Evgeni Plushenko: I always take risks – either everything or nothing
Evgeni Plushenko about the transition of Alena Kostornaia, work with Alexandra Trusova, building of two skating rinks and Sochi Olympics.
by Konstantin Nuzhdenov for sportrbc.ru dd. 6th August, 2020
How are you going to solve the problem with the official transfer of Kostornaia?
Evgeni Plushenko: Alena started the training process in our academy. She trains with Sergei Rozanov. We are preparing the documents. Although the transfer window is closed, we expect to make the transition. We will discuss this. I want to talk with the Ministry of Sports, with the Minister of Sports, ask them to allow Alena to switch the club as an exception. It will be great, If they make concession. Still, Alena is the European champion. She does not want to be in that team and decided to join us.
What if the transition is not allowed?
Evgeni Plushenko: At official competitions, she can skate for the previous club, and train with me. There are no obstacles to this.
Did Kostornaia, like Trusova, initiated the transition to your academy herself?
Evgeni Plushenko: Sure. I read numerous comments and people, as it seems to me, judge for themselves: supposedly some contracts have been offered, something has been promised, lured by the money. Athletes are already mature enough and capable of making serious informed decisions. And if they like to train in another place, if there are no roughnesses, they cannot be lured by any money.
When I was skating with Alexei Mishin, I was offered to switch to Tatiana Tarasova. The negotiations were led by Nikolai Morozov. I answered: “You have Lesha Yagudin.” They told me: “We are betting on you.” I thanked and refused, because I felt comfortable with my coach, whom I completely trusted.
When an athlete is mature enough and he is doing well with his team, he cannot be lured by any money. Don’t estimate everything only with money.
Trusova wanted to transfer to your academy two years ago. When did Kostornaia first express such a desire?
Evgeni Plushenko: We started to communicate with Alena two weeks ago on her initiative. Before that, no one contacted me, and I never met Alena before, we didn’t know each other.
Will Kostornaia have completely new programs?
Evgeni Plushenko: We will completely change both programs and have already started the work. We are negotiating with world-class choreographers. But the pandemics and closed borders interfere, but we’ll find the way out of the situation.
The task is to make Kostornaia an Olympic champion?
Evgeni Plushenko: The first task is to restore her completely. The girl has not skated for a long time. She came and does everything from scratch. The second task is to do cool programs and perform at the test skates. Then we will talk about further plans. I like to go in stages.
Are many skaters interested in training in your academy?
Evgeni Plushenko: There are many who want. Moreover, they’re skaters of a good level, although we already have a large number of people – more than a hundred.
In this regard, I decided to build two ice rinks. Now I rent the ice, but the academy needs its own base, its own skating rinks. The construction of both facilities is already underway.
Are the skating rinks being built at your own expense?
Evgeni Plushenko: Yes.
How much will the construction cost?
Evgeni Plushenko: This is a lot of money. We are talking about hundreds of millions of rubles (more than million US dollars approximately -ed.).
What are the approximate terms?
Evgeni Plushenko: I do not like to guess. Contractors say they will build in six months. We will proceed from this. But I think that the process, like any construction, will be delayed.
You said that the annual loss of your academy is 12 million rubles (163500 USD approximately -ed.). Will the savings be significant if the school moves to its own skating rinks?
Evgeni Plushenko: The rent at the current location is very high. I decided to build skating rinks in order not to give money away just like that, but to make them work for the school.
Do you have a business plan? Are you planning to bring the academy into a financial plus?
Evgeni Plushenko: I have no business plan. I set a task to bring up Olympic champions, and it makes no difference how I come to it, with or without losses. I want to create very good conditions for my athletes. I build one of the skating rinks in the region specially – outside the city you can hold training camps, run, be in a closed base. There will also be places to stay, rehabilitation and medical centers, food.
As for business, after our classes people and organizations can rent the ice which is not enough in Russia. I think everything will be fine in business too. However, I do not have the task of making a lot of money.
But do you expect to earn something?
Evgeni Plushenko: After the opening of the skating rinks, it will be possible to earn money, to cover something. Coaches, staff, light – everything needs money. To contain the ice, you need at least 1.5 million rubles. per month (20,5 thouthands USD – ed.). But before talking about money, you need to see what and how much it will cost.
Do you take everyone to your academy?
Evgeni Plushenko: Yes. But we closed the basic group due to rental prices. Now we take those who have at least two years of figure skating training. When the skating rinks open, we will open the basic training group again.
What is the cost of training at your academy?
Evgeni Plushenko: You can train for free. We have a group for children with developmental disabilities – with cerebral palsy, Down syndrome. Also, children from large, low-income families and super-talented children do not pay for classes. The minimum price is 15 thousand rubles. per month (205 USD).
How many pay-free spots are there?
Evgeni Plushenko: If a super-talented child comes, we will find a place for him.
What are your impressions from working with Trusova?
Evgeni Plushenko: It is interesting for me to move forward with a high-class athlete who does multi-turn jumps. Yes, Sasha is now at a transitional age. We are fighting with it. She is not easy, she has character. Somewhere we begin to fight among ourselves. But it’s normal. I remember myself and my great coach Alexei Nikolaevich Mishin. We argued with him, conflicted. However, this concerned only sports. Something the same we have with Sasha. I am satisfied for today.
Evgeni Plushenko: If she’s here, then she’s happy. With Sasha, we put two programs. Now we are polishing them, polishing every movement, because for her these are two completely new artistic images. She did not have such programs before. The steps sequences are very complex, close to the male ones. I think she will show new skating.
Will Trusova look completely different thanks to these programs?
Evgeni Plushenko: Yes of course. And thanks to a new breath, choreographic solutions, music, style.
What jumps are there in these two programs? Is there a quadruple loop?
Evgeni Plushenko: We work both on flip and loop.
Transitions of Trusova and Kostornaia literally blew up the social media.
Evgeni Plushenko: I don’t see any problem at all when an athlete switches to another coach. There are transfers everywhere. However, there are no such scandals. And here they start to inflate: “Wow, something critical has happened.” Lesha Yagudin at one time switched from Mishin to Tarasova. Kulik switched from Kudryavtsev to Tarasova.
In your opinion, is Trusova the strongest female single skater in the world?
Evgeni Plushenko: This is undeniable. She just need to deal with psychology. This is something that she couldn’t do before, especially in the last season, when she lost everything.
In your opinion, the main problem of Trusova is psychological?
Evgeni Plushenko: I think so. She also needs to train correctly, develop a scheme. An enormous amount of work needs to be done. It seems from the outside that she is jumping quads and seems to be the best. No. But now, I think we are doing everything right.
Being a coach of Trusova is a big responsibility. If she loses to Tutberidze’s skaters, it will be a serious blow for you. Do you agree?
Evgeni Plushenko: I always take risks – either everything or nothing. In my life, in my career, I never got easy ways. Even if something does not work out, we will not be upset, we will move on. But I think we will be fine.
You said that it is necessary to change the situation when many girls end their careers early. How do I fix it?
Evgeni Plushenko: It’s hard. Girls grow up, become young ladies. When the little ones are 12-13 years old they do everything easily. As soon as they gain weight, the psyche, coordination moments, jumping technique are disturbed. You need to follow your diet and work even harder. Those who overcome, they go on. For example, Liza Tuktamysheva.
Don’t you think that one of the reasons of the problem is a low age limit?
Evgeni Plushenko: I think it needs to be raised to 16 years old. This is the age when you should start performing in senior competitions. At the age of 16, skating is completely different, the sense of music, gesture and perception of the world in comparison with girls of 14 years old. These two years are very significant.
In mid-June, the International Skating Union (ISU) awarded Eteri Tutberidze as the best figure skating coach in the world. Do you set yourself the task of winning this award in addition to raising Olympic champions?
Evgeni Plushenko: If I bring up Olympic champions, then I will already achieve something. I have never called myself the best. I always said “A good athlete”. Now I want to be able to call myself a good coach.
You said that not only Tutberidze should have been awarded, but her entire team. Is the organization of her group an example for you? Or maybe your academy is already superior to the Tutberidze group in some way?
Evgeni Plushenko: Eteri has a very well-established process and a really strong team. It was especially strong when Sergei Rozanov worked there, a coach who taught many quadruple jumps. I am very glad that he made the decision to join my team. It’s too early to compare me with Tutberidze. I started coaching professionally only last year and she has been working for a long time.
Nevertheless, we prepared Titova in a year. When she came to us, she was in 23rd place, she hadn’t any triple jump, even double axel. Last season, Titova won the Russian and Moscow junior championships. This was done in five months. This is our small victory and pride, but we need to go further. We set the task to beat everyone.
Are there promising boys in your academy? You said that now there are no men in Russia who are capable of competing for the highest places at international competitions.
Evgeni Plushenko: There are. The brothers Kirill and Nikita Sarnovsky. A talented boy from Izhevsk came to us. But they need time.
Why are Russian men inferior to girls?
Evgeni Plushenko: Judging by my academy, boys, unlike girls, are afraid to do quadruple jumps. It’s a paradox, but it’s true. We are trying to overcome this barrier. There are certain improvements.
About the Olympics in Sochi
According to the doctor quoted by your wife Yana Rudkovskaya, if Evgeni Plushenko had competed in single skating, he could have died. Was it that serious?
Evgeni Plushenko: This is not PR. One of the titanium bolts in my spine structure broke. And, as my surgeon said, if I had performed and even landed successfully a quad, I might not have died, but remained disabled.
While in Sochi, did you understand how serious everything was?
Evgeni Plushenko: I did not believe that something could break. Thought something was wrong with the muscle. There was severe pain, a strong burning sensation, as if everything was burning in the spine. A week later I came for examination. I was shown that the head of the screw is broken, and a nerve ending passes nearby. “It’s good that you withdraw. If you had gone further, you could have been in the wheelchair now,” the doctor told me.
Having won the team event, I was a hero. Literally three days later, they attacked me and made me an antihero. This, it seems, can happen only in our country, where there are very “kind” people. Seeing this, Konstantin Ernst (General Director of Channel One – ed) said that we would do material directly from the surgery room so that people could see how serious everything is.
Many people said that Plushenko withdrew because he was afraid to lose.
Evgeni Plushenko: Olympics happen once in four years. To get there, you need to do a huge amount of work. In order to go to Sochi, I made a special surgery, tried my best to take part in the fourth Olympics. And after all this, to withdraw because of fear of competitors? This is sheer nonsense.
After Sochi, I underwent four spinal surgeries. This is a consequence of loads. In preparation for the Olympics, I started training ahead of time. The surgery was done nine months before the Games, and it took four months to recover, but after two I was on the ice. By that time, the structure did not have time to be covered with a muscle corset, that’s why it broke.
I am sure that if I had competed in single skating in Sochi, I would have won the fifth Olympic medal. I would have been in the top for sure. I also thought about participating in the fifth Olympics in 2018. I started skating, but my back did not allow me to return.