Evgenia Medvedeva: “In Russian sport we have such a position: “You are working with a psychologist! Don’t you have the guts to cope yourself?”

Posted on 2023-02-16 • 1 comment


Interview with Evgenia Medvedeva. About burden of titles, age minimum, sports psychologists, pair skating, different training systems and development of figure skating.

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source: Radio Europaplus

A wonderful athlete, a 2018 two-time Olympic medalist, a two-time World and European champion, and the Honored Master of Sports of Russia, Evgenia Medvedeva, will spend her evening with us at Europe Plus today!

Evgenia Medvedeva: Hello, my friends!

Listen, I have listed the titles and awards, and this, of course, is not all because probably even five minutes won’t be enough to list everything. Don’t all these titles burden you? Didn’t you want, like Prince Harry, to move away from all this?

Evgenia Medvedeva: Well, Prince Harry and I have slightly different situations after all. He was born a prince, that is, it was his fate to be a prince. I purposefully went to all the titles that I have, so it would be strange to refuse from them. Well, it’s not that it “doesn’t burden me yet,” it “already” doesn’t burden me, because for several years I haven’t competed, not only in the international arena but in general, in any competitions. Therefore, I live a slightly different life now. You need to be afraid of being burdened with titles when you are in sports. Now I have very little big sport in my life, so it doesn’t bother me; everything is fine, thank you.

And how many lives can a skater have? Did you have a childhood? 

Evgenia Medvedeva: Well, just like all athletes. We always say that we live two lives: a sports life and a life after sports. And sometimes life after sports is much more difficult for us than the first half of life. There’s childhood: playing tag and so on, and everything is the same, except it’s not on the street, but in the gym.

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Let’s go back to the Olympic Games now. Not to the last ones, but to the very ones in Pyeongchang 2018. Did the unhealthy attention of the media press on you then? Or were you completely focused on the performance, and these things didn’t bother you at all?

Evgenia Medvedeva: Well, during the Olympic Games, you don’t use your phone much because there is absolutely no time for that. But after the Olympic Games, well, do you think an 18-year-old girl reacts to pressure from the outside? Maybe yes?

Well, I don’t know. Because you are athletes, you have an absolutely different standpoint on everything.

Evgenia Medvedeva: Come on, we are athletes, but first and foremost we are people. We are people, and at that time I was a young girl, so it would be foolish to deny that I probably felt some kind of pressure on myself. But it doesn’t matter what happened then; the main thing is how I got out of this situation and that I didn’t leave any special mark on me. Therefore, everything is in fine, and the most important thing is to look at the final result over several years.

And a small look already at the Olympics in Beijing, in 2022. It was dramatic for Kamila Valieva, and, of course, it was very pitiful to look at Sasha Trusova. And whose story was more dramatic in your opinion?

Evgenia Medvedeva: All three girls grew up before my eyes; Kamila is 7 years younger than me! I saw how she became an athlete, first qualifying at the Russian Cup stages, then competing and winning at the Russian Nationals, winning the European Championship, and then going to the Olympic Games and skating in the team event and individual competitions – not without drama, of course! And it’s the same with Anya Shcherbakova. I’ve known her since she was barely taller than the boards. Sasha Trusova, who came to the group when I already was to compete at the World Championships, I only taught Sasha Trusova to do triples. That is, these are such small little girls who could, and my heart was with all of them! I, like the rest of the country, felt the tragic fate of our… well, two girls. If we’re talking about drama, as you asked, it’s Sasha and Kamila. And with Anechka, everything is a little more calm. But this does not mean that there was no pressure on her. Olympic gold is a huge responsibility.

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Let’s compare single and pair skating. And I wonder how the choice is made. They say that there is a shortage of pair skaters, and it is difficult to find a partner. Is it really so? 

Evgenia Medvedeva: Well, this choice is not to be made at a young age. That is, they go into pairs from 13-14 years to 17. But at 17, it’s even too late. First, all athletes, all skaters come to single skating. That is, they learn to skate, jump, and spin. And if jumps don’t work out, then depending on the body condition and genetics, people choose: they will do either pairs, if the girl is small, thin, and fragile but has difficulties with jumps. In this case, girls usually choose pairs. And if the girl, on the contrary, is slender, tall, and stately like a “ballroom dancer,” then this will be an ice dance. And a boy always has a choice. Guys has approximately the same build. They are either tall and strong, which will suit both dances and pairs, or small and light ones, which remain in singles because quadruple jumps with huge height are possible but difficult.

Is it difficult to trust a partner? 

Evgenia Medvedeva: I didn’t do pairs in sports; that is, I didn’t have the experience of entering a big arena with a partner. I have skated my whole career as a single skater, and I am extremely happy and proud of it. But when the shows began, what were the most beautiful stories built on? These are love stories, this is romance. You are given a role, and you automatically have a partner with whom you have a romantic interaction according to the plot. But it will be strange if a girl and a boy skate separately like singles, so I decided to try pairs, and I was very lucky with my teachers. I started with Alexander Enbert, who taught me all the basics of pair skating.

I texted him, “Sasha, teach me how to do pairs! I really want to!” And he came the same week, and we skated in Sochi. We skated 48 performances together, and we did very well. And even more so, I also did two seasons of The Ice Age, which also taught me, and I became a very convenient partner. That is, I learned to skate in a pair with anyone! Perhaps I haven’t done some of the most difficult elements in order to compete at the World Championships, but this is quite enough for the show.

It’s time for some quick questions; you can respond in any way you want. How long can you stand without ice?

Evgenia Medvedeva: There is a lot of figure skating in my life, and it’s not only when I put on skates and go on the ice. Now, if I come for some kind of shooting, for example, then they always say to me, “Take your skates with you!” And we’ll take pictures with these skates.”

Are there any rituals for skaters? I don’t know—kiss the ice, the boards, skates, or a locker—are there any?

Evgenia Medvedeva: Well, many skaters have, someone kiss the ice or touch it. I have the only thing, but this is not quite a ritual; it’s just for convenience. I first tie my left boot, then I tie my right one, simply because my right leg gets tired faster in a boot.

Okay, no rituals, but were any incredible elements performed in a dream?

Evgenia Medvedeva: Some girls—we sometimes sit in the locker room with the girls, chatting—tell us that they dream of figure skating, how they jump, and how they go to competitions. I have never had such dreams, probably because I have too much of it in my life and my consciousness wants to have at least some rest while sleeping.

Can skates make any particularly unpleasant sound on the ice, like styrofoam on glass?

Evgenia Medvedeva: No, all the sounds are very pleasant. Sometimes we even go on the ice and do not turn on the music in order to hear how the blades on the ice sound—this is a very pleasant sound.

Does it matter to skate first or last? What would you choose?

Evgenia Medvedeva: Last. Now there is no such rule, but at the World Championships, Europe, and the Russian Nationals, the leader after the short program always skates last, and this is such a privilege. That is, if you skate last in a free program, then you are cool. Well, as it were … I’d like to sound more modest, but I always skated last in major competitions because I won them the majority of the time. As a result, I’ve grown accustomed to closing the event. 

Preparing a program from scratch to final polishing, how much time can it take?

Evgenia Medvedeva: It doesn’t take long to choreograph a program; if the process goes quite smoothly, then the program can be choreographed in six hours, or, well, in two days.

Six hours? Come on! 

Evgenia Medvedeva: Well, it’s pretty easy, but the most difficult thing is skating it and developing physical indicators. We choreograph a program at the beginning of the season, and two programs are made for each season: short and free. Two costumes are sewn, and you skate it until the end of the season, for eight months, short and free, short – free. And, for example, at the first competitions, it appears that the program has already been prepared and skated enough that a full program, or even parts of it, can be skated. You can even win something with this program at the B-series competitions. But the program at the competitions at the beginning of the season and the program at the end of the season at the World Championships are two different programs. That is, they look completely different, because during these six months, colossal work has been carried out, and the program may not be recognized at the end of the season, in the good sense of the word.

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Did you come up with the whole concept of the program yourself? Or is it impossible, in general, to do it alone?

Evgenia Medvedeva: Basically, it’s teamwork. This is a coach, a choreographer, an athlete, a second choreographer, a second coach, a person who cuts music, and a person who possibly composes music or even writes it. It’s a dressmaker who creates masterpieces of clothing; sketch artists draw these costumes, so it’s a huge team! But I only had a few opportunities to present the entire concept, so I went to the coaches and said, “I want this program, to this music; I want the costume to look roughly like this; and I want the jump content to be like this.” And it turned out to be one of the best programs I’ve ever skated. This is Memoirs of a Geisha, and, of course, a large team worked on this program, but at first I came and said, “There will be this music, this costume, I will be like this, it will be great!” And the coaches are like, “Okay, let’s do it.”

The alternation of ups and downs is familiar to every athlete. How does the child’s psyche cope with this? Do you have psychologists who should help if it becomes difficult?

Evgenia Medvedeva: In the sport itself, I have never had psychologists. And in general, it seems to me that in Russian sports we have such a position: “Yeah, you are working with a psychologist! Don’t you have the guts to do it yourself?” We coped with everything ourselves, and it was a matter of honor not to ask for help. Because you’re an athlete, you should get up and move on. Because if you do not have enough character to collect yourself and continue working on yourself, then, well, what kind of sports character can we talk about? Psychology helps to adapt after the end of a career, as I said at the beginning of the interview.

Well, as for the injury and its interference in your career, how can you put up with it at all? Well, it’s like a lottery.

Evgenia Medvedeva: Well, yes, it’s a lottery, but all professional athletes are injured and broken, and… Big sport is not about health at all, of course! You know, there is a proverb that says, “Children do sports, and you will be healthy.” Our business is about results, not about health. Therefore, there were injuries; there are injuries, but all the athletes are broken. It’s… strange to call it normal, but it’s a common practice.

Well, I’ll ask about the approach in the domestic coaching schools and in the western ones. Many say it’s much softer and much more caring in relation to what the athlete feels. Well, it’s about the Western school, of course. Is this well-known rigidity of our school justified?

Evgenia Medvedeva: There has been always a difference in schools. But the Western system has its problems. There have been a lot of scandalous situations regarding male coaches and masseurs in gymnastics; if you want, you can look on the Internet. There is certainly a difference in the approach to their own results. For example, at the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, in artistic gymnastics, Simone Biles lost her nerve a little bit. And a person can openly say, “I’m uncomfortable, I feel bad, and I decided not to perform because that’s how it is.”

Yes, I remember, but it was so … it was so strange!

Evgenia Medvedeva: You see, this is a little strange for us, but in fact it is normal for them, and the entire Western world supported her! That is, this is the difference in mentalities: first of all, people take care of their mental and physical health. For us, the results are paramount; that is, even if we lose our nerves, we still compete, whether it works out or not. But we still compete. In principle, we have no other option in our heads; such a difference in thinking.

To summarize, this is not in the category of “worse-better,” but rather in the category of goal-setting?

Evgenia Medvedeva: It’s in the “different” category!

This summer, Thailand hosted the ISU Congress, and now we have new regulations. It cannot be said that this is unexpected, but nevertheless, we have a new age policy, so to speak.

Evgenia Medvedeva: Are you talking about raising the minimum age? Everything has been going to it, but let’s see how figure skating is getting younger! If 20 years ago Ira Slutskaya competed, who was over 20 at the time, and she competed at major competitions such as the European Championships, the World Championships, and the Olympic Games, and she won and skated, then in general, women’s figure skating was older. Now women’s figure skating consists of girls who are under 20 years old; that is, when I competed at the Olympics, I was 18. More and more little girls appear, nimble and jumpy; I used to be like that; this is not a criticism, just a fact. And, probably, the International Skating Union decided that something needed to be done about this and slightly raised the age minimum so that young girls stay young longer, probably in juniors. But this has already happened without my presence in sports. My opinion won’t change anything. 

It won’t, but it’s still interesting to hear it. It turns out all this jumping will remain in juniors. 

Evgenia Medvedeva: Of course, human possibilities are limitless! For example, five years ago we discussed that it was impossible to perform such an element as a quadruple axel, but at the Olympic Games in Beijing, Yuzuru Hanyu, for the first time in history, tried a quadruple axel in competition. And he went for it, fell, and the whole world stirred up to make this element at least somehow declared! A few months passed, and a boy named Ilia Malinin appeared and made this quadruple absolutely perfectly, for huge pluses, and looked like he had been doing it all his life! That is, our development is so rapid that it is measured in months rather than years! Probably, the Skating Union decided to experiment and see: “What will happen if we raise the age minimum?” It seems to me that nothing will change; all this will remain in juniors, and that’s it!


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One response to “Evgenia Medvedeva: “In Russian sport we have such a position: “You are working with a psychologist! Don’t you have the guts to cope yourself?””

  1. ioanykie says:

    cool interview ! interesting questions and answers

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