• Accomplished Russian figure skaters Evgenia Medvedeva and Alina Zagitova both train together under the same coach.
• They’re also set to face off at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games.
• Medvedeva has long been a dominant presence in figure skating. However, she was recently hobbled by a broken foot.
• Zagitova is fresh off a victory over Medvedeva at the 2018 European Figure Skating Championships.
An intense showdown is heating up the world of ice skating at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.
This year, the battle for gold has seemingly come down to Russian figure skaters and training partners Evgenia Medvedeva and Alina Zagitova.
Zagitova won the women’s short program with a world record-breaking 82.92 points, while Medvedeva took second with 81.61 points. They’re now favoured to take the gold and silver after Friday’s long program.
Before the Olympics, Medvedeva, 18, was long been regarded as the favourite. She’s twice swept the world, European, and Russian championships. The Muscovite was also named one of Business Insider’s 50 most dominant athletes.
Zagitova, however, spoiled Medvedeva’s winning streak at the 2018 European Figure Skating Championships, the Japan Times reported. The 15-year-old also scooped up gold at the last Russian Championships, which Medvedeva missed due to a broken foot.
The two Russians train with the same coach and are competing at the Winter Games as neutral athletes. They’re two of the 169 Russian athletes who have been cleared to compete in Pyeongchang in the wake of their home country’s massive, government-sponsored doping scandal.
By all accounts, the training partners get along, but they’re two monster talents from the same country.
The New York Times reported that Medvedeva has referred to their rivalry as “a little war,” while Zagitova added, “It’s not bad or negative like a malicious feeling of rivalry, but it is there.”
Here’s a look at what’s shaping up to be one of the rivalries that’s come to dominate the 2018 Winter Olympics:
Medvedeva first took to the ice at the age of three. She said her parents encouraged her to continue to pursue the sport in order to improve her figure and posture. The 18-year-old loves K-Pop, “Sailor Moon,” and actors Grant Gustin, David Tennant, and Benedict Cumberbatch.
The daughter of an ice hockey coach, Zagitova hails from Izhevsk, but lives with her grandmother in Moscow in order to train. She has a pet cat and two chinchillas, enjoys drawing and rhine-stoning, and has expressed interest in one day opening a Japanese restaurant.
Both skaters have long been favourites. Sports Illustrated predicted Zagitova would take home gold, while Medvedeva would snag silver. International Figure Skating Magazine predicted the opposite. And, sure enough, the two are in first and second after the women’s short program.
UPI reported that Zagitova’s Olympic routine has a “higher base value.” She has a tendency to accrue more points by backloading her program with jumps — a tactic she’s employed at the Olympics, so far.
UPI’s analysis gave Zagitova the technical edge but argued that Medvedeva’s artistry and storytelling abilities will likely balance things out.
Either way, both skaters are on even ground when it comes to coaching. They both train with Eteri Tutberidze and Sergei Dudakov. Tutberidze told Ice Network she strives to get her athletes to trust her. “They are my life,” she said. “They are my kids on ice.”
Source: Ice Network
Tutberidze has said that Medvedeva is Zagitova’s “role model,” and that both athletes play off of one another in training. “I can sometimes show Zhenya and say, ‘Look, how Alina is working,’ and I tell Alina, ‘Look, how Zhenya is working,'” she said, according to NBC.
Zagitova told the AP that she and her training partner are good friends. “There’s obviously a rivalry at the training sessions, but it’s not a bad one. It’s playful. We encourage each other. It’s good motivation.”
Source: The Associated Press
“We are not only skating at the same rink, but in the same group at the same time,” Medvedeva told the International Skating Union. “I love competition, the healthy competition that we have now in our group. The athletes have an absolutely normal and friendly relationship. When you feel that someone next to you is improving you start moving forward.”
Source: International Skating Union
At the same time, both athletes are careful to not focus too much on one another. Zagitova has said that while she looks up to Medvedeva in trainings, she only competes with herself.
“Time has taught me that you don’t need to watch others,” Medvedeva told The Associated Press. “There are moments where, like Alina said, competition can stimulate you, but you need to concentrate on your own elements, and that’s especially important for me.”
Source: The Associated Press
That’s not the only thing the athletes agree on. Medvedeva and Zagitova are two of the 169 Russian athletes who have been cleared to compete in Pyeongchang. Both have made statements indicating that they disagree with the ban.
Russia was banned from the Games after its state-sponsored doping program was uncovered. The scandal implicated two Russian figure skaters, Ksenia Stolbova and Ivan Bukin.
Medvedeva and Zagitova are competing as “Olympic athletes from Russia.” They won’t march behind the Russian flag at the Opening Ceremony, and, if either of them clinches the gold medal, the Russian national anthem will not play as they stand on the podium.
Both skaters have criticised the IOC’s ruling. In a letter arguing that the ban has harmed clean Russian athletes, Medvedeva said she would not want to compete beneath a “neutral” flag, if given an option: “I am proud of my country. It is a great honour for me to represent it at the Games. It gives strength and inspires me during the performances.”
Zagitova echoed these sentiments, saying that it was unfortunate that the ban happened. “Everyone knows which country they represent, and I know which country I will represent,” she said.
Either way, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on these two figure skaters as they battle it out during the long program on Friday.
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