Interview after winning the first National title

At the last Russian National Figure Skating Championship Evgeny Plushenko, coached by Alexei Mishin, created a real sensation. According to his coach, he hasn't only defeated his rival A. Yagudin, but also surpassed him. At the press conference Plushenko said that his dream is to execute all quad jumps in his program. It's possible that this might happen soon.

Alexei Mishin:
-Zhenya was brought to St. Petersburg by his first coach, Mikhail Makaveev, because the sport center in Volgograd, where he lived and trained, was closed. Credit should be given to Makaveev because he didn't cling on his student since he knew that Zhenya would have more opportunities in St. Petersburg and recommended him to our group. 
By the way, only a few people know that Makaveev, by his education, is far from being a figure skating coach. He used to be a heavy athletics (weight lifting) coach, but his love for figure skating, his dedication to work and a perfectly chosen team of choreographers created a miracle. Thanks to Mikhail Makaveev, Volgograd had an interesting and distinctive school of  figure skating. 
The move to an unknown city was a very serious challenge not only for the 11-year-old boy but his parents as well. His family wasn't rich, they hardly had enough money to provide for their son at his new place.  I don't know what would have happened if it wasn't for his mom's dream. She believed that her son would be an elite skater and this belief passed on to Zhenya.

-Zhenya, why your mom have chosen choose figure skating and not some "manly" sport, for example, soccer?

-Probably, because it is closer to women. Everyone used to be crazy about figure skating and the competitions were often shown on TV. I was a very active kid, I couldn't stay still for a moment. So she has decided to get me involved in sports. 

-Were you teased in school because of this?

-How did you guess? Yes, that happened, like "Oh look! The figure skater came to play soccer with us!" Now they envy me a little. When I come home to Volgograd they say: "We've watched you on TV! Great skating!" 

Tatiana Mishina (Alexei Mishin's wife), also a FS coach:
Zhenya's mom couldn't stay with him all the time because she had a family (husband and daughter) in Volgograd. Zhenya has become responsible for himself at a very young age. Sometimes, when the boys returned to St. Petersburg after competitions he had nowhere to go. So he either lived at our home or at Sergey Serezhnikov's for a while.  I've always been impressed by his firm belief in himself and complete lack of jealousy. Even if he liked something very much, he has never shown it: "Oh well, I'll practice and I'll get it all someday." 

-Zhenya, did you and your mom rent an apartment in St. Petersburg at first?

-No, we only rented a room. When my mom went home she used to ask the next door neighbor to look after me. But I've tried to do everything by myself, even cook, but it wasn't as good as my mom does.

-Was there much money left?

-Not much, there were days when I only had enough to get to the Yubeleinyi and back. But I knew it would end someday and I could provide for myself and help my parents.

-So could you?

-Yes. But my dad is still working; he is a carpenter and bricklayer.  My mom was a seamstress. She used to sew for me and make my costumes, but not anymore. I don't want her to work, she has already done too much for me.

-Do you remember your first trip abroad?

-Of course! We flew to Australia for the Junior Worlds. I won the gold, was very excited and bought gifts for everyone. I got a pair of very expensive sneakers for myself. 

-What was your first impression?

-Very neat. I've never seen anywhere else such green lawns and washed streets like in Australia.

Alexei Mishin:
I think that Plushenko's success can be explained by his character. You are mistaken, if you think he had it easy. All guys in my group were very talented-Oleg Tataurov, Alexei Urmanov, Leosha Yagudin... An 11-year-old Zhenya had to find the way to communicate with them and his own niche. Not everything went well at the beginning but he has never complained to me. He probably already knew that work would be the most important for him.

Excerpts from interview by Anna Ilyinskaya, 
GazetaR December '99