Evgeni Plushenko: failed triumph
The beginning of the European championships, that started in Zagreb on Wednesdey, was clouded by tragic event - death of Leonid Trankov, father of the World vice-champion in pairs skating Maxim Trankov, who in his time was also a world-class equestrian athlete. Stepanovich, as he was known in sports circles, was a frequent guest at the most popular Russian figure skating board under his own name, which is rare on the Internet. He liked to discuss all kinds of topics with the fans, but didn't tolerate the only thing - lack of respect for the athletes' work. No matter who it was about - his own son or his most principal rivals.
When Stepanovich has passed away, one of his opponent on the board wrote in a farewell letter:
"...You always defended athletes and coaches. You loved them as if they were your own. I didn't understand that, but I accepted one detail - you were a part of this big family with all its problems and sicknesses. You understood perfectly what it is to let your own child into the mill of children sports system, to bring him up and lead him to some serious results. And most importantly - you always stood for the sports ethics. You were the only one and almost the last, who demanded respect for the work in sport and respect for the personality in sport."
I thought about those words that were never heard by Trankov-sr yesterday, when I watched the Olympic champion, three-times world champion, seven-times European champion Evgeni Plushenko skating in Zagreb.
There is a lot of subjectivity in figure skating. Even when a champion is at his peak, it never happens that everyone likes him.There are fans of other skaters, there are people who have completely different tastes and like different skating style, there are, after all, professionals, who always see if a person has realized his full potential, having skated lights out, or underperformed, skating without much strain. Such critique can sometimes be ruthless. What should I say about times when a former star starts to wane, getting old and accumulating injuries.
Now, when Evgeni didn't show his best in the short program (more precisely, showed his worst, having placed sixth, which is totally uncharacteristical for him), and then gave up on the fight for the European podium, maybe one could still find some fault with him. But is it worth it? For many years, whatever had happened in his carrier, he was completely honest with audience: never showed a lackluster performance, for example. He did the most difficult jumps when his body let him, and when it didn't, he still went all out. Like at the Russian national championships in December, after which all Plushenko's injuries, that he accumulated over the last decade, had aggravated. Perhaps that could be avoided if he excluded at least the quads from his programs. But ... not in his character.
I listed all his titles above on purpose. Only an outsider to the sport can think that if you win once, after that gold medals start just falling into your outstretched hands. From the 1998 World championship, where Plushenko replaced Ilya Kulik and won bronze, until this season - 15 years of hardest work, injuries, victories, defeats, and endless struggle with himself. We, having criticized him for some of his doings, rarely spared a thought how difficult it must have been for him to overcome himself and find motivation when everything that he could win he had already won many times.
When an outstanding athlete tries to hold on on previously achieved level, it's hard to watch without emotions. It's the most painful moment in sport: to understand that the desire to win is still all-consuming, but resources to do it become more and more limited. But even when an athlete looks completely powerless, it's not a reason to lose respect for him. After all, it was his decision to go through that as well. Such decision is always a challenge.
Well, and as for the failed triumph in Zagreb... Maybe it was the performance that helped us to realize how much he had brought to figure skating. How much emotion he evoked not only from his fans, but also from the most notorious haters. All is left for us is to hope for his next inevitable comeback. And wish him good luck in that.