Ilia Klimkin - Russia's biggest wasted talent?

ldec

Active Member
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Ok, in my quest to cover the careers of great skaters from the past who never were, I would like to address the more experienced fans here and start a separate thread to present what is, in my opinion, one of the saddest career derailments in figure skating ever.

Remember Ilia Klimkin? He was a very promising Russian skater of the late 90s and 00s. With immense talent he seemed like he could have had it all with a little bit of luck - he had a great jumping ability, marvelous spins for his time, and very unconventional and intricate choreography which left people talking. He also had wonderful musicality and carriage, decent skating skills, and in terms of transitions seemed to have been ahead of his time. Maybe he wouldn’t have been OGM, but he had all the chances ahead of him to be a major contender and win a few World medals or even an Olympic one.

Yet, Klimkin won insultingly little during his career - his biggest senior achievement was a bronze medal at the Europeans in 2004, and a couple of grand prix medals.

Some details on his career (under spoiler because it is a bit long):

Competing in the shadows of greats like Plushenko, Yagudin and Alexander Abt, he would often fall victim to his nerves as evident by his inconsistent performances both at Russian Nationals and international competitions in the late 90s - early 00s. After he finally made the Euro/World team in 2003, his long-time coach who had nurtured his talent and created his skating style from scratch, died following a long battle with cancer.

Klimkin joined Viktor Kudriavtsev afterwards (who has coached in the past Butyrskaya, Ilia Kulik, Elena Sokolova, Viktoria Volchkova, etc.); just as he was starting to gain competitive momentum in 2004, his injuries mysteriously started piling up: first, he developed a very serious problem with the achilles tendon, which in turn caused more injuries (one of which forced him out of 2004 Worlds), and finally required surgery. It is worth to note that Klimkin has been quoted saying that Kudriavtsev often dismissed his injuries and pain complaints, either accusing him of lying and being lazy, or being too nervous and lacking confidence, or something along those lines, and pushed him to train and compete like that.

After a year-long hiatus (he missed worlds in his hometown in 2005), he managed to return to the big sport in late 2005 but was never the same skater again, and judges quickly dropped him to the ranks of second tier skaters. He managed to develop some jump consistency which he so direly needed earlier but at the cost of everything else - his programs were empty and bland, not fitting to his strengths or CoP, artistically he had regressed, and the overall packaging resembled a caricature. He managed to compete at the Olympics and Worlds in 2006 but didn’t place high. After that, he kept having injury problems and continued to skate very poorly at competitions until his ultimate retirement from skating in 2007.


And he is universally forgotten now.

A very cruel end for such a wonderful skater. And, if you ever watched Klimkin, I am sure we can agree that no matter if you liked his skating or not, no matter if you think he deserved to win more or not, it is very unfortunate when a skater gets their career destroyed in such a painful way and is forced to retire without ever having reached their potential.

What memories and impressions do you have of Klimkin’s skating?

It boggles my mind to no end why do such talented skaters get thrown away like this with their potential so unceremoniously wasted? Is there something that prevented him from achieving high results that I forgot to mention here?

Do you think the derailment described above could have been prevented in any way? Different coach, maybe? Who could have been a good match for him?

What do you think could it have been had he had the chance to keep the upward trend and have a normal career in 2004 and beyond - no injuries, no withdrawals, no missed seasons, etc.?

To finish off, here are a few of his more memorable programs:

2001 Grand Prix Final - Prelude to Afternoon of a Faun FS

2002 Europeans - Petrushka FS - (ok, definitely not his best skate but the program is still great choreographically)

2002 NHK Trophy - short program

2002 NHK Trophy - Free Skate

2004 Europeans - Swan Lake SP

2004 Europeans - Free Skate
 
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LarrySK8

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I believe he is forgotten because, although he was World Junior Champion, his transition to Seniors came when one of the greatest rivalries in Men's singles was taking place in his home country. Plushenko v Yagudin through 2002 overshadowed practically all of Men's skating back then.
 

Japanfan

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I'll never forget Ilia Klimkin! He was a creative genius and skated 'outside of the box'. I loved him.

I shall never forget what a Canadian commentator said during one of his programs (Rod Black): It sounds like he's playing his music backwards.
:D:D:D


And it was true - haven't heard such bizarre music since.
 
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zebraswan

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1,096
Well, I would say Adian Pitkeev was more of a wasted talent since his career ended at 18 and he never got to go to a Worlds or Olympics or show his potential at all. YMMV...
 

ldec

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I believe he is forgotten because, although he was World Junior Champion, his transition to Seniors came when one of the greatest rivalries in Men's singles was taking place in his home country. Plushenko v Yagudin through 2002 overshadowed practically all of Men's skating back then.
Agree with that, the timing of his transition to Seniors was really unfortunate. However, following the retirement of Yagudin and Abt, there was plenty of space for him to compete and succeed internationally. The men's field in Russia was nowhere as deep any more. But it just didn't happen.

Following the 2004 Europeans his career, right when it should have been going up, turned into an injury wreck and he sunk into oblivion until the short comeback in 2006. And as mentioned already, he was not the same skater ever again.

Well, I would say Adian Pitkeev was more of a wasted talent since his career ended at 18 and he never got to go to a Worlds or Olympics or show his potential at all. YMMV...
You are right, Adian also had a pretty unfortunate career and it is very sad when a young talented skater like him needs to retire. He could have done great.

But I think they were tragically wasted in different ways: while one was forced into early retirement by injuries (in an interview he said he had a congenital spinal problem and sadly felt like it was going to come at one time), the other got taken for a ride over the years and got his ability and chances completely killed due to poor management decisions.
 
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Kasey

Fan of many, uber of none
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Loved Ilia Klimkin, and think he was sadly ahead of his time. I think that some of the originality of choreography and transitions in his programs would have served him well in the IJS system. He was like the precursor of Adrian Schultheiss, another unique and fun favorite of mine.
 

blue_idealist

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I don't remember him that well, so I can't really weigh in on what could have put his career on a more positive track, but what I do remember, I liked.
 

Holy Headband

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I loved him as a kid and hope he's happy wherever he is now. Does anyone know if he's coaching/choreographing? The Russian men's field sorely needs his touch IMO.
 

Vash01

Fan of Yuzuru, Medvedeva, T&M, Shibs, P&C
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I loved Klimkin. Will never forget him. Very creative. His downfall was that his jumps were not consistent- this was an even bigger factor when Yagudin, Plushenko were competing (I hope i got this right). His creativity was not rewarded when he faltered on jumps. He would have done better under IJS.
 

ldec

Active Member
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94
I loved him as a kid and hope he's happy wherever he is now. Does anyone know if he's coaching/choreographing? The Russian men's field sorely needs his touch IMO.
He is coaching now.

I loved Klimkin. Will never forget him. Very creative. His downfall was that his jumps were not consistent- this was an even bigger factor when Yagudin, Plushenko were competing (I hope i got this right). His creativity was not rewarded when he faltered on jumps. He would have done better under IJS.
True, he was really inconsistent during the Plushenko/Yagudin era, and that hurt his chances.

But he was just not around when the IJS was first introduced - he was forced to take a season off due to surgery (that could have easily been prevented with better training methods) so he did not have the chance to gain experience first hand under IJS, adjust his programs, fix inconcistencies and flaws in his skating, etc.

Once he was back in 2006, his jumps were nice but at the price of everything else - for some reason his programs were very bland, and totally not fitting for the new system or his strengths, the artistic impression was lacking as well (I addressed those points in my first post). And judges instanteniously pushed him to the ranks of second tier skaters.

I don't know what the reason for the rapid change was but I suspect it might have been: a) to build more consistency, or b) coaching influence at the time. There is no way to know, but I think those are likely reasons.

Don't want to overwhelm everyone with too much detail because I feel like I know way too much about this story and have a strong opinion about it; the point I want to make is that he was a fantastic skater, he did have his flaws, he could have done much better post-2003 had his career been handled in a different way. How much better - it is up for speculation.
 
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Vash01

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He is coaching now.



True, he was really inconsistent during the Plushenko/Yagudin era, and that hurt his chances.

But he was just not around when the IJS was first introduced - he was forced to take a season off due to surgery (that could have easily been prevented with better training methods) so he did not have the chance to gain experience first hand under IJS, adjust his programs, fix inconcistencies and flaws in his skating, etc.

Once he was back in 2006, his jumps were nice but at the price of everything else - for some reason his programs were very bland, and totally not fitting for the new system or his strengths, the artistic impression was lacking as well (I addressed those points in my first post). And judges instanteniously pushed him to the ranks of second tier skaters.

I don't know what the reason for the rapid change was but I suspect it might have been: a) to build more consistency, or b) negative coaching influence at the time. There is no way to know, but I think those are likely reasons.

Don't want to overwhelm everyone with too much detail because I feel like I know way too much about this story and have a strong opinion on it; the point I want to make is that he was a fantastic skater, he did have his flaws, he could have done much better post-2003 had his career been handled in a better way. How much better - it is up for speculation.
Please share all you know. Enquiring minds want to know. :)
 

ldec

Active Member
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Please share all you know. Enquiring minds want to know. :)
All the knowledge I have is from old news articles and interviews so it would be very interesting to see how the coach and skater reflect on the whole situation nowadays...

But anyway, there is a brief summary of his career in the first post, so I will repeat myself here a little. I am also planning to write an article on Klimkin very soon for my blog.

As you said he used to be quite inconsistent while Plushenko and Yagudin were competiting and that is true; jump mistakes seem to cost you a lot under the 6.0 system. He did have a difficulty making in out of Russia for some years as a result.

Klimkin did compete in both the Europeans and Worlds in 2003 but didn't have a very strong showing at either event. Shortly after that, his coach died.

He moved to the aforementioned Mr. Kudriavtsev and that is where the issues started piling up - he developed a problem with his ankle, but instead of letting him rest, the Russian Figure Skating Federation pressured him to skate injured at Grand Prix.

Klimkin has also claimed his coach didn't think his injury problems were really that serious and pushed him to skate like that for months, often dismissing his pain complaints as him either being lazy, or nervous, or lacking confidence, etc.

Btw, Kudriavtsev actually once dissed him publicly after a poor skate (at the 2004 Worlds after the Short program) and I don't know if he was really saying that seriously or trying to cover up how bad things were... anyway, Klimkin was skating injured with a torn hamstring at that Worlds and was out of the competition less than 2 days later because he was in too much pain to skate the Long.

After he got better, he did skate in some shows in 2004 but the condition of his ankle was so bad by that point that it required surgery. Hence, a year of proper training and competitions lost, and he was never able to regain his shape ever again. It is still admirable he managed to make it to the Olympics but considering what could have been and how this whole thing could have been prevented, the whole story is quite tragic.
 
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SmallFairy

#teamtrainwreck #teamjapan
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A Klimkin thread😍
One of my all time favourites! My friend even ran a fan club for him.

My personal thoughts on the subject is that the death of his coach Igor Rusakov was of course very though for Klimkin. He had a very good relationship with Rusakov, who understood him as a skater, and with him Klimkin was skating very creative programs. He could really play on all his strength. I don't think Kudriatsev was a good match for Klimkin at all. Kudriatsev, as much a good technique coach he is, never had the most interesting skaters (except for Butyrskaya, but they weren't a good match either, and she blossomed after she left him). I didn't know about the skating injured-part, that's terrible, and affected his career for sure. I wish Klimkin had found a coach more fitting to his style and mindset, so he could have kept on producing what was his trademark - weird and awesome. He was and Schulteiss was indeed the same brand.

In 2003 Klimkin actually skated quite well at Euros, and finished fourth. He made a few silly mistakes, but his program was wonderful, and it was a close race for the bronze with Stanick Jeannette. I adored both and was totally torn, though I must admit I loved Stanick's Le Petit Prince a little bit more. But what a treat, those two back to back, trying to overtake each other in creativity. #sunnyboy4ever @alchemy void
I must admit I didn't pay much attention two nr.1 and 2 (Plush and Joubert) at that comp (I was there live)

Another favourites program from Klimkin was his Prelude to the afternoon of faun. He WAS faun! He skated it to perfection at NHK one year, will look it up.
 

ldec

Active Member
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94
A Klimkin thread😍
One of my all time favourites! My friend even ran a fan club for him.

My personal thoughts on the subject is that the death of his coach Igor Rusakov was of course very though for Klimkin. He had a very good relationship with Rusakov, who understood him as a skater, and with him Klimkin was skating very creative programs. He could really play on all his strength. I don't think Kudriatsev was a good match for Klimkin at all. Kudriatsev, as much a good technique coach he is, never had the most interesting skaters (except for Butyrskaya, but they weren't a good match either, and she blossomed after she left him). I didn't know about the skating injured-part, that's terrible, and affected his career for sure. I wish Klimkin had found a coach more fitting to his style and mindset, so he could have kept on producing what was his trademark - weird and awesome. He was and Schulteiss was indeed the same brand.

In 2003 Klimkin actually skated quite well at Euros, and finished fourth. He made a few silly mistakes, but his program was wonderful, and it was a close race for the bronze with Stanick Jeannette. I adored both and was totally torn, though I must admit I loved Stanick's Le Petit Prince a little bit more. But what a treat, those two back to back, trying to overtake each other in creativity. #sunnyboy4ever @alchemy void
I must admit I didn't pay much attention two nr.1 and 2 (Plush and Joubert) at that comp (I was there live)

Another favourites program from Klimkin was his Prelude to the afternoon of faun. He WAS faun! He skated it to perfection at NHK one year, will look it up.
What a beautiful message, thank you so much fo contributing!

Maybe this is the video you are talking about from NHK 1999 - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T746wFOKplA&t=

In my original post, I have included a HQ version from 2001 GPF which is also very beautifully skated. Such a wonderful program!

It seems like Klimkin did have a very good relationship with his original coach Rusakov and it worked out very well - there was trust between them and he knew how to bring the best out of his student; Rusakov seems to have been ahead of his time in the artistic vision he had for his skaters. Such a shame about his early death :(

I really wonder who would have been a good match for Klimkin as a coach back then - definitely someone who could have maintained his strentghs and style choreographically while also giving him confidence - I think that is where Ilia was lacking.

About Euro 2003 - unfortunately no videos seem to be available of his performances there, and I knew he made some very silly mistakes to miss the bronze. However, it is so nice to hear the program was good overall and you enjoyed it. It must have been a threat watching it live!
 

Tinami Amori

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I was wondering why Klimkin sent Gulyakova to Mishin. I remember in 2017 he was training her to jump 3A's, she had a few injuries and set backs, and then per her own words "Klimkin sent me to go skate in Mishin's group".
 

BreakfastClub

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LOVED Ilia Klimkin. I'll never forget first seeing him at at the 1999 JGP Final which I went to in person because I was living in the Detroit area. OMG his choreography and music and costume and voidy moves! OMG his reverse camel-camel-3s combination out of nowhere! The cantilever! I can't even. And it's like 20 years later. :rollin:

IIRC, he went on to win 99 Jr Worlds and was the first man ever to land 2 different quads (toe and sal) in a program later that year, which I don't think anyone has mentioned yet in this thread.

I'll also never forget being at a competition, waiting anxiously for a men's practice with Klimkin, and asking an acquaintance who'd already seen the Dr. Diesel program about his music because I'd heard it was weird. She said, "it's just noise." I was like, no, "what's his music?" and she answered emphatically, "He's skating to noise." :rofl: God how I loved that noise program, with the caterwauling and screeching.

I followed his career and would be hard-pressed to name my favorite program or move. But I agree he just had a lot of hard luck. He was in the shadow of Yagudin & Plushenko (and Abt too who had his own troubles with the YP shadow), didn't have the conventional style - carriage or artistic style - that was typically rewarded by the judges, nor was he super consistent. Then the injuries and death of his coach probably sealed the deal. It was sad.

The only other skater ever to have a left such an extreme first impression on me was Rohene Ward.
 

whiteskates

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I'll never forget Klimkin and agree with everyone who praises him here. Great thread and I enjoyed watching his performances again. Thanks for the links!
 

muffinplus

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His Swan Lake SP at 2004 Euros was also excellent...too bad the video quality of the version on YouTube was so bad ( not sure if it's there still?)
 

ldec

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His Swan Lake SP at 2004 Euros was also excellent...too bad the video quality of the version on YouTube was so bad ( not sure if it's there still?)
That program was absolutely magical and perfect, words cannot do it justice!

I linked his Swan Lake SP in the first post, and the quality is not perfect indeed.

Here is a better quality version from Dutch Eurosport (hope the link works for you).

Actually, the way he skated the program at Worlds 2004 wasn't bad at all either (apart from the jump mistakes), the presentation and everything non-jump related was almost as good as Euros 2004, if not better. It is heartbreaking he had to withdraw there :(

I also have the program from that competition and wanted to upload it for reference but unfortunately the quality of the video I have is abysmal. Wish there was a better version out there.
 
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Clay

Who is the coach? Everywhere! Everybodeee!
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"Seems like you always carry those people with you, especially at the Olympic games"- Scott Hamilton,

Ilia's 2006 Olympics LP
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AJrIwcmqP0g

I think the death of his coach and injuries made it difficult in 2006. In this case, Scott Hamilton was correct. I still view that performance as successful.

I love what Ilia added to the sport. It takes quite a skater to make you forget about some of the typical technique and carriage issues but instead focus on the artistic style, originality and overall talent. I'm lucky I got to see him live.

I remember working on the camel spin-salchow combination and got some very strange looks (hearing "What on earth? What was that?") and I couldn't be more proud to bring the voids to the practices in his honor!

Thanks for the thread!
 
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Tinami Amori

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I loved Klimkin, he was a great show skater, with most unique and interesting costumes, programmes and moves, and that alone made it worth watching. His jumps scared me. Most of them were wild and off axis, or with most dangerous axis shifts in mid air, and then a fall in 90% of the attempts.
He was always falling, even when young and strong, as far as 1996 Russian Nationals.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0mc_oeLQybY
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MTXpym2SU3c

I did wish back then he would become a permanent show skater, like Johnny Weir.
 
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Vagabond

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I don't think that Ilia Klimkin was a wasted talent; he was a talented skater who did not fully realize his potential. That was largely due to injuries that appear to have been unavoidable unless he had stopped skating sooner than he did.
 

kwanfan1818

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I loved Klimkin. I, too, was at 2003 Euros, and my heart, too, was torn between Jeanette and Klimkin: they had two of my favorite Men's programs in the early 00's. St. Petersburg 300 was my favorite Plushenko program, and see all three free skates was really a joy at that competition.
 

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