The figure skater talks ballet, peeing his pants at the thought of meeting Baryshnikov and his best idea yet---becoming Carmen.
Mon Oct 17 2011
I wonder how the judges will react since you are openly gay now—if that will make a difference?
I don't think it was a shock to anyone and it shouldn't have been—and it shouldn't have even been a question. I live my life the way that I was born to live it and I take no prisoners, but I also ask for no unneeded respect or babying. I'm a tough guy. And gay or not gay, I would still be tough and I don't ask for anything. I don't want to rest on being good or rest on anything I'm born with—I want to make something of myself. I want people to appreciate what I can do as opposed to just what I am. And that's always been how I've gotten through sport and through difficult times when maybe I wasn't competing that well or wasn't being respected the way I felt I should have been. This Olympics, I felt very strongly that I should have won a medal. I don't really know which color, because I didn't see the competition, but I felt very strongly that I deserved a medal and I didn't receive one and the way I got through it was my fans and people supporting me and messages from every country around the world saying, "You should have won" and "We loved it—we felt something, we cried with you, we had that moment with you." That's how I got through it, I didn't play politics, I didn't do anything extracurricular—I just skated and did my job and people respected me for it. And that's how I've always been.
You are so much yourself. How do you deal with the emotional part of competition?
Here's the thing: People start to ice-skate when they're four, five or six years old. They start competing six, seven, eight years old—somewhere in there. I started skating at 12, I started competing at 12 and in four years time I was an alternate to the Olympic games and I was a junior world champion. There was no learning curve for me. I didn't have time to learn to compete against other kids my age or learn to mentally adapt to competing—I went from zero to nationally or internationally televised in four years, and that's a really tough thing to do. Yes, I was good at skating, and I had my periods when I would just rely on being naturally talented—I would rely on just what I had as opposed to working and making it better because I didn't know any better. By the time this Olympics came along, I was prepared and ready and knew what competition really was, but especially in my first Olympics, I had no idea. Sometimes I would compete well and sometimes I wouldn't, and I didn't know how to emotionally deal with the stress and the pressure. At this last Olympics, for example, you go on the ice with the other people that are in the top six positions. I was sixth after the short program. So I went on with our eventual medalists and people were screaming—it was the last group of the Olympics. You have a practice in the morning and then you wait around all day and let your mind play games with you and then you go to the building, hair and makeup ready. My coach has hair and makeup, her fur coat was on, everything was ready. You go out for six minutes and basically do a sprint around the ice, warm up your legs, warm up your jump, have the whole world watching you—billions of people—and then you go backstage, and it takes awhile. You lay back there, and you wait for 45 minutes before you actually compete, and it is just the biggest pressure-filled 45 minutes that you'll ever have in your life. And it's so hard to learn to do that, and the great competitors of the world know how and they understand it, but that's one thing that I was never really programmed for—I was programmed to perform, and that was me. I still think, competitively, I've had my moments of greatness, but I've had terrible moments as well on a national and international stage, and that's just something that takes time. It's much easier for somebody who's been competing since they were five to compete when they're 25. It's like a language also: If you learn English and Spanish when you're born, you're most likely going to be able to hold English and Spanish your whole life, but if you start to learn Spanish when you're 10 or 15 it may not be as easy to hold onto it. So competitively I could have been better. [Laughs]
Your performances at the Olympics were beautiful. What was it about skating that made you fall in love with it?
It was the magic of combining athletics—I was a super-athletic kid and very active and I had too much energy for my own good, so sports really tired me out—and the fact that there were costumes and glitter and drama and music. There was such a different dimension to this sport that immediately drew me to it the first time I saw it on TV. I remember that moment I watched Viktor Petrenko, who actually became my coach in recent years, I watched him win the Olympic gold medal in Albertville. And I remember that as my first moment of really accepting that these people were putting their lives on the line and I was watching them really show their life's work.
Have you heard of the choreographer Alexei Ratmansky?
Have you seen his ballets?
You know, I love ballet, but I'm so busy that I never even have time to sit down and watch it unless it's on YouTube, and I've actually found my way to YouTube. I'm terrible with computers. I know the name and I know that he's so revered and respected and I can't wait for the day when I can see something. [Laughs]
I think you would like it. His stuff is so Russian.
I do like that. But I'm an easy sell. If anyone tears up on these TV shows where they're competing for something, The Voice or America's Next Top Model—it doesn't matter. If they get teary-eyed or are aggressively fighting for their dream, I'm on board. [Laughs]
Didn't you tweet that the finale of Weeds made you cry?
Oh, yeah, Weeds made me cry the other day. I'm one of those people who can absolutely cry over the simplest things—a pretty leaf flying across the gray sky? It'll get me every time.
Have you been invited to be on Dancing with the Stars?
Last winter, I was the head judge for Skating with the Stars. I couldn't really mix and match, and also the season before Evan had been on it. But I would definitely go on Dancing with the Stars if the opportunity came through and of course, like any other reality star or celebrity that wants to do Dancing with the Stars, we've talked to the people we're supposed to talk to and they have a great machine there with Dancing with the Stars, so they'll know exactly which season is right for me and when to put me in. I'm ready for the challenge.
In terms of training, you're not training-training, but you're still skating aren't you?
Absolutely. Depending on the day—I took this morning off and just went to Pilates because I had a rough weekend [Laughs]. I skate as much as I can, and I try to stay in great shape and I can still do all of the difficult jumps; I'm still working on my quadruple jumps. I still play around with music and new positions and variations and choreography, and I definitely am still on the ice, but it's more of a creative period that I'm in right now. I don't skate every day because my schedule doesn't permit an everyday skating situation, but I skate whenever I can and I fit my training in whenever I can because aside from it being my job and the thing that I love to do, it keeps my ass high and tight like a neck brace—where it's supposed to be.