Ice Network

Medvedeva more than just next great Russian lady

World champion combined technical, artistic brilliance in breakout season
  • Ice Network on Facebook
  • Ice Network on Twitter
With her level of performance and her engaging programs, Evgenia Medvedeva welcomed skating audiences into her world in 2015-16. -Getty Images

Icenetwork will announce its choice for 2015-16 Person of the Year later this month. Here's one of the nominations for that honor from icenetwork contributor Vladislav Luchianov.

World champion. European champion. Grand Prix Final champion. Russian champion. World record holder.

The credentials listed above should put to rest any argument about which skater was the best in the sport in 2015-16. Achievement in figure skating, however, is not measured solely by statistics. Objective facts play a part, sure, but there is also a subjective nature to the sport that, for better or worse, helps to determine one's overall worth. So it is a combination of hard evidence and the language of art that must be used to state one's case for an honor like icenetwork Person of the Year.

Evgenia Medvedeva can be compared to the most European, open-minded, multicultural and, in my opinion, beautiful of all Russian cities: St. Petersburg. Just like its famous founder, Peter the Great, who led a revolution in Russia that replaced the outdated social, cultural and political systems with ones that were modern, scientific, Westernized and based on the Enlightenment, Medvedeva presented an absolutely different kind of Russian female skater this year.

Medvedeva's openness to Alexander Zhulin's choreography helped to create her deeply touching and heartrending short program to Isaac Schwartz' music from the movie Melodies of the White Night. In that film, cross-cultural relations and love overcome the boundaries of social prejudice, with the unifying and indescribable beauty of St. Petersburg's nights serving as a backdrop to the story. This is a very important and vital topic in today's world.

Despite the fact that she is only 16, Medvedeva projects a wordliness that belies her age. Her interests range from the exotic, like visiting the Mount Teide volcano on Tenerife island and the region in Thailand where Avatar was filmed; to the extreme, like riding the roller coaster in PortAventura park in Spain; to the unexpected, like quoting a poem in Japanese for a TV crew. Her main non-skating dream is to go to London to study English.

This openness to other cultures allows Medvedeva to pass an array of emotions on to spectators, regardless of where they are from. It's as if no matter where Medvedeva skates, she and the audience speak the same language.

Although she makes this non-verbal communication seem easy, Medvedeva's message is anything but simplistic. Paradoxically, she attracts people through complexity and diversity. Medvedeva's skating is aesthetically demanding to a viewer.

The feelings she conveys on the ice never overwhelm but rather perfectly complement a program's themes. That is why she is not just another Russian prodigy but another Russian lady altogether.

But, OK, you want facts to back up the argument?  Here are some of her greatest achievements from this past season:

1. She set the world record for ladies free skate score (150.10) at the 2016 World Championships.

2. She achieved the third-highest total score for a ladies skater (223.86 points) at those world championships.

3. She became the first skater in history to win worlds the year after winning the world junior championship.

4. She became just the second ladies skater to win the Grand Prix Final, Europeans, worlds and her country's national championships all in one season (the other was countrywoman Irina Slutskaya).

A frequent criticism you hear of Medvedeva is that she too often puts her arm over her head when she jumps -- a position popularized by Olympic champion Brian Boitano. I look at it from a different angle: Her elegant hand movements are another sign of her openness and welcoming manner on the ice. She seems to be saying, "Hi! I'm Evgenia. It's nice to meet you all. Let's make this world a little bit more beautiful and a little less painful place to live in. I know, together, we can do it."