagudin left, the team acquired Klimkin.
    With the background of these smooth transitions, no one took time to consider that the pie can actually run out. Yet this is what happened. It brings to mind the not so distant August of 1998, and the default that turned yesterday’s millionaires into paupers overnight.

    [center]WE DON’T SAFEKEEP WHAT WE HAVE[/center]
    Well-being, including athletic one, is dangerous. First and foremost for the bosses. When the system always brings results, sooner and later an illusion appears that it will always be so. In just over a decade of Russia’s existence as an independent athletic entity most Russian coaches have nonetheless realized that their well-being lies with specific athletes rather than the system. Their victories translate into coaches’ prestige, and consequently financial stability for both. This, however, only works while the athlete is healthy.

    It’s not hard to undertand, say, Mishin; for him, it’s most important to get his student to the Turin Games, and try to win them. All through last season, the skater struggled with a knee join injury, which luckily healed without surgery. At the same time, Plushenko himself and his coach clearly understand that any over stress can turn into a sudden crisis. We can be certain that if Mishin believes that Plushenko’s participation at Europeans can hurt him, he’ll won’t consider the country’s overall interests. Even if the country could risk loosing the number of skaters it can send to the next championships of the continent. Ultimately, other people should worry about preventing this.

    Therein lies the paradox: once the situation became catastrophic, it became evident that Russia has not yet learned to take care of its athletes on the governmental level.
    Actually two hardly related events lead me to write this article. One, which is not too loud yet, is that at the Turin Games Russia can realistically hope for only three gold medals. The other is that the number two team member Ilya Klimkin hasn’t been operated yet for the Achilles’ tendon; he won’t be able to resume training for several months after the surgery.

    That Klimkin’s feet problems are extremely serious became clear in spring, when he was forced to withdraw from the World Championships in Dortmund. Had the skater gone for the surgery to clean up the tendon right after the season end, he would have a good chance of getting back to his full form for the new year. Rehabilitation would have take even less time if the surgery could be done by the arthroscopy method. Russian clinics don’t do this, but couldn’t he go to Western specialists – we are, after all, talking about a man who could realistically bring the country an Olympic medal!

    This, in my opinion, is where Russian figure skating federation, and even higher bosses of the Russian sport should have come in. Having met Klimkin last week, I realized it’s just hopes. And that even if I deep down consider the athlete’s attitude toward his health simply unprofessional, I have no right to judge him.

    [center]LOST SEASON[/center]
    We talked a day before Klimkin had to check into the sports trauma unit of the CITO. Asked why he put the surgery off so long, Ilya just shrugged.

    “You see, in spring, before vacation, it didn’t seem such a problem. Also, that is when I begin all my shows. I couldn’t give that up – I don’t make that much money, and I’ve had to pay for treatment from my own pocket for two years now.

    For a while, I tried “jumping” the trauma – to make the muscles so strong that I could stand the pain. Like last year, when I struggled with the right left – the pain was constant, but became obtuse enough that I stopped paying attention to it. After a while I noticed growth on my feet. I went to a doctor, but he said it wasn’t a big deal, I should just apply ointment and it will pass. I went to the show organized by Ilya Averbukh. Though when I got back I had to have a small surgery to clean the growth – they got so inflamed I couldn’t fit my foot in the boot. The swelling shortly subsided, and I started skating and went to another show in Italy. It was after that that things got really bad.

    I got back to Moscow in a terrible shape. I could hardly walk. At about the same time I finally made peace with the idea of having the surgery. I’ve had enough to understand that no procedure helps enough to resume training. At best, they allowed me to walk painlessly. But once I’d start jumping, the pain returned. The doctors said the right Achilles is all messed up and can’t stretch.

    What held me back is that checking into CITO certainly means missing the season. I would warned that at least half a year would pass before I could resume normal training.”

    ”Nonetheless, in that condition you went to the Germany shows, and then took part in Evgeny Plushenko show in Saint Petersburg.

    “What was a point of withdrawing when the season is already lost? Doing surgery in august was impossible, since CITO doctors, as I was told, all went to the Athens Olympic Games. And hey, after the Games, an extra month didn’t make a difference. The money, on the other hand, did. I have no way of knowing when I’ll perform again, if at all. I have to make ends meet. The salary I now get from the figure skating federation is 1800 rubles a month (~$60). There is also the presidential stipend, but I don’t know if I’ll be getting it when I won’t be skating.

    Luckily for me, it now became obvious that Russia has no single men skaters, so I now get much more attention. I now get into CITO. “Moskvich” club where I trained promised to pay for the surgery – that’s 20 thousand rubles (~$700). Last year it was a very different conversation: “You do go somewhere for treatments, right? Great! Continue going there. Don’t burden others with your injuries”.

    At times, I though nobody believed how my feet hurt. Obviously, I paid for everything myself. Some consultations cost $200. All in all, last year I had to spend much more in treatments than the cost of the CITO surgery. This year as well, actually.”

    ”Why CITO and not any other clinic?”

    “The Russian figure skating federation’s position is simple: I to go CITO and can expect financial help, or I am responsible for everything. Apparently, the federation has some kind of an agreement with the clinic.”

    “You understand what the surgery will involve?”

    “They said they’ll cut and clean… They promised that after four months I’ll be able to take the ice, and slowly start working the feet. Until then, I’ll have to spend a month at home.”

    “When you don’t skate, I guess you watch your competitors on TV?”

    “I haven’t done that in a long time. Before, I wouldn’t miss anything, but that was before I got to the elite level myself. Now, I am not interested. The new judging system, in my opinion, is nothing but a waste of money. The bias that was there won’t go anywhere. I doubt there will be many surprises. Sure, Brian Joubert now took Zhenya Plushenko’s place. But everyone understands that he can’t yet overtake Plushenko when the latter skates in full force. It’s just not the same level. Zhenya is also judged differently – there is rating that everyone unconsciously considers.”

    ”This means Russia has nothing to worry about the Turin Olympics?”

    “The Games are different. Somehow, I think there no one will get any help. Even Zhenya.”

    ”What do you see as your role? Assuming, of course, you get back into shape.”

    “I hope to get back. It’s not the first time, after all. Though for some time now I don’t enjoy competing as much. I like skating in shows a lot more. If I were offered a decent job with a constant activity and decent wages, I would perhaps give up the sport entirely. Though I realize this is not realistic. America doesn’t welcome Russians much, and without a permanent job one shouldn’t be there. In Russia, at least, I can always go to my mom and get a meal. In any case, the important thing now is to fix the feet…”

    [center]AFTERWARD[/center]
    Klimkin’s surgery, scheduled for late October, didn’t take place – preliminary blood tests weren’t good. “They said I should take some pills and come back in a week”, sadly said the skater on the phone.

    Though now, when the season is certainly lost, another week indeed doesn’t make much difference. And there is always the stereotype: While Russia has Plushenko, other athletes’ problems are irrelevant.

    It’s easier not think of that skater’s sick knees…

    [right]Elena VAJTSEHOVSKAYA[/right]
    Last edited by Ptichka; 11-11-2004 at 05:43 PM.

  2. #2
    Custom Title
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Posts
    1,977
    Not to judge Ilya b/c he is a very young guy, but in another interview, he said that he drives a BMW. He has had some success on the Grand Prix so I wonder why he just doesn't get the work done in the US. Where did all his money go (did the federation take a lot of it?)? It seems that he's penny pinching with his livelihood.

  3. #3
    Minority member
    Join Date
    Jul 2003
    Location
    Canada
    Posts
    212
    Does he really have it that bad? I heard that Russian federation takes their skaters prize money and leave them with a small amount. In the case of illa and I believe all Russian skaters, they receive monthly cheque from the federation which really isnt' all that much.
    Skaters like Irina and Plushy seem like they can live a good life with nice cars and homes because most of their income comes from US tours and cheese fests.

  4. #4
    Forum translator Ptichka's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2003
    Location
    Boston, MA
    Posts
    4,430
    Hmmm, I thought the Russian federation took about the same percentage as others. As for how money is distibuted - ISU NEVER gives money directly to skaters, it puts it in the federation's account; the federation (any federation) is then free to do with it as it sees fit.

  5. #5
    Custom Title Joesitz's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2003
    Location
    New York City
    Posts
    20,185
    I remember that Maria Butryskaya was constantly complaining that the Federattion owes her money. Maybe it's time for all Federations and Associations to go truly amateur and their whole admin system is run by volunteers. No salaries to the admin staff, but some money for other upkeep admin costs. The rest go to the skaters.

    Joe

  6. #6
    Keeper of La Khok's Tutus Doggygirl's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Location
    IL
    Posts
    2,801

    Ptichka...

    Thanks once again for translating. It's very interesting to read these articles. I found the phrase "higher skating bosses" very interesting. I know many things have changed in Russia over the last several years. I hope it's all for the better ultimately, but I got the sense from this article that there is still a lot of government control going on in sports. (and probably other areas?)

    Ptichka, do you live in the US? Did you grow up in Russia? I'd be very interested in your own observations. Obviously you speak (or at least read) Russian, so no doubt you have lot's of background no matter where you hail from today or previously.

    I hope that Ilya can get the treatment he needs from the very best doctors, whoever and wherever they are.

    It doesn't matter what kind of car llya drives if his money is being managed and controlled by someone else. If the car is like an "allowance" but he doesn't have access to the money he has earned, then it doesn't say anything about his financial possibilities to travel freely and seek treatment of his choice.

    DG

  7. #7
    Forum translator Ptichka's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2003
    Location
    Boston, MA
    Posts
    4,430
    I am originally from Russia, but has been living in the US since I was 12 (I'm in my late 20's now). While I certainly have opinions on what's going on in Russia, I have long ago lost a real understanding of that country.

    As I have said before, I think the main problem of the Russian Skating Federation is one of attitude. Whereas USFSA thinks "What can we do to make our athletes be the best they can be", the Russian Federation thinks "What can our athletes do to make us the most prestigious federation in the world".

    Also, Piseev is among the worst of the old Soviet leftovers. He is corrupt, selfish, and incompetent. He does not understand that this is a new world. He has very little support among the Russian skating community, but keeps being re-elected because of his connections. His personal fortune increases as countless rinks around the country close down. One name that keeps coming up as a potential replacement is Rodnina.

    As for the money -- as I've said before, I don't think Russian federation is worse than any other in principle. Maria's complaint was different -- she claims that Piseev made all skaters open accounts in a bank that was known to be rather shady, and that when it went under she lost the money that was there. Furthermore, she claims that the students of elite coaches (she by then has broken up with Tcheikovksaya) pulled their money out just in time, certainly suggesting that they were warned of the impending financial disaster.

  8. #8
    Custom Title
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Location
    Pennsylvania, USA
    Posts
    788

    Not made welcome

    Did Klimkin say something about Russians not being made welcome in the US?

    The only way I have at hand to make an international athlete feel welcome is when I'm in the audience... and when I'm in the audience, I certainly clap loudly for my favorites (pretty much the only way I have to make them feel welcome). I was pretty loud last time I say Vica V perform - she's one of my favorites.

    Do you'all think this what he meant? Or did he mean that he wasn't receiving financial support in the US?

    Linny

  9. #9
    Forum translator Ptichka's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2003
    Location
    Boston, MA
    Posts
    4,430
    Linny, I believe he was not refering to athletic events. He was, after all, talking about possibilities of quiting the sport altogether there. So I'd interpret what he said as, "It's not easy for Russians to get a job in America".

  10. #10
    Custom Title
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Location
    Pennsylvania, USA
    Posts
    788

    Ouch

    It's not particularly for Americans to get jobs in America, either.
    Linny

  11. #11
    Custom Title Joesitz's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2003
    Location
    New York City
    Posts
    20,185
    I think Ilya was talking about getting a job with SOI or some other non eligible showcase. I'd hire him but I'm not in the business and he probably doesn't have many close influential friends in America. He's not well known except for die hard fans and mothers aren't going to rush to him to coach their little darlings. For me he is the greatest skater that never was.

    BTW, Without sounding patriotic, I don't see any reason for America to be obliged to hire Russian skaters anymore than they are obliged to hire Belgian skaters. JMO

    Joe

  12. #12
    Custom Title Mathman's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2003
    Location
    Detroit, Michigan
    Posts
    27,101
    But they should definitely hire Van der Perren.

  13. #13
    Custom Title
    Join Date
    Dec 2003
    Posts
    1,977
    If he wanted a job as a coach, I'm pretty sure that he could get a little help from his friends Vakhtung and Sasha Abt. I think he would be able to get a job at the Ice House in NJ. Actually, I find it hard to believe that a skater of his caliber would even have a problem getting a job at any rink. He has medalled in international events and is a junior World Champion. We have Russians coaching at our rink with lesser credentials and they all drive nice cars. As for touring, I don't think that he'll get offers with SOI or COI unless he gets a world medal or Olympic medal, and as with the other Ilia (Kuilik) even an OGM doesn't guarantee steady touring. However the Russian athletes seem very close knit and Ilya did get work touring Italy etc. I think that he's just pessimistic b/c of yet another misfortune.

  14. #14
    Custom Title Joesitz's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2003
    Location
    New York City
    Posts
    20,185
    Quote Originally Posted by Mathman
    But they should definitely hire Van der Perren.
    I think Kevin van der Perren should be making Johnny Depp movies and get out of skating.

    Joe

  15. #15
    Forum translator Ptichka's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2003
    Location
    Boston, MA
    Posts
    4,430
    Quote Originally Posted by Joesitz
    I don't see any reason for America to be obliged to hire Russian skaters anymore than they are obliged to hire Belgian skaters.
    Nobody is criticising anyone. I don't think Ilya is saying this makes America bad, he just wishes this were not the way they are.

    As for coaching, not everyone is made for this. I am not sure Ilya has the patience yet to do this.

Similar Threads

  1. Tapes for copy and trade
    By Koshka in forum 2012-13 Figure Skating archives
    Replies: 0
    Last Post: 08-30-2005, 04:43 AM
  2. Skating article in current issue of SI
    By millie in forum 2004-05 Figure Skating archives
    Replies: 27
    Last Post: 01-27-2005, 03:00 PM
  3. My tapes for copy and trade
    By Koshka in forum 2012-13 Figure Skating archives
    Replies: 0
    Last Post: 01-04-2005, 03:25 AM
  4. Article on (mis)judging at Eric Bompard
    By Ptichka in forum 2004-05 Figure Skating archives
    Replies: 5
    Last Post: 12-10-2004, 09:22 PM
  5. TT interview (translated from Russian)
    By Ptichka in forum 2002-03 Figure Skating archives
    Replies: 7
    Last Post: 01-16-2003, 07:29 AM

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •