For Russian skating star Medvedeva, a huge change was necessary to keep going

For Russian skating star Medvedeva, a huge change was necessary to keep going

TORONTO – She was not supposed to be sitting here, in a coach’s office at a skating club in Canada. Yevgenia Medvedeva is Russian, just 18 years old, figure skating world champion in 2016 and 2017, and only eight months ago winner of the singles silver medal at the Winter Olympics in South Korea.

Barely two months after the Olympics, she left her Russian coach of 10 years, Eteri Tutberidze, who had guided her to the top of the figure skating world, for reasons Medvedeva has not discussed except in general terms. The move she made was startling and utterly unexpected.

Star Russian skaters stay in Russia. Never before had one of the sport’s pre-eminent Russians left the country to train with a non-Russian coach. Not since Michelle Kwan in 2001 had a skater with a career record as brilliant on the world and Olympic level as Medvedeva’s made such a dramatic coaching change, and Kwan did it without leaving her native California.

But Medvedeva felt she had no other choice after a tumultuous 2018 season that did not end with the Olympic gold medal she had seemed a lock to win.

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To icenetwork, hail and farewell - and thanks

To icenetwork, hail and farewell - and thanks

I had covered figure skating for 35 years – and, to that point, at 10 straight Winter Olympics - when I took a generous buyout in November 2015 from the Chicago Tribune because the paper’s management decided it no longer could afford to support the travel necessary for me to cover international sports the way I had for three decades.  The time was right for me to make that move, and I have nothing but gratitude for the Tribune’s having allowed me to make international sports and the Olympics my news beat.

But I hoped to continue getting paid for covering figure skating at least through the 2018 Winter Olympics.  I am forever grateful that, beginning in 2016, icenetwork provided me the chance to it, and I am disappointed that this figure skating web site will soon be no more.

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Out of his funk, Jason Brown moves forward with a big change

Out of his funk, Jason Brown moves forward with a big change

Even before he failed to make the 2018 Olympic team, Jason Brown sensed the time had come for him to make a significant change.

Part of such a change was bound to seem momentous, given that the 2014 Olympian had spent his entire 18-year figure skating career with the same coach, Kori Ade. Once Brown graduated high school, he followed Ade from the Chicago suburbs to Monument, Colorado.

"Kori is like a second mom to me," Brown said via telephone from Toronto. "That's what made it hard to take the next jump."

It was quite the leap.

Brown, the 2015 U.S. champion, announced Tuesday he was moving to the Toronto Cricket, Skating and Curling Club, where coach Brian Orser presides over a group of singles skaters that next season also will include: two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan; two-time world bronze medalist Boyang Jin of China; two-time world champion and 2018 Olympic silver medalist Evgenia Medvedeva of Russia; 2017 world bronze medalist Gabrielle Daleman of Canada; 13-year-old phenom Stephen Gogolev of Canada; and, occasionally, two-time world champion Javier Fernández of Spain, torn between full competitive retirement and the idea of trying for a seventh straight European title.

Being on the ice with such skaters will be a tremendous change for Brown, who was by far the most accomplished skater at his rinks in Illinois and Colorado.

"I have never been long term in a place with a ton of high-level people, so I really have no idea what that environment will be like," Brown said. "I'm very internally driven, so it has never been a huge piece for me to be in a place like that for motivation.

"At the same time, I couldn't be more excited and honored to train alongside some of the greatest skaters in the world. Can I learn from them? I hope so. I'm turning a page, and the future awaits."

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The Medvedeva saga: Orser on her ex-coach's reaction, plus money, choreography. . .& more

The Medvedeva saga: Orser on her ex-coach's reaction, plus money, choreography. . .& more

Evgenia Medvedeva’s stunning announcement Monday that she was leaving her longtime coach, Eteri Tutberidze, in Moscow to work with Canadian coach Brian Orser in Toronto continues to make headlines in Russia and both dominate and invigorate Internet and social media discussions about figure skating.

After writing about Medvedeva’s move Monday in an icenetwork story featuring my interview with Orser, there remained many facets of the story to be covered.  Here are several:

When emotions run high. . .again

Orser understands the emotions that led to Tutberidze’s critical comments about Medvedeva when the Russian coach learned Medvedeva was ending their working relationship after 11 years.

Orser had reacted similarly about Yuna Kim’s decision to leave him after she won the 2010 Olympics.

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Orser on newest star student Medvedeva: "There is so much more she can do."

Orser on newest star student Medvedeva: "There is so much more she can do."

Brian Orser knows the period after the Olympics brings changes in coach-skater relationships, so he anticipated getting inquires from some athletes who might be interested in working with him.

But he never expected the April 2 text message from 2018 Olympic silver medalist and two-time world champion Evgenia Medvedeva of Russia.

"I was totally stunned," Orser said.

Orser immediately called Tracy Wilson, one of his co-coaches at the Toronto Cricket, Skating and Curling Club, and said, "You're not going to believe this."

Medvedeva's original message indicated only that she would like a private meeting with Orser later in April in South Korea, where she was skating in a show, "LG ThinQ Ice Fantasia," that Orser had helped organize and would attend.

"I kind of figured what it was about," Orser said by telephone Monday, after Medvedeva's statement via the Figure Skating Federation of Russia announced she was leaving coach Eteri Tutberidze's training group in Moscow to begin working with Orser in Toronto.

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