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Russian skaters: 'We are winners'

Russian skaters: 'We are winners'


Editor's Note: CNN Access is a regular feature on CNN.com providing interviews with newsmakers from around the world.

Russian gold medal winners Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze and their legendary Russian skating coach, Tamara Moskvina, joined CNN's Larry King to discuss their controversial win in Olympic pairs figures skating.

LARRY KING: Elena, we'll start with you. What are your feelings right now about this whole mess?

ELENA BEREZHNAYA, RUSSIAN PAIR GOLD MEDALIST: Well, right now it's getting to everything getting better. But first two days, it was some disappointment, because whenever we would turn on TV and hear everything about our skating, our medals, all this thing. It was sourness to hear them. But right now, we are feeling much better, because we look again at how we skated and how fit we are. We are winners, and we deserve the gold medals, and we are so happy about our medals.

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KING: And Anton, how do you feel?

ANTON SIKHARULIDZE, RUSSIAN PAIR GOLD MEDALIST: I feel the same way. But I want to say, you know, we feel we deserved this gold medal, because pair skating is a very hard thing of -- from figure skating. And we have a lot of differences in our free program, what the judges need to see. And we have a lot of parts of our free programs, which been much better than Jamie and David. And I feel I'm Olympic champion in figure skating.

KING: All right, Tamara, you are a famous coach. You even coached the American entries in this.

TAMARA MOSKVINA, RUSSIAN PAIRS SKATING COACH: Yes, I did.

KING: What do you make of the fact that so many people think Canada deserved it?

MOSKVINA: I think that two pairs were with very strong character. They are nearly equal. And in pair skating, in our sport, this is subjective sport. So five judges gave priority to the Russian couple, and four judges to the Canadian couple. And it was on the contrary in other competition.

And I compare that with the other businesses, like, what you prefer, "Larry King Live" or Tom Brokaw's show? I don't know. They are different people. Different suggestion, different opinion. This is the freedom of opinion.

But I have other suggestion. Why should we speak about this controversy? Let's make the best pair ever. Let's say Larry King and Tamara Quinn. What do you think about such pair? We'll dispute everybody.

KING: Elena, you feel in your heart that you deserved to win. What happened, though, when they keep showing the tape of what seems like a miss on your part, and everyone says that the Canadians skated perfectly. How do you react to that?

BEREZHNAYA: Well, you know, starting again, for first two days, it was awful, but now I think about, what if everybody will ask in Moscow or in Europe asking them how people win the war? We don't know. Asking people in Moscow, well, see their opinion. So we are right now in North America, and everybody, of course, have -- the whole stadium was half Canadian fans and half Americans. So we are Russians. That's why everything...

KING: All right.

BEREZHNAYA: Yes. We are not in our own country. That's why, I think.

KING: Understandable. But Anton, do you think that in your competition you did make a mistake?

SIKHARULIDZE: Yes, I make a small mistake in my free program, but the judges give us small marks for technical merit. Marks for Jamie and David was bigger than ours for technical merit. But we have two marks, technical merit and artistic impression. And we had bigger marks for artistic impression. That's why I don't even understand what's going on, why it's such a big scandal from nothing.

KING: Well, Tamara, in others words, Tamara, artistic impression counts more than the skill of just what you say you will do?

MOSKVINA: No, the sum of the two marks counts. It was bigger for Elena and Anton. But there are other criteria in the artistic impression mark. It's the speed, the flow, the originality of the program, the artistry, the musicality. So that's why there are many criteria and many judges -- the majority of the judges gave the priority to Elena and Anton in this respect.

KING: Tamara, does it bother you that apparently there's some trouble inside the French judge's quarters, and reports that the French judge may have been pressured to vote that way? How do you react?

MOSKVINA: Unfortunately, after the winning of Elena and Anton, we had no time to listen to the speculation, especially what's going on. We were celebrating the medal. And what is going on among, what you say, French Federation or whatever, doesn't bother us, because this is not our business. We did our job, skating, skated perfectly. I trained them very well, together with training the American champions, so our part's done. The rest is not our business.

KING: Elena, have you spoken to the Canadians at all, and how do you feel for them?

BEREZHNAYA: Well, we didn't really spoke yet after all this thing. And -- but I -- for them, I feel -- you know, somebody has to win, somebody has to lose. And that's rules. There's just one gold medal. We have just one gold medal, that's it. And if you can, I don't know, accept that, you aren't strong enough.

KING: Anton, there are reports in some circles, stories that the possibility of giving them a gold medal as well, gold medals for both of you. How would that make you feel?

SIKHARULIDZE: You know, I'm a skater, and I'm here to show how we skate for audiences and for people. I'm not in this politics. Because it's very difficult for me to say now how I feel. But I want to say just one thing: They are great skaters and great competitors, and a couple years already every competition, we're close like this. And all the time, only one judge make us first, them second, or them first, us second. That's why -- I don't know, I can't say anything about medals. It's not my business. I'm not political. I'm skater. I want to just skate.

KING: Tamara, do you think the sport has been hurt by this?

MOSKVINA: I don't think so. Because it's always when there are couples of the same level, this is just little mugging. Even in other sports like, say, in speed skating, .1 of a second or .01 of a second decide. So in this case, it was very close battle, and the attention to this sport is drawn by this happening.

But I say that the reaction of the public was appropriate. They rooted for the North American, and we are happy with that. We can't say anything, because we don't have Olympic Games in Russia. If the battle will be between, let's say, American couple or a Canadian couple, there was no such noise and such speculation. Sorry, Russians dominate for many years, probably that many people are not happy with that.

KING: Elena, we asked this last night of the Canadians, so we'll ask it of you and Anton. Are the two of you involved with each other?

BEREZHNAYA: In love, are you in love with each other?

SIKHARULIDZE: It's a big secret. We are really, really big friends.

KING: But you're not in love with each other? You're not romantic? Or are you?

BEREZHNAYA: Of course we are romantic, because, you know, you can't skate...

SIKHARULIDZE: Without being romantic.

BEREZHNAYA: ... without any romantic. Of course we are, and we are -- today is Valentine's Day, so everybody...

SIKHARULIDZE: Congratulation, everybody, with Valentine's Day.

KING: Thank you both very much for appearing with us, Elena and Anton, and thank you, Tamara, for joining them.

SIKHARULIDZE: Thank you.

BEREZHNAYA: Thank you.

KING: All they did, folks, was skate. You can be upset about a lot of decisions, but all they did was just skate.



 
 
 
 






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