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Russian greats optimistic for Sochi Olympics

Yagudin, Marinin not drawn to coaching profession

Alexei Yagudin is trying to keep skating in the minds of Russians by pursuing a career in the entertainment industry.
Alexei Yagudin is trying to keep skating in the minds of Russians by pursuing a career in the entertainment industry. (Getty Images)

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By Vladislav Luchianov, special to icenetwork.com
(01/12/2012) - The Russian city of Syktyvkar hosted the annual sports and entertainment festival called Winter Ybitsa, in which famous Olympic champions and medalists took part. Among the distinguished and titled guests were the 2002 Olympic champion, four-time world champion and three-time European champion Alexei Yagudin; the 2006 Olympic champions, two-time world champions and five-time European champions Tatiana Totmianina and Maxim Marinin; and the 2000 world champions and two-time European champions Maria Petrova and Alexei Tikhonov.

At a press conference, these skating legends shared their thoughts on the upcoming Olympics in Sochi, the possibilities of coaching and their current activities.

Tikhonov has high hopes for the Russian national team in Sochi.

"I think our team will be well prepared for Sochi. The figure skating team will be much better and brighter than the one in 2010," Tikhonov said. "Now we have good competition at the national level among ladies and pairs. For example, Elizaveta Tuktamisheva, who is only 15 years old, does incredible things on the ice.

"In men's skating, the situation is more difficult," Tikhonov continued. "Let's see if Evgeni Plushenko will be able to make his comeback again. One of the main hopes is Artur Gachinski, but he lacks stability. We still have time."

Journalists asked about the difference in how athletes train in Russia and abroad. Yagudin said the difference is in logistics, serenity, confidence and stability.

"When you work abroad, you can be sure about such things as having sufficient time for your on-ice training and availability of an ice rink, which will be not so far from your home," the Salt Lake City gold medalist said, also noting that luxury conditions are not necessary for success.

"You can start with just a simple ice rink in your location, and if you have a great desire combined with a strong work ethic and luck, then you can achieve very good results," Yagudin continued. "We are all sitting in front of you, and we started our careers at simple ice rinks. We have never had sponsors. We did it all ourselves. My grandmother worked in the tailoring shop, and she made my first costumes."

The skaters were asked if they are ready for their children to take up the sport.

"I do not mind," Yagudin said. "Sports activity will be in the life of my daughter, but she does not have to lots of great achievements. By playing sports, children improve their health as well as self-discipline."

Marinin's son has skated since he was 4, and the father does not have big plans for him.

"The primary objective of his skating training is a healthy lifestyle," the Torino gold medalist said.

The skaters all agreed that coaching is not something they are interested in doing anytime soon.

"I hope that coaching will not be present in my life," Yagudin said. "I want to go the other way. Coaching is a very difficult and specific activity. You must be next to your student around the clock. You have to watch not only for what is happening on the ice but also understand what is happening in his life. It's no secret that what happens off the ice seriously impacts a whole skating career."

"I will postpone [coaching] until the last moment," Marinin said. "Teaching and training -- it is very difficult."

During the last several years, Yagudin has become interested in acting and has participated in various TV projects.

"I, Alexei Tikhonov, Maria Petrova and many other skaters are putting on performances, in films, working on television," Yagudin said. "We are trying to go in different directions. Thanks to our TV projects, people in our country haven't forgotten what figure skating is. In the absence of significant successes in figure skating during the past years, our projects reminded people that this sport still exists."