Ice Network

The two Medvedevas: Skater at once grown-up, kid

Russian world champion reveals dual personalities through programs
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Evgenia Medvedeva's acting skills shine through in her programs this season. -Getty Images

In a relatively short time, Russia's Evgenia Medvedeva has taken the skating world by storm. Two years ago, she won the Junior Grand Prix Final. A year later, she won the Grand Prix Final. In the following months, Medvedeva won both the European and world championships. This season, she finished first at both of her Grand Prix events, Skate Canada and Trophée de France. The 17-year-old (she celebrated a birthday Nov. 19) is the No. 1 seed heading into this week's Grand Prix Final in Marseille, France. She talked to icenetwork about how she has developed her acting skills and how she keeps improving her overall skating.

Icenetwork: You have increased your interpretation skills a lot this year, incorporating facial expressions, as well as pantomime, into your programs. How have you worked on that? 

Evgenia Medvedeva: Yes, I do mimicry and pantomime, but I also use my voice at the start of my short program! This is so interesting for me. I think it's the first time in history that a skater uses his voice.

It's my coach and choreographer's idea. This is so creative! (She smiles.) Why not?

In Paris (at Trophée de France), during the actual competition, my voice was not loud enough, however, so I was a little bit upset. I need to be louder next time.

Icenetwork: Last year, you told icenetwork that you had worked a lot on your style, to look like a senior. Was acting a big focus for you this year?

Medvedeva: Yes, acting has been a big thing, and I will keep working on it. But it's not only a matter of acting -- I also aim to do the competition more freely. I need to have more fun, to give joy to fans. My short program was especially built for that purpose. But I have to close my mind so much (to perform). I don't like that. It's something I need to work on. Sometimes, it's difficult. Skating is a big sport! Everything can't just be so easy (she sighs). 

Icenetwork: And yet you manage to hold your audience, as thousands of spectators fall in complete silence as they watch you.

Medvedeva: Oh yes, I hear the silence! Sometimes, it even is scary! When I go through a jump, it's so silent! Then I ask myself: Are they silent because it's good or because it's bad? I suppose silence also has to do with the music, which is also quite silent. My music is also so intense, and it puts pressure on me.

Icenetwork: Did you practice with actors?

Medvedeva: No, not with actors, only with my coach. I just repeat the whole (thing) every day in practice. As soon as I skate to my music during each run-through, I do mimicry and pantomime. They are a part of my programs, as they belong to the second (components) mark. So I need to practice them each time.

Icenetwork: How do you relate to the drama you're living in your free program?

Medvedeva: In fact, I'm just living a "little life" in my program. The free program is a dramatic story, and I consider it a little life in my heart. By this, I mean that I'm living the life of a specific person, who has a dramatic day. In the morning, that person says goodbye to a beloved one -- a brother, a spouse, whoever she loves. She is in a rather good mood, as she expects him back at night. Then as the day passes by, she understands what's going on from the television and news on the radio. His flight has been hijacked, and she will never see him back.

Icenetwork: Have you thought of becoming an actress yourself?

Medvedeva: I did think about acting. I just want to be a coach first. Then, maybe later, I'll be a choreographer. Then we'll see! But maybe I'll change my mind, you know (she thinks). Maybe I won't. Some time ago, I wanted to be either an astronaut or a designer! (She laughs.)

Icenetwork: Are you interested in choreography?

Medvedeva: Yes, I love dancing so much! Dance inspires me. I like to listen to the music I have in my playlist, and I enjoy dancing to it. We have a class of modern dance twice a week with a choreographer with my group, and I like it so much! Hip hop is my favorite.

Icenetwork: Which kind of music do you prefer?

Medvedeva: My favorite music is K-pop -- Korean music. And my favorite group is Exo. Those guys really inspire me.

Icenetwork: Would you skate to their music?

Medvedeva: (Staring in disbelief, as if she had never considered the idea) I would love it so much! Maybe later?

I enjoy music tremendously, no matter which music. Everybody can feel music, whether it is K-pop, heavy metal, classical or modern, you name it.

Icenetwork: Your speed on the ice is impressive. Do you like going fast?

Medvedeva: My favorite feeling on the ice is feeling the wind, feeling the air in my hair. Then I can really feel space and my speed.

Yet, I must say that I'm totally unable to ride anything else. I can't ride a bicycle or even inline skates. I'm just not able to -- only ice skates.

Icenetwork: That's incredible! Why?

Medvedeva: I'm scared! I don't like roller skating. I am frightened crossing the street with roller skates, because of all the traffic. I find it so scary. Bicycles are not stable. I just can't do it! (She laughs.)

Icenetwork: It seems that you're developing different sides of your skating, year after year. Is that the plan?

Medvedeva: My coach, my choreographer and myself want to find different ways to open my "inside world."

Icenetwork: What do you mean?

Medvedeva: The different kinds of personalities and possibilities I have within myself. Sometimes I feel like I am two people: the grown-up and the kid. The first one is able to understand and execute difficult programs, while the other one is just like…watching cartoons all the time! (She explodes in laughter.)

My coaches know me better than I know myself, as they can look at me from so many different sides and understand me so well. I just trust them. Let's imagine my coach tells me, "You can skate tango really well." If I answer her, "No, I can't, I'm sorry," she'll tell me that I have to try it first. Well, when I try it, it will go well -- because I trust her!

Icenetwork: In your short program, you depict the feelings of a child encountering the wonders and challenges of growing up. How do you feel that within yourself?

Medvedeva: The person you see on the ice and the off-ice person are very different. It's important to grow from the inside, especially when your body is growing. If only your body is growing and you keep the inside of a child, it will look strange! You grow from the inside, from the experience you get, like from the mistakes you make.

Icenetwork: We saw you land a triple lutz-triple toe-triple toe combination during practice in Paris. Have you learned new elements this year?

Medvedeva: That was not for the program; it was just for fun. I work on those combinations at home.

Speaking of other jumps, I've not tried the triple axel yet, but I did try quad salchow with a harness at the end of last season. But even if you manage to land the jump, you realize that it's not really your jump, as you have performed it with a harness. So it doesn't satisfy you.

But anyway, I see lots of areas where I can improve this season. There are mistakes to correct, and build and build and build…

Icenetwork: How did you manage to learn English so quickly? Was it at school?

Medvedeva: Oh no! At school, I study mostly mathematics, Russian and biology. English I learned only with you, during competitions or press conferences, through interviews or talking with friends. I've not had English at school in two years! I make many mistakes as I talk, but apparently you can still understand what I'm saying, so I suppose it's good enough?

Estonian writer Svetlana Veklitseva translated part of this interview.