Yagudin Looks Down a Different Path (Part 1)by Sal Zanca, Part 1 of 2
2002 Olympic champion Alexei Yagudin is one of the most successful skaters of all time, and he remains immensely popular despite an injury that has kept him out of eligible competition. He spoke to European-based reporter Sal Zanca last week while attending the JGP event in Bratislava.
|Alexei Yagudin at the 2002 Campbell's Classic
Photo by Michelle Wojdyla
(9/24/03) — A lot has happened to Alexei Yagudin since he won the Olympics. Some good, some not so good.
“I can't describe [it] in five minutes,” Yagudin said. “I just realized that the figure skating world is so small, and there are so many other things that you are capable of doing besides skating.”
A career-threatening hip injury, which still causes him pain, has forced him to put his competitive career on hold while he looks at different opportunities.
One of these things is coaching, which brought him to Bratislava last week. He is helping one of the top young skaters in the world, Andrei Griazev, who took his second Junior Grand Prix title in two weeks at Skate Slovakia.
Since his hip surgery last May, Yagudin has been taking advantage of his time off the ice.
“I've been at the MTV awards. I've been at the U.S. Open. I never watched tennis live,” Yagudin said.
He almost had another chance. The United States-Slovakia Davis Cup playoff was also held in Bratislava the same time as Skate Slovakia. Yagudin was interested in trying to attend, but the men's skating schedule coincided with the matches and he couldn't go. Still Yagudin has enjoyed the opportunities for other things.
“There are just more connections. It is interesting,” Yagudin said. “Also I found myself interested in coaching. I don't really coach right now, but I am helping Tatiana (Tarasova) with her students.”
Being on the sidelines has given Yagudin a chance to experience what Tarasova feels on the other side of the boards.
“I almost passed out after the first competition, even Junior Grand Prix,” Yagudin said of the nervousness that comes with coaching. “I can't describe what she (Tarasova) felt being at all these Olympics and standing there. She has some Olympic golds, which is incredible. I will be seeing her again. I learned a lot [about] how she does this thing.”
He is helping Griazev, who won the short program and free skate in his two Junior Grand Prix events this year. Griazev has all the triple jumps, including a triple Axel that has some Yagudin-like height on it. However, Griazev is inconsistent with the quad for now.
“He just started landing it at the end of August,” Yagudin said.
Ironically Griazev was formerly with Alexei Mishin, who coached Yagudin before he went to Tarasova.
“It doesn't really matter from whom he has been taking before because now he is in Tatiana's group,” Yagudin said. “So that is what I care about. I just care about her students. And I didn't steal him from anyone. He made this decision himself. He asked Tatiana to take him in the group so I will do everything to help Tatiana first of all.”
In practice Griazev had some gestures that people would remember from Yagudin's routines. However, Yagudin said he wasn't trying to impose his way on Griazev.
“It is just the way he feels. I am not teaching him what I have been doing. We are all different. Everyone has a different way of doing things.” Yagudin said. “When you work in the same group, pretty much everyone skates the same way."
Yagudin said that he isn't trying to replace Tarasova, just work with her.
“When we work as a team, it is just getting stronger," he said. “For him it is good to be with different people. It is not just the same person telling the same thing over and over again. Tatiana tells him one thing. She has one opinion. I have another.”
Also read Part 2