by Alexandra Stevenson
(22 January 2013)
ďI have everything,Ē said a smiling Evgeni Plushenko after his first practice in the Dom Sportova arena in Zagreb, to a small group of persistent journalists chasing him on Tuesday, the day before the 105th European championships begin.
The three time Olympic medalist (two silvers, 2002 & 2010, and gold in 2006) says he is cautious. Last year, when he made his second comeback, he won the European title declaring, ďThe other competitors gave the gold to me. I was surprised, but I was in no shape to go to the world championship. I needed another knee operation. (The first comeback was after he retired after the 2006 Olympic Games and didnít come back until the 2010 European championships.)
He has three European silver medals: 1998, 1999 & 2004, and seven golds: 2000, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2010 & 2012. He did not compete in 2002, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011. He says, very modestly, ďI have had some success. I have two sons (the first born in 2006 to his first wife, the second born on January 6, earlier this month). I have a beautiful wife. I have enough money. What more could I want?Ē
So why is he still competing?
ďBecause, I can. In my mind, Iím 18. But Iím 30 and Iíve had surgeries for ten years, which sometimes make me feel very old. How long can I keep going? Itís tough. How many injections (of cortisone) can you get? I donít know if I will go to Worlds in Canada (in London, Ontario in March). We will see how this (the European Championship) goes. I know it has to stop sometime. In addition to the knees, my back keeps letting me know I canít go on forever.
ďBut the Russian championship went well. (In December he won his tenth Russian national title by an over ten-point margin.) Next season, I would like to do one Grand Prix, but there are new rules now that say you must do two, and, with my knees, that is just too much. After nationals, I had to have two operations, just to keep going. Of course, I want to compete in Sochi. Who wouldnít want to compete in an Olympics in their own country? How can I not try?Ē
The Russian national championships were held in Sochi, where the 2014 Olympics Games will be held. ďItís a lovely facility and I want to skate there again.
ďAnd, when my new son is about three, Iíll put him, very carefully, on the ice. Maybe heíll be an ice hockey player. Or maybe a footballer! And by then Iíll probably be free to play a lot of golf. Iím a leftie.Ē
He came late onto his 3:20 pm forty minute practice on Tuesday. A visitor, who was not aware of Plushenkoís fame, would have been alerted immediately that someone special had arrived because of the volume of applause which greeted him from the very small number of people present.
While his music, a mixture of pieces by Saint-Saens, was being played for four minutes and thirty six seconds, he flowed powerfully around the ice. The piece includes a few seconds of the Dying Swan with him fluttering on toe picks. But, apart from footwork, he showed no elements.
He looks trimmer than he has in the past and his dramatic arm movements are sweeping, more professional and polished than before. After his music had been played, he executed a few jumps, a triple loop to triple toe loop, a triple Lutz to triple toe loop, and a quad toe loop. In the quad, his landing leg was a little more bent that usual.
Then he showed off some long, multi-position spins in which his blond mullet hair cut flew out like a sunflower halo. That was it, and he spent most of the rest of his 40 minutes, standing at the barrier with his 71-year-old coach, Alexei Mishin, who talent-spotted him when the youngster was 11 and living with his parents in Volgograd.
It was Mishin who brought him to St. Petersburg, after the Volgograd rink closed, and transformed him into a top competed, competing alongside Alexei Urmanov (1994 Olympic champion) and Alexei Yagudin (2002 Olympic champion).
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