The Olympic Winter Games just kicked off in Vancouver. On Tuesday, the individual figure skaters will start their competition. Defending Olympic champion is 27 year old Russian Evgeni Plushenko.
Not too long ago, no one would have expected him to start in Canada and try to defend his title, as shortly after winning in 2006 he announced his retirement from the sport. Last year he decided to come back.
After starting to skate at a very early age, he left his family to move to St. Petersburg for better training infrastructure when he was 11 years old. Since then, he lived a life completely dedicated to figure skating and became the best figure skater in the world, not only winning the Gold Medal in 2006 but also three World and six European Championships.
In a sport famous for valuing artistic impression, Plushenko has never been the big artist. But his technical skills made him nearly unbeatable. His ability to perform quadruple jumps was/is unmatched.
All this shows that he made it to the top by working hard and doing not too much else but working hard. When he retired, he dropped into a vacuum and obviously wasn’t prepared for losing the “meaning” of his life.
He started a career in politics but was fed up with it soon, he did this and that but did not find a real long-term oriented activity. Now he comes back to figure skating, accepting that his muscles “felt like stone all the time, because everything was in pain”.
He is a great sportsman, admired by many. He has a good chance to capture gold again. But what next?
Sometimes I think I should feel sorry for him, no matter how much he has achieved. At 27, there’s still a lot more to come. No matter how long he will continue his sporting career, I wish him all the best for the time after.
But for me it is clear that I will try to never allow work to be the only factor in life. There’s got to be more. We need additional activities, additional sources of joy and of meaning. You can’t rely on work, as you never know what will happen. Make sure you know what to do after. Don’t allow the vacuum to get you.