Since his arrival in Vancouver, Jaromir Jagr has artfully dodged questions about what his future holds, no matter what language they’ve been asked in. Last weekend, in an interview with Pavel Lysenkov of Sovietsky Sport, the queries came in Russian. While once again managing to avoid answering the question on everyone’s mind — with a characteristic laugh and a smile — Jagr made it clear he’s traveled to the Olympics with the goal of bringing home a gold medal. And he capped the conversation off with a bold prediction.
- You carried carried the Czech flag in the opening ceremony. What were your impressions?
- I don’t even remember when I last experienced something like that. Bearing the flag of your country is a huge honor for any athlete. Especially when you’re a hockey player, and the event takes place in Canada. I know that the flag bearers were guys who are familiar to me — Morozov, Forsberg — but it wasn’t possible to talk with them, I was with my own delegation.
- Did you like the ceremony?
- Of course! Even more so when you see it from the inside. Though, it seemed dragged out to me. And I was surprised when Wayne Gretzky lit the Olympic flame. It was kept a secret, and I didn’t expect it.
- Have you already acclimatized yourself to Vancouver?
- It was even more difficult for me because first I was in Omsk — that’s a time difference of plus three hours with Moscow. Then I was in the Czech Republic — that’s minus two hours time difference. And then we flew to Vancouver. It’s always difficult to calculate how many hours. But with every day it gets better and better for me. By the beginning of the Olympics I should be in perfect order. Especially since I tried to train in the evenings in the Czech Republic so that I could get used to the new time zone more quickly.
- What do you think of the formula of the tournament?
- It’s very complicated. And not just because we have to play 6-7 difficult games in 12 days. Its impossible to start poorly here. Then you get caught in back-to-back games, [and] that’s not very good. You need to win first place in the group. Though that’s not an end in itself. The Olympics are a tournament of one game, in fact. Win the quarterfinal — you almost have a medal. Lose — you go home feeling disappointed.
- How will you conduct yourself during the Games? Are you shut off, don’t give interviews? Or, on the contrary, do you communicate with people, participate in public activities, enjoy the fact that you have found yourself at such a tournament?
- I try to be a professional. I give interviews, at the appropriate time. The rest [of the time], I rest, restore my strength. I don’t waste my time on trifles. I didn’t come here for fun. Surely this is the last international tournament in my career.
- You said that you’re going to play 6-7 games in Vancouver. Do you see the Czechs in the final?
- I’d be a big optimist if I called the Czech Republic the main favorite of the Olympics. But I want to leave here with gold. And I’ll do everything for that [purpose]. If we lose in the semifinal than I’ll tell you my purpose is bronze, and will go for that. You have to be a maximalist. We’ll play in a group with Russia. But the champion won’t be decided then. If we meet in the play-off — guys, it’s just one game. And victory isn’t guaranteed to you at all.
- Why have you traveled to the Olympics by military plane from a NATO base?
- I suppose we wanted to show our strength, – smiled Jagr slyly.
- How is your health? You were injured in one of your last games in the KHL.
- You can see, it wasn’t serious. Otherwise would I carry on like this during practice?
- Is it true that next season you could return to the NHL?
- Would you like me to leave Russia even sooner? – Jagr burst out laughing.
- Quite the contrary. But there are rumors. And the Olympics are a great opportunity to prove yourself. And I know that all the management of Edmonton, where they’ve been inviting you for a long time, will come to Vancouver.
- I can be invited anywhere. But I’ll make a decision only after a few months, when I win Gagarin’s Cup [the KHL's championship trophy] with Avangard.
- A bold statement.
- But I believe in it.
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