Alexei Yagudin was introduced to skating at age four by his mother, Zoya, who saw the activity as a way to improve his health. He learned all his double jumps before age ten, the five triple jumps before age twelve, and the triple Axel jump before he turned thirteen. His first coach was Alexander Mayorov, and then he was introduced to the famous Russian coach Alexei Mishin when Mayorov moved to Sweden in 1992. Yagudin trained in Mishin's group from 1992 to 1998. He began competing at the international level in 1994, and won the 1996 World Junior Championships. The famous rivalry with fellow Russian skater Evgeni Plushenko began when they trained in Mishin's group, and intensified after Yagudin left.
In 1997, Yagudin competed in the World Championships for the first time and won a bronze medal.
In 1998, Yagudin led a Russian sweep of the medals at the 1998 European Championships with Evgeni Plushenko in second and Alexander Abt in third. Later that year, he competed at the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics despite a severe case of pneumonia, and finished in 5th place. A month later, he won the 1998 World Championships. He became the first Russian single skater from the post-Soviet era to win the World title. He was the second-youngest male World Champion at the age of 18 years and 15 days, 6 days older than Donald McPherson in 1963. About two months after the event, Yagudin left Mishin and joined Tatiana Tarasova, who would coach him until his retirement in 2003.
In the 1998–99 season, Yagudin won eleven out of the thirteen competitions in which he participated, which included the defeat of Kurt Browning in the World Professional Championships, and winning the Grand Prix Final. At the 2000 European Championships, he finished ahead of both Plushenko and former Olympic champion Alexei Urmanov to win his second continental title. He successfully defended his world title against Plushenko at the 2000 World Championships in Nice, France.
Yagudin struggled at the beginning of the 1999–2000 season. He withdrew from the 1999–2000 Grand Prix Final due to a knee injury, and then lost to Plushenko at the Russian Championships and 2000 European Championships. At the 2000 World Championships, he won his third consecutive world title.
Yagudin's 2000–01 season was marred by injuries and inconsistency. He lost to Plushenko at the 2000–01 Grand Prix Final, Russian Championships, and the 2001 European Championships. He sustained a foot injury shortly before the 2001 World Championships in Vancouver, Canada. He stood in fifth place after the qualifying round and placed second in the short program, receiving a standing ovation and compliments of 'It was all about heart and guts' for his performance of The Revolutionary Etude. He went on to win the silver medal after ranking second in the free skate.
Yagudin started the 2001–02 Olympic season with a bronze medal at the 2001 Goodwill Games in September. He altered his training regimen as a result, and then enjoyed the best season in his career. He defeated Plushenko at the 2001–02 Grand Prix Final and regained his European title. At the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Yagudin won the men's event, receiving first-place votes from every judge throughout the competition. He received four 6.0 scores for his free skate. Yagudin's perfect marks are the most for an Olympic performance since Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean's free dance in 1984 and set a record for a men's skater in the Olympics. After the Olympics, Yagudin won his fourth World title, receiving six perfect 6.0s for his short program and another two for his free skating at the competition. He became the first singles skater to receive six perfect marks for the short program, including the first ever perfect mark for required elements. This record cannot be equaled or broken because the International Skating Union introduced the ISU Judging System after the 2002–03 season.
Yagudin was diagnosed with a congenital hip disorder after the Olympic season. He was advised by doctors to stay off the ice for several months. Yagudin chose not to follow this advice and competed at 2002 Skate America. He won the short program, but withdrew due to his injury before the next segment. He later announced his retirement from competitive skating. His final performance as an eligible skater came during a farewell gala at Skate Canada with a performance of a new program, Memorial, and his short program from the previous season, Racing.
Yagudin was awarded with the Order of Merit for the Fatherland of the Russian Federation in 2003. He never won the Russian Championships, losing mainly to Evgeni Plushenko.
Yagudin then turned professional in 2003, touring with Stars on Ice and Ice Symphony in Russia.
In 2004, Yagudin toured with Stars on Ice for the second year in a row. He also worked with the French figure skater Brian Joubert as a consultant coach. In November he won two professional competitions with two new programs, The Feeling Begins (music by Peter Gabriel) and Moon Over Bourbon Street (music by Sting). The next year, he continued with the Stars on Ice tour and his Passion program was choreographed with a difficult acrobatic routine that took place seven meters up in the air. Since returning to his hometown of Saint Petersburg in 2005, Yagudin has skated in various Russian ice shows and took part in the Russian TV show Stars on Ice, later renamed Ice Age.
In 2006, after a full Olympic cycle since Salt Lake City, Yagudin performed his famous Winter program on tour and a new program Sway (music by Pussycat Dolls). In fall he took part in the Russian TV show Stars on Ice having a former gymnast, Oksana Pushkina, as his partner.
In 2007, Yagudin first toured in the U.S. with the Stars on Ice, and then toured in Russia. He skated a comic number Blues for Klook and a flamenco number Legenda. In July 2007, Yagudin underwent surgery to have a titanium hip joint implanted. In August, Yagudin announced that he intended to return to eligible sports after more than four years of competing as a professional skater. His former coach Tatiana Tarasova and former choreographer Nikolai Morozov agreed to coach him should he return. However, Yagudin suffered another injury while on tour in November 2007. Afterward he stated that returning to competitive skating would be too difficult under the circumstances. He later realized that a return to eligible skating would not be feasible, and continued his professional career, taking part in the Russian TV show again, which was renamed Ice Age. This time he was paired with a pop singer Victoria Dayneko with whom he also recorded a song Needle.
In 2008, Yagudin finished the Ice Age tour and then made his debut on the stage in a theater play where he played a Russian President. His career as an actor continued with getting one of the main roles in a Russian TV series about figure skating My Hot Ice. In fall he participated in the second season of Ice Age partnered with actress Valeria Lanskaya.
In 2009, Yagudin performed regularly on the Ice Age tour. He also adventured into a popular TV show Good evening, Moscow! as a host. In fall he participated the third season of Ice Age, still paired with Valeria Lanskaya.
In 2010, Yagudin completed his third Ice Age tour. In June he skated in the Supermatch: Medalist on Ice show in Korea, performing Sway and Winter. On September 4, he participated in the Artistry on Ice show in Beijing. During the show, the wedding ceremony of the famous Chinese pair skaters Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo, the 2010 Olympic champions was held. As one of the invited guests he gave his blessing to the couple and performed Winter and Sway afterward. It was his first visit to China.
In 2011, Yagudin told an interviewer that due to the hip replacement surgery he had undergone, he is no longer able to do all his triple jumps. He continues to perform his popular Winter program in shows around the world.
Alexei Yagudin was born in Leningrad, (now Saint Petersburg), Russia. His parents divorced when he was young and he grew up as the only child of a single mother.
Yagudin moved to the United States in 1999 to train with Tatiana Tarasova. Later that year the Champions on Ice tour dismissed him because of his alleged excessive drinking. He lived in the United States for almost seven years.
Yagudin underwent hip surgery after touring with Stars on Ice. He assisted Tarasova with coaching over summer and early fall until his arrest for Driving While Intoxicated in September.
He published his autobiography, Alexei Yagudin: Overcome, in Japan in 2005. It was published in Russia in 2007 under the title, НаPRолом, with extra chapters and photos added to cover his recent life.
On June 2, 2008, Yagudin's car was stolen with one of his World Championships gold medals in it. The medal and car were never located.
His fiancée, Olympic pair skating champion Tatiana Totmianina gave birth to his first child, a daughter named Elizaveta ("Liza"), on November 20, 2009. They also have a Yorkshire Terrier named Varia.
Yagudin stated that he and Totmianina do not want Liza to become a competitive skater, and hope she will concentrate on studying and music as she grows up.
On May 20, 2015, it was announced that Totmianina was pregnant with the couple's second child. On October 2, 2015, the couple's second daughter, Michèle, was born.
In 2011, Yagudin joined a Russian campaign to promote healthy lifestyles. He took part in free physical trainings held in Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Rostov-on-Don, Ekaterinburg, Samara, Kazan and Novosibirsk. He stated, "I would like to achieve through this campaign at least the understanding of people that 30 or 40 minutes of their day can improve their health now and in the future."Order of Merit for the Fatherland, 4th class (5 May 2003) - for outstanding contribution to the development of physical culture and sports, high achievements in sports at the XIX Olympic Games 2002 in Salt Lake City
National Sports Award "Glory," "Best Athlete of 2002"
GP: Champions Series / Grand Prix