How Does He Do It?

It's a vortex. I swear it is.

You enter the Ilia Zone at the risk of your own life.

Have toepicks sharpened, because the descent starts quickly and you may not be able to rescue yourself.

He's like a shark. Watch him. He eyeballs those damn judges before he goes out on the ice. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven. Eight. Nine. How am I going to knock them silly this time? Um. That one saw that trick last year. That one's catching on to me - I'd better play it serious tonight. (For about two or three minutes.) That one likes me. I can basically do anything I damn well please.

Ilia knows more names and more people in the judging booth than anyone, I swear, short of your top three Soviet coaches. And I mean that seriously. He was given a mission. The gold. He will deliver. He is a good boy. Plus I think he wants it for himself.

(Next one's Slute. Look ye out....)

He keeps those little faces indexed in that phenomenal Rolodex brain....I swear, it's incredible. And you have seen what I consider to be appropriate memory storage.

He gives that little tug to his outfit before he goes out. All I can think of is what they apparently tell broadcast announcers to do before they go on the air: Tuck the outfit. Sit on the coat or whatever. Make sure it all looks good across the desk, because that's all that matters.

Then watch him as he swirls (watch him, swirls) out onto center ice. A quick 360-degree look at all around him. Barely notices the cameras. He's already got them in his head. Catch the judges, especially those three crucial ones (there are always three, aren't there?) who can make or break the performance, and most of all, start flirting with "those little innocent fans."

If you're female, halfway passable, and look like you're ripe for emotional playing-with and you just happen to be on the first row, and God help you if you're in big-time camera range, you will be flirted with heavily. He finds three of you. Preferably under the age of 20. And goes for it with every bone in his determined little body.

(I didn't say male. I said female.)

Then he reaches up for the start of his first few moves. Notice that unusual angling of the body. Sort of like an old-time discus thrower. He apparently needs this angle to start the "effect," as it has been called. The "Ilia effect." What was that one, Surya? The "Oh-God-Here-He-Comes-Is-The-Podium-Ready? Effect." The "Jurassic Park Effect." And don't deny it, Surya.

Two sweeps around the ice and you're hooked. Stone cold solid unless you have special bracing. Which most girls don't. Including most judges. I have seen judges who would be suckered in by nothing about lean over their tables and start drooling on the third pass. It's bad, let me tell you. It's ba-a-a-d. Not even Browning in his early days could pull that one off. Petrenko never had a chance.

It seems to depend on his maintaining the centrifugal stability of the effect. He goes back to center ice, or thereabouts, and spins or does some other similar rotation for at least three rotations before he comes back out again and starts the "Death Star" again. (I think we all know who came up with that one...) And that buttflip. Once per zoom around the rink. I swear he targets individual judges. Different angles for each one. It seems to work at least 70-80% of the time. And when it doesn't, he has backups.

Those jumps. Pardon me. I must simply lapse into an anonymous quote. Please forgive copyright -- if it needs to be taken down, it will be. But it is the only way I know of effectively describing Ilia's technique.

"He just goes out there and pretends he's jumping, except he doesn't jump, he just sort of leaps and throws the rotations in at the end as if they were unnecessary. Sort of spins into them. It's like the moons of Mars or something. I didn't know he was that big a science fiction fan...I swear he's never done a technically correct takeoff in his m-----f------ life (said person pretends they don't cuss, and we shall maintain that fiction here), but the judges all seem to like it, and the points pile up like Tara's g--d---- Beanie Babies. Which is about the same thing. He's the biggest g--d--- Beanie Babie jumpmeister of all time."

There is more, but that quote has always gotten the point across. We shall leave it at that.

Edges. "He's worse than I am." Same person.

Ilia has this gorgeous turning form that if he ever went back and grounded it to good Soviet edgework, would be just phenomenal. He almost makes it look like he's leaping into another dimension when he turns that magically. Just watch his mohawks, choctaws, and what else does he do it on? Oh, you'll catch it.

"He could really take off like a rocket if he polished those turning edges, but he seems to like pleasing the crowds better. Earns him more money, anyway. At least it will on the pro circuit."

"When will he polish his edges? I just wish he'd use the potential he has for once. He could be so good..." (spoken as he was in the middle of soaking up one of the biggest medals of his tiny little life)

And the best one of all: "When he learns to do a spiral right, we'll all have to flee for the back rows. There literally won't be room for anyone else."

I think that about covers it.