Interview with Alexei Yagudin

Part 1

By Magdalena Osborne

It’s mid April and the 2002 Olympic champion has just completed the US leg of the Stars on Ice tour. Now busy rehearsing for the Canadian shows, he admits he would rather watch TV than be interviewed, but graciously grants me this time and patiently answers my questions. But even his famous charm can’t hide the fatigue and he’s glad the exhausting tour is almost over. We talk about a lot of things and halfway though he jokingly asks me if I’m writing a book. Hmm, not a bad idea... A lot has been said and written about him already, but there’s more. With Alexei Yagudin, there’s always more.

You’ve been on the road now for more than three months, how are you holding up?
I’ve done 60 shows so far and touring is very tiring physically and emotionally and hard on my body, but I really enjoy what I do.

Do you ever get bored doing the same things over and over?
This is why we have a ping-pong table and play soccer and American football. The middle of the tour was tough but this is my job. We always find something to do.

Which is better, the US or Canadian tour?
I usually prefer to tour in Canada because of the audience. The crowd is much louder and they support us so much during the performance. But the crowd in the US has been really, really good too this year.

How did your ”Memorial” program come about?
For a couple of years I begged Tatiana to let me use this music because I was excited about it ever since the first time I heard it, but she said it was too intense all the way through and couldn’t be cut that much. I could never have made it an eligible program; I would have died skating to it because there’s no time to breathe! So when I was done competing, going into my last season as eligible, I asked Tatiana (Tarasova) again to use this music and she agreed. It’s not my favourite program but I love the music. Some music gets boring after a while but I will never get bored with “Memorial”.

What are you saying at the beginning of the program?
Saying? Well, I have to get the first eight beats right so I’m probably just counting, I usually don’t talk when I skate...

How did you choose “Ain’t that a shame” for a program?
I asked Christopher Dean what he wanted me to do in the show and he sent me the music and it was six minutes long so I called him and told him that wouldn’t work for me, and then I cut it once and then again and then a third time and then it was the perfect length. It’s fine for me to do something different, I’ve mainly used traditional music so this was a nice change and I’ve really enjoyed this number. It’s upbeat and fun to do and I’m glad I got to do it in the show. In North America the audience likes this type of music, while in Europe they might have appreciated something classical more. But if you’re a good skater you have to be able to skate to different types of music, even music that isn’t that close to you. I made this program about two months before the tour began but then kind of forgot about it so two days before the show I had to put it together again and it’s different since I forgot most of the first version. But this is the first program I’ve made all by myself!

This was your second season with the US SOI show, what was the show like this year?
I think it’s been a really good show. Christopher Dean is a very good choreographer and had so much worked out before hand and it’s very pleasant to work with him and Scott (Hamilton). The theme “Time” is wide and it’s funny. The transition acts are funny and what is said to the audience before the show starts is funny, like “Sonja Henie is not going to perform in today’s show” and “if the number on your ticket matches the number on your seat you will have a great evening”. This year isn’t harder or easier than last year, it’s a lot of skating and I love being there!

In the NBC documentary about SOI, Christopher Dean described you as “the young gun” in the show.
If the other guys are the old guns, then yes, I’m the young gun! Last year I was even younger than all the crew members but this year there’s a music guy and some crew people younger than me but I’m the youngest skater so he can call me the youngest gun!

What do you feel the audience expect from you when you go out there to perform?
People come to see us skate the best we can and bring joy to them. We’re all different as skaters and as people, but it’s a figure skating show so they want to see us perform and get into the music, they want to enjoy the show. And it’s a family show so everyone can enjoy it.

Security around the SOI shows has been compared to Fort Knox. Are you ever worried about your safety?
No. I’m a Russian in the US, who cares? And it’s figure skating, not hockey or tennis! But we have security people around us and it’s good since so many people come to the shows and they can’t all meet us. But I don’t think anyone would try to hurt us. We tour over four months and work very hard and sometimes we get really tired and just want to stay by ourselves.

During the last US show, in Portland, there were some pranks with wigs, wings and hats. What else went on that the audience didn’t see?
Not much actually. The broom number was funny because David fell. Todd and I always laugh at the beginning because we’re trying to do our stuff at the same time and we look at each other a lot. But this year, Chris and Scott were quite strict with us since there were some pranks last year and some skaters got upset. People pay money to see us and should get the same performance everywhere we go so it’s not fair to them to screw up the show.

Will you come back next year?
I have a contract for two more years with the US tour so yes, I’ll be back. My contract for the Canadian part ends now but maybe they’ll ask me to renew.

In the past you have combined Champions on ice with other tours but this year you’re only doing SOI.
My dream was always to join the SOI, it’s more of a show rather than an exhibition. And there’s a theme in all the numbers. But people are different and some like COI better, others don’t. I personally enjoy this tour more than the other. On the COI tour I felt like I was doing nothing. There’s more work here but each skater gets to show more sides of their skating capabilities. You skate to classical music or something else, with a hat or no hat and it makes it more interesting.

Go to Part 2

*** Previously published by Europe on Ice

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