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The love from oneís country - it is what everyone strives for: politicians, actors, and athletes. But far from everyone actually earns this love during oneís lifetime. Evgeni Plushenko is a young figure skater who at 19 years old has already earned trust and love not only from his own countrymen. Having won the World Championships in Vancouver, Plushenko has become a favorite of the public both on the European and American continents.
It is Evgeni Plushenko who is considered to be the main contender to win in menís figure skating at the Olympic Games in Salt Lake City. Shortly before the Grand Prix Final in Kitchener, interviewed the young World Champion.

Q: Evgeni, what happened to you, why was your short program so unsuccessful in St. Petersburg?

Evgeni: Actually, if you look at it overall, I am quite satisfied with my short program. At least with the way I am performing it at the very beginning of the season. This program, as you may have already noticed, is new, but it has already pleased not only me, yet also the audience. And for now I am skating it rather well. About the free program, I couldnít do the quad lutz. But I am happy with the fact that we tried for the first time todayís hardest element. I was so close to completing the lutz at the Grand Prix in St. Petersburg, but...

Alexei Mishin: You are asking, what happened (Aleksei Nikolaevich Mishin, Evgeni Plushenkoís coach, steps into the conversation). We needed to take that step, because somebody has to open the door to the future. What should one call such a step? None of the Soviet or Russian athletes, I think, has ever done a quad lutz at an official competition. You open the door to the unvisited, and you get a knock on the head. Of course, it is hard; I was ready for such a development of events.

Q: And now what?

Evgeni: Most importantly, not to get upset, not to mope. The season has only just started, there is time before the Olympic Games.

Q: So, do you count on completing this very quad lutz before the competition in USA?

Evgeni: Well, at least, as my coach always says, I wonít give up. I think that in the near future we will overcome it and complete it. You know - he who wants something will get it in the end. And have I ever tried to stop at anything?

Q: But, remember, it seemed as if your overly self confident attitude resulted in not getting any medals at all at the World Championships in Nice.

Evgeni: Now why donít we also remember what happened four years ago, when I only just started skating in senior competitions. There was another skater from our team who skipped a whole season because of a bad skate at the Russian Nationals (Evgeni Plushenko politely didnít name Irina Slutskaya - But some time has passed, and no one remembers these misfortunes. And as far as my self confidence goes, as you saidÖ I know what some people say about me: Plushenko is above it all, he has star fever. But I wonít admit or deny any of these words. I skate, and thatís whatís most important. I think the Olympic competiton will speak for itself.

Q: Evgeny, after you won the World Championships last year, many - including journalists - started saying that youíve really changed in all possible ways. What do you have to say about this?

Evgeni: I changed, probably, only in my work. I started working more. I just didnít stop at what I had already achieved. Perhaps, my biggest dream came true - a World gold medal.

Q: And what is your main goal, your main dream as of today?

Evgeni: I just want to win the World Championships and Olympic Games more than once. Even though Iíve never won the Olympic Games before. Well, in general my dream is to complete all the 4-revolution jumps at major competitions.

Q: Evgeny, you must agree that you have many fans, not only in St. Petersburg, where people practically worship you, but also in all of Russia. And after last yearís victory at Worlds you obtained sympathy form fans all over the planet. What do you think, will the publicís opinion of you change if you donít win the Olympics?

Evgeni: Win or no win, I donít think anything will change. People greet me, welcome me, love me, and I am very thankful for that. That is impotant for any athlete. Someone comes out on the ice, say (I canít judge about other sports), and hears who gets a huge welcome, and who gets a smaller one. But you canít always tell.

Q: If you are able to do this very quad-lutz and your famous combinationÖ

Evgeni: I think, Aleksei Nikolaevich and I will make that combination more complicated.

Q: But in any case, if youíre able to complete it, do you think your opponents will have any chance to win the Olympics?

Evgeni: Of course. Furthermore, Iíd like to add that both Aleksei Yagudin and American Timothy Goebel - which is probably whom you are referring to -- are preparing extremely serious programs. So if both Yagudin and I will complete all the elements in the free program, then the question of who the winner is will be decided at the last moment. But I will still fight for gold medals.

Translation by Elena