Hello, Johnny! Some days ago you returned back home from the Oscar ceremony. Any impressions?
It was a party for the Elton John’s Aids Foundation, and I was as a guest of Elton John. I really enjoyed it. I got to see a lot of famous people, Sharon Stone, David Beckham, and PDiddy. A lot of famous American celebrities were there. I got to dress up and to walk on the red carpet. It was fun and I got meet a lot of people. I was really nervous to meet everybody, because it’s really famous people and I’m just a sportsman. So, I was nervous to meet people. When I started to be introduced and more people came up to say «Hello», it was really nicer and easier. Everybody was there down-to-earth. I only missed one day of skating for it!
Could you tell us about your costume and style?
My costumes are interesting I think. This year I started to work with the company at St. Petersburg called “Rest”. R-E-S-T! They always have the interesting ideas and if I call them and say I want this or I want that, they are really great in working with me. They know my style. They always send e-mails and messages to tell me they’re wishing me good luck and they’re rooting for me. So, it’s nice to work on my costumes with people who always do the best things for me. My style I think is just always going into character of the music for the program that I’m doing.
(laughs) HAHA, actually I was asking you about your outfit for the party!
(laughs) HAHA! OK, I was supposed to wear Dior for the party. But in the mail, it was coming from friends, in the mail there was a mix up, so I didn’t have anything to wear. I went in the night before the party, we arrived in Los Angeles on Saturday, and the party was on Sunday, and I have to go and buy pants on the day of the party. And I took a jacket I actually bought in Moscow. I had to take the top part of my outfit, my costume, with me and find pants that go with it. But I think everything turned out OK. I had everything matched. So I put it together with jacket - I got it in TSUM in Moscow – and it was nice.
Have you got chance to have a rest before Worlds?
I’m OK. I think there are some ways I can do better and some ways I can do worse preparing for the Worlds. But I’m excited to go. I’ll try to win of course! I have been working very hard to be prepared, and to do better than I’ve done all season. It’s the last competition of the year, I’m excited to do it, to finish it and then I can finally have a vacation after.
Did you make any changes in your programs before the Worlds?
No, I’ve got the same pretty much as it was in the US Nationals. My programs are difficult. I just need to skate well. I haven’t skated well yet this year so the only thing I need to do is not to fall down.
Johnny, which element should open your program, let’s say, free program? Which is more comfortable, triple axel or 3 axel - 3 toe loop?
Triple-axel triple toe loop is the easiest to open a program with because I’ve done it so many times. Then, after, I do the quad and then continue with the rest of the elements.
We know you can do all jumps beautifully on trainings. Sometimes you change jumps during your performance. What do you need to do all jumps clean during your performance?
I don’t know. I think this year the programs are so difficult and so many things with spins, jumps, step sequences… it’s hard to focus. It’s hard to focus on everything because there is so much to focus on. But, for sure, in trainings it’s one thing to do all of the jumps and all of the spins, all of the step sequences but then you go to compete, and you have a pressure of wanting to be in the first place and trying to relax and remember everything that you're supposed to do, and it’s very difficult. But of course I can do all of the elements, and I can do the program clean, and the only way I would change something is if I made a mistake before in the program which maybe isn’t good but it’s the way how my head works. If I make a mistake then I want to try to do something to fix it.
Johnny, you’re arriving at Tokyo on March 16th. Is it enough time for you to get acclimated?
Yes, it’s enough time. I’ve been to Japan a lot before and it isn’t very difficult to get acclimated because basically when you go there from the US, you travel for one day. So, when you arrive at Tokyo, it’s like as if you woke up in the morning, it’s not like in the middle of the day. It’s hard for me to get acclimated in Europe actually, because it’s half of the day that you’re missing. And when you go to Asia it’s the whole day that you miss.
Can you guess the winners in pairs, women’s skating and dancers at the Worlds?
Dancers, I think Denkova-Stavisky. In pairs it's Chan and Zhao, China. Women is hard, I think Mao Asada.
This season you’re representing the new style of skating. Do you feel comfortable with it?
I feel comfortable but it’s new. Of course it’s not going to be as comfortable as my natural style.
Have you ever thought to return to your previous style?
During this season I’ve been committed to my new programs. And I wanted to train and to see how good I can make the programs. But for next season I think I’ll return to something a little bit more natural for me, taking classical music, maybe something like this. It’s always good to try new things like my programs this season but it’s hard. You have to try things otherwise you never know if you can do them or not.
I think your own natural style is much closer to you!
I like my style too, but, you know, you can’t improve and you can’t be a better athlete or artist if you don’t try something new.
Tell me please, which competition of this season was the most important for you and why?
Well, I haven’t been in first place anyway this year, so the World Championship is very important to me. Looking back, the US Nationals were probably important to me because I’ve won the last three years and I wanted to get a fourth title, but it didn’t happen. So, I had to stop thinking about it and look forward to the Worlds.
Could you please comment on your skating at the US Nationals?
I was great in the short program, I think. I thought for sure I would be in first place, and when I saw the results, I was in the second place, I was very upset because I thought, you know, it was the best I’ve skated in the whole season and they're still putting me in second place behind Lysacek. Then, there is no way even if I skate perfect in the free program that I can win. So I thought, I don’t know, I thought I was a little bit sad going into the free program because I didn’t think I'd win even if I did 100% my best. But still, my long program wasn’t good but 100% better than at Cup of Russia and Skate Canada, so I was happy.
Why did you change your costume for the free program?
The grey costume that I had in the beginning of this season, it was OK but I didn’t feel comfortable in it because it’s big and I just didn’t think it was beautiful. So I didn’t feel nice when I put it on. The new costume, the black one, I think is much nicer. It is better for the way that I look. And I just think the costume is more beautiful.
Do you have any thoughts and plans for the next season?
For next season, well, hopefully I’ll come back to Cup of Russia, may be to NHK Trophy, I’m hoping anyway. Then of course, to Final as after those, and then to the US Nationals. I think I just have to skate well and as hard as I can, and then of cause I can win, I can be the best. But I need a vacation. This summer I’ll pick vacation, and relax and then start training again. This season is hard because last year it was such a difficult season. So much happening with the Olympics, and the tour went until August. I was very tired. And then, right after, I had to compete again. I’ve never really had a holiday.
After Nationals you wanted to do Tatiana Tarasova’s show but you couldn’t. What happened? How did you feel about not going?
Well, I found out that I would go to Tatiana’s show in December, near American Christmas. I was so excited and I really wanted to perform in her show. I was supposed to do the Swan program that she choreographed. I would do the Swan. At the US Nationals I was still supposed to go to do Tatiana’s show but about a week after Nationals my Federation told me I couldn’t go because I didn’t compete in the Four Continents Championship. The Four Continents I did one time, and I’ve never done it again because it’s so difficult to compete there right after our National Championship. But my Federation wanted the best skaters to be in the competition. They wanted to make it something special like the European Championship. So, they wouldn’t let any skaters do shows at the same time unless we compete in Four Continents. I didn’t know that until it was three days before I had to come to Moscow. It was very disappointing and I was upset. I really really wanted to go to Russia. I understand that they can’t treat me differently than other skaters. So I had to say I wouldn’t go.
We heard you wanted to work with Tatiana and Marina at the beginning of the season, and then you changed to Marina. How can you estimate you work with Marina?
At the beginning of the season I wanted to work with Tatiana and with Marina on the ice while we’re working because Tatiana doesn’t skate. It’s hard to her to show skaters what she wants them to do. I suggested that we have Marina come because I was friends with Marina and I think she’s very talented and a good friend and a good support system for me. Tatiana wanted me to work with her and with Sasha Zhulin. Sazha Zhulin is a very nice coach and a very nice person, but I really wanted to work with Marina and because the tour was so busy and I was in Japan after in the summer I had no time to go to Moscow. So it was much easier having Marina on the tour with me and to create something while we’re doing the tour then for me to go to Russia, fly back to do some shows, and fly back to Russia. It was just more convenient. Marina did an excellent job, and we worked really well together. She is very inventive and very Russian. I think she did a great job. I’m her first elite athlete that she’s done programs for. I’m so thankful that she chose to work with me, that she was happy to work with me. I wish I made better results this season for Marina. Everyone who has seen my programs in my Federation says that they really like them, they are really happy with what Marina did. They think that she’s really great in what she does. So I think to work together was good for both of us.
Are you going to continue to work with Marina after finishing this season?
I haven’t decided yet. I was thinking maybe I would come to Moscow to work with Tatiana and take at least one program, maybe the free program, from Tatiana, and then have Marina make the other program. So I’ll have two different choreographers. And I thought it could be really interesting. It’s still just February, and I haven’t made a decision yet.
What do you think about this season? Was it successful or unsuccessful in general?
It was… No, it wasn’t successful. I lost my National Championship, I skated badly in the Grand-prix. I mean, I still took medals, and I placed well and I made the Final but in general it wasn’t successful. I didn’t win anything. I think the main thing is that I didn’t deserve to win anything either. I’m not skating well. But nobody can be perfect every time, not 100%, not even Plushenko. So, it’s a difficult season, and I wish that it would be better and I’d win all of my Champioships but I didn’t win everything this year but next year I can win everything. It’s just my idea. It’s not successful, but I know that I can be successful.
Do you pay attention to strength exercises while you’re training?
Well, I do do exercise for strength. I do pilates twice a week, and it’s for strength. It’s not for flexibility or, for just to lay down and relax. It’s real work. And my body is in such a condition that I don’t have to do a weight-lifting or running and all those things. … If I do work too much it hurts my body more than it helps to it. And I’ve been an athlete for long enough to know something like that. But I still do pilates which is strength training, so I do work off the ice as well.
Do you do cardio-trainings?
Cardio I don’t do because it’s very different to be on the ice and to be on the bicycle. I’ve never taken a big advantage from cardio work. But it’s good to loose weight. HA!
You’ve got such an impressive stretching. Do you do some special exercises to keep it?
No, nothing special. As an athlete I work everyday, and my body is always stretched and it’s always working and warmed, and that helps a lot with being flexible and with being strong.
What are you ready to sacrifice to get the title of World’s and Olympic Champion?
To sacrifice I have to have no ego. I can’t think…Hmmmm. I don’t think like this and I don’t think that I’m 100% better than anybody else, but sometimes I can be a little bit lazy and say “Oh, I don’t have to do it today, I can do it tomorrow”. That's what I was talking about when I said ego, and I’m too lazy. But to get the results that I want, I have to work and have no excuses.
In your opinion, what should the program of an Olympic champion be like: clean in technique or full of artistry and beautiful choreography?
Well, you can’t be Olympic champion without both. You have to be perfect technically and you have to show something beautiful and interesting.
Ok, I asked the previous question for a reason. Have you heard about the open letter to Ottavio Cinquanta by Sonia Bianchetti? She’s writing that figure skating is dying right now, and the main reason for it is the new judging system. Do you agree with her?
There was somebody who went to my ice rink and brought the letter in and they printed it in the computer and I read it. A lot of what Bianchetti says is true, and she makes a lot of good points. I think we need more people in our sport to say things like Sonia did. We need more people to stand up and help the skaters because as skaters we don’t have the ability to go to the President of the federation or the President of ISU and say: “this is too hard, we can’t do it”. So we need the support from judges and officials that will help us and will help figure skating. The sport is dying, in America especially. It’s popular in Russia and in Japan as well. In the US nobody really pays attention anymore to our job. We work so hard and it’s very difficult.
It’s so sad.
It’s sad. I mean all the skaters now, we’ve worked our whole lives almost to be something and to make our sport popular, to be the best in our sport. Now everything is changing. So it is sad. But there is nothing that one person or one skater can do alone.
What do you think about the future of figure skating? Will it become even more difficult in technique and more beautiful?
I hope there will be a lot more improvements in the details and in the artistry of the perfomance. The jumping is very impressive, and spins are very impressive, but really they’re just too difficult almost, the spins especially, it’s too difficult. The spins take 40 seconds so when you finish the spins you have to jump. And jump, and jump, and jump. Ant there is no time for anything interesting and anything beautiful. That’s sad. So I’m hoping if they keep changing something in the judging system, and they make the elements a little bit easier, then we can show something more interesting. And I really hope that’s the case.
Johnny, you started skating at the age of 12 being inspired by the Oksana Baiul’s skating in Lillehammer at the Olympics. But Oksana won in 1994. So you had two years to decide if you want to do skating or not. What was happening during these 2 years?
In those two years I was in school. I was young child and I watched skating on television. I rode horses and I didn’t skate. And then, two years later I finally was able to start skating. My family had some extra money so I could try it, that’s it. I didn’t start skating until two years after Baiul was first. But no, I couldn’t just to go on the ice rink the day after Oksana was first because I lived in a place where there was no ice rink and try, because my family had to have extra money. It took a little while but it’s ok.
Do you have any fears concerning skating?
I’m afraid of failing and not being the best. But I think when I worry a lot about not winning and about not falling down, it’s exactly when you fall down and you don’t win. I don’t like to make mistakes and I always worry about it. That’s something I’m afraid of.
Have you ever got help from psychologists?
I didn’t have any help because I don’t believe in psychologists. I think in people’s heads there is no way to succeed unless you understand it yourself. So, I’ve never believed in psychology just because. I mean in some ways – yes, psychology helps people. But for me personally I don’t think it would do anything and I believe it 100% just because I can’t have somebody that I don’t really know like a psychologist or a doctor to fix it in my head unless I understand it. And if I understand a problem then I can fix it myself.
When did you hear about Russia for the first time? What was the first book about Russia that you found and read in American school?
The first book I found was a Russian alphabet book. It was in English, with pictures and the stories were in English but they showed all the Russian letters and the Russian alphabet. And there were pictures of the Volga river and Moscow. It was a very old book. I think from the 1950s or 1960s, something like this. I remember I was so excited by the book and I thought it was so interesting that I would go home and asked my parents about Russia. And in the 1980s and 1990s the US and Russia didn’t have the best, well, we still don’t, our countries didn’t have the best relations. My parents grew up when it was Cold War, and when the US and Soviet Union were hiding a lot. My parents still kind of thought like we are still at war. I don’t know why I was so interested and why I loved it so much. Russia was something I was excited about.
Why do you love Russia?
I think it’s mysterious. I think Russia is mysterious and of course when you’re interested in something and you don’t know everything about it, you want to know about it and you want to learn about it. In my lifetime there are still many different things that I'd like to see, that I’ve seen already. Russia has made a huge impression on me because it’s so old, and it’s so interesting and it’s so many kinds of people in the same country. It was the first thing I really liked in it, because Russia is so big. It’s so big really. And there are of course people from the West and people from the East, and people from the South that all live in Russia now. And that is so interesting because in America it's the same way. But we’re very new as far as being a country. Concerning Russia there are so many interesting things in its history. I love to see now how Russia is going from being the Soviet Union and communist and now it’s democracy, and how people have changed from just 20-30 years ago.
What is your opinion about Russian skaters and Russian figure skating?
What is my opinion? Well, Russia… When I was first becoming interested in figure skating, when I started skating, Russia was very strong in the men’s skating, in ice dancing and in pairs, and there were no strong ladies. And then the year I started to skate seriously was the one Slutskaya was making her big splash, and I loved Oksana Baiul, and she was from Ukraine, Slutskaya was from Russia, so it was not so far. And I just really enjoyed watching her, so she was my idol when I was actually starting to learn to skate and learning how to jump and those kinds of things. And as I grew and as I understood more about the different ways of teaching and the different ways of skating, I just fell in love with the Russian school of skating and with the Russian skaters. They were strong in every event, they were very likely supposed to win all the gold medals at this last Olympics. I just think that as a country and as a sport in that country it’s so strong and everybody works hard and everybody works 100%, and you can’t be lazy. Because there are more people that will take your spot.
Do you know that many people call you “American skater with Russian soul”?
A lot of people told me that, and I think it’s so nice and such a compliment. I was admiring Russian skaters and the Russian school for so long. People recognize that I do love the Russian style of skating and Russian sport and what they say is really great
Let’s play a small game. It’s about your associations. Tell me which associations you get when I say following names. Don’t think!
Don’t think, Johnny! HAHA!
I think he needs to shave.
Next season Plushenko is going to compete again. What do you think about it?
Is he going compete again? WOW! I didn’t hear it up until now. I think it’s great. I think he’s a great skater. He’s still so young, and hopefully I’ll be a good competitor (Johnny actually said “konkurent” in Russian - Lola) for him.
Johnny, which shows are you going to perform in after the Worlds?
«Champions on Ice» for sure. And I’m looking into doing shows in Russia as well in the summer because I was supposed to do so many shows in Russia and I had to not do them for whatever reasons. So I want to pay back those who want to see me. I want to see Russia. I need to see more cities than just Moscow and St. Petersburg. I want to see Rostov, to see Perm, Lipetsk and Irkutsk. I want to go everywhere and see the country. I want to see the differences in people between the east coast and west coast of Russia, because I know in the US people from New York are completely different from people from Los Angeles. So I think it may be the same, people from Moscow and St. Petersburg being different from people in Vladivostok and Irkutsk.
Do you have any thoughts on the programs for the next season?
I want to do Russian pop music for short or for long, I don’t know which yet. But I want to do a program dedicated to Russia and my idea of Russia.
Johnny, when will you be in the Russian team? HAHA!
(laugh) HAHA!!! Oh, I don’t know, maybe soon. A lot of the Russian skaters, Russian officials and judges have asked me the same thing, when I’ll be in the Russian team and when I’ll compete for Russia. I’ll see how Yuka Kawaguchi does and then I’ll decide!
You’ve got a lot of fans all over the world. Do you feel yourself like a “star”?
What do your fans mean to you?
No. I don’t think I ever will because to me I’m just Johnny and I’m a nice skater and that’s great! To have fans is incredible. I never thought I’d have fans especially as many as I have and in some very strange places. I have letters coming from Saudi Arabia, and I’ve got letters from Iran, and places, that aren’t in very good relations with my country. And it’s so interesting for me to see how sport can change people’s minds and change people’s opinions. I think it’s great and to have support from people who don’t even know you, who you never met before who are behind you when you go to compete and to perform. It makes it so much nicer and so much easier especially when you win because you feel like you’ve won for everyone who was supporting you.
Do you listen to opinions of your admires concerning your programs?
Yes, of course I always listen to them! At Cup of Russia several people asked me which program I’m going to do. Marina wanted me to do “My way”. I said, “No, no, no! I can’t do it”. She said, “Yes, it’s an international competition, it’s not just for Russian people, so don’t do «Yunona and Avos». So many people asked me to do “Yunona and Avos” that I said “OK, I’ll do it. I’ll do my Russian program”. And yes, I love people’s opinions and I love them to tell me that they think and I ask them why. It’s interesting for me.
Johnny, you have been skating for ten years. What does figure skating mean to you now?
It is my life and it’s my work, and it’s something I love to do, and I’m so thankful I can do it to God or whoever to let me still be skating, still be healthy and still be doing it as well as I can. May be I don’t win every time but I can say I can do something I love to do and I’d much rather be doing this than sitting at a desk.
Have you ever thought to give up skating and to get involved in something else?
Not recently. I think the last time I thought about just stopping was in 2003. It was a very very bad season for me. And I was just thinking, “Oh I can go to college now and I can do all these other things”. But that left in one week, and I was back on the ice again! Figure skating is something that I love and I have a very short time to do it, so I am going to keep doing it as hard as I can and work as well as I can till I can’t anymore.
You said you want to be a designer in the future. Imagine you’re a designer right now. What would be the first thing to create? For whom would it be?
I would probably design something for like a younger girl, for someone about 20 or around the age of Christina Aguilera, something like this. Maybe it’s for winter, a really beautiful fur coat, shoes with high heels and very cool jeans. I don’t know, it’s hard to say. Some news on designing! Somebody approached me to design costumes for a Broadway show. It’s very new and I don’t know a lot about it yet. So I may be a designer sooner than later!
I’m sure one day you’ll be a big star! ;-)
I hope not, because I don’t want to act like one ever!
Are you addicted to any labels? Which labels do you prefer?
I think John Galliano is my favorite because I think he takes risks and he does something different every season. And as far as Russian designer I really like Denis Semachyov. I think he’s really great and I think he makes a lot of good choices and everything is well-made, and it’s interesting and good fabric. For luggage obviously I like Louis Vuitton ;-)
Could you tell us some words about your best friend Justin? When did you meet him for the first time? How did you become friends?
Justin, I call him Paris… we’ve been friends for five or six years now. He’s just always a good friend. He’s always behind me when I’m going to compete, he’s always supporting me. If I need someone to talk to, he is there. If I want someone to hang out with, he is there for me. We’re very good friends. The only person I’m better friend with is my mom. So, Justin is my best friend and he’s very supportive of what I do. He actually wants to come to Russia with me one day!
Oh, does he love Russia, too?
I don’t know yet. Because he’s never been there. But I think everyone who’s ever been to Russia starts loving it!
The last question. Johnny, are you happy with your life?
I’m happy in general with being a sportsman and traveling a lot. It’s very hard to have a normal life, to have a relationship, to have a normal friend that you can sometimes go and see. I don’t have time for all that. So, some things in my life are missing, but I understand that as an athlete I can only do my sport for a certain amount of time and then my chance is over. So I’m happy to give up certain things so that I can achieve my dream. So I can be an Olympic and World’s champion. Of course it’s hard sometimes when you go to a party and you’re the only person who’s single there. Or your friends all want to do something and you can’t because you have a practice next morning. That’s difficult. That’s kind of making me sad sometimes. In general I’m happy. I love what I do. And I love a lot of the opportunities that I’ve been given, and for now I’m happy! If one moment in life I’m not happy and I hate everything I do, then I’ll have to make a change. But for now I’m happy with my life.
Interview: enternity moment for FSNews
Transcribed by Lola for FSNews
We’d like to say special thanks to Estriel for her generous help.
eternity moment, Lola,
thank you ever so much for giving us one more chance to hear from Johnny!
thank you for your sincerity and your patience and time.;) It is nice to get a message from someone you love and care about - just to worry less how the things are going on before the Worlds!
definitely needs a good shave up...