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Behind the scenes of figure skating - May 29

Evgeny Platov aims for quality work

Grishuk and Platov on the ice at the world championships in 1995.
Grishuk and Platov on the ice at the world championships in 1995. (Getty Images)

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By Lois Elfman, special to icenetwork.com
(05/29/2008) - It took a hit TV show to finally make two-time Olympic ice dancing gold medalist Evgeny Platov famous in Russia. Despite representing his country in three Olympics, being the only two-time gold medalist in ice dancing and winning four world titles, when he ended his eligible career with Oksana Grishuk in 1998, he could walk down the streets of Moscow in virtual anonymity.

"We were in the 'Guinness Book' because of our achievements and still no one recognized us on the street," he says. "Two years ago, I did Skating with the Stars, and after that I couldn't walk on the street -- everybody recognized me. It was shown in the Ukraine and other former Soviet countries. Skating has become so big you wouldn't believe."

Ironically, his greatest fame in Russia came as Platov was making a lifelong commitment to the United States, the country where he's lived since September 1994. He is a U.S. citizen and has even served jury duty.

He settled in New Jersey in 1998 and coaches at the Princeton Sports Center in Monmouth Junction, where he works with local skaters as well as British ice dance champions Sinead Kerr and John Kerr. He also takes on occasional choreography assignments, and as previously reported on Icenetwork.com, Brian Joubert will skate Platov's creations in the coming season.

"Princeton Sports Center has two surfaces -- one Olympic and one NHL, which helps us prepare," Platov notes. "Whenever we compete in North America, we are on NHL size. If we're in Europe, or anywhere else, it's Olympic size. So having both is great.

"I try to keep my number of students small," he adds. "I easily could expand to four or five couples at different levels, but it's very hard to keep on track and work with everybody 100 percent."

He's been coaching the Kerrs for almost two years. "They've always been innovative people, always kind of cool on the ice," Platov says. "Whatever they do is different than just the basic ice dancing. Right now, with the new rules everybody looks to me kind of the same, just different music.

"Now, you have just a couple of seconds for transitions and all the elements and you have to make this unique," he continues. "So, how to do all this? First of all, I'm not trying to repeat myself, what I did. What I try to find is the best side of them, what they can do and now do my choreography on them. I think the most difficult part of being a coach and choreographer is to find the best of the students."

As a competitor, Platov trained with three legendary coaches: Natalia Dubova, Natalia Linichuk and Tatiana Tarasova. He also was part of Tarasova's coaching team. He says he tries to combine these experiences into his own style. He has also worked hard on developing effective teaching methods.

"Before I became a coach I thought, 'It's not that hard.' But as soon as I became a coach, I see there are so many things you have to put together to really make these people perform the best four-minute routine," he says. "You're preparing the whole year and this is only four minutes. There are no retakes. You have to get these skaters ready, so they shine at competition."

Platov has the Kerrs working with excellent ballroom dancing coaches as well as former world swing dance champion Robert Royston, who's helping with the original dance.

He's even doing a little of his own performing. Platov's relationship with Grishuk fractured after their second Olympic gold, causing him to dissolve their partnership and team up with former rival Maya Usova to skate professionally. He and Grishuk began talking on the phone several years ago, and were finally reunited on the ice in 2006 during Skating with the Stars.

After some strong urging from the producers, they decided to get on the ice together. "Two days before the show, we finally said alright let's try it, and we did it," Platov says. "The first couple of minutes were weird, because it had been eight years apart. Then after 15 minutes, we felt like everything was there. We remember all of our elements, put a couple of new ones -- in a couple of hours the number was ready (you can see it on YouTube.com along with some other recent performances). We had so much fun to skate there. Complete standing ovation."

They've subsequently done other shows in Moscow and in Nagano, Japan, site of their second Olympic triumph.

"If we have a good offer, a big show, we would prepare for a couple of days and go again," he says. "We're always in good shape, because I'm on the ice every day about 10 hours."

In addition to satisfaction in his professional life, Platov, 40, has also found personal happiness. He recently got engaged to his longtime girlfriend. "There is a ring," he says, but don't expect a lavish wedding. "We'll probably just go away on vacation and come home married."