Anton Sikharulidze interview

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Interview with Anton Sikharulidze:
https://www.sport-express.ru/friday...za-vora-kogda-lez-v-okno-k-berezhnoy-1348791/

Time has made him a different person. No, 2002 Olympic champion hasn't become old. But Anton Sikharulidze is hardly recognizable.
Where do the skaters go? Some skate in shows, others start coaching. Sikharulidze became a great businessman. His business has nothing to do with sports. Are there many examples like that?
Even his appearance has changed remarkably. You would hardly recognize the old Anton with messy hair. Fashionable glasses, stylish haircut.
Little dragon says Sikharulidze.
Little dragon we repeat pensively.
Q: You have interesting glasses. Did you have a makeover?
A: I have poor eyesight, I wouldn't wear glasses as fashion statement. I injured my left eye several times as a child.
Q: How?
A First, I put acid in it. Then it got hit by an icicle when I was looking into a pipe. With acid, it was pretty dramatic. Our home was being renovated. I saw an interesting bottle on top of a cupboard. I brought a chair, reached out, and it fell on me. The cap was unscrewed, and it got right into my eye. I'm lucky I didn't end up blind.
Q: You have drastic new hairstyle as well.
A: I've had it for a long time already!
Q: Why?
A: I never cared much for the hair. If there is anything on my head, I'm okay with it. Now I wear it like that, a little dragon. It's refreshing. And my sons like it too.
Q: You are one of the owners of Gasenergoservis?
A: Right. Before that, I owned a construction company. We started with panel houses first, then moved on to monolithic homes.
Q: Successfully?
A: I was just starting out, so we didn't get much profit. We didn't go down, that's good. And Gasenergoservis belonged to my friend Evgeny Pershin. At some point we decided to merge.
Q: You left construction business behind?
A: Civil construction, yes. Now we build underground gas storage facilities, gas pipelines, etc.
Q: Away from Moscow?
A: Urengoy, Syktyvkar, Ukhta, Vorkuta.
Q: Do you visit those parts often?
A: Twice a month. It is considered very rare. Our executives can visit three sites in a week.
Q: How many people do you have in your company?
A: Four thousand.
Q: That's lot.
A: The amount of work is enormous, despite the fact that there are no huge profits in our field anymore. The budgets have been cut. You come to the taiga. The temperature is minus 40 Celsius. You think — how is it even possible to work here?! And the locals come out: Oh, great, the weather is amazing. 42! When it gets warm, everything turns into swamps. I admire the Russian spirit. I had lived in America, I'm telling you — we are different.
Q: In spirit?
A: And solidarity. We can be harsh to each other in mundane situations, but everything changes when we face difficult times. It's the inner strength of Russian people. I understand what classic authors wrote so much about it. I see it every day.
Q: The biggest emergency you had to deal with?
A: Couple years ago, when I was still working in construction, the tower crane fell over.
Q: Where there victims?
A: If there were, I wouldn't be here talking to you. We were lucky — it fell in the open filed.
Q: Why?
A: Strong wind plus negligence.
Q: And what about your first venture into business — a restaurant in Saint Petersburg?
A: Yes, we invested a ton of money, it worked for two years. What let us down was the fact that we rented the place, and the owner was unreasonable. He kept raising the rent until it became unprofitable, we quit.
Q: Did you lose money?
A: We broke even. Now I understand the restaurant is for people who live for it, who can spend all their time there, communicating with patrons, who know the deal. And I like construction; it's a man's work. When I finished with skating, I told your newspaper: "At thirty, I can't be Chaplin on ice anymore." But it's possible to do construction until I'm 100. I feel it is mine.
Q: Tamara Moskvina told us: "When Anton was in Duma (Russian Parliament), I never asked him for anything. The idea of a figure skating club with my name is an entirely his initiative." Where did the idea come from?
A: I always knew that Tamarochka needed her own nest. I was wondering why no one in Saint Petersburg had thought about it before or wasn't willing to invest the money. Moskvina indeed didn't ask for anything. I think she was even ready to work for free. I once had a business meeting with Miller (the head of Gazprom), then we started talking charity matters. Alexey Borisovich (Miller) started talking about Tamarochka — they went to the same school in the Nevsky district. He said as an aside that they were building a rink there, and it hit me — why not to make Moskvina's school?
Q: Did you invest your money into the project?
A: Miller and Gazprom provided an ice rink. The city covers the communalities. Our Gazenergoservis pays for everything else. Equipment, costumes, medical insurance, additional lessons — that makes quite a lot.
Q: No there are mostly unknown skaters training there.
A: We could poach the most promising juniors in the city. But we decided against it. It's more honest. We don't have to provide a certain number of medals by tomorrow. If there are new champions, that will be great. But the most important thing is to pass Tamara's knowledge, to preserve the traditions.
Q: You said once you didn't get a stick (of carrot and stick) from Moskvina, even though you deserved it. Why?
A: I am very emotional. My reaction to mistakes was way over the top. Sometimes I just exploded. One usually makes mistakes on what?
Q: What?
A: On the little things. Some random fall where it should not have happened. It used to drive me nuts! Everybody did a huge work, and you all of a sudden sit on your ass. Once I got mad during a practice: "Tamarochka, I'm going home, it's all pointless." She took it in stride: "Yes, okay, go."
Q: What then?
A: I left, feeling awful. Moskvina called on my mobile — I didn't pick up. She called on landline: "Anton! Stop it, let's talk..." Do you know what I said?
Q: I'm afraid to guess.
A: "Anton is dead." And hung up. The same evening Moskvina came, we sat down and talked. The next morning I went to the practice. As if nothing had happened.
Q: Was it when you were a boy?
A: That's the thing, no, it happened after Nagano! Can you imagine how masterfully Tamarochka used to sort everything out? We never had a single row in all those years. Not because I am such a great guy. She is a genius.
Q: It must have been difficult dealing with you...
A: Yes, that's true. I could say: "To hell with everything, I quit." Tamarochka knew how to spike my interest again. To make me believe in myself again. She has a rule: if something doesn't work, we switch to something else. Same second. It doesn't work either? Do a third one. Something's bound to work. She taught us all that.
Q: Another quote from Moskvina's interview: "Berezhnaya and Sikharulidze were main contenders for the gold at Nagano Olympics, but they made a mistake in the end, and Kazakova/Dmitriev won." How did you deal with that?
A: First off, we never thought of ourselves as favorites. Oksana and Artur were much more experienced, skilled. We were young and raw. It was our first Olympics, we looked at everything in wide-eyed wonder. Gold medal would be a miracle.
Q: It was close.
A: It is impossible to explain how we went down on the last element of the program. It wasn't a typical mistake. It wasn't a jump or a throw. I was putting Lena on ice during the exit from a lift. Suddenly, in mere centimeters from the ice, her boot collided with mine at such an angle that they become stuck, and we fell. It was a tragic coincidence. As a result, we missed the gold by 0.1.
Q: That's too bad.
A: Honestly, neither Lena nor I were upset all that much about the medal. We did not expect it. Silver was the best we could hope for, and we were happy as could be about it. We skated much better in the next quad. It wouldn't have happened if we became champions in Nagano.
Q: You would lose the motivation?
A: Of course. When you are already on top, it's incredibly difficult to train as if you are still in the beginning. You turn into a fat cat, there are suddenly lots of temptations. Even as a mature man, winning the Olympics can make you lose your head, and at twenty, it can be unpredictable.
Q: Did you lose your head in 2002?
A: The atmosphere of euphoria around you certainly makes you a bit airheaded. But unlike Oksana Baiul after Lillehammer, we did not cross the line. It's already something.
Q: What helped you?
A: I always knew that sport was a small part of my life. The one I cannot stay focused on. After that, there will be another, not any less interesting. It's dumb clutching on skating until the retirement. Or the remnants of skating, as I call the skating shows. Sooner or later you will end up at that point where you have to start from scratch. It's easier to do at thirty than at fifty.
Q: That makes sense.
A: The sooner you understand that, the sooner you will get used to the new world. You'll see it's cruel, unforgiving to your mistakes that you are bound to make and it's not going to remember your victories forever. Hence the conclusion.
Q: What?
A: Federations have to take care of skaters after they finish skating. There has to be a system that will let them stay relevant, to grow, to get education. Unfortunately, in our country, great champions are often left alone with their problems, but the bureaucrats stay in power for decades.
Q: Did you finish in time?
A: I know I haven't overstayed my welcome, that's for sure. Maybe we should have kept going until the Olympics in Turin. But it was time to earn money, to help my parents. At those times, you could make decent money only in shows. We lived hand to mouth, from one competition to another, divided the prize money by three with Lena and Tamarochka.
Q: Olympic champions got 100000$, didn't they?
A: 50000.
Q: Right.
A: Do you even understand what is 50000 for the Olympics? Divide it by four years. And the prize money at Worlds and European championships were almost nothing.
Q: How much?
A: Official prize money for winning Worlds was 30000 for a team, minus agents, taxes, etc, that left 7000 — for a year! Is it much?
Q: Did you become friends with Pavel Bure in Nagano?
A: Yeah. Not only with Bure, but with Gretzky, whom I hardly recognized without skates and a stick.
Q: Why?
A: Next to the tall Canadian hunks he looked small and puny, standing in line to theMcDonalds...
Q: The food in Nagano was bad?
A: No, Asian, European food, everything was great. But sometimes people wanted junk food and went for burgers. The conditions in the Olympic village were truly Spartan. We slept on narrow beds similar to Soviet foldable guestbeds. The rooms were three by four meters, maybe even smaller. For two people! The only upside was you could switch on the TV with your foot without getting up from the bed.
Q: Moskvina recalled another amusing fact: "Monday morning practice, Sikharulidze, Dmitriev and another skater. I could tell who was standing where without turning back — by breath."
A: It was impossible to fool Tamarochka. When Dmitriev and I misbehaved a bit, she could tell immediately. Once, we went drinking in the evening, and had a practice in the morning. I hadn't slept, my head is wooden, I’m hanging on the boards half-dead, I start moaning that my stomach hurts. Tamarochka says ironically: "Yeah, I can smell it." Me: "I guess something is rotten in my inner state."
Q: A point.
A: She starts dialing on her phone: "Well, take off your skates, we are going to a hospital." - "Why?" - "You need a surgery. I'm calling the doctor." - "No!" - "Yes, yes, get ready." ThenI gave up: "That's not it. We had a party yesterday..."
Q: And Moskvina?
A: Squinted at me: "So your stomach doesn't hurt? Okay, skate the short program and you are free." Tamarochka had to use many tricks working with her skaters. My favorite story is about Lena Bechke. She is a great skater, very smart, but she used to get very nervous before the competitions. A week before an event — she stops landing her jumps, falls on the elements she could do in her sleep.
Q: It can happen?
A: Of course. Not long before the Olympic Games in Albertville, Tamarochka calls Lena: "I talked with cosmonauts and found out they have a special powder for bravery, i asked and they gave me some. Lena: Is it true? Can I have some? Yes. One package a day, but don't tell anyone."
Q: Bechke with Denis Petrov placed second at Albertville Olympics.
A: Right. Lena found out about the powder after the Games. Tamara confessed: "Lena, I bought saccharin in the pharmacy, my sister and I crushed it into powder and put into foil packs."
Q: Looking back, it was a fun time?
A: Oh yeah. In Nagano, Dmitriev and I bought souvenirs for friends and family — a set of porcelain cups with sake.
Q: A set is how many?
A: 20. When the competitions were over, we had guests, figure skaters, hockey players, other athletes. There is no alcohol in the village. So we opened those cups. Not a single one survived.
Q: Wow.
A: I often roomed with Alexei Yagudin. Once, in Paris, we had such a great celebration, that we forgot about the gala.
Q: Really?
A: We forgot that the organizers shifted the beginning of the gala to 14.00 — usually we would skate in the evening. We came to the rink an hour before the beginning. I had changed into my costume, Lena and I started warming up. Suddenly, Yagudin: "Help! I forgot my costume!" And it was almost his turn to go on the ice!
Q: What did you do?
A: I gave him my shirt and trousers. First, I skated, then Alexey in the same costume. Even though he's ten centimeters shorter. By the way, do you know when all the fun starts in the figure skating?
Q: When?
A: The night before the gala, when you can relax already. We used to all get together in someone’s room, open beer, wine, champagne... Once when I was rooming with Yagudin, we had a party for forty people, Russians and foreigners. You should have seen our room in the morning! We woke up and were stunned. The chair was broken, the lampshade is torn off the lamp, the couch had cigarette burns, glasses were broken, empty bottles strewn around. While we were trying to get our bearings, the manager appeared. He gave us a bill for everything that was broken, for a couch that disappeared without a trace, for all the drinks that were put on our room. When we heard the total, we instantly sobered up. Two thousand dollars! For us at the time it was a cosmic sum. But there was nothing to do, so we had to pay.

AMERICA
Q: You said: "In the sport, I had the flag, the anthem, the tears." What was the most memorable time when you cried?
A: Every time I cried on a pedestal.
Q: Wow.
A: The older I got, the more I felt it. It was clear that the end is just around the corner. It was getting harder and harder. Even now whenever I hear the anthem, I feel my throat starting to close. I cannot watch award ceremonies with our athletes. I might cry.
Q: The big story with a second set of medals at the Salt Lake City Olympics. Years later, do you think you did the right thing when you went there?
A: Of course it was right! There is no point to take oneself too seriously, to overthink things. This is a sport, a game! Pierre de Coubertin, creating the Olympic charter, had friendship in mind and not fighting. You can be made a participant in a fight, but it is not necessary to take an active part. I can tell you what happened.
Q: Do tell me.
A: Today the skaters in our ice shows get the same money as in America. At that time, there were no shows in Russia. The only chance to earn some money was to go to America and skate in Stars on Ice or Champions on Ice. Not going to the second award ceremony meant a lack of respect for the American public, who buys tickets for these shows. And what's wrong with standing on a podium twice?
Q: Over time, did you figure it out for yourself - what was it?
A: Figure skating is such a thing that a similar situation can happen at any competition. There are million nuances that the general audience does not see. Number of rotations, change of positions... We do not know all the subtleties! At the World Championships in Vancouver, the Canadians Sale and Pelletier beat us 5: 4 in judges’ vote. In Salt Lake City, the score was the same - but in our favor. One judge gave us more. What is the problem? A storm in a teacup. Yet the American TV made a huge story out of it, together with lawyers. The games were just beginning, there were no news, and then there was a storm! But I do not have any bad aftertaste. We should have seen the warmth with which they treated us in America! We had hundreds of interviews.
Q: You talked to Larry King. Was it his initiative?
A: Certainly not ours. He doesn’t need anybody, except the ones he is interested in. Who else from Russia was invited to his show? I don’t remember anyone.
Q: Me neither.
A:Ah! Maria Sharapova was. And he interviewed Putin. That’s it, I think. We were impressed, of course, by the American television machine. The money is colossal. The Olympic Games were in full swing, they called us: "You are invited to an interview in New York." We were: "Well... we don’t really know..." - "First class tickets!"
Q: Did you even know then who Larry King was?
A: Naturally. And I asked his assistants: "I have three friends in Salt Lake City. Can we take them with us?" - "Do you need them?" - "Yes!" - "Okay." So we went all together - all at the expense of the TV company. The guys stayed there for another week.
Q: You are cunning. Did Larry repay you with difficult questions?
A: The questions were all the same at the time: "what do you think," "who really won"... And Larry is smart, he understood the situation. There was no conspiracy at all. Next we were invited to Good Morning America. It’s a popular morning show, the whole country watches.
Q: I heard someone said that if not for that scandal, you would not get high salaries in American shows.
A: Nonsense.
Q: Why not?
Q: First of all, we signed the contract before the Olympics. And Sale and Pelletier signed up after! Now they definitely benefited from the scandal.
Q: Did you regret not holding out for more money?
A: Believe me, we had so little money that we did not even think about it. When we were offered a five-year contract, we just exchanged glances: "Tamarochka, do we say yes?" Nobody knows what the Olympics will bring. And this means steady work! We could buy a small apartment for our parents.
Q: If you signed after the Games - the salary would be three times bigger?
A: At least two times, for sure. We were paid about ten thousand dollars for the show, and that’s before taxes. For the two of us. We shared this money with the coach, agent, minus 36 percent of the tax. Everything was modest.
Q: You even had a joint number with Sale and Pelletier.
A: Yes. We spent five years next to each other.
Q: Did you ever discuss the Olympics?
A: Once. One night, we went out for beers with David. He said: "Thanks to you and Lena we became famous, signed this contract, and got two advertising deals." If it were not for the Olympics, nothing would have happened..."
Q: Is he a good guy?
A: Very. Kind, hardworking. Very down-to-earth. He’s from a tiny Canadian town. David had a dream - to become a fireman, and after the Olympics he became one!
Q: You said the American shows were exhausting - you were constantly tired, practically lived on buses.
A: There were days when I did not understand in which city I was. I'm not kidding! I would take the phone - there's usually something written on the base. For example, Ritz Carlton, Chicago. I think, ok, so I’m in Chicago now. When you wake up the morning after the arrival, your head is mush. If you can more or less figure out Chicago, with the small towns it’s unreal. It’s always: "Where are we?!" But at least in America, everything was very well organized. When we started touring Russia, we got to know Russian buses. We would remove the seats in the back and put mattresses on the floor, trying to sleep during the night on the road.

LENA
Q: Do you remember how you met Berezhnaya?
A: In 1994, she moved from Riga to St Petersburg together with Oleg Shlyakhov, and started to train in our group. So I saw her at the rink - a curly little button. She was seventeen.
Q: Was it love at first sight?
A: Not really. We saw each other at Yubileyny every day. We talked, we became friends. And then there was a sparkle.
Q: I read an interview with Oleg Vasilyev, Shlyahov’s former coach. To quote: "Shlyahov is a sick person. He was registered at a mental institution in Riga, he needed to take medications constantly. Intensive training made him lose control over himself, he could hit his partner, someone else, and completely forget about it five minutes later..."
A: I did not hear anything about mental institution. Looking at Shlyakhov, she seemed like a regular guy. The only strange thing about him was his manner of speech. He spoke incoherently, very quickly, swallowing words. It was hard to make out what he was saying. He was a bit of a coward, never tried to start anything with other guys, but used to taunt Lena. But we couldn’t even imagine he would lay a hand on her. She was patient, she kept mum, did not tell anyone about her bruises. Shlyakhov did everything when nobody could see it, or at home, when he was with alone Lena.
Q: Did he behave at practices?
A: During the first months - yes. Then he started to show his true colors the rink. I would have definitely broken Shlyakhov's nose, if not for Tamarochka. She begged me: "Don’t do it, I'll talk to Oleg." She tried to reason with him, but there was no effect. He listened, nodded, and then next morning did the same.
Q: Was there a moment when you particularly wanted to beat him up?
A: All the time! Not just me. There was one prominent mobster’s daughter training with us at Yubileyny. Once her father saw Shliakhov’s behaviour on the ice and came up to him: "Stop it! My daughter skates here, I don’t want her to have issues because of freaks like you. Open your mouth again, and you'll need a wheelchair to get home!"
Q: What happened later with Shlyakhov?
A: I have no idea. Last time I saw him in Riga in 1996. He was yelling that they’ll kill me at the station if I take Lena to St Petersburg. She was at the hospital with a hole in her head.
Q: You did not take his threats seriously?
A: I didn’t care. I came for Lena.
Q: Did Shlyahov at least apologize to her?
A: What are you talking about? It's not like him at all. He did not even know the meaning of the word "sorry". He did not feel any guilt. He said, well, my blade collided with her temple when we were performing an element, it happens.
Q: How was Lena, when you came to visit her at the hospital in Riga?
A: I went into the ward, there were ten beds, all occupied with some elderly ladies. I shift from foot to foot - where is Lena? And she was behind the door, on the cot. There were no beds, so they found her a place, at least not in the hallway. Lena weighed thirty kilos, skin and bones. Her head was bandaged. I start asking questions - she doesn’t talk, only blinks. I was stupefied.
Q: It's no wonder.
A: Turned out that the speech nerve was affected, she was unable to speak. I went out to the street, asked a cigarette.
Q: I thought you didn’t smoke.
A: No, it was just to calm the nerves. I asked: "When will she be able to speak?" And they answered: "Who knows? In general, there is no guarantee; there is roughly a fifty percent chance she will." I was torn. It was clear that the injury was very serious. But to realize that Lena probably will never be able to speak again... My brain refused to accept what was happening. I was in confusion: "Damn, what do I do now? How do I live with that?"
Q: What did you decide?
A: I decided to take Lena to St. Petersburg, surround him with warmth and care. With her mother, who rushed from Nevinnomyssk to Riga, we organized the transportation.
Q: Did the speech return after a few months?
A: Yes. She did the exercises, went to doctors. One of them advised me to read to Lena out loud, some nice, positive books. I read her Pushkin, Andersen, Dumas. First, Lena stuttered, slowly finding the right word, then she started speaking better and better...
Q: How did you skate with her on the ice?
A: We did not think about returning to the sport, which was what saved me. At first we skated in circles, did simple elements. No lifts, no spins, no jumps. So there was no fear. The fear came later, when we started training seriously. But everything was happening so easily, by itself. Of course, Lena deserves all the credit for that. Her character is fantastic.
Q: Explain?
A: Everything I achieved in the sport, I owe her, her resilience, her courage, her will, her composure, her incredible inner strength. It's amazing that I'm talking about a small, fragile girl, right? She never shows if she’s hurt, if it’s hard. She keeps everything inside. She never whines, never complains, and never has emotional outbursts. How does she do it?!
Q: Have you, in all the time you skated together, ever seen her in hysterics?
A: No! In any situation, she remains calm. For example, we are being late to the airport. I'm all jittery, begging the taxi driver: "Speed up a bit!" And Lena, quietly: "It’s fine, if we miss this flight, we’ll just get tickets to the next..." - "It’s the last one today!" Lena, without changing the tone: "Then we’ll fly out tomorrow."
Q: When did you have your biggest fight?
A: It's impossible to have a fight with her! Even if I tried to. When something went wrong at a practice, I’d get frustrated and say something, she would not react, just keep quiet. And I would calm down too.
Q: Have you heard a rude word from her?
A: No. Even after a fall.
GEORGIA
Q: You've risked your life for Lena.
A: When?
Q: When you climbed into her window.
A: Oh, that. Yes, I did. It was during the beginning of our relationship. In St. Petersburg, Shlyakhov used to lock her up in their rented apartment and go on two-day bender. Lena had no keys, no money.
Q: Shlyakhov considered such things normal?
A: Imagine that. I made my way into her apartment on the third floor through the fire escape, which was shaking in the wind. But that was fine. What was worse, is that the police station was located next door. A couple of times I was mistaken for a robber.
Q: How did it happen?
A: I’m climbing, and suddenly someone starts screaming: "Stand back!" I climb down, show the police my documents, explain the situation: "I'm not a thief. I'm coming to see a girl." Lena pops out from the window: "Yes, yes, he's coming to see me!" They laugh. Soon they started to recognize me: "Hi, Anton, coming to see Lena again? Take it easy, bud." Then she started coming down the fire escape herself. We went for a walk, and she went back in the same way. Shlyakhov had no idea.
Q: Once Lena said in an interview: "After our Olympics-2002, our relationship has changed, we became friends. When we were discussing that, Anton joked: "We should have gotten married right away." I added: "And do not skate together. Then everything would be fine." Do you still think so?
Q: Yes. Sport and personal life must be kept separate. The sport takes too much energy. There is sweat, blood, tears, hard work. No romance. And you are spending 24 hours a day under the same roof. Day after day, year after year.
A: It's hard.
A: You don’t say. At some point, the feelings disappear. There is still respect, warmth, but not love, tenderness. So we broke up quietly, without any scandal, reproaches and insults.
Q: Have you been planning a wedding?
A: Never even talked about that.
Q: In 2011, you married Yana Lebedeva. Is it difficult to get on with the billionaire's daughter?
A: It depends on a person. I did not notice anything that would radically distinguish Yana from other girls. Everyone has their own quirks, it's not about money. We were just very different people.
Q: You did not have to marry to find that out.
A: I agree. But romantic feelings make you impulsive. You propose, for example. We lived together with Yana for two years, it was a wonderful time. Then everything had changed. We realized that the relationship was over and decided not to torment each other. There is no point in trying to glue something that’s broken. Why waste time? It is better to spend that time looking for a person with whom you will be truly happy. In the end, I was lucky - I met Vika.
Q: Have you married officially?
A: Yes, she has my last name. Our sons are growing up. The eldest is three and a half, his name is Georgy. The youngest, Victor, is one and a half. Now I began to understand what happiness is, why people talk so much about family, children. It’s a new feeling for me. I feel very big changes in my mindset. The inner world becomes different.
Q: For how long have you been living in Moscow?
A: Ten years.
Q: When you say "home," do you think Moscow?
A: Only Moscow!
Q: Not everyone in St Petersburg will understand you.
A: When I go to visit my parents in St. Petersburg, I say:" I’m coming to you." I say "to you," I do not say "home". I fell in love with Moscow. If it was uncomfortable, I would not feel this way. But I'm very happy here. Even got used to traffic jams. There is no escape from that, in any metropolis.
Q: You had an amazing apartment in St. Petersburg.
A: Yes, in Benoit's house. But I no longer own it. My neighbor begged me to sell it, wanted it for his children. So I gave in - it was standing empty anyway.
Q: Do you have any regrets?
A: No. Now, when we come, we stay with my parents or at a hotel.
Q: Your father is Georgian. How did it happen that he came to Leningrad?
A: My father is the kind of Georgian who never lived in Georgia. He was born in Stalinabad, now Dushanbe (Tadjikistan). During the war, they moved to Kislovodsk. He dreamed of living near the sea, so he went to Leningrad to study at the "Makarovka" (Admiral Makarov University of Maritime and Inland Shipping). He graduated from the university and remained there to teach.
Q: Is he still a vice-rector?
A: He’s retired.
Q: Have you ever been to Georgia?
A: I’ve been there for the first time about five years ago. It was a friend’s wedding. He is a Georgian living in the Czech Republic. His wife is Russian. We were in Tbilisi. I was amazed! What a country, what landscapes! We drove into mountain villages, there are no mobile phones, no internet. And people are happy. There is so much warmth, nobility. One must see how Georgians treat small children, the elderly. The old man just opens his mouth, and his 50-year-old son immediately becomes silent.
Q: Did the Georgian wedding become a test for your liver?
A: Oh, it was a four-day non-stop party. A sea of wine and fun, with no fights, no quarrels. I did not meet a single Georgian who was a mean drunk.
Q: Did you drink from a horn?
A: The horn was unique, with wavy walls, chipped edges. I saw it carried it like a diamond cup. They quietly explain to me: "This horn is sacred." - "What does it mean?" - "The great-great-great-grandfather drank from it at his wedding..." The main family jewel. Everybody got to drink from it.
Q: With age, has there been any change to the worse in your character?
A: No. In my opinion, on the contrary, I changed for the better. I do not let myself get angry. I try to make decisions with a cool head. Yes, the youthful spirit of adventure is gone. But there is more reliability, balance, positivity. No panic moods. Now I have a different point of view at many things. Someone might say: "Anton, you became boring!"
Q: They will definitely say that.
A: Well, I like it!
 

nguyhm

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Thank you for this great read. I miss Elena and Anton, they were one of the greatest pairs. Pair skating has not been the same (for me) since they left.
 

Meoima

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I love so much the part he said about passing on the knowledge of Moskvina. The part he talked about going to the 2nd medal ceremony too.
 

whiteskates

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Thank you very much for translating the interview! It is not often we hear anything about Sikharulidze - my favourite male pairs skater so this interview was a pleasant surprise. If anyone is interested in reading more about his and Elena's struggle, I recommend the book "The second mark" which is about Elena and Anton, Chen/Chao and Salé/Pelletier and the years before the 2002 Olympics.
 

Vash01

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Fascinating interview! I had wondered what Anton was doing these days. This answered tgat, and a whole lot more. Thanks for translating.
 
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Many thanks for the translation. I always liked B&S very much and this is a fabulous interview. Lovely to see someone enjoying life so much! :)
 

Sylvia

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This interview by Yuri Golyshak and Alexander Kruzhkov was originally published in Sport Express on December 15, 2017. Thanks so much for translating this, @quiqie!

Some highlights for me:
A: Federations have to take care of skaters after they finish skating. There has to be a system that will let them stay relevant, to grow, to get education. Unfortunately, in our country, great champions are often left alone with their problems, but the bureaucrats stay in power for decades.
Q: Did you finish in time?
A: I know I haven't overstayed my welcome, that's for sure. Maybe we should have kept going until the Olympics in Turin. But it was time to earn money, to help my parents. At those times, you could make decent money only in shows.
Re. the 2002 Olympics:
A: Figure skating is such a thing that a similar situation can happen at any competition. There are million nuances that the general audience does not see. Number of rotations, change of positions... We do not know all the subtleties! At the World Championships in Vancouver, the Canadians Sale and Pelletier beat us 5: 4 in judges’ vote. In Salt Lake City, the score was the same - but in our favor. One judge gave us more. What is the problem? A storm in a teacup. Yet the American TV made a huge story out of it, together with lawyers. The games were just beginning, there were no news, and then there was a storm! But I do not have any bad aftertaste. We should have seen the warmth with which they treated us in America! We had hundreds of interviews.
A: Once. One night, we went out for beers with David [Pelletier]. He said: "Thanks to you and Lena we became famous, signed this contract, and got two advertising deals." If it were not for the Olympics, nothing would have happened..."
Q: Is he a good guy?
A: Very. Kind, hardworking. Very down-to-earth. He’s from a tiny Canadian town. David had a dream - to become a fireman, and after the Olympics he became one!
Re. Berezhnaya:
A: Everything I achieved in the sport, I owe her, her resilience, her courage, her will, her composure, her incredible inner strength. It's amazing that I'm talking about a small, fragile girl, right? She never shows if she’s hurt, if it’s hard. She keeps everything inside. She never whines, never complains, and never has emotional outbursts. How does she do it?!
Q: Have you, in all the time you skated together, ever seen her in hysterics?
A: No! In any situation, she remains calm. For example, we are being late to the airport. I'm all jittery, begging the taxi driver: "Speed up a bit!" And Lena, quietly: "It’s fine, if we miss this flight, we’ll just get tickets to the next..." - "It’s the last one today!" Lena, without changing the tone: "Then we’ll fly out tomorrow."
I once saw Berezhnaya, Sikharulidze and Moskvina waiting for a flight at the Newark, NJ airport (forgot which year). I remember being impressed that Elena was sitting and drawing on a notebook or pad -- definitely the picture of serenity! :)
 

Spun Silver

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This is one of the best of the many wonderful Russian skater interviews I've read. It seems that being completely out of figure skating allowed him to see what a crazy world it really is -- especially financially. He has a generous spirit. I love his praise of the women in his life and all the details... how skaters are the night before the galas :rockstar:, looking at the bottom of the phone to see what city he was in, how the cops would greet him when he used the fire escape to visit Elena, the glimpses of his different post-skating professions (which reminds me -- for a short time before Yagudin found his post-skating footing, he owned a garbage company :yikes:). What a full life. :respec:
 

Vash01

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Thank you very much for translating the interview! It is not often we hear anything about Sikharulidze - my favourite male pairs skater so this interview was a pleasant surprise. If anyone is interested in reading more about his and Elena's struggle, I recommend the book "The second mark" which is about Elena and Anton, Chen/Chao and Salé/Pelletier and the years before the 2002 Olympics.
I am surprised that you recommended The Second Mark. I had read it long ago so my memory is not sharp but I remember feeling very upset that the writer had painted Anton as the incompetent partner who always made mistakes. That book was very negative where B&S were concerned. There were some errors in the information presented as well. It has been a long time since I submitted my (negative) review to Amazon. So I don't remember all the details but I remember her writing that B&S lost the OGM in 98 because of Anton's mistake In the SP (that was incorrect). IIRC she blamed him for the fall at the end of the LP. The book was also very pro- S&P, like they could do nothing wrong.

Who are Chen/Chao? Perhaps you meant Shen and Zhao?
 
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Tinami Amori

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Echoing others in thanking whoever translated. Are there any current photos of him? I can't picture him with long hair!
I don't think Anton had long hair in any recent times. In the article he said he has a "dragon" (drakonchik) haircut, which is a modern hair style for men, kind of a mild version of "punk mohawk" http://elegant-obninsk.ru/images/product/m3.jpg
and Anton's is even more conservative, but can be "spiked" with gelle.... http://www.tsn24.ru/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/03-79.gif

I found a nice foto of his hair cut when he and his wife were acting as "God parents" to Elena's baby Tristan.
https://static.life.ru/posts/2010/08/35431/ff3c6227f61626572711f249ca354732__980x.jpg

..... and i don't think he changed it today.. (fr mid 2017)
http://polit.ru/news/2017/06/10/sikharulidze/

... he had a beard in 2016, but that's about all in "extra hair"... :D
https://komiinform.ru/content/news/images/134839/DSC_5871.jpg
 
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canbelto

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Great interview! Very interesting to read about his life after skating and how Moskvina motivated her students. Also thought the comments about David Pelletier were very classy and gracious. And ... the party stories ... he's still Anton ...
 

whiteskates

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I am surprised that you recommended The Second Mark. I had read it long ago so my memory is not sharp but i remember feeling very upset that the writer had painted Anton as the incompetent partner who always made mistakes. That book was very negative where B&S were concerned. There were sone errors in the information presented as well. It has been a long time since i submitted my (negative) review to Amazon. So I don't remember all the details but i rememher saying that B&S lost the OGM in 98 because of Anton's mistake In the SP (that was incorrect). IIRC she blamed him for the fall at the end of the LP. The book was also very pro- S&P, like they could do nothing wrong.

Who are Chen/Chao? Perhaps you meant Shen and Zhao?
Of course I mean Shen/Zhao! Just didn't remember the spelling. I don't remember it the same way as you do, apparently. I remember how the book described how Anton went to rescue Elena from Riga when he heard about what happened. An heroic act. I also remember noticing how hard the Russians and Chinese pairs had to struggle compared to the relatively easy life of the Canadians. As for the 98 Olympics, there were two mistakes - Anton's fall on the triple toe in the short and then the fall at the end of the free and I think those two falls together made them lose the gold. Regarding the 2002 Olympics, I still think Elena and Anton were the right winners due to better programmes but it is to be expected that an American writer was pro Canadian so I didn't find that surprising although I didn't agree. I still liked the book though.
 

soogar

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I don't think Anton had long hair in any recent times. In the article he said he has a "dragon" (drakonchik) haircut, which is a modern hair style for men, kind of a mild version of "punk mohawk" http://elegant-obninsk.ru/images/product/m3.jpg
and Anton's is even more conservative, but can be "spiked" with gelle.... http://www.tsn24.ru/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/03-79.gif

I found a nice foto of his hair cut when he and his wife were acting as "God parents" to Elena's baby Tristan.
https://static.life.ru/posts/2010/08/35431/ff3c6227f61626572711f249ca354732__980x.jpg

..... and i don't think he changed it today.. (fr mid 2017)
http://polit.ru/news/2017/06/10/sikharulidze/

... he had a beard in 2016, but that's about all in "extra hair"... :D
https://komiinform.ru/content/news/images/134839/DSC_5871.jpg
Wow he looks great! I think he looks better now than he did when he competed!
 

Sasha'sSpins

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Thank you for posting that interview and the translation @quiqie! :respec: That was a fascinating read from one of my all time favorite Pairs skaters! Anton seems to be very content, happily married with children and I'm happy he is successful in his business ventures! I am so glad he was in Elena's life when she needed him the most!

I think Anton should write a book about his life before and after figure skating!
 
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Vash01

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Dick Button said of Anton- He has the best back in all of skating.

Peggy or Dorothy (I don't remember which one of the two) said- he has a really good stretch....very reminiscent of Sergei Grinkov.

Anton was a rather underrated pairs partner. IMO he was one of the very best. He had Sergei's technique and posture, and Artur Dmitriev's passion.

I met him in person after a show in Sun Valley. I gave him roses and he gave those to Elena (I saw her carrying those later) He was very polite and nice, and incredibly handsome (he was not very photogenic, so he looked better in person than on TV).
 

libecha

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Great interview! Very interesting to read about his life after skating and how Moskvina motivated her students. Also thought the comments about David Pelletier were very classy and gracious. And ... the party stories ... he's still Anton ...
This is a man who truly knows how to party properly. I laughed so hard at that. Trashing a room with broken glassware and bottles and cigarette burn holes is standard fare, but for an entire sofa to disappear and never be seen again? This is another level. Wonder what happened to it.
 

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