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Friday, 15 February, 2002, 15:42 GMT

Reaching the gold standard

BBC Sport Online's James Cowling profiles men's figure skating gold medallist Alexei Yagudin.

For Alexei Yagudin of Russia, winning the Olympic title was a dream come true.

In 1998 at the Winter Games in Nagano, Japan, Yagudin competed with a high fever and placed fifth.

The 21-year-old was overcome with emotion when he realised he had won Olympic gold.

He said, "I began to dream about this four years ago when I went to Nagano. There, I finally realised I could do it."

"There's really nothing left for Yagudin to do"
Olympic chamipion Robin Cousins

A few weeks after Nagano, he won his first of three World titles in Minneapolis, USA.

At 18-years-old and 15 days, he became the second youngest men's champion ever.

Although he won two more world titles, it has not been without its challenges.

His toughest test was to leave his long time coach, Alexei Mishin, in St. Petersburg to train in the United States alongside ice dance coach and choreographer Tatiana Tarasova.

It is a decision that still leaves Michin feeling bitter, but a move that saw Yagudin's artistry grow from competition to competition.

While Yagudin has won three World championships, three European championships, and now the Olympic title, he has never won the Russian Nationals.

He has, however, been the runner-up four years in a row.

Three of those four years he lost the title to his rival Evgeni Plushenko who captured this year's Olympic silver medal.

Yagudin's skating career goes back farther than he can remember.

His mother, Zoya, started teaching him to skate when he was just four-years-old as she thought it would be good for his health.

As for his future, he has indicated that he may stay eligible to compete in the Games in 2006 and possibly 2010, but that was before winning gold in Salt Lake.

1980 Olympic gold medal winner, Robin Cousins said he really has no reason to continue.

"He's a European, World and Olympic Champion. There's really nothing left for him to do. He considers himself an artist now, not just an ice skate jumper," said Cousins.

"I think he would be somewhat limited in what he could do if he stayed in the eligible ranks."

His first taste of figure skating glory came in 1996 when he won the World Junior Title.

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