The acclaimed former Russian figure skater Alexei Yagudin holds a string of brilliant achievements in his sports career that has seen him being bestowed with titles such as the 2002 Olympic Champion, a four-time World Champion (1998, 1999, 2000, 2002), a three-time European Champion (1998, 1999, 2002), a two-time Grand Prix Final Champion (1998-1999, 2001-2002), a World Junior Champion (1996) and a two-time World Professional Champion (1998, 2002). Aviamost was delighted to meet and talk to the famous champion during his recent visit to Dubai when he stayed at the Atlantis, The Palm Dubai.
A warm welcome to Dubai!
Thank you very much.
What is the purpose of your visit?
I would like to say that I came here for a vacation with his family. Currently, I work closely with the Art Tour. We have long wanted to do away session for partners of the company, which help to sell tours to Dubai.
During my stay in Dubai, I presented the program at the ice rink and held a demonstration lesson for local fans of figure skating. In the evening we will reward gifts to the most active tour operators who have achieved the best results in attracting Russian tourists to Dubai.
What prompted you to begin in childhood skating?
I think as a child, we especially do not choose who we become, where to go, and we cannot predict what lies ahead. This is a common story for anyone from cold, rainy St. Petersburg in Russia or from any part of the world too. In order to enhance children's health, parents enter children in some variety of sports. At that time, one of the most popular was figure skating, football and hockey. It so happened that my mother took me to figure skating.
And when she felt that the sport began to occupy an increasingly prominent place in your life, it is the perceived need?
I would like to compare our lives with a house being built. When erecting a building, there is no lift at first, to "jump" from floor to floor. Everything must go step by step. I can only highlight moments when after ascending one flight of stairs, one stands on a platform and thinks: "So, and where next?" If you got some idea, then it's time to move forward.
In 1996 I won the World Junior Championships and then thought that we are moving with the coach in the right direction. That means we need to try something more massive. I won the "bronze" World Cup 1997, won the 1998 European championship, showed the fifth result at the Olympic Games in Nagano and in 1998 became the world champion.
Please tell us, that if a person has met with high achievements in his sporting life and met with outstanding success in it, what is his or her fate after retiring from active sports life?
In our sport the best achievements usually come between 24-25 years. In boxing you can find 30-40 year old champion. We have limited technical capabilities, talents, and, above all, time-bound. If you are not able to reach the top to 25 years, then most likely, you will achieve nothing. No matter whether you are winning or not, sooner or later, your sport career ends and the question arises, “What to do next?"
I was lucky. Mom forced me to complete school, and I finished the ten-years with a silver medal. However, due to the total dedication to the sport, the quality of education does tend to suffer.
but it does not matter what kind of sports you have excelled in, when it comes time to say goodbye to one’s competitive performances, you are left at a loose end because it’s a fact that you are not able to do anything outside the sports discipline you were trained in. There is some kind of emptiness. This is why a large percentage of people try to somehow prolong their lives in a world that is familiar to them.
I had a similar situation. Initially, there was a time when you realize that after the injury came time to leave. Basically, I did everything, remained in professional sports, did ice shows went on tours. But even in this period, somewhere in the course of the year, I wanted to create a foundation.
Tatiana has opened doors for me in the corridor with great potential and turned on the light, so that I did not suffer, and I no longer felt lost trying to find something meaningful to do but rather and walked purposefully to what I want. So now I'm busy filming a movie, TV shows, participated in the "Ice Age" show and acted in the theater in three plays. I conduct a lot of corporate events. That is, I am now more creative than in sports.
For a while I was engaged in business. But I was warned that in business it's not just this: come to the demonstration performance, skate, receive a fee and left. If you do something, you must give 100%.
At the moment I have decided in my life to develop the creative side by doing theater and cinema, and then let’s see. I think that you can do business in 50-60 years, so it is still a ride.
I believe that coaching is the last thing I will do in my life. Do not think that I am opposed to training Russian athletes. Coaching is a difficult step in a person's life. A coach not only teaches and manages but he should live the life of his players 24 hours a day. This is a very difficult job. It is a rare case when a good athlete becomes a good mentor. I wish to move on and learn some other profession.
What made you participate in the "Ice Age"?
This show has enabled professional athletes who are well acquainted with the artistry of sports to understand what is theatrical artistry. Please understand that this is not just demonstrations, but real mini-plays where you develop an understanding of artistry and the ability to win the audience. In fact in the creative professions there is no limit to perfection.
We Ilya Averbuch, as Totmjanina Tatiana, Tatiana Navka, Roman Kostomarov and other guys are one team and we've been working together. I think it’s a good thing that we have projects such as the "Ice Age", "Ice and Fire", "City Lights". If they were not there and our skaters acted as now, many people would have stopped watching figure skating. All thanks to Ilya, who maintains an interest in the sport at a very high level.
Please tell us about your family.
I thought that there could be nothing better than to stand on the podium of the Olympic Games. But with the birth of our daughter I realized that the best feeling is that of becoming a father. Those things that are taking place in my life now are truly the most joyful.
The family is strong when there is a clever wife. I was very lucky with my wife. I found a perfect partner in Olympic champion Tatiana Totmianina, and we together raise our daughter Lisa. All couples initially need time to adapt. But we have passed this period and now fully understand each other. We have a relationship full of harmony and tranquility. Now our daughter Lisa is four years. We sent her to Paris, where she will go to kindergarten and learn French.
Please tell us about the person who played such an important role in your life - Tatiana Tarasova the Russian figure skating coach and national figure skating team adviser who is often called the "second mother of Alexei Yagudin."
I myself often say that Tatiana is my second mom. I always knew that if something happens, she will always support and help me. I owe my success to Tatiana Tarasova. It is thanks to her that I became a versatile skater.
We are very close friends. She is a great coach who has trained a whole galaxy of brilliant champions like been Ilia Kulik, Natalia Bestemianova, Andrei Bukin, Oksana Grishuk, Evgeni Platov, Ekaterina Gordeeva, Sergei Grinkov, Marina Klimova, Sergey Ponomarenko and Irina Rodnina and Alexander Zaitsev. She is an absolute professional in figure skating but she is also absolutely objective and focussed.