Plushenko's wife helps keep skater in spotlight
Updated: 2014-02-13 08:29
By Agence France-Presse in Moscow (China Daily)
Former beauty salon owner has become tireless promoter
As Yevgeny Plushenko took to the ice to make his remarkable Olympic comeback, his wife, Yana Rudkovskaya, unfurled a banner depicting the couple above the caption: "My heart is with you!"
Wearing a pink fur hat, she was watching his performance a few rows in front of President Vladimir Putin.
Rudkovskaya is a tireless promoter of the Plushenko brand - which wins her both fans and foes.
The 39-year-old former beauty salon owner with a love of designer clothes and links to one of Russia's richest families regularly appears on glossy magazine covers with the 31-year-old Plushenko.
On her website, Rudkovskaya refers to herself as Plushenko's manager. Her other protege is singing star Dima Bilan, who won the hugely popular Eurovision song contest in 2008.
Plushenko pirouetted on a miniature ice rink during Bilan's winning performance, hinting at his close ties to Rudkovskaya, with whom he was beginning a relationship.
The couple married in 2009 and have a son, Alexander, together. They both have children from previous marriages.
Rudkovskaya regularly updates the Instagram account of their one-year-old son, nicknamed 'Gnome'.
Thanks to the couple's many media appearances, he was voted the "most expected baby" by a gossip website, Spletnik.ru.
Rudkovskaya's relationship with Plushenko comes after a troubled marriage to another high-profile figure.
In 2013 her first husband, Viktor Baturin, formerly a multi-millionaire businessman, was handed a seven-year prison sentence for embezzlement.
The couple reportedly met in Sochi, where Rudkovskaya ran several beauty salons.
Baturin is the brother of the wife of Moscow's former mayor Yury Luzhkov. His sister, Yelena Baturina, became Russia's richest woman through her plastics and construction empire with wealth estimated at $1.1 billion by Forbes magazine last year. She now lives abroad after her husband was ignominiously sacked in 2010.
Baturin worked with his sister before they had a falling out. He was also initially Bilan's producer, despite his somewhat eccentric view that Bilan should sing only in Russian.
The couple divorced acrimoniously in 2008. Baturin, who subsequently married a backing singer, has been behind bars since 2011.
In her 2009 autobiography, Confessions of a Concubine, Rudkovskaya wrote Plushenko first asked her out on a date when she was still formally married.
She admitted her first thought was that the legendary skating star should get a nose job.
Under Rudkovskaya's guidance, Plushenko has ventured into show business, from a reality show on Russian MTV to catwalk modeling and performances with Ukrainian violinist Edvin Marton.
But such crossover activities do not always appeal to sports fans.
When Plushenko announced he was having back surgery a year before Sochi, some assumed this was yet another publicity stunt orchestrated by Rudkovskaya.
A commentator on Russian-language Eurosport-2 television, Andrei Zhurankov, gave his opinion on air that "there was no such operation", prompting a threat to sue from Plushenko.
Rudkovskaya quickly responded to the accusation by posting photographs on Twitter of Plushenko in a hospital bed, hooked up to a catheter.
"I think this situation all flows from the fact that Plushenko's wife is Yana Rudkovskaya. This is all in the sphere of PR," soccer commentator Vasily Utkin told Sovetsky Sport daily at the time.
Her strong support was praised, however, by the general director of the Russian Figure Skating Federation, Valentin Piseyev.
"I am relying on Yana Rudkovskaya. Only she can stop him from making a premature return to the ice," he told Sovetsky Sport.
Rudkovskaya's prolific use of social media makes the couple's private life very public and offers glimpses of her strong influence on Plushenko's career.
In December, after he finished a disappointing second in the Russian national skating championship for the first time in 15 years, he talked bluntly of giving up his solo slot at Sochi.
But Rudkovskaya wrote to him on Instagram:
"Dear beloved Zhenya, we all love you very much and believe in you! Come home, we'll celebrate your silver medal and prepare for the Olympics!"
(China Daily 02/13/2014 page23)