Earlier this week, we published an excerpt from Evgeny Plushenko’s interview with Russian sports news publication Sport Express. Now, the biggest selling sports newspaper in Russia released the full interview with the two-time Olympic gold medal winner.
Plushenko spoke about his new Angels of Plushenko ice rink, the second stage of the Cup of Russia series, his feud with Eteri Tutberidze, and internal situation.
Full interview with Evgeny Plushenko by Sport Express; translated to English:
Sport Express (SE): Evgeny, we are now at the site of Angels of Plushenko, you recently announced the imminent opening of a new skating rink. How is the work progressing there?
Plushenko: Business is progressing great, construction is coming to an end. We are planning a test opening on my birthday, on November 3. It will be a personal skating rink, now I rent a site. Finally, we will have our own base, I’ll show you where Sasha Trusova, Alena Kostornaia, and our other skaters will live and train. For those of my athletes who show good results, there will be free tuition and accommodation. And they will live in separate chalet cottages, we are building them now. In order not to travel anywhere and immerse themselves in the work process. Because we will skate a lot, three to four workouts per day. There will be gyms, choreographic and creative, a spa center. In general, my wife and I are opening a full-fledged sports base in the Moscow region. In February, a second skating rink will appear in Moscow, my wife’s and mine. We decided to invest in sports, figure skating. There will also be a large playground, halls, and a restaurant. There are a lot of people willing to train. Here, on Lobachevskogo, we no longer fit. (note – Angels of Plushenko is located on Lobachevskogo Street in Moscow)
SE: This weekend, the Cup of Russia stage was held, which was won by Alexandra Trusova. Are you happy with how it went?
Plushenko: The atmosphere – yes, finally there was a sports “fight.” I want to congratulate the girls, Kamila and Daria, with second and third places. They are strong skaters, they have a great future. And they have a good team. But I’m not happy with the short program score of all three girls. Read a lot of comments – why? Here is the answer.
At the age of 14, you cannot put “tens” for components. This is junior skating, and no matter how beautiful they skate, no matter how beautiful the lines and spins are, this is not “ten.” Under the previous system, this is 6.0. This is wrong. Where should they grow further? Some judges, coaches, and the leadership of the federation have already agreed with me – that it was somewhat wrong. I’m telling you honestly. Let this truth be harsh. Valieva’s 10 points is impossible.
SE: How do you explain this?
Plushenko: Judges’ mistake. I will not go into details, we talked about this topic and figured it out. But I want to say one thing – there are athletes for whom I will drown. And I will not allow any judge to do the wrong thing against my athletes. I like justice. Sasha didn’t win the short program, it’s true. But she didn’t take third, but second place, and lost not 10 points, but 5-6. I agree with this scenario, Valieva was higher. But why overestimate one and decrease points for my skaters?
I understand that the judges wanted to create a safety cushion for the free skate. I know these judges, I even know where they are and whom they drive up. But I don’t want to go into specifics. Let’s all understand that the time has come for justice. There is one school and there is another. You need to treat everyone equally. I had a substantive conversation…
SE: With the leadership of the federation?
Plushenko: Let’s confine ourselves to this wording – I think they heard me. However, our result does not mean that we need to be crowned. They are very strong rivals, and a lot didn’t work out for us. We went for the triple axel for the first time, a really difficult element. Without belittling anyone’s merits – Sasha generally skated with a cold. But this is our problem, we dealt with it.
SE: What’s next in Sasha’s plans for the program?
Plushenko: We are preparing for the fourth stage of the Cup, I would not like to reveal all the secrets. The program will definitely be strengthened. In general, I want to praise and thank Sasha. I have not seen a single athlete who would give their best and treat their profession this way. She moves on, works hard, wants to learn new things. Her task is to learn how to skate well, add choreography, in spins. A lot of work. If all athletes had such dedication, it would be cool.
SE: One of the discussions in social networks is whether the whistle from the stands and discontent in social networks helped her victory. What do you say?
Plushenko: I want to thank the people who do not hate this story, but treat it professionally and talk about it. Look, Chen and Hanyu don’t get “tens,” Costner didn’t always have them. So why do we make a circus out of figure skating? We purposely heat up the opposition. Maybe all that happened is some kind of contractual history on the part of some people. Why then? Let’s work and win fairly. Let’s stop saying that someone has dragged someone for “money.” It’s already here (points to the throat).
How much nonsense can you talk about outbidding? The athlete moved on himself. If the athlete is doing well, it is extremely difficult to entice him for money. Impossible. We don’t have football or hockey club system. They also tried to entice me at one time, but I believed Alexei Nikolayevich Mishin. Although he was eager to leave for America. So stop talking nonsense – both to the headquarters and to the fans. Take it for granted. And figure it out for yourself – why this is happening. I don’t want to argue with anyone. We even had a conversation at the end of the competition – I suggested a peaceful story, they say, there is no need to fight. Do your job, and we do ours.
SE: Have you approached Eteri Georgievna?
Plushenko: We spoke to her headquarters, yes. Yana and I (note – Rudkovskaya, Plushenko’s wife). She now, like me, invests a lot of money into our schools, in sports, and helps athletes with sponsorships. And so we said – no need to invent things, stop. We were for peace.
SE: What did they respond to you?
Plushenko: So far we have not found a mutual understanding with that side. But I had the idea that we need to communicate normally. But our world with Eteri did not work out. She is more satisfied with the war.
SE: In general, we are waiting for the continuation of Instagram battles.
Plushenko: Yes… Their director (note – Renat Laishev) is broadcasting. In general, I think that, as a civil servant, he has no right to make such statements at all. Who skates worse, that Trusova will not be able to show results with me… I have information that in the near future he will leave his position, and it’s time to pack up his suitcase. A pity, he is very entertaining. Every interview is a masterpiece! Just like his “Plushenko is a bum.” He honestly believes that he understands more about figure skating than me. So let’s play along, okay? You ask him questions about figure skating with a blue eye, and he answers seriously. And then the whole world laughs. But we have such a character. I really like it, let him be in our life.
SE: Eteri Tutberidze recently announced a collaboration with Maria Shashina, who participated in organizing your shows. Are you ready for the fact that Khrustalny will improve PR?
Plushenko: Great, let it tighten up. Of course I’m in favor! Let them move too. Maria worked for us as an administrator. She said she represented our show. This is… an exaggeration. My wife does not need anyone, she is a professional, and she has a great team. Yana, in my opinion, does not even know what this Masha looks like. Masha helped Arik (note – Ari Zakarian, agent and director of the show) book tickets and hotels for our athletes, that’s basically the whole promotion of the show. I have a very positive attitude towards her, but, probably, when people start working with big stars, a little dizziness begins. Nevertheless, she’s done well, she found a team. God grant them success.
SE: For some reason I ask about the audience. You interacted a lot with the stands, turned them up, played with your eyebrows during the announcement of Usacheva’s results. Spontaneously or deliberately?
Plushenko: I turned up the stands, of course. I was in a good mood. And the audience was a little heavy, you know, there was such an oppressive atmosphere. Everyone was waiting – well, who, who? You can already see how the fans split into two camps. More and more people come to us, I am sure that whole sectors will be rooting for us. I just wanted to cheer up the audience. In my opinion, everyone appreciated. Or not? The main point was that it was interesting. Look at the numbers on television. In terms of the number of viewers, the Cup of Russia has overtaken the football team. (note – the ladies’ event at Cup of Russia had more viewers – 2 million – than the Russian national football team during an international game – 1.7 million)
I think such numbers were unrealistic before our team appeared. So much for the impact of the Plushenko-Tutberidze confrontation. Figure skating is returning to the status of the main and most popular sport in Russia, which it once was. It’s time to regain our position, overtake Conor (note – McGregor, popular UFC fighter and highest selling pay-per-view athlete), Khabib (note – Nurmagomedov, popular and highest selling pay-per-view Russian UFC fighter), and others. If there are high ratings, advertising contracts and fame will come, everyone needs it. That’s why I work, I follow social networks, I read the opinions of fans.
SE: Do you control your Instagram account yourself? All these “Lesha, sit down, five” – is this yours?
Plushenko: Myself. Of course – Lesha is great. Honored “five.” But I don’t think about Lesha, and he, apparently, thinks about me and my school a lot! Maybe he is really looking for an alternate airfield? Well, either it’s just a lack of attention, and neither television helps, nor “vines” in a female guise.
SE: There will be no spectators at the Cup of Russia in Sochi. Is our situation so difficult that we need to close the stands? The KHL in Sochi plays with several thousand spectators during games.
Plushenko: I don’t understand this at all. Yes, skating without spectators is very difficult, we need fans and support. But such a time. You have to be ready anyway.
SE: We said a lot about Trusova, let’s remember about Alena Kostornaia. How is she doing with the triple axel, programs?
Plushenko: Alena is alright. The only thing is that she broke her skating boots, and the day before yesterday she began to skate in new ones. It takes time. But we are also preparing for the fourth stage, to perform the free skate, it is ready.
SE: The program was created through video?
Plushenko: Yes, by Skype.
SE: Do you believe in technology? There is skepticism that it is unrealistic to put together a top-notch program on the video?
Plushenko: We have Seryozha Rozanov, who transferred all of this to the ice, Alena is not a small child after all. I had a big dream that Shae-Lynn would choreograph the program, it costs a lot of money. We know each other, we skated shows together. The main thing is that she said “yes” to working with Kostornaia.
SE: Is Alena comfortable at school, has she gotten used to it?
Plushenko: Alena is comfortable at school. She has her own ice, very few athletes skate in their training. Why complain? Choreography, dancing, massages. You have to work, that’s all.
SE: There is a lot of information in the media and social networks about conflicts within the school. For example, Sergei Rozanov does not work with Trusova, only with Kostornaia. If this is true, state your position and why it happened.
Plushenko: Sergei Rozanov really hasn’t been working with Sasha for a long time, that’s true. He leads Alena. Sasha and Alena have separate teams, both choreographers and coaches. These are two different teams. Only I work with both of them. It was Sasha’s decision, I supported it. Seryozha had no questions. It happened.
Sport Express (SE): Does it bother you that the people who came to your school together broke up almost immediately?
Plushenko: Sasha came separately. Nobody came together. I say it how it is – Sasha came herself. And her dad suggested to invite Sergei. I answered, “Why not, this is a good specialist.”
SE: But they had a good relationship.
Plushenko: Yes. He gave Sasha a short program and free skate, this is his great work. Over time, we began to improve and refine them. But Sergei now has his own work, he is working with Kostornaia, he has two groups.
SE: Okay, let’s take the role of Elena Ilinykh. Also no conflicts?
Plushenko: Lena stopped working with Sasha, Sasha stopped working with Lena. They tried, looked at each other, felt each other but did not grow together.
SE: How long ago did it happen? Elena took Sasha to the test skates.
Plushenko: Somewhere just after the test skates. Sasha has new specialists, we are still taking on other trainers. Lena works with other athletes, Kostornaia. In general, we have a lot of students: Titova, Sarnovsky, the Zhilinas. She won’t go anywhere.
SE: Do they have a conflict with Trusova?
Plushenko: There are no conflicts with either Rozanov or Ilinykh.
SE: You said new coaches. Do you have other acquisitions?
Plushenko: Acquisitions? I’m thinking of buying a car. Now I choosing. (smiles)
SE: How is your harmony in life now? A large school, many coaches and skaters with their own interests, already children and not just one child.
Plushenko: There have to be desires. Live on, work, create. In my life, things come up and work out, but there are always new challenges. But I have a very good, close-knit team. You can rely on them. It was not for nothing that I fired 17 specialists at one time. I have a faithful and beloved wife who is always with me and helps me. Lovely sons.
SE: Isn’t it difficult to keep up with everything? Is there enough time for a family?
Plushenko: Everything is fine, Arsyusha is growing, we are very happy. How to keep up? Wake up at 6 in the morning, at work at 7, work an Angels until 17-18, then all the other things. My mother told me: “Slowly, but hurry.” I set the task, it must be fulfilled.
SE: And how does that sound?
Plushenko: For my school to be the best in the world. We will work hard to make this dream a reality.