Where Are You, Gladiators?

By Vladislav Luchianov
Photo: Karen Gesell

Looking at the Alexei Yagudin’s performances of different years last night and simultaneously mentally imagining the future European championships, I have caught myself on thought that nostalgia is a necessary thing.

Despite all conceivable and inconceivable advantages of the new judging system, all the same all of us compare. And usually we compare, as it is known, to the best.

For me, such reference point for the modern single men’s skating is Alexei Yagudin. Yesterday I didn’t have a purpose straight line to look through his performances. I just read one article devoted to known scandal in pair skating at the Olympic Games in Salt Lake City, and have decided to see some points once again. And YouTube service simply gave me in search results the brilliant performance of Alexei on those Olympic Games.

Having seen one program, I wanted to look another. And so on … “Winter”, “The Man in the Iron Mask”, “Gladiator” simply didn’t want to release me from the monitor.

The interesting thing is that I promised to myself that I will go to sleep early night as it was necessary to get up early in the morning. But when I have finished this original travel to the past, it was already far from midnight. Despite this, in the morning I have woken up fresh and in a fine mood. I’m not sure that someone’s men skating at the European Championships can cause desire of repeated viewing, and also after some years.

The real men’s figure skating has gradually turned to something faceless. There are skaters, but there are no fighters, it is not visible strong characters, bright and remembered persons. There are no those which rise tribunes and spectators are in expectation of something special. It is noteworthy that in the USA, Canada and Japan is a totally different situation.

The style of Alexei Yagudin can’t be described in one article, but I think anybody has no doubts that it was a style of the highest techniques, musicalities in a combination with creativity. It were programs at which there was all: repeating cascades of the most complicated jumps, amazing step sequences, great images on ice, perfectly well and harmoniously picked up music.

But there was something else, something much more … There was a real spirit of struggle and competition. And a high virtuosity of execution was its integral part, instead of the simple appendix. Where all it has gone to? This question is rhetorical.

And here that we can observe today: the part of figure skaters performs simply “for themselves”; some others stop any resistance after the first failure; someone considers himself as “creative”, even his creativity approaches better for some show. Many skaters became too coddled and glamorous.

“To study the new? To improve the programs? To try making what didn’t do earlier? And what for? It, after all, demands additional efforts and in general – I have my own style!” – such words  imagine looking at many programs of the europeans.

That is my, certainly, subjective, a sight at a present condition of the European men’s figure skating. I very much would like to be convinced that my opinion is wrong and all these things aren’t so. Otherwise the European championships can be renamed safely in any next ordinary Trophy.

Alexei Yagudin, Salt Lake City Olympics, short program

Alexei Yagudin, Salt Lake City Olympics, free program

Alexei Yagudin, Grand Prix Final 2001

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