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Interview of Alexei Mishin after the Grand Prix Final 2003, by Borislav Mikhailichenko.

By the middle of December the St. Petersburg journalists had no doubt what so ever who is the “Athlete of the Year”. No questions – it was the current European and World Champion of Figure Skating, Evgeny Plushenko. And then suddenly – a shock! At the ISU GPF Evgeny ends up with Silver. Did he “blew it” or are there problems with the new CoP judging system? The only one in St. Petersburg, who can comment both on Plushenko and the CoP, is the coach himself, Alexei Mishin

Question: So, Alexei Nikolayevich, do you feel that “the whole year has gone to the dogs”? (because of Silver at the GPF).
Mishin: This past year is a happy one for me. During the season, which started in Autumn of 2002 and ended in Spring of 2003, Evgeny won every competition he has entered, and not only won over-all, but won every programme he skated, both short and long. Evgeny can easily be entered into the Guinness Book of World Records. And I would like to remind that to the journalists who had doubts about naming Plushenko “the Athlete of the Year”. It’s not right to summarize the whole year just by one competition.

Question: What did really happen in Colorado?
Mishin: Growing pains! All season long Evgeny had both good and bad performances, yet because of his injury, he still was not skating up to the full “Plushenko” potentials. Even then, one week before the GPF, Evgeny won the USFSA sponsored competition in Detroit. Then, just before the GPF, we spent a very productive week of training up in the mountains. Plushenko had a chance to calmly skate and practice and was in a very good form. At the morning of practice (on the day he skate his LP and lost), he demonstrated something that has not been done by any other skater yet: a 4toe/3l/3l jump combination. He was so high spirited and so enthusiastic, and…. that’s what put him on the wrong pass. At the GPF his LP was the best of the whole season – by his own standards, in comparison to other competitors. There is such concept, it’s called “in real life”, well “in real life” Evgeny won, but according to the CoP rules of the competition he lost.

Question: I am afraid it is hard for readers to understand how one can skate better than the rest and not take the 1st place.
Mishin: The CoP rules allow only two jump combinations. Evgeny was trying so hard to “show all he’s got” and did a third combination jump with a 3x-axel. This element of the programme was not counted at all, not as a combination and not as an axel. So, instead of 7.5 points, Evgeny received 0 for that element, and lost in total points to the Canadian skater Sandhu.

American audience, who were not familiar with the fact that ISU is testing the new CoP system at the GP events, kept yelling to Evgeny during exhibitions- “You were robbed”!
Question: What were the first words you said to him?
Mishin: That he has to be punctual and rules are rules, and one has to respect them. (There are rules everywhere, when you drive a car, etc...)

Question: Originally when ISU announced the testing of the CoP during the GP events you reacted positively. Have you changed your mind now?
Mishin: I am not a man without “core and principles” to go around saying that the system is good when we win, and bad when we don’t. Besides, at request of The President OC I personally participated in its (CoP) creation and made my comments. There are positive aspects to the system: the rules encourage skaters to work on all elements and aspects of the programme.

Question: Can you see some weak points?
Mishin: Yes. It (system) limits progress (of the sport). One does not need to learn more difficult elements to win. The outcome is too dependant on 1 person – the technical specialist who is part of the judging team and determines which element was executed (if it was a 3x or 4x jump). And finally the athletes, the audience, the coaches are not given a chance to see “the face” of an individual judge. (he means “anonymity” prevents from being able to observe the “judging pattern” of individual judges). So, the result looks like “mashed potato” where you don’t get to see each individual potato.

Question: Is it true that Cinquanta was in shock when Plushenko lost?
Mishin: He was quite upset by the outcome. The new system – is his “baby”, he was hopping that this would be his contribution to the history of modern Figure Skating, and it is important for him to make sure that the system has “objectivity”. So, if Plushenko was the best “in real life”, the system should be such that it recognizes when someone is best “in real life”.

Question: You associates, Elena Chaikovskaya, is quite certain that the new rules are targeted at keeping the Russians “down”.
Mishin: The new rules are not intended to keep the Russians “down”, but such outcome is possible (regardless of the lack of intend). For example, the Belgian skater, Van Der Peren was never in the top skating elite. With a relatively simple technical arsenal he, at the end of the GP series, ended up with rather high results. His 5th place finish may serve as an inspiration to other countries skaters, who are not known to be in the “skating elite”. It could create an illusion that athletes from these federations now also have a chance to win. I recently have conversations with presidents of several such federations and heard their comments “Now maybe we can start winning”. And, since there are plenty of such federation – a majority, I think there is a high probability that CoP will be highly supported at the next ISU Congress and will be used in all future competitions such as Worlds and Olympics.

Question: So, now the Russian skaters have only one option – and that is to surprise (everybody) with completely new elements.
Mishin: Plushenko does that all the time. Evgeny is the first man that did Beilman, was the first to do “bagel spin” (donut spin), and was the first to do 4-3-2 and 4-3-3 combination. These elements even have his name, there is a “Plushenko-bagel” spin, one Chinese pairs coach said “next season we are going to include the Plushenko-jump-combination”.

Question: When do you expect the next “break through”? Or, is the 4-3-3 combination, which Plushenko was the first one to execute, is already the “ceiling” in figure skating?
Mishin: My prognosis is that in our lifetime the skaters will perform quads of all existing jumps. Plushenko, at different times, managed to do quad-toe, quad-sal, quad-lutz, quad-flip. If we are to talk about doing Quant-jumps, there you need to invent a completely different technique for the jump and quality of take off. Where to find (now to develop) this new technique – is not yet known to coaches.

Question: Not even to Mishin, a creator of Olympic champions?
Mishin: I have a gut-feeling where to look, but not ready to talk about. I will try. I always look into the future. If you ask me “what is the best New Year you ever head”, I will tell you “it is the one that will come in the future”. Same about competitions. To some the GPF is the most important event, but to me and Evgeny it is the Russian Nationals which will be held in St. Petersburg from 8-11 of January. Our greatest joy comes from skating in front of our own people, residents of St. Petersburg. These Nationals are particularly memorable to me, because in this city, in 1969, I and Tamara Moskvina stood on top of the podium winning our first Russian Nationals title. In the second place were Belousova/Protopopov, and in 3rd Rodnina/Ulanov.