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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Favorite Urmanov Sticks to St. Pete Base

While most of his fellow Russian top skaters have sought comfort abroad, Olympic gold medalist, and reigning European champion Alexei Urmanov remains in his native St. Petersburg, and has no plans to move elsewhere.

The Russian shocked the skating world in 1994 by winning the gold in Lillehammer; scored another stunning come-from-behind victory at the European championships in Paris two months ago, and is among the favorites for the men's title at the Figure Skating World Championships, which opened Tuesday in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Unlike the 1996 European champion, Ilya Kulik, who last fall decided to change coaches and move to Marlboro near Boston, Urmanov spends his days, practicing at his local ice rink. At Yubileinyi Palace, the 23-year-old is regarded as somewhat of folk hero, although the skater thinks otherwise. "I don't like to use such high phrases as 'patriot' or 'national honor' with regards to myself," he said recently. "That should describe war heroes who give their lives for their country."

Alexei Mishin, Urmanov's coach believes that it helps an athlete to stay and train in his home country.

"People are mistaken if they think that living in foreign countries has no negative effects on morale and psychological well-being of top athletes," said Mishin. "The close feeling of the motherland gives you an added inner strength."

Mishin said that he and his best pupil receive numerous offers to move elsewhere every year.

"For example, just last summer I was offered a long-term contract in Phoenix, Arizona," he said.

With the recent acquisition of the Phoenix Coyotes National Hockey League team, the desert city has been trying to become one of the hotbeds for winter sports in the United States.

But Mishin, who also has two world junior champions in his stable of top skaters, claims that his total dislike for American food is another good reason for staying put.

"It just doesn't have any taste," he said.