Evgeni Plushenko: Zagitova and Medvedeva earn very little
Interview with Evgeni Plushenko about his academy, changes in figure skating and Instagram discussion with Tutberidze.
by Dmitri Kuznetsov for sport-express.ru dd. 20th February 2020
Evgeni, we have met at junior competitions more than once, and, unfortunately, very often the stands are empty there. Although it seems like we have a boom in figure skating, it’s a sin not to use it.
– It has always been so. But if you take, for example, the Russian junior nationals – this is a big competitions, local administrators should work at such competitions and give the opportunity to orphanages, school children, students, pensioners to visit. If tickets are not for sale. I think, the Federation is doing what it can.
Don’t you think that we are not making the most of the current favorable period?
– We need good managers. This is not this year’s problem. We need to promote athletes, competitions. Unfortunately, we do not have this. With competent PR it possible to sell all tickets for Junior Nationals. But as far as I know, now the federation is being updated, more and more young coaches appear. Of course, we need an update. I have thoughts on this.
Can you tell? Do you want to head the federation?
– My position suits me. I want to build a strong school, a new ice rink, if I succeed – not one. I’m going to coach, I have a desire to continue doing this, I like it. Federation? No, rather, management of athletes, search for sponsors, promotion, organization of shows.
Discussions on Instagram, when coaches discuss each other’s work, is this also a kind of PR? There is also an element of promotion of figure skating.
– I don’t like it at all and always tried not to touch anyone, while no one was touching me. Such discussions are useless, you need to prove everything with the result on the rink. But turned out that the discussion in the information field is also not bad. Our people love it, the public is excited. And not only here, all over the world. They translated our dialogue (with Eteri Tutberidze – ed) into all languages. But each made his own conclusions. Next time, perhaps we will solve the problems differently!
Coaching is difficult. What is the pleasure for you?
– I like working with children. I like to win, of course. To see how you bring the idea to the athlete, and he fulfills it. Sofia Titova has recently won the Moscow championships. Of course I like it (laughs). A year ago, at the same competitions, she was 23rd, now the first.
Your school is two years old, right? Are you satisfied with the pace of development or was something not implemented?
– When we opened the school, I was not going to coach at all. We thought we’ll do classes for beginners. But adult athletes also came – Sakhanovich, Tarakanova, Samoilov, Golubev. Soon we realized that on that small rink where it all began, it was no longer possible to work. Two years later, we moved to another rink. But we need to build our own ice rink. Here I am late, time is lost. But it’s ok. I found the coaching staff, studied coaching.
Now an even more mature skater has come to you, Stanislava Konstantinova. What are her prospects?
– I think that everything will work out, at least I really hope so. Now she is gaining shape with coach Alexander Volkov, as far as I know, everything is going well. I emphasize that she moved to “Plushenko’s Angels”, but she will represent St.Petersburg.
There is skepticism in the figure skating community about your school and its results. Surely you’ve noticed.
– Yes, I am a young specialist, I do not have 20 years of experience working with athletes, I do not argue with this. But there are good athletes, and I’m sure that soon we will show the result. They have already begun to make themselves known. Step by step. The result is still small, but we have it. And it gives perspective. And the school is not even three years old.
I don’t have much time to coach, because I have shows. True, I began to refuse them recently. My son is growing, he is already 7 years old. And he’s not bad for his age. Hardworking, he likes to skate, he has prospects. I bring him up completely not in the sports spirit, without scolding for mistakes. I want him to have fun on the ice.
Finally, let me explain – I do not have a public school, nobody finances me. I pay for the ice we rent from my pocket, eight hours daily. And I do not ask anyone for help. Yes, I play for a long time, athletes will come to us, we will bring up our owns. Everything is ahead.
Is it real to earn doing figure skating? Often you hear from skaters that the costs are high, and it is very difficult to cover them.
– Only by personal sponsorship contracts, there are no other options. As I had.
But you have four Olympics medals. And what average skaters from Russian Nationals should do?
– As I said, to hire managers, to pay attention to this. Even Zagitova and Medvedeva earn very little. I understand that these amounts are big for many, but taking into account their results and their popularity, they should eartn completely different money. And most of them earn in shows. The question is again to PR managers. My son earns at seven! He has four big sponsors. We are satisfied, and the sponsors have been prolonging contracts with him for the second year, but my wife is seriously engaged in this (Yana Rudkovskaya – ed.). The amounts for the little boy are fantastic. I afraid to voice them out, don’t want to cause envy. This is excellent management.
In the second part of the season, three Russian ladies compete and the rest are already out of the game. There is an idea that because of high competition, some skaters should probably change citizenship. Do you like this idea?
– Maybe it’s worth it. I would even welcome that. We have a lot of cool girls and boys. This is a sport, and we need to look for opportunities to perform, to fulfill ourselves. If there is a chance to skate in another country – why not?
And if we talk about Medvedeva and Tuktamysheva? For some reason, regarding them, this question immediately causes negative.
– Everyone chooses his own path. But Medvedeva has represented our country for so many years that it seems to me that she already needs to quit sports. Do shows and have fun there. Because it is impossible to compete with girls with quadruple jumps. If she wants to be fifth, seventh – it is her choice.
Objectively it will be very difficult for Tuktamysheva, but Liza has an axel and a quad toe loop. Yes, she jumps them, maybe she should look how it will turn out before the Olympics. But you need to objectively evaluate your strengths and the strengths of rivals. And rivals grow and grow. Of course, you can hope thta your rival will got an injury. Alena Kanysheva got injured, switch to ice dance. Now, in general, a turnover is very active.
Turns out that we are moving to the situation when juniors will compete among themselves?
– If they raise the age of eligibility to 17 at the upcoming congress, everything will change. And I welcome that. Because 15-year-olds usually win – and go home, make money in shows. And after a year or two, nobody needs them anymore. Body has grown, breasts have grown, brain works differently … And if you raise the age by a couple of years, then the training will also change. It will be harder to skate than do couple of quads at age of 12. And no one knows what will grow up of this guy or girl in five years.
As another option, the division of figure skating into artistic and technical programs is considered.
– I am for changing something. So be it, we need some kind of novelty.
Do you think there is not enough novelty now? In your time there were jumping competitions, other non-standard things.
– Professionals competed against amateurs, for example, they were paid a lot of money, tens of millions of dollars were allocated for this. I participated in jumping competitions, they took place in France, America. But then the ABC television channel sponsored everything, the USA was number one in figure skating. Now this money is gone. Although such competitions are needed.
Alexei Yagudin has recently opened a school, you need to play the match “Plushenko Academy vs Yagudin Academy”.
– Before me, all schools were called schools – now everyone began to call them academies (laughs). Then it’s better to name it “Angels of Yagudin”.
If I remember correctly, the official name of his school or academy in Minsk is the Figure Skating Center.
– In any case, it’s not a question, I’m ready for the battle with Alexei. That would be great for figure skating. But we don’t hurry to develop. When we open our rink, there will be a boom, people will come. We are already proving our level with our result. We already have 50 percent of skater who skate for free.
And how are these 50 percent determined?
– Children from large families and the most talented ones have always studied with me for free. We look at the prospects during a try-out. I myself try to look for sponsors, we found two sponsors for Sofia Titova, these are large companies. I have many wealthy friends from large companies, there are private investments. I try to help children. Everyone thinks that we’re making a lot of money, but is far from reality. The costs are very high. Ice rental in Moscow is the most expensive in the world; these are objective figures.
Can a sponsor system take root and become the main one in our figure skating?
– Yes, I think it’s the most effective anyway.
But what about “Chrystalny”? You come, skate from morning to evening – and here are the results.
– But look at the selection process to get there. Yes, if we compare public and private schools in general, then in the public school there is no need to worry. The skater came then left, we’ll find another. The system is working.
In figure skating, people talk a lot about much is said about luring. This is a problem, can we do something about it? Implement some transfers between schools, like in football?
– That was, is and will be. Transfers? Perhaps that would be interesting. I agree that this is a problematic thing and always a blow for the coach. But on the other hand, if it’s a child’s desire, what will you do about it? It happens that they call us, we do not lure, we are ready to accept. Recently, a boy from a famous school came to us, he himself expressed a desire to move. He said that he was insulted there. We need an individual approach. Someone immediately presses, if you do not complete the task – get out. Well, when there is plenty to choose from, you can behave like that. But a lot of children leave. We need to stop this process and treat our young generation with care.