Romance and Mystery Novels

by Alina Adams

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Monday, October 01, 2007


Irina Slutskaya: I would never come on stage looking inept.

Translation of an interview by Elena Koladina (EK) of a Russian language publication “Sojus. Belarus-Rossija” published on September 27, 2007


We met on September 1, a very symbolic day when children start school all over Russia. I did not want to think about Irina Slutskaya (IS) as just a unique figure, who was the first in Russian figure skating to win seven European Championships, two World Championships, to participate in 3 Olympics and to become a prize winner in two of them. I wanted to think of her as a person who was able to reach the highest sports levels while overcoming seemingly insurmountable health problems.

EK - Irina, did you heart skip a beat seeing the first graders going to school with their moms?

IS – Of course. But it is too early to think about it. I am happy with my current condition. I do not want to look forward. I have been through so much in my life that I am skeptical about planning too far ahead. I live today, one day at a time.

EK – You put on skates at 4, at 12 you became a member of the Russian National figure skating team and at 16 you become the first in Russian history to become European Champion. Did it affect your studies at school?

IS – Not at all. Up to the 6th grade I was a good student. After that I had solid “B’s” and later I graduated from the Physical Education College.

EK – You said earlier that you do not like to look into the future. But you could not succeed in sports without clear goals. Did you expect that life itself would dictate the order?

IS – From the very early days, I divided my life inside and outside of sports. In sports it is all absolutely clear – you set the goals and gradually move toward them. If you try to do the same in your personal life you may lose your mind. If I fell down on the ice, I know exactly why it happened. In life there are too many surprises.

EK – Figuratively speaking, one would say that one could not reach heights in sports without falling a few times. And what about life?

IS – In life to me not to fall down means to be a good human being no matter what happens in your life. One should be always in control of themselves.

EK – What does that mean?

IS – The main thing to me is to be fair with people, not to insult people close to me. Also it is important to keep learning new things. Even in my current condition I can not stop moving forward, I want to be in constant movement.

EK – What are you moving toward now?

IS – I am trying to learn acting. Read a lot.

EK – Do you have a large library?

IS – When I moved out from my parents home I did not have any books. Now I have a lot of books and I am not ashamed that now, at about 30, I am reading a lot of high school program level books.

EK – How did you like to study at the Ostankino TV school?

IS – Well, actually I did not study there as a regular student. I was sick for some time, I wanted to do something and went to the studio. I was there for 2.5 months and then decided to go to the World Championship and dropped the class. But while there, I retained some knowledge. It was very interesting, but not for me at that time.

EK – Did you like yourself in the “Stars on Ice” show?

IS – Oh no. I like to speak for myself but there Evgeny Pluschenko and I were told all the time in our earpieces what to say. I could not get used to it. Thanks to my actor friends it worked out.

EK – I know that the show toured many cities in Russia and abroad. It was also in Minsk.

IS – I was in Minsk before this show with a theater of Ice Miniatures of Igor Bobrin. I liked the train that we traveled on – it was so clean and cozy.

EK – Did you show any inclination to acting while working in the shows? After the Olympic Games in Turin, one of the great actors – Oleg Yankovsky expressed interest in working with you on stage.

IS – Oh, I would do it with a great pleasure, but I would never come on stage with a professional while I would look inept. It is not my style – to do something, as just to do it.

EK – But all of your skating numbers are small performances. Just look at your Carmen!

IS – If I was asked to play Carmen on stage, it would be a different story. I would have to study the character a lot. On ice I do not want to be compared to anyone – I want to be myself, but even for my number on ice I read 3 books by Merime.

EK – Every person, not just the sportsperson, faces sometimes a new starting point in life. What would be your psychological advice to a person at a starting point in life?

IS – I could only repeat what our team doctor was telling us: “If you are shaking and nervous, it is good. Everything will be all right. But if you are too calm, you may step on something and stumble”. Nervousness, excitement should be always present. But it should be also to a degree while you can control yourself. Adrenalin rush is good!

EK – How did you overcome your failure in 1999? When after winning the European title, your own Russian judges put you in the undeserved 4th place at the Championship of Russia, thus preventing you from all future high level competitions?

IS – I do not want to talk about it. Only recently I found out that my failure was “ordered” by some people.

EK – Did you want to drop figure skating at that time?

IS – Yes, I did. But then I decided to get married. I remember that my mom asked me what I would be doing and I told her that I was going to marry my boyfriend, Sergey. And I did marry him.

EK – Who was he?

IS - My husband is a PE teacher. We met in a sports camp – it was nothing special. He gives me the wisdom that I lack. He does not rush me. Remember that in 1999 I came out from the competition very upset. He took me in his car and was driving me around while I got myself together.

EK – When you learned about the reasons for your failure in 99, did you want to react somehow to those people?

IS – Why bother? I believe that in this life what goes around comes around. I was always a fair competitor and never fought off ice. I always believed that if you want to prove something, come out on the ice and do it.

EK – Did you want to be better than someone or you wanted to be the best you could be?

IS – I always compete with myself. I am performing some elements that no one in the world can do. When after all of my illnesses in 2005 I wanted to be included in the World Championship competition in Dortmund, I was asked if I realized that I would not be able to win, I replied that I definitely knew it.

EK – I presume that your 9th place there was more important than all other gold places.

IS – I could hardly move my legs, but I completed the number. Toward the middle of my performance the spectators stood up and at the end I was crying very hard.

EK – Because you overcame the disease?

IS – Because, even with my disease, I still could skate.

EK – Were you not afraid of your disease?

IS – But of course. I am a normal person. And I am very thankful to all the people who were helping me and did not lock me up in a hospital. I am sorry to say, but I betrayed them. When my attending physician would let me go home, I would promise that I would not skate, but as soon as I could put on the skates, I would go on the ice.

EK – How did you start your sports career?

IS – I was sick often in my childhood, and as with many others, my parents wanted to make me stronger and put me on skates. I was trying to escape, but my mother pushed me on ice. I was supposed to participate in the ice show and got sick and was kicked out from the show. That did it. I was determined to skate and went to another skating rink.

EK – You went to the coach Zhanna Gromova to whom you kept unique loyalty throughout your career.

IS – It was more than unique. Imagine that she brought me up from ground zero to all of the heights. She could work with me and with my stubborn character. She always knew what to do – if it was necessary, she would push me. She was a great coach and a great teacher. She deserves a monument.

EK- In the nineties when you were becoming a great skater, many of your colleagues went to the USA complaining that they did not have the right conditions at their motherland.

IS – I did not go. What did I forget in USA? Also, many skaters changed coaches, went for the name and left Ms. Gromova. Many of them lately dropped out of figure skating altogether. Treason is always punished. Now, when I left, I wish that Ms. Gromova had some one else to continue her work.

EK – Did you say that you left sport? I heard our higher up sport bosses saying that it was too early to write you off the amateur sports.

IS – Well, anything is possible. The main thing is to have a goal.

EK – Do you do any physical exercises?

IS – No, not now, but I am taking a lot of tests, moving a lot. I am involved in the show the “Ice Age” and working on one other project, which is secret for now.

EK – But I know that you will tell me how many medals you have. It is not a simple question. I know that you began skating due to your love of medals.

IS – I think that I have about 40 medals. In the past they were all hanging on the palm tree that Sergey brought to me. The palm was protected by a huge (about my size) stuffed elephant. I like toys. Always bring them and than donate to children in the orphanages.

EK – Do you remember your first medal?

IS – Of course I do. It was 1987. Some kind of competition. The medal was made of aluminum. It has a picture of a skate and a girl.

EK – And what about your first gold medal?

IS – I bit it right away to check if the tooth mark would show.

EK – Did it?

IS – Yes it did. And than I wanted more medals like that.

EK – And then?

IS – Then the main event began. I wanted to be the best that I could be for myself. I never minded my illnesses, went on the ice and did my best.

EK – What is the most important thing in your life?

IS - After leaving the big sport, after all of the heights there was emptiness. I was even scared that I would lose myself. But I was lucky, the ice projects came along. But the most important thing is what is growing in me now.


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