Coca-Cola Journey decided to look at the Games through the eyes of those at the centre of events – popular sports stars for who Sochi 2014 is not their first Olympics. Today we are talking to Gwendal Peizerat , who won gold for pair skating at the 2002 Olympics. The Frenchman who knows Russia better than most (he shared his triumph in Salt Lake City with Russian-born Marina Anisina) told us the difference between his beloved Alps and Sochi, and why it reminds him of Nice. We also asked him what chances the Russian figure skating team has of winning medals.
- Before coming to Sochi I thought the mountains here were narrow, quite low and covered with soft snow, - admitted Gwendal. But when I saw them I realised how steep they are. It’s not an exaggeration to say it’s a very impressive sight. I have not tried the slopes of Krasnaya Polyana myself yet, but plan to, and then I will be able to speak about them in more detail.
- Does Sochi remind you of any city in France?
- Let me think. I would say Sochi is a Russian Nice. I am not talking about the spirit of the city, these are different, but the two places both have the sea and the mountains, and that's cool.
- Do you have anyone who compares to Russia’s Pearl, Yulia Lipnitskaya?
- Yulia reminds me of American Tara Lipinski who was Olympic champion at the 1998 Nagano games. First, their family names sound similar. Second, Yulia has beaten Tara’s age record for competing. She did a magnificent job on her Olympic debut. Lipnitskaya is part of a story which has seen a regular Russian sportsperson turn into a princess. She showed real professionalism to cope with the burden of performing before the crowds of her own homeland. That was really impressive.
- At the other end of the scale was the performance of the grand master of Russian figure skating – Evgeny Plushenko. How did you rate his performance?
- The main thing Eugeny managed to keep, is his personality as a fighter. 20 years on ice is no joke! Plushenko is a real champion in the full meaning of the word. Only a real champion can stay this strong for so many years!
- But this Japanese skater Hanyu is pushing ahead of him though …
- That's true, Hanyu is quicker and has a better spin. But there is nothing unusual in that. The world keeps going, figure skating pushes forward and changes. It's hard for the veterans to keep up with change. Which in no way diminishes Plushenko’s greatness.
- Will the figure skating pair of Bobrova and Solovyov take gold, do you think?
- With all respect, I am afraid the Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White won't let them. I believe they are the best of all the figure skating pairs at the moment.
- The fact that the Olympics is being held in Russia – does that help or hurt the Russian athletes?
- It's a huge responsibility to perform at home. But whoever wins will be hailed as a true hero.
- At the 2002 Olympics the best figure skating pair was yourself and a Russian girl who took French citizenship back in 1993 – Marina Anisina. Let's switch from serious topics to something fun. Share with us some memories of performing together.
- One time during a paid performance Marina needed to fix her dress before going on the ice. She was looking for the dresser and accidentally went into a shower room. She was splashed with cold water which washed off all her makeup. You should have seen her, she was beside herself with anger, but still performed brilliantly. That’s what I call a fighter!
Well, our figure skaters are all fighters! They've already claimed team gold in Sochi. Still ahead are the single and pair skating competitions. And even though the Americans are stronger than ever before, we’re still betting on our athletes. Join in!