Alexei Yagudin & Evgeny Plushenko 2001 GPF Rivalry Fluff Piece

Yagudin and Plushenko: champions who hated each other

Currently, men's single skating in Russia is going through a crisis. Is that the recent victory of Dmitry Aliev at the European Championship in Graz, Austria, gives hope to the fans. Otherwise, all attention has long been riveted on the girls: a serious, albeit friendly, struggle for the podium in Eteri Tutberidze's group stirs up interest in rentals.

At the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 2000s, everything turned out the other way around. Women were not so lucky at major competitions, but two pupils of Alexei Mishin - Alexey Yagudin and Evgeny Plushenko - were ready to go over each other's heads to pick up gold at the next start. And they did it - in turn and, of course, with mutual dislike. We tell the story of the confrontation between two titled figure skaters of the past, whose fates were so symbolically intertwined in childhood and had much in common until the end of their careers.

Meeting in Yubileiny: how did the skaters come under the leadership of Alexei Mishin?

Yagudin started skating at the age of four in his native Leningrad, his mother took him to work. Little Lyosha's mentor was Alexander Mayorov - a student of Alexei Mishin. The young skater skated under the guidance of the first coach for eight years. When the novice athlete turned 12, Mayorov was invited to work in Sweden. Yagudin's parents did not let him go abroad after the mentor and, on the recommendation of the coach, transferred the boy to Mishin's group at the Yubileiny Sports Palace.

Plushenko ended up there two years later. Before that, he trained in Volgograd under the guidance of Tatyana Skala and Mikhail Makoveev. It is interesting that Eugene also came to figure skating at the age of four and at the insistence of his mother. At the age of 11, he was forced to move to St. Petersburg alone to continue studying, since the Volgograd sports school was closed.

Yagudin and Plushenko: champions who hated each other

Alexey Mishin and Evgeny Plushenko

Photo: From the personal archive of Evgeni Plushenko

Then no one could have thought that two sickly looking boys would become the main competitors in the men's skating. So far, they have been peacefully performing elements on the ice, bullying each other in the locker room, and Mishin's attention was focused on the older wards - Olympic champion Alexei Urmanov, Ruslan Novoseltsev and Oleg Taturov.

Boy's showdown: Yagudin was locked in locker, and Plushenko was driven home

11-year-old Zhenya and 13-year-old Lyosha were the youngest in Mishin's group. Before Plushenko's transition to Yubileiny, Yagudin was the main target for bullying. Later, he said that the case did not end with words: older guys could beat younger ones with blade covers. And once the teammates locked Alexei in a cramped locker in the dressing room and kept him there for about an hour.

Unfortunately, Evgeny did not escape insults either. Most often he was reproached forthe fact that he is a visitor. Go to your Volgograd! - a phrase that Plushenko heard constantly, and most often from Yagudin. Apparently, Alexei managed to accumulate anger, and now he also decided to recoup the junior.

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Going to the international level and fighting for the coach's attention

Plushenko and Yagudin met for the first time in the 1995/1996 season at the World Youth Championship in Australia. Then Alexei won, and Eugene finished sixth. As an adult, Yagudin recalled the victory without much enthusiasm, even though he earned $ 10 thousand for gold, and Plushenko was almost ten times less - $ 1.5 thousand.

Alexey Mishin tried to breed the wards for different starts, and they met only at the Grand Prix stage in St. Petersburg (where, by the way, Plushenko lost to his teammate). A new problem began to mature: Yagudin, due to his impulsive nature, often lost his temper. Now he was jealous of the coach for the experienced Urmanov, with whom he went to the same competitions and, naturally, turned out to be weaker. It seemed to Alexei that everything was set up on purpose: while he was skating in the shadow of the Olympic champion, Plushenko became the mentor's favorite.

Yagudin and Plushenko: champions who hated each other

Alexey Yagudin and Evgeny Plushenko

Photo: From Evgeni Plushenko's personal archive

It is ironic that Evgeny saw the situation from the opposite perspective. In his opinion, Alexey was Mishin's favorite. After all, he got the best programs, music, costumes and was given more time. Plushenko himself collected the rest.

The 1997/1998 season was the last for two skaters, when they skated in the same group. During this time, Alexey beat Evgeny in five tournaments, won the European Championship in Milan and qualified for the Games in Nagano. But all the merits seemed to be relegated to the background, and Mishin was really imbued with the modest and punctual Plushenko. The skater wrote about this in his autobiography Another show:

Against the background of his indiscipline, the conflict grew. At the European Championships in Milan, the coach went to extreme measures: he forbade Yagudin to communicate with other skaters, took away the game console and controlled the time at which the athlete returned to the hotel room. But this is far from the worst thing. The boiling point was reached at the 1998 Olympics.

A turning point: Games in Nagano and leaving for Tarasova

At the Games, Alexey was fifth, and Ilya Kulik, a student of Tatiana Tarasova, won the competition ... Such a result - or rather, its ridiculousthe reason - became the main disappointment for Mishin. Yagudin caught a cold when he was sitting under the air conditioner after a short program, he went to an arbitrary one sick and failed it. In his autobiography Narom, he recalled an offensive start:

After the unsuccessful Olympics, neither the skater nor the coach concealed that their relationship had reached an impasse. When the Russian Figure Skating Federation proposed sending Plushenko to the upcoming world championship bypassing Yagudin, almost everyone disagreed with this decision - except Mishin. Alexey nevertheless broke through to the world championship, took gold, and then decided to leave.

Yagudin and Plushenko: champions who hated each other

Alexey Yagudin at the Olympics in Nagano

Photo: Jamie Squire / Allsport

In the offseason, it became known that Ilya Kulik was leaving Tatyana Tarasova. Yagudin decided not to miss the opportunity and called her personally, asking to be accepted into the group. After the transition, the skater was threatened that from now on he would not win a single start. At first, it seemed that dire wishes would come true.

The beginning of Plushenko's superiority over Yagudin

According to Plushenko, he did not expect Yagudin to leave Mishin, but was delighted with this outcome. Since then, Evgeny has become the main skater in the group and in 1999 won his first victory over his older colleague. This happened at the Russian Championship - a competition that was subsequently submitted to Plushenko nine more times, and not once to Yagudin. Alexey suspected that the refereeing was not so fair and transparent due to the friendly ties of the former mentor with the head of the federation.

A difficult period has come in Yagudin's career: Plushenko has grown up and has been beating a competitor for three years. In addition, the joint in the hip began to hurt. This upset the new coach Alexei Tatiana Tarasova. She, in turn, changed the tactics of the game: now the emphasis in Yagudin's programs was not on stamped quads, but on charisma and acting. To pacify the unbridled character of the ward, Tarasova resorted to the help of psychologist Rudolf Zagainov. There were strange rumors around his work that he could jinx or hypnotize opponents of the skater.

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The last fight: the 2002 Olympics

And the bet played out. Of course, after so many defeats, Yagudin was not promised victory at the Olympics and was considered Plushenko's favorite. For Eugene, the Salt Lake City Games have becometough: he, the golden boy of Russian men's skating, went to win.

Plushenko fell on the first jump in the short program - a quadruple sheepskin coat, which, in his words, he knew as our Father. At some point, the athlete justified the failure by the intervention of the very Zagainov, who allegedly hypnotized him. After the first performance, the skater took the fourth position: it was clear that it was impossible to get to the first one.

Yagudin and Plushenko: champions who hated each other

Evgeni Plushenko at the Olympics in Salt- Lake City

Photo: Matthew Stockman / Getty Images

At the same time, Yagudin shouted joyfully and jumped at the failure of a competitor. He realized that he would snatch the Olympic title. And so it happened. Alexey brilliantly performed the program Winter, which the audience watched dozens of times in the recording and after the Games.

Both skaters performed their free performances well, but the gap was obvious. Yagudin's rental was so effective that, approaching the side, he knelt in front of the coach, who led him to the desired victory. And Tatyana Anatolyevna shouted to him: Thank you, dear, thank you! I didn't even know you could do that!

Retirement: one scenario 12 years apart

After winning the Olympics, Yagudin won the World Championship in Japan, and then, in early next season, went to Skate America. But he could not perform there. Right before the execution of the program, he drove up to the judges and admitted that he would not be able to skate due to a sore joint. A familiar story, right? At the same time, Alexei ended his career, and a titanium prosthesis had to be inserted into his leg.

Plushenko continued to delight the coach and the audience and in 2006 fulfilled an old dream: he won the Olympics in Turin. Yagudin said that at the same time he sent his colleague a sincere SMS with congratulations, but did not receive a response.

Yagudin and Plushenko: champions who hated each other

Evgeni Plushenko at the awards ceremony at the Olympics in Turin

Photo: Elsa / Getty Images

If we talk about the Games, then in 2010 Plushenko became the second in Vancouver, and in 2014 again took gold in the team competition. But in single skating he did not manage to show himself: just like Alexey, he withdrew from the competition a few minutes before the rental, which the fans could not forget. After all, because of Evgeny, young potential champions remained aside: Maxim Kovtun and Sergei Voronov.

When the fervor died out: the hatred of the skaters was invented?

Many years have passed since the struggle between Plushenko and Yagudin. Both figure skaters ended their careers, participated in ice shows, wrote autobiographies in which they mentioned each other many times, and went their separate ways. Now they are trying to speak with restraint about the past confrontation, and Yagudin did say that their conflict was inflated by the press.

There might be a lot that is being said now , exaggerated. But fact is fact: these guys did not get tired of stepping on each other's heels and did not accept each other due to completely different characters. And the main thing is that their sports anger has given us many bright victories.

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