Evgeni Platov: “If I had my way, I would just give Hanyu and Chen two gold medals, I respect both of them so much.”
Interview with two-time Olympic Champion Evgeni Platov. About Gabriella Papadakis / Guillaume Cizeron, Victoria Sinitsina / Nikita Katsalapov, Kamila Valieva, Yuzuru Hanyu, Nathan Chen and Mark Kondratiuk.
source: russian.rt.com dd. 2d February 2022 by Elena Vaitsekhovskaya
Is your current job on the ice limited to amateur skating?
Evgeni Platov: I consult whoever comes to the rink. Not so long ago, a British dance pair appeared. The guys used to train with Christopher Dean in Colorado Springs, then they moved to Florida and came to me. But I’m no longer the head coach, I don’t want to.
Do you consult because of your love for art or just to earn money?
Evgeni Platov: Purely for fun. To earn money, my wife and I started our own business. We have several restaurants, ice cream parlors. It’s very popular in Florida because it’s hot and everyone wants ice cream. Basically, the wife runs the business, I help. And the skating rink… As it turned out, I can’t do without it. I tried to quit figure skating for a couple of months – it didn’t work out. Nothing gives more pleasure than to see the results of your own coaching work. My mother worked at school all her life, I think I inherited from her the talent to communicate with children.
To what extent do you follow what is happening in the world of big figure skating?
Evgeni Platov: I follow, of course. I watched the European Championships with great pleasure, I was delighted with Kamila Valieva, with Sasha Stepanova’s and Vanya Bukin’s improvement. I didn’t recognize them, to be honest. Very good programs, soft skating. In my opinion, in terms skills level, the guys this season came close to Sinitsina and Katsalapov. However, I do not know what happened to the partner. I heard that he had an injury, that he didn’t skate much. Probably, this affected their performance in Tallinn – they shaked a little there. But, in principle, I think that Nikita is an athlete of the highest talent. I think that in Beijing, she and Vika will be a real competitor to the French pair.
Eight years ago, before the Sochi Games, you said that the Olympic program should be outstanding. In my opinion, Stepanova and Bukin has such a program, with a wow-effect.
Evgeni Platov: I absolutely agree with you. Sinitsina’s and Katsalapov’s programs are also good, they just seemed to me not fully pollished. But there is still an opportunity to clean everything up and make it stronger in presentation.
What can you say about the French duet?
Evgeni Platov: Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron are unique in their skating. They captivate the viewer like a python its prey. They fascinate with their soft, smooth, absolute magnetism. They have such a deep and “soft” knees that it is very difficult to fight them in terms of gliding. This is a unique technique. When I train dancers, I often use the phrase: let’s do it like the French.
That is, the ability to glide like that can be trained?
Evgeni Platov: As a professional, I can say that it is almost impossible to sit on your knees so low. I don’t even understand how Gabriella and Guillaume do it: what strong legs you need to have and how soft the skating then can be! If you run on ice on straight legs, you will never achieve anything like this, it just won’t work. Now, by the way, Vanya Bukin started skating very softly. And I really liked it. But the French are really not comparable to anyone.
Do you think that anyone will be able to wedge into the Russian-French duel in dances?
Evgeni Platov: For some reason, it seems to me that the judges will support the Americans Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donoghue. The second American duet looks weaker. In any case, I didn’t like their program too much – unlike last season, when Madison Chock and Evan Bates skated the Egyptian dance. But, most likely, the struggle for first and second places will go between the French and Sinitsina / Katsalapov. But many will fight for the third place.
Don’t you think that the dominance of the Montreal school has already begun to work not in plus for ice dance in general? Is it getting boring?
Evgeni Platov: Well, there is such a moment. There are many pairs in Montreal who have not changed their style for years. Everything is slow, smooth, beautiful, but in general, dances and music are the same for everyone. I don’t think any of today’s Montreal dancers are capable of taking rock ‘n’ roll and skating it well. That’s why I liked last year’s Egyptian program of Chock and Bates so much – they were completely different, they stood out from the crowd.
In general, I would say that the ability to stand out becomes a unique quality in figure skating. It is much more common to hear that the sport has been killed by too rigid rules, that everyone has to do the same thing, that there is no variety. But even within these limits, programs appear in which you do not see the given elements.
Evgeni Platov: In the new rules, it is really incredibly difficult to create a program that would look like an integral piece. But it has always been so. If we go back 30 years ago, in pair skating everyone also did the same: run, jump, run, lift. And then Natasha Mishkutyonok and Artur Dmitriev appeared, whose programs were choreographed more in a dance vein than in a sports one. And it was the highest art that we are talking about now. True, I can’t say much about the current pair skating – I didn’t follow it very much during the season.
What about single skating?
Evgeni Platov: To a greater extent. I liked Mark Kondratiuk, Kamila Valieva is something unique. Especially the short program.
Thought you’d name “Bolero”.
Evgeni Platov: I liked the short program more. Still, the figure skater needs to grow up to the “Bolero”, it’s too early for a girl to skate it at the age of 15. The same Carolina Koostner took “Bolero”, already being an adult. Valieva shows absolutely mature emotions in her skating, but Bolero, in my opinion, should be performed more calmly. You can’t just rush across the ice, you have to captivate the audience – and not just by jumping. But this girl has a crazy talen. I think Kamila will win these Olympics.
And what did you like about Kondratiuk?
Evgeni Platov: Because I hadn’t heard that name before at all. I specifically looked for information: the guy didn’t win any junior championships, he didn’t shine anywhere. And suddenly – bam! For the first time he participates in the European Championships – and wins, and even with such clean skating. To be honest, I was shocked. Somehow weaned from the fact that a new single skater appears and does not fail anything. It’s very worthy.
The standard question that I now ask everyone: Yuzuru Hanyu or Nathan Chen?
Evgeni Platov: If I had my way, I would just give them two gold medals, I respect both of them so much and I’m such a fan of their talent. Seriously. I had a similar feeling only in 2002, when Alexei Yagudin and Evgeni Plushenko competed.
Don’t you think that Hanyu’s time has already gone a little?
Evgeni Platov: If Yuzuru manages to skate his programs, as he did before, I think there will be real competition. But then again, we didn’t really see Hanyu this season. But I saw Chen at the Nationals where he skated uniquely in terms of skating. I thought, though, that it would be nice for Nathan to change his costume: it’s not serious for a three-time world champion to skate in some kind of T-shirt, bought almost on sale in a sports store. It looked like he wore training clothes. I did not like it.
If in Pyeongchang Gabriella Papadakis’s dress hadn’t unbuttoned in the short program, I think she and Guillaume would have been the first. Four years after those Games, the French, most likely, lived with one thought that they no longer have the right to lose in Beijing. You, too, have been in this shoes at one time. What is it like?
Evgeni Platov: I can’t express what a terrible feeling it is. Because there is no chance for the slightest mistake. You clearly understand: if you make a mistake, you will lose. You wait for the Games for four years and work to ensure that this does not happen. You have not just mountains of responsibility, but the whole planet, even the universe. And at all cost you must deal with this pressure. In Nagano, Oksana Grischuk and I managed, but psychologically it was very difficult. I can’t compare those feelings with anything in my life, with any competitions. Many fight for medals, come to the Olympics and are happy with second or third places. And here you are constantly devoured by the thought: if you take second place, then, consider, you have lost your whole life.
But you and Oksana have already become Olympic champions. And you would not have lost this title, even if you had lost in 1998 …
Evgeni Platov: No no and one more time no.
Evgeni Platov: Because the title of Olympic champion is a brand that you feel all the time that you continue to perform. If you lose your title, you are a loser, a person who really could not defend the most important thing in life. After the victory in Lillehammer, no one could beat Grischuk/Platov for four years. And it was this win-win series that created such stress that it is absolutely unrealistic to put it into words.
I remember there was an earthquake in Nagano shortly before our performance. Everything was shaking: the skating rink, the Olympic village, the ground. But I was sincerely sure that these were my nerves make themselves felt. To cope with this, I took a very long walk in the park, although I never did this before the competitions. If you ask me what was the most difficult in the course of my career, I will answer: to skate the free dance in Nagano and not make a single mistake.
It should be easier for Papadakis and Cizeron in this regard. Still, they lost in Pyeongchang, lost the European Championships 2020, and this greatly relieves the stress.
Evgeni Platov: I agree. But they will have to fight with themselves and with the monstrous pressure from outside in any case.
Do you regret during the Olympics that you are not involved in serious coaching now?
Evgeni Platov: You know, I bow to our great coaches Tatiana Tarasova, Tamara Moskvina, Alexei Mishin, that they have stood and still stand at the boards for so many years. I myself coached at a serious level from 2002 to 2014, but the moment came when I decided that it was too difficult for me purely psychologically. I was so worried about my pairs that my health was no longer enough for this. So I decided, so to speak, to change my life. My wife and I moved to Florida, we live on the island. Plus I have golf. I played before, but before that we lived in New Jersey, where there were 13 snowdrifts during the winter. And I realized that I would not be able to play until April, if not until May. It was then that he told my wife that we should move.
Will you watch the Olympic Games?
Evgeni Platov: Sure. I want to see who wins in the dance, who wins in the men. It’s easier with women: the standings are quite clear there. And I should see pairs at least once this season! Maybe even bet something on someone. At least mentally…
Related topics: Evgeni Platov, Gabriella Papadakis Guillaume Cizeron, Kamila Valieva, Madison Chock Evan Bates, Madison Hubbell Zachary Donohue, Mark Kondratyuk, Nathan Chen, Victoria Sinitsina Nikita Katsalapov, Yuzuru Hanyu
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