Evgeni Plushenko: ” I want the whole country, the whole world to know my athletes, remember them for their great contribution to figure skating.”
Interview with Evgeni Plushenko and Yana Rudkovskaya for Tatler Russia.
source: Tatler magazine / February 2021 / catalog-n.com
About idea to build houses for skaters of Plushenko’s Academy close to the rink and his own house
Evgeni Plushenko: Well, you know, this is such an experiment. But we have a large territory. Athletes live in one side, we live in the other.
Yana and I came up with this idea during quarantine. We bought land plots from sixteen neighbors. Many had houses, some we took down, some decided to reconstruct.
It was necessary to give our girls the opportunity not to drive back and forth, not go anywhere, not get stuck in traffic jams. So that they can walk from the rink to the house in thirty seconds, can recover and rest longer.
The guys from St. Petersburg, who also live with us, come to me. They swim in the pool, sometimes we go to sauna, our girls sometimes prepare breakfast, lunch, dinner for them. That is, train, work, show results, and you will be looked after.
About the high cost of figure skating
Evgeni Plushenko: The federation allocates sixty thousand rubles (800 USD approximately) per year for an athlete’s costumes. It is impossible to sew dresses for all programs with this money: you need two or two hundred and fifty thousand (2500 -3500 USD). And what if the costume is unsuccessful? In 2020, we sewed not one but three or four dresses for Kostornaia and Trusova.
About sponsors and funding
Evgeni Plushenko: Andrei Molchanov (founder of PJSC LSR Group – ed) is our close friend. He helps some athletes: he pays for training, the choreographers we invite, equipment, travel, participation in competitions. TFS is Sergei Chernodedov (head of Trans Food Service), also our friend. I once invited him to see the school, the children. He looked and said: “Zhenya, I will transfer money on your account.” That is, these are our personal friends, businessman, people who are engaged in such charity.
Funding is needed, we are a private club, so we must pay for the travel of all coaches, all athletes to the competitions. The Federation does not give us money, although we represent it at competitions.
Not to everyone and not always, but to almost every athlete I pay bonuses. For prize places. Or when someone did his first triple jump – I gave him five, ten, fifteen, thirty thousand rubles (65, 135, 200, 400 USD).
The interviewer notes that this season, the family budget probably did not suffer too much.
Evgeni Plushenko: A lot of things turned out, a lot of things didn’t turn out. There are reasons for this. We are working, we have set tasks, and now we need to implement them. The season was difficult, incomprehensible, but I immediately said that we are preparing for the future. We, as soldiers, must be ready for the World Championships, European Championships, Olympic Games. The Russian Nationals is a responsible competition, but not the most important one.
About Sofia Sarnovskaia, Sofia Titova and Veronika Zhilina.
Evgeni Plushenko: She is progressing, jumps almost all triples, and she is only eight years old. Sofia Titova came to me two years ago with double jumps, she was took twenty-second place. Now she jumps all triples. Quadruples on the way.
For the first time in her career, Veronika did a triple axel with a triple toe loop. I am proud of this and want to say a big thank you to her previous coach and her mom who works with her.
About progress of ladies’ figure skating
Evgeni Plushenko: I made my first quadruple toe loop at fifteen, a triple axel at thirteen. Trained only three times a week, one training session a day. The boys shared the skates: first one trains, then another, then the third one. The boots were so big that we had to wear woolen socks.
Now everything is different, they have everything, a lot of training. And the children get injured. We need a measure. I don’t rush them. There are coaches who need it today, tomorrow it’s too late. It is not right. It is necessary to prepare an athlete for the future, for major competitions and for longevity in sports. So that they skate for a long time. Not a flash: won some competitions and disappeared, nobody remembers them, and they don’t know what to do.
In sports it is important to skate for a long time, but it is insanely difficult. I want the whole country, the whole world to know my athletes, remember them for their great contribution to figure skating. And so that everyone is individual. There are schools where they stamp the same thing: wave here, the leg went up there. For example, my Sasha. Now he is seven, he doesn’t jump double axel yet. But I know that in two or three months he will jump it. Every person, every athlete should have everything in his time. I skated with one athlete: he managed to learn a triple axel in a week and for me it took a year and a half.
Evegni Plushenko: This (academy) can only become a business if the entire skating rink is rented out. And if we support the groups that we have and pay salaries to the entire coaching team, God blesses, we break to even. When I was renting a skating rink, every year I had minus twelve million rubles (160 000 USD). This is with one hundred and twenty children training in the Academy.
I just threw away twenty-four million in two years (320 000 USD). But we understood that it was necessary to do this, although we could have kept only one group. But I needed to see if I could do this.
Yana Rudkovskaya: Probably this business will become profitable when there are three training arenas – it will be possible to rent out some ice. Make money on advertising contracts like on a show. Now all the shows are blocked, we lost a lot of money. We invest everything that we have earned in our life. But Zhenya always dreamed that the current athletes had conditions that he did not have.
He lived in a six-meter room with rats, mice, even during the Olympics he slept in the car. There were no conditions then. Now is a different time. They say “Plushenko became Plushenko, because he raved and stormed” – this will not happen now. Talented children need help. Our friends ask “What to give you?” We say: “We don’t need anything. If you want to please us, help talented children.”
Evgeni Plushenko: Recently, there was a stage of the Russian Cup in Kazan, Sasha Trusova won there. We missed the train and had to stay. But Sasa skated great, and I rented a presidential room for her and her mother. Because she deserved to rest in a normal room. And after a while I meet one of the leaders of figure skating. He asks me: “Well, why are you doing all this for her? Why are you spoiling them?” Well, the time is different, not Soviet. Will she skate worse because of this? On the contrary: she saw the attitude towards herself.
About conditions he lived when just came from Volgograd to St. Petersburg in 1993. Alone without parents, with a coach.
Evgeni Plushenko: They rented a two-room apartment for us: the coach lived in one room, in the other – we were with the girl Tanya, who came with us. It took an hour and a half to get to the rink, but everything was great. And then Mishin took me to his group. Tanya went home, my coach also left. And I was left alone. Mishin settled me in his apartment, which he gave for students.
There were three Spaniards, two Koreans, three Englishmen and me. And there were also only two rooms. There I learned to speak a little Spanish – my neighbor Miguel and I are still friends, we have a birthday on the same day, he is now the head of one of the roller skating schools in Spain.
Then my mother came, looked at me, and I was just a disaster: I stopped obeying. Dad worked three jobs to feed us. My mother and I rented a room in a communal apartment with five neighbors. The room was very small: there was a sofa and one folding bed, there was a small table, one chair and a wardrobe, also small. Behind the wall live a man who got drunk every day. And the wall between our rooms was made of cardboard. And so he constantly broke it. But it was convenient to live there: it was literally five minutes walk from the Yubileiny Sports Palace.
In the next apartment, rats crawled out in the evenings: we lived on the second floor. Giant creatures, horror! Dad came to us, looked and said: “I’ll put you mousetraps now.” Well, there was no opportunity to find a better place for us. Dad did his best.
Parents, by the way, almost sold everything in Volgograd. Then it was possible to sell an apartment, a garage and a country house there and buy a room in a communal apartment with this money in St. Petersburg. I was twelve years old, but I said, “Never do this. If I fail, where will we live and what will we do? At least we will return to Volgograd.”
It was a hard time. Mom and I collected bottles. She was very embarrassed about it, I said: “Mom, wait, I’ll do it myself.” We went to training or from training and collected bottles.
About coaches and coaching
Evgeni Plushenko: When I arrived, Mishin had six athletes. Urmanov, who won the Olympic Games at that time. Tataurov, who was fifth at the Olympics. Yagudin was there. Six adult athletes. If Mishin takes time during training, makes one, two, maximum three comments, it was happiness.
I skated, looked at him and thought: “Alexei Nikolaevich, look at me, I’m trying so hard.” And he left for the competitions and said: “I’ll come in a week, you have to do this, this and this.” And I understood that I had to do it. Now I have two or three coaches in each group – a fantastic luxury. And then Mishin came and said: “Well done, you did it.” I was already fourteen years old, we had already been to the junior world championship, when he began to devote time to me. Now I think that this approach is very correct. Earn the coach’s attention with your work, your dedication to the training process.
But Mishin has never been tough, aggressive. He could look, and everything became clear. He’s never laid hands on anyone, did not humiliate, did not insult. Many schools have this. When the coaches come to me, I tell them: “I will not tolerate insults, humiliation of children in my school.”
There was such a story when I rented an ice rink. The coaches beat the children. I saw everything, once I made a remark, then a second one. On the third one, I fired everyone. You can do whatever you want with your children, but not at my school. Many resisted – they say, they must somehow motivate children. I say: “Motivate with a word, with a look.”
About starting working as a coach because of his son
Evgeni Plushenko: We engaged him with figure skating and I had to be with him, and I decided to try. At first it was hard: I worked with everyone, but the school grew very quickly, there were eighty children in six months. I was insanely exhausted: I came home and I didn’t care about anything. This was my first mistake.
And I started to change the system. I divided the students into groups, hired coaches, but did not take a group for myself. This was the second mistake. Many guys said: “Since you will not coach, we will go to other schools.”
I took two groups, started to coach, and several sportsmen from other schools approached me. I said: “No problem, I have the opportunity, I give you ice.” This caused some kind of panic, anger that I lured skaters, that I bought them. And I have never done such things. I just once said that the time will come, I will have a skating rink and good skaters will work with me, I have finances and conditions for this.
Yana Rudkovskaya: He shook things up. With his arrival, it became interesting. Before that, only the same girls of the same coach had won. And now Alexei Nikolaevich Mishin got involved in the fight. Figure skating has become different, more shocking. Everyone discusses what kind of costume the skater has, who won. When I pass by, even the builders ask: “Has Kostornaia recovered? Will she go to the Russian Nationals?” Now figure skating is in the top. This happened, of course, thanks to Alina Zagitova, Evgenia Medvedeva, thanks to Yulia Lipnitskaya, Adelina Sotnikova. But now people also follow the opposition of the coaches. Like twenty years ago, when there were Alexei Yagudin and Evgeni Plushenko and there was the camp of Tatiana Tarasova and Alexei Mishin.
If the ratings of the figure skating on TV channels are higher than the ratings of football, then advertising contracts and in general everything related to figure skating will rise in price. And this is very important for the future of athletes. Our task is so that when they leave the sport, they do not disappear, but develop and stay in the family.
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