Simonenko's interview with Platov: I worked my whole life to become a champion for rsport.ru
Evgeni Platov is the only two times Olympic world champion. So is his partner Oksana Grischuk. Platov tells Andrey Simonenko about his life in figure skating.
AS: Evgeni, all I know about figure skating in the 90s make me realize there was a whole bunch of talented and unforgiving, for whom the victory was the only goal and the silver was a failure. You, Oksana, Maya Usova, Alexandr Zhulin, Angelica Krylova and the list goes on and on. Do you all sometimes meet up and talk about the past?
EP: We do recall it often. It was a great time indeed. So sure. Angelica and I meet quite often and talk about the past. We are still friends and when recalling some dramatic moments we can laugh or just be sad about. It was quite a time - 3 Olympics in 6 years : the 1992-1998.
AS: 10 minutes before we started talking I saw you saying hello to Zhulin. You used to be rivals. What about now? Are you ok?
EP: We are civil, but not friendly. We were never friends. He is a bit older and we never had common interests when we grew up, even though we were coaching together for a while after retiring from competing. I was friends with Krylova and Oleg Ovsiannikov. When we moved to the USA and joined Natalia Linichuk’s group we had a great company there.
AS: The asked for question is why did you leave Linichuk if the guys were so great? Too much competition?
EP: Of course there was a competition. First it was allright: Oksana and I and Angelica and Oleg were not really competing. A couple of years later they improved and became a competition. So someone had to leave. By the way I have no idea how does Marina Zueva do it - coaching both Virtue/Moir and Davis/White. I think one of those pairs will have to leave at some point. As for the times we were training in Dubova’s group it was the same - Klimova/Ponomarenko left because of us. When every practice becomes a competition it pushes you. But when Oksana and I left Linichuk we had a different reasons. We believed Natalia Vladimirovna aims for Angelica and Oleg to be the Olympic champions. Besides Oksana and I were hard to work with. Nothing went smoothly and I think Linichuk had enough of that. So we had to pick the right moment to keep the pair - Natalia Vladimirovna did not try to keep us together when yet again we had a fight.
AS: I asked Zueva how those 2 pairs get along. She replied `why should any leave if am doing my job with both of them?’
EP: As a champion each wants a 100% of attention. Angelica, Oleg and I trained on the same ice and it was hard. You could never relax during the practice. It’s a huge pressure. Hence when we switched to Tarasova things became very different. Of course we missed the company - we were completely alone.
AS: I.e. the sparring partnership is needed?
EP: Yes. But ideally the sparring partners should be one step below. So they would push you forward but not actually compete with you. If you give all you have in every practice it’s not for the good. Though being alone is bad as well. That was our case - Ilya Kulik and us.
AS: Right what I was going to ask: for Tarasova Kulik was no less important. I.e. you had to fight for her attention here as well?
EP: No. Ice dance and singles are completely different. There was no competition and she had enough time for both of us. She gave two shifts each. Sometimes we would train together - we needed some change during the practices. The athletes need a chance to have some rest, just to step aside and curse if needed. It’s hard to work alone when the coach is focused on you only all the time. Oksana and I asked Tarasova often to take up another pair. It’s hard to be under her gaze all the time
AS: Tarasova is also know for being.. .well.. demanding. Dubova must had been easier to deal with?
EP: We are all demanding. Dubova was no exception in the 80s. She is different now. The thing is that you must have at least 5 minutes to rest during the practice. When Tarasova took Romanova/Yaroshenko in 1997 it became much easier for us towards Nagano 1998.
AS: Let’s go back to Odessa in the 70s. If you were a football player I wouldn’t be asking it, but you are a figure skater. Why figure skating?
EP: I was interested in hockey. I was a huge fan ever since I was a kid. Even though there was no hockey in Odessa, but I knew the names of all the TSKA players - it was my favourite team. When the Soviet team lost the Americans in the 1980 Olympcis I was inconsolable. I remember it quite well - I was 13. I.e. in my mind I was a hockey player. In 1975 a rink `Ldinka was built, and in 1977 a sports palace. We all thought there would be hockey. They even held a game there and all the guys were hoping there would be a team in our town. But no, just figure skating. By then I could skate a bit - I started when I was 6.
AS: Where were you skating if there was no rink yet?
EP: There was a rink of the size of the room we are sitting in now. In Duke park, which later was renamed into a Victory Park. One of the clubs became an ice rink. Also there is a small pond, which froze in the winter and was an ice rink. This is how my figure skating began: my father and I were driving near the rink and I saw the moving figures. I couldn’t see the skates behind the borders, I just saw them moving. And loved it. Dad saw my reaction, he stopped, we got our from the car and started watching them skate. I said `I want to try it’. Next day we went into a `Dinamo’ shop and bought me a pair of a white skates. There were no blacks. We had a water tap in the yard with a watering pipe. The water would freeze and there was a piece of ice. I walked out and started skating near that tap. Grand parents saw me and said `he’ll become a figure skater’. I was not given any lessons - just put the skates on and started skated. A couple of days later giving in to my requests I was taken to a skating school. I haven’t started the lessons straight away - there were too many kids who wanted it - everyone were watching figure skating - Belousova/Protopopov, Rodnina/Zaitsev, Pakhomova/Gorshkov were skating… Everyone were figure skating fans and my grandparents were no exception. For several weeks I was just working on my strength and choreography. It was quite a shock - why would I do exercises or run? But later we were allowed to go on the ice and a couple of weeks later I participated my first competition. I became 3rd.
I could not help but hear `unfortunately - white sates’, so this ended my skating career: the first time I went out to the yard on my white skates was the last.
AS: Everyone were laughing?
EP: Obviously. The guy should skate on the black skates. It was quite a tragedy: a grown 6y.o. man had to skate on the white girly boots! Unthinkable! We tried to colour them with something, but the colour wouldn’t hold… I skated for a couple of months. Then some other problems began. My father is a sailor and he went off to a sail. Mother was working. Getting to the ice rink took more than an hour with the public transportation. No one could take me there. So I was told `sorry, kid, while daddy is away you’ll have to stop the skating’. For a year I couldn’t find what to do with all that energy. The winter after grandfather organized a local rink - put some base, water, made some music and lights. It was a place for dances! During the summer just like my older sister Marina I was doing some athletics. I was quite unique - my sister did high jump. I tried it too - I think it was 1.10 and I just went above it. From the very first attempt. I was working on my strength for a year by then and I was good in jumping. I tried doing it but got bored very first. I couldn’t help but thinking about the ice -the music, the programmes… here everything was the same - you run, you jump, you run, you jump… I told my parents it would not work.
AS: Did the coaches promise you a bright future in athletics?
EP: Totally! They said no one could jump that from the first attempt! I had the right coordination and was good for the sport. But I was very short. You have to be tall for the high jump. It was just when a sports palace was built in Odessa. I told my parents straight away I had to go there. And I would not want to do any entrance exams - I have been skating for a while by then. My parents gave me a night to make my mind: athletics or figure skating. I didn’t really need that night to think. So this is how I end up in the sports palace in Boris Rublev’s, RIP and Svetlana Rubleva group. It was quite a relief for the parents as well - my sister was in the near by stadium doing her athletics and I was in the sports palace with figure skating.
AS: Did the name of the place `Olympian’ inspire you as a kid to become an Olympic champion?
EP: Don’t recall dreaming of that. But I always knew I wanted to be the champion, to be the first. If I were to do something I wanted to do it for the best. After the first competition where I became 3rd I was so upset! I fell from the sit spin and just continued skating on my but. I did get a medal, which was nice, but I wanted to be the best! The singles skating didn’t work - my coordination and balance were just fine, but I couldn’t do any jumps. So the coach said I had to switch to something that didn’t demand the jumps.
AS: How come you could do the high jump but not the ice jumps?
EP: My jumps off the ice were great. There is a point to lean on. On the ice on the other hand my skates would just skate out from beneath. I couldn’t even land a 1loop. So I realized it was not something for me and I had to switch ot the ice dance.
AS: Was there an ice dance group in Odessa back then?
EP: When the ice palace was opened Yuri Zimmerman moved there from Tallinn and became the principle of the place. He invited many great coaches. The Rublevs were just starting their coaching career, but as skaters they competed with Pakhomova/Gorshkov and were the USSR cup medalists. I.e. it was a very high level. Zmievskaya, Kaprov, Nikolaev, Alexand Morozov moved to Odessa. It was a nice place to live, a new ice palace, there was enough ice. Half a year after the palace was built the exhibitions with the leading skaters of the country were taking place there. Everyone skated there - Rodnina/Zaitsev, Moiseeva/Minenkov, Alekseeva/Boychuk, Kovalev, Volkov… I started the ice dancing let me tell you exactly… on 2/11/1976 and in 1977 we were doing the opening number in those ice shows. And were called for a 2nd number My partner was Elena Krykanova - together we won 3 junior world championships later. The age limit used to be 18 and not 21 as it is now, but it’s still the record we are holding.
AS: Was she your first ice dance partner?
EP: When I came in October 1976 to the ice dance Rublev noticed me and saw I could do things on the ice. He gave me one partner, another… a couple of months later I was paired with Lena - the best partner in Odessa who was skating a level above me and was competing. So here I am - have a partner and have no idea what to do with her. She was skating like a wind and I was crawling after her. I had no idea how to do the lifts, nothing… I was taught all that, the programmes were choreographed and half a year later we were dancing a `polka’ with polka dots costumes in those exhibitions. 5000 people were watching us and asking for a 2nd number. I have a photo where you can see the place was packed, there was not a single empty seat. People were standing on the stairs. We are trying to get through the crowd to the ice on that photo. This is how it all began.
AS: Who were your idols among those who came to Odessa?
EP: I guess Moiseeva and Minenkov at first. Then I really liked Linichuk/Karponosov especially with their `Lezginka’. That’s for the ice dance. In general the Bobrin’s `Cowboy’ was something unbelievable for me. Now the ice show is scheduled, everything goes by the plan. Back then it went like that: if you have only one skate you are a no one. I you skate 2 numbers for a different music you are cool. 3 numbers- you’re a star. 4 numbers - you are one of the greatest. Lena Krykanova and I would give 3 music pieces and were thrilled if we were called to skate all 3. Bobrin was doing his 3 numbers and everyone knew the `Cowboy’ would be the 4th. All Odessa was roaring `Cowboy!!! Cowboy!!!!’. He would put the hat on and the crowd would go crazy. We were laughing so hard when he was skating. The show could go on for 4 hours. The stuff the guys did towards the end of the show would drive the crowd nuts. No one would leave the palace.
AS: When have you decided it was time to move to Moscow?
EP: When we realized coming from a small town and skating under the current rules will be too hard to make it to the team. We skated well, we won the championships and were the champions of Ukraine, but Boris Rublev understood we had to move on. He let us go. We had several proposes, chose Natalia Dubova and switched to her group in 1982. It was a different level. After all the Sports Palace was a venue for many things and we could only skate on the `Ldinka’ ice which was not a standard size. That was not serious. We were skating in the sports Palace whenever we could get the ice time, during the night as well.
AS: Was it any easier in Moscow at first?
EP: We felt the level difference straight away. We had the ice. All the time. We were skating for 6.5 hours a day. We had choreography classes every day. 3 times a week general strength classes. We became part of the system that was working.
AS: I meant more whether you were missing Odessa and the sea?
EP: Of course it was hard at first. I was just 14. We lived in the sports dorms in Kuntsevo, the `Pionerskaya' metro stop and would take a metro to Sokolniki. It took about an hour each way. The school we more or less passed by. We would take the exams in May, come to school every day that month and train the rest of the year. We would leave at 7am and come back late evening. Have to say we were given the teachers so we would learn at least something. My parents and I decided I would come back home, study and become a sailor like my father if I will not make it to the junior worlds in a year. A year later I didn't make it anywhere. But knew I didn't want to go back home. Besides, we were 3rd in the USSR nationals, but the 4th pair was sent to the Junior Worlds- Liapina/Sur. We were so mad. Decided we'll show them! We started working even harder. I think looking back it was just as well we didn't participate that junior worlds. We could probably be 10th or something. Gladkova/Spilband won it and retired. Towards the junior worlds a year after we were ready. We came and won it. It was awesome - all the sacrifices paid off - leaving Odessa, living in the dorms and then renting... Later we won another 2 junior worlds which is still a record.
AS: Why did you and Krykanova part ways?
EP: You know those young girls who have fire in their eyes? And then they become older and that fire is gone. That what happened to my partner. We are the same age, started skating together when we were 10 and skated till we were 17. And then the fire was gone.
AS: Whose idea was it to change partners?
EP: Dubova was making all the decisions, but I understood something had to be changed. Besides, none of the pairs who did well in the juniors ever did anything significant in the seniors. It's different now - look at Belbin/Aghosto, Virtue/Moir, Davis/White - they were all successful both in the juniors and seniors. It was not the case back then, however. So I started skating with Larisa Fedorinova. She was a very talented girl. We were kind of `classical' pair and also set kind of a record - became 5th in the nationals after just half a year of skating together. We had a lovely programme `Norma' to Bellini, it was quite decent. But then Larisa started gaining weight and it was impossible to prevent. Either it was the way she was built, perhaps she lacked self control.... However, the first year we were on fire, on the 2nd there was no progress and we were done after the 3rd. Larisa became too heavy for me to lift, I started having problems with my knees... Though there are some fond memories of that time: we were a Russia n.3 pair going into the Worlds and became 6th there. It was my first ever worlds which took place in Paris. Klimova/Ponomarenko won it, Usova/Zhulin were 2nd and Duchenaus were 3rd. I was thrilled with our 6th place.
AS: You mentioned Duchenaus and smiled...
EP: They switched to the ice dance from the pairs skating and were so different. We all were beautiful and classical, and then thye go on the ice. No lines at all and yet so interesting! They had a completely different training and were so strong. We tried repeating some of their elements - we had no chance! They were true athletes. Unique. That's the smiling.
AS: Think they were supported so much - as if against everyone else.
EP: Perhaps. They took the ice dance to a completely different place. I will never forget the Worlds in Canada. They are half Canadians, after all. I.e. they were skating in front of their home crowd. The audience went nuts! They were doing their `Atztek' dance. It was incredible. They were talking to the audience, telling the story. We never had that - we were focusing on the skating, not on telling the story.
AS: I.e. Duchenaus were the ones to come up with telling the story through the dance?
EP: Perhaps Torvill/Dean and their `Bolero'. Though Dean didn't come up with the idea - he took it from the ballet. We thought he was the one to invent it, but no, he brought it to the ice from other places. Dean took a lot of things from the ballets for Duchenaus as well. He lost quite an amount of money on that - the `Devils dances' choreographer took him to the court.
AS: The 2nd part of your career with Larisa Fedorina was over and the 3rd, most important became - with Oksana Grischuk. 2 skaters from Odessa meeting up in Moscow. Did you know Oksana before you moved to Moscow?
EP: I saw her a couple of times. Knew she and Sasha Chichikov won the junior worlds, that she was an interesting skater. Chichikov is also from Odessa, by the way. Boris Rublev sent him to Moscow as well. As for Oksana - I knew she was an interesting skater and was skating fast as a wind. Larisa and I understood in August 1989 we have no future. We went to the training camps, choreographed an interesting dance to `Sirtaki'. But we felt that was it. Larisa didn't really want to skate anymore. In September 1989 Dubova found Oksana. Back then switching coaches was pretty much like starting a nuclear war. They would even go as far as a fake marriage to justify the switch.
AS: Yet Oksana and you didn't get married?
EP: We were offered. So the things would go smoothly and the federation would not make things harder... But we decided against it. Dubova pulled Oksana from Linichuk's group where she was training and we started skating together. I understood how hard it will be. We had a completely different technique. I had the classical ballet lines, while Oksana hardly had any ballet lessons. Her feet were not pointing to the right direction, she had no arms... Everything she did on the ice was thanks to her natural talent. I thought it will take years to match our techniques. I recall our first skates - she rushes somewhere, I try to skate calmly. And nothing works - she is that plague jumping around and a classical me, who can't catch up with her. We were shocked. She would cry almost every day. But we worked so hard and after a while I understood we can match. She had as much fire in her as the young Lena Krykanova. A month after we teamed up we went to the test skates in Cheliabinsk. Everyone saw we were decent. We became 5th in our first world championship. I have that sequence in my career: 6th in 1989, 5th in 1990, then 4th, 3rd, 2nd and finally 1st. Where the others were waiting for years for their `line' to move one spot we just went a place higher.
AS: It is known not only you and Oksana had a different technique, but also the characters...
EP: She cursed me on the first training together. Yes, indeed it was hard. She starts a fight easily, it was easier for her to make the same mistake a million times than listen to someone's advice. I would stop her and say `Oksana, you are falling from that twizzle, you have to do this and that'. While I was saying that she would do that damn twizzle another 100 times.
She is incredibly hard working. Perhaps not in the smartest possible way - she would start doing things before the explanation was over. I would be falling on the ice being too tired and she would shout `enough with that, get up and we'll work more and more!'. But it was thanks to that working ability of hers we gained such results. I felt straight away we could have something special. We had a great contact, some kind of `chemistry'
AS: Was Oksana listening to the coach?
EP: Most of the time. She would not necessarily agree. And she had her own vision on the things. Even though she is a `fish' - a calm horoscope. And she is so stubborn! Though that stubbornness was for the good sometimes. That Rock'n'Roll we won with in 1994 Olympics - it was her choice! Not my kind of music at all. Linichuk offered us a Rock'n'Roll in 1993 when we just switched to her group, but we asked for something calmer. Decided on a blues. It was a year both us and Usova/Zhulin were skating to a blues. It was interesting. I wanted to skate to something Spanish in the Olympic year. I love that theme, even found some music. But it wouldn't stand out - it would be the same everyone else did. Rock'n'Roll was something no one did back then. At least for 10 years. The only trouble was that Linichuk already gave Krylova/Fedorov a Rock'n'Roll that season. But we convinced the coach to give us that music. I can't recall what were the arguments, but they worked. Angelica was given another musical piece. That's Oksana's gut feeling. For 3 weeks we were trying to come up with other things but she insisted : that was our music and we would be skating to it.
AS: Did you leave Dubova because of the competition within the group?
EP: Not quite. Oksana, as I mentioned, is not an easy person to work with. She would disagree and even fight with Dubova. Natalia Ilinichna might take it as an offence when she reads it, but that's the truth. There was also the competition. Klimova/Ponomarenko were the pair n.1 , Usova/Zhulin n.2 and we were n.3. We became 4th in Albertville Olympics in 1992. That was my calmest ever year, even though it was not easy after the surgery. There was no way we could become 3rd. Only if Maya and Sasha fell. A couple of times. Nor 5th - the Italians Callegari/Camerlengo and the Hungarians Engi/Toth were behind us, but compare to them we were skating on a different level. Duchenaus missed the Europeans that year, so we became 3rd. The same at the Worlds. So everything was going just great. Except for the relationship between Oksana and Dubova. Besides, Oksana had an affair with Zhulin, and Maya and Sasha started having problems. That summer Dubova kicked Oksana out from the group. I was given Tatiana Navka to skate with and told `in a couple of years you'll become the World champions, but now it's Maya/Sasha's time'. And then I realize: i had a pretty good pair. Despite all the hardships in working with Oksana, but Dubova decided to sacrifice that to make Usova/Zhulin the 1994 Olympic champions, while I would have to wait for the next cycle. First I agreed. After all I spent 10 years with Dubova and was loyal. What could I do?
So my partner was kicked and I stayed. Oksana would call me and say `Zhenya, come to your senses, we were mistreated, let's go away and skate together'. Besides, many specialists, the foreign as well couldn't understand why such a promising pair was no longer existing. I started hesitating. Remember me mentioning leaving a coach resembling starting a nuclear war? So I went on skating with Navka, choreographing programmes with her. And after a month or two I understood it just didn't work. Tanya was too young, had no experience. I would drop to the 10th place in the worlds after being 3rd with her. I was inspiring to be the 1st my whole life and such a setback... So I decided to take a step back and save the situation. Dubova decided to move to Lake Placid to the USA. Just before the flight Oksana called me and said: It's the last time I call. Decide. I knew she was trying our with Peter Tchernyshev seeing I could not make up my mind. It was the final signal for me. I decided to go after Oksana and join Linichuk's group. I called Natalia Vladimirovna Linitchuk to a talk, we thought of all the things... So Dubova left to the USA and I stayed. And started skating with Oksana again. First it was hard - we haven’t' skated together for just a couple of months, but it felt like a year. We took our time till December. We missed all the competitions - the dances just didn't work. But then things became the usual again. Maya and Sasha became first and we were 2nd.
AS: Let's go back to the 1994. Did the return of Torvill/Dean make a huge difference?
EP: It shook us all. Not only Torvill/Dean came back - it was the other professionals as well. Gordeeva/Grinkov, Katarina Witt. First we had to compete in the most important Europeans in Copenhagen. Torvill/Dean won the competition, but we won the FD and were 2nd overall. First time in our life we beat the pair who were ahead of us in the `line'. Maya and Sasha did not yet retire, yet they were beaten. It was an interesting story actually. By the time we decided on the music - the Rock'n'Roll we found a great dancer - Igor Kondrashev, who choreographed a wonderful programme. First we were not sure we'll be able to pull it - especially me - the classical skater. But once we were able to get the moves we felt it just might work. And then right before the Europeans Oksana falls ill. First it seemed like a mild cold. She came to the practice - Linichuk was quite strict about it - skate no matter whether you are well or not. I said `Natalia Vladimirovna, she is really ill. If she skates now the consequences will be bad'. That was exactly what happened. We skated that unneeded skate and Oksana got worse. A pneumonia. She had a bad fever - around 40-41 for a week. She couldn't even get up. The doctors were working hard just to get her on her feet. The federation called and asked whether to send the substitutes. We said we would compete, even though Oksana still was unable to get up. 2 days are left, Oksana comes to the practice. She couldn't do a thing, I just carried her around the rink. She came home and had a high fever again. Came to the practice the next day and was able to do some moves. So there we were - not practicing at all for about 10 days before the Europeans managed to win the FD and beat Torvill/Dean and Usova/Zhulin. That was Oksana's ability to concentrate at the right moment. I probably wouldn't be able to. No one could. It was thanks to that story we understood we can aim for the gold in the Olympics. Just a year before the gap between us and Maya/Sasha was huge, yet here we almost winning the Europeans.
AS: I read Tarasova's opinion had Torvill/Dean went back to their `Bolero' they would had won the Olympics in 1994.
EP: Yes, it was her offer to go back to `Bolero'. You know how much everyone - ourselves included loved Torvill/Dean. We understood should the Brits skate to the `Bolero' it will be amazing. Not the `Bolero' they did in 1984. Back then they didn't have to skate with a certain speed. Actually they were not even skating for the first 40 seconds. Now you move an eyelash and that is it, the music had started, but back then those were not the rules and they came up with a genious start of the programme. So had they added some speed and the new elements to their old `Bolero' it would be incredibly hard to beat them. I think things would turn out differently. But as it was they came out in Lillehammer, I saw their SD and understood we're gonna beat them. Their SDs were horrible. The judges took mercy on them and put them 3rd, though they really should had been 6-7th at the best case. Their OD - the rhumba was brilliant. We were running around the rink like a pair of idiots trying to show something, while the Brits were showing the real rhumba. And then the FD, where you needed the speed, which was a huge advantage for the young us.
AS: Had you been a usual figure skating fan watching the competition - who would you want to win - Grishuk/Platov or Torvill/Dean?
EP: Torvill/Dean of course. Not those little no ones with their silly Rock'n'Roll. Many dont' agree with the results of those Olympics. Torvill/Dean are the most loved skaters, perhaps till today. Everyone loved them. Oksana and I were their fans. I wouldn't say I felt awkward beating them - when I stepped on the ice I was overwhelmed with the adrenalin of the competition. But when we were outside the rink I would think `It's Torvill/Dean... the gods!'. But it happen - we, no ones, won the Olympics. There were many articles about how unfair it was. Even that the judges helped us. Oksana and I were hurt reading that.
AS: So you decided to stick around till the next Olympics?
EP: I was injured, underwent a surgery on my knee. I offered Oksana to retire. But then we thought: which show would we join? Who knows us? It was important for us - we had nothing and in 1993 took a loan from the Federation to pay the choreographer. Now the skaters are supported, but back then we loaned 3000$ and had to pay them back. Then we became world champions, joined a show and were able to pay back. It sounds funny now, but back then it was awful. So we decided to stay. I remember talking to Grinkov. He was very straight forward: 'you are no ones, Torvill/Dean are everyone. Keep skating, win the Worlds, become the Olympic champions again and only then join the show'.
AS: Looking back now it is considered you were the favourites in Nagano Olympics. But I checked the numbers and, in fact, you beat Krylova/Ovsiannikov in the OD by one judge's voice only.
EP: There was a competition. Had we made one mistake Krylova/Ovsiannikov would be Olympic champions.
AS: And there was that story with you falling in two competitions, I think, in a row right before.
EP: Falls wise that year was horrible. It was a hard year all and all. Oksana was half a way in Hollywood in her mind. She became a Pasha. She was so nervious all the time we could hardly work. If it wasn't for her Hollywood dream and all that Pasha thing, had we worked as hard sa before, when we just paired up, we would be unreachable. But that was not the case. To make Oksana come to the practices Tatiana Anatolievna Tarasova and I would come to Oksana's place with flowers, with trees.... What didn't we do to convince her. We were trying our best to calm her, but Oksana still could grab Tarasova and shout `Will we win that thing or not! Tell me now!!!!'. Tarasova would say `come to the rink, work, don't sit home and cry. Then you will. It was a hard time. The beginning of the season was a cathastrophy. We wanted to go back from the `Memorial' to the last year's `Arabian Passion'. It was a great programme. My favourite. While the `Memorial' didn't work at all.
AS: What made the `Arabian Passion' your favourite?
EP: We did about 80% of it ourselves. We chose the music - we wanted to skate to an oriental music for a while. It was so easy to choreograph. `Memorial', on the other hand, demanded tears, sweat and blood. Only after the GP in December we more or less felt comfortable with it. Even though it's a good dance it's not my favourite. The work on it was too hard - through the scandals on the daily basis. We could improve it by 20-30%. And the others, especially Angelica and Oleg used that time to close the gap.
AS: I heard you were not falling because you were not skating well, but because you were too good and were skating too close to each other.
EP: it's true, we were skating very close together. It's gone now, but generally the closer you are skating to your partner the better it is. Oksana is a very expressive person and could add a step that was not planned before. Improvise a bit. Sasha Zhulin mentioned it later when she started skating with him. It's something you don't do i nthe ice dance. We are not supposed to skate like robots quite, but we should have a theme in our heads. The emotions are great, but when she would do that sudden move and hit my blade I would splat on the ice. I recall rewatching the GP in France and the guys who were with me saying `you could just die there'. Her blade went millimeters from my face. The second fall - in the Europeans. Again, Oksana turns around and hits my heel. Tarasova came to me with `How much longer will you keep falling? Why can't you keep your feet on the ice?'. I told her to rewatch in the slow motion and see why did I fall. I didn't feel quite comfortable telling her that, but indeed, how much more could I fall? That fall did do us good in the Europeans -we became 2nd in the OD and were so mad going into the Free and skated so well no one stood a chance.
AS: In 1994 Olympics you were skating last in the FD, in Nagano- first in the final group. When I was rewatching your `Memorial' I saw they did catch on the video how Oksana started crying right after the skate. Did you realize you won right then?
EP: Not at all. Oksana was crying out of the emotions, that it was finally over. You see, in 1994 had we won a bronze medal we would say `Thank you, what had we done to deserve it'. I'm joking, but in general we didn't expect to win. But here, for 4 years we were pressed with the thought `we must win those Olympics, we must win the Olympics...' and when the time came we were going crazy with the pressure we were under. The others were fighting for the medals and were thrilled, for us a silver would be a nightmare, an end of our lives. When my pupils tell me they are nervious I tell them `When you reach the highs the whole world is set against you and dreams to kick you off the pedestal - then you'll be nervious'. I think the whole Nagano was shaking with me when I was preparing to the skates. I was walking in the park, but the second the thoughts of the skates came back into my mind I wanted to commit a suicide.
AS: After you had finished your skate - were you watching the others or you left?
EP: Frankly, we didn't quite understand what was going on after the skate. We saw the marks, saw a couple of 6.0, I made a pleasant gesture - it's nice when you get a 6.0. But I understood it might not be enough. We left, think, to the NBC studio. We wanted to hide from everyone. The journalists were trying to find us, but seriously, what can you tell if you don't know what is going on yet? So we sat down. We were not watching anything but we heard Angelica and Oleg's music. When we understood they were second we burst into tears. We were not crying -we were sobbing uncontrollably. I started coughing and couldn’t' stop. Two ill, desperate people who were united by that moment...
AS: and yet pretty much the next day you were no longer skating together...
EP: Yes, Oksana left to LA immediately to join Jay Leno show. And to try her Hollywood dream. She forgot about the figure skating immediately. I don't know, perhaps she wanted to go on skating in the shows, but she haven’t' told me. I came back from the Olympics to find her things gone and her in Hollywood. But then I knew we had no chance in the professionals. You have to be very good friends to succeed there. That was why I decided to win all I could in the amateur competitions and then see what to do next.
AS: My last question is almost the same as the first. You mentioned bein in the speaking terms with Krylova and Zhulin. What about Oksana?
EP: Oh, we are speaking. So many years had passed and I'm so glad we had a chance to skate again. For me our career didn't have that finishing point. We broke up after the amateur competitions, which was not quite a good end. Oksana skated with Zhulin in the professionals, I skated with Maya Usova. It was kind of wrong. I'm a kind of a person who needs to do things right. I hate confrontations. Especially with a person I spent so many years with. I wanted a nice ending. First time we were able to communicate in a normal way in 2005 during the Moscow Worlds during the champions parade. It was amazing. We showed up together in the public, sat together with Putin on the stands. We were asked during an interview whether we are planning to skate together. So the thought of perhaps skating together and putting a nice end to that came to the mind. Kind of a finishing ball. I can not express how thrilled I am taking part in the `Dancing on the ice' in 2006 and skating there together! Even now I choke when I say those words. It was so nice. First we declined the offer to skate together, said they can't really mean it, that it will take us a month to prepare... But 2 days before the show we looked at each other and said `lets' give it a try'. We went on that small rink, took hands and it felt as if we never parted. We tried one element, another... We came up with a number in 5 minutes. The great song from the movie `Colours of the Night'. We skated so well we performed several times again. We went to the 10 years of Nagano Olympics celebrations in 2008...
The ending was beautiful. We are speaking on the phone. Not long ago Oksana called me to consult about the work with the skaters. She is not yet working on a high level, but she coached kids. She advised some known skaters. Worked with Nikolai Morozov's group. She decided to come back and share her experience.
AS: The last question: is there a chance for a coaching team Grishuk/Platov?
EP: I doubt. Even though Oksana said perhaps we should try working together. But I thin kwe see things differently. I usually find it hard finding the assistants. It took me a long time to find the choreographer Zhanna Palagina, we've been working together for 3 years now. Think I found the right 2nd coach now. It's just that my horoscope is a lion. I like doing things my way