Iouri Podladtchikov answered a reporter’s phone call in Frankfurt, Germany, and began talking before any questions were asked.
“I want to make a statement right now before this [expletive] storm goes anywhere,” the Olympic snowboard halfpipe champion said.
What followed was a thought-out, 45-minute conversation. The man they call I-Pod balanced feelings toward his birth nation Russia, home nation Switzerland, keeping his phone charged and preparing for a flight from Frankfurt to Milan.
On Wednesday, a Russian outlet quoted Podladtchikov saying he would discuss a Russian proposal to switch from representing Switzerland back to Russia in international competition.
Podladtchikov’s nationality was a topic of conversation leading into the Olympics in February and after the Swiss won halfpipe gold over Shaun White and others. In particular because he triumphed in Russia, where he is celebrated.
Podladtchikov was born in Moscow but moved across Europe before settling in Zurich at age 8. He finished 37th at the 2006 Olympics at age 17 competing for Russia, but switched to represent Switzerland after he gained citizenship there in 2007.
He has said he switched countries not for nationalistic reasons but to better his snowboarding environment. He remains a dual citizen.
Podladtchikov sent the following series of tweets Friday and, in the phone interview less than an hour later, said “I’ve never done anything like I just did on Twitter.”
Here’s what Podladtchikov said in the interview about Russia and snowboarding:
* He met and talked with three Russian snowboard officials at the hotel where he was staying in Moscow on Thursday afternoon, his first sitdown discussions with such people in two years. He said he did it out of respect to the Russians.
* Yes, the officials mentioned that in a perfect world they wish Podladtchikov would be representing Russia.
* The overriding purpose of the meeting wasn’t to persuade Podladtchikov to represent Russia again. It was to discuss ways Podladtchikov could boost snowboarding in Russia because it is gaining popularity with the nation’s youth. They wanted his advice on specific ways to grow the sport, such as developing facilities.
“It’s not about me being a sellout here and trying to get myself the best deal possible,” Podladtchikov said Friday, before any questions were asked. “It’s the total opposite. It’s trying to give back the best things possible.”
* Podladtchikov entered the meeting Thursday skeptical, given Russian officials had been trying to get him to represent Russia ever since his switch to Switzerland, even a month before the Sochi Olympics. But he left pleased that the focus was on the future of snowboarding in Russia rather than his future of snowboarding in Russia.
* Podladtchikov remains open to hearing out Russian snowboarding about his representation, as he always has been. But he doesn’t think they could bring enough to the table for him to leave his comfortable situation as a Swiss.
“I’m not going to lie, it’s still somewhere in the back of [Russian officials’] heads, would it still be possible [for me to represent Russia],” Podladtchikov said. “But I think that we all now that it’s pretty impossible.
“It would be really unloyal to the people who helped me out to get me to where I am to go back and forth. Nobody likes those types of people who go after the better [situation]. And it can’t be better [in Russia]. That’s what it is.
“They can’t make it better because to do so they would have to believe in somebody in the first place and never stop believing. In that case, they lost [Podladtchikov mentioned going to the 2006 Olympics “by myself”]. You can’t buy that with money. I’ve really made it clear that they [Russian officials] failed. They have no rights here.”
As for snowboarding, Podladtchikov expressed a desire to compete “as soon as there’s snow” next season. He has ideas for new tricks, or variations of his famous YOLO Flip (“You Only Live Once”), and hopes to compete against his friendly rival White at the 2015 Winter X Games. He has said he might call his next new trick, “Maybe I Live Forever.”
White missed this year’s X Games for the first time this millennium in order to prepare for Sochi, where he had hoped to enter halfpipe and slopestyle but pulled out of slopestyle the day before qualifying. He then finished fourth in the halfpipe final.
White was asked on “TODAY” less than 24 hours after the halfpipe disappointment if he would go for a fourth Olympics in 2018.
“I think so,” White said.
Podladtchikov and White met at a party in New York about three weeks later. White arrived holding two gold balloons to cheekily celebrate the Swiss’ Olympic triumph. The letter “F” was written on one gold balloon. The letter “U” was on the other one.
Podladtchikov did not ask White if they would be facing off at another Olympics.
“We don’t bother each other with those kinds of questions,” Podladtchikov said, “although I would love to know.”
White is focusing on his band, Bad Things, which is set to play the large Firefly Music Festival in Delaware in June. Podladtchikov delved into his off-the-snow passion, too — photography.
Russia’s Vogue surprised him by publishing his work Friday, “sensual” images of his model friends who then called him in tears of joy when they found the link.
It was a big score. Remember, Podladtchikov was asked what’s next in a press conference after winning gold in Russia.
“I’m going to shoot the cover of Vogue,” he said three months ago.
“I almost lost my consciousness when I read that tweet,” Podladtchikov said Friday from Frankurt, where he was at the 100th anniversary of Leica, the brand of camera he fancies.
He’s excited for an upcoming trip to Los Angeles, where he’ll definitely be bringing his camera.
“I’d really love to shoot the LA beaches and desert and typical LA locations,” Podladtchikov said, “but I don’t know if I’m going to have the time for all of that.”
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