Yevgenia Medvedeva skates with ‘bugs in your head’

Leave a comment

MOSCOW (AP) — Yevgenia Medvedeva has bugs in her head. At least that’s how the world’s top female figure skater calls the little demons and doubts that she needs for success.

Just 17 years old and already a two-time world champion, the Russian prodigy cruised to victory in the season’s opening Grand Prix event Saturday, keeping her on course as favorite for the Olympic gold medal in February.

Despite her dominance, Medvedeva said she’s on an emotional tightrope every time she skates, and that’s how she likes it.

A devotee of old-fashioned self-motivation — she’s never worked with a sports psychologist — Medvedeva likes to skate with a few doubts and hang-ups, known colloquially in Russian as “bugs in your head.”

“You need these bugs because they make you disciplined,” she said Sunday. Without them, Medvedeva said she’d relax too much and make mistakes, but “too many of these bugs can cause you horrible problems too, when they start eating at you from inside.”

Medvedeva has kept her balance with consummate skill so far. She’s undefeated in almost two years.

Medvedeva is reluctant to discuss the Olympics, where she seems almost certain to be Russia’s top medal contender. Reigning champion Adelina Sotnikova isn’t skating this season citing injury, while Sochi’s breakout star Yulia Lipnitskaya has retired following battles with anorexia.

Asked about her No. 1 status on the Russian team, Medvedeva said simply: “For me, the main thing is not to think about it at all, just go out and do what I love to do.”

Off the ice, she’s an often light-hearted figure who jokes with teammates, practices intensely and enjoys South Korean pop music.

On it, she’s fiercely competitive and drawn to programs marked by passionate emotion — often with a dark side.

In her free program this season, Medvedeva takes on the role of Anna Karenina, the doomed heroine of the 19th-century Russian novel of the same name.

The Karenina of the novel is a married woman and a mother, not to mention a literary icon, but Medvedeva says her youth is no barrier to taking on the role.

“If you go back to the time of Anna Karenina, when the novel was written, then if a girl’s already 25 or 26 and she’s unmarried, she’s considered a spinster,” Medvedeva said. “So I don’t think I’m not old enough, because I’m almost 18, and I can skate that character from within as she should be skated.”

Dramatic performances let you “skate your emotions to the fullest,” Medvedeva said Sunday. “I mean suffering, compassion, contemplation.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Figure skating season broadcast schedule

Emma Coburn, Sam Kendricks win USATF Athlete of the Year awards

Emma Coburn, Sam Kendricks
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Emma Coburn and Sam Kendricks followed Rio Olympic bronze medals with their first world titles in August. And now, they both won USATF Athlete of the Year honors.

Coburn, 27, took the female award named after Jackie Joyner-Kersee after becoming the first American woman to bag 3000m steeplechase gold at the Olympics or worlds.

Coburn led an emotional U.S. one-two with Courtney Frerichs in London on Aug. 11 (video here). She broke the American record (by five seconds) and the world championships record by winning in 9:02.58.

Kendricks, 25, captured the Jesse Owens Award after an undefeated season that included the first Olympic or world pole vault title by an American man in 10 years.

The first lieutenant in the U.S. Army Reserve won all 17 of his competitions in 2017, clearing six meters for the first time. No American had eclipsed that barrier since 2008.

Coburn and Kendricks won the USATF honors over the likes of fellow world champions Justin Gatlin and Tori Bowie (100m), Christian Taylor (triple jump), Phyllis Francis (400m), Kori Carter (400m hurdles) and Brittney Reese (long jump). Plus Shalane Flanagan and Galen Rupp, who each won World Marathon Majors this fall.

Rio gold medalists Michelle Carter (shot put) and Matthew Centrowitz (1500m) won the awards last year.

Coburn is the first steeplechaser to take home a USATF Athlete of the Year award. They’ve been handed out since 1981.

Kendricks joined 2000 Olympic champion Stacy Dragila as the only pole vaulters to earn the honor.

More from USATF on the awards here.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

VIDEO: NFL team celebrates TD by racing sprint relay

Jana Novotna, Wimbledon champ and Olympic medalist, dies at 49

AP
Leave a comment

PRAGUE (AP) — Jana Novotna, who won the hearts of the tennis world when she sobbed on the shoulder of a member of the British royal family after a heartbreaking loss in the Wimbledon final, has died at the age of 49.

The WTA announced Novotna’s death on Monday, saying she died Sunday in her native Czech Republic following a long battle with cancer.

Novotna died “peacefully, surrounded by her family,” the women’s tennis body said.

Her family confirmed her death to the Czech Republic’s CTK news agency. No details were given.

Martina Navratilova, the tennis great who was also born in what was then Czechoslovakia, tweeted: “The tennis world is so sad about the passing of Jana Novotna. I am gutted and beyond words. Jana was a true friend and an amazing woman.”

Novotna won her only Grand Slam singles title at Wimbledon in 1998, eventually triumphing after two losses in the final at the All England Lawn Tennis Club in 1993 and 1997.

She added three Olympic tennis medals — singles bronze at Altanta 1996 (knocking out top seed Monica Seles) and doubles silver in 1988 and 1996 with Helena Sukova.

She also lost in the 1991 Australian Open final.

While she finally captured the Grand Slam singles title she longed for in 1998, she won over the Wimbledon crowd five years earlier after wasting a big lead in the decisive set in a tough three-set loss to Steffi Graf.

Unable to hide her disappointment, Novotna cried on the shoulder of Britain’s Duchess of Kent at the prize giving ceremony and was gently comforted by the royal, who told her: “I know you will win it one day, don’t worry.”

Novotna ultimately had her moment five years later when she beat Nathalie Tauziat in straight sets to win Wimbledon. At the time, she was the oldest first-time winner of a Grand Slam singles title at age 29.

There wear tears again from Novotna, this time of joy, and the Duchess of Kent was present again to congratulate her.

“She was a true champion in all senses of the word, and her 1998 triumph will live long in the memory,” Wimbledon organizers the All England Club said in tribute to Novotna. “The thoughts of all those at Wimbledon are with her family and friends.”

Fellow Czech and four-time Grand Slam champion Hana Mandlikova, who coached Novotna for her Wimbledon win, said: “It’s hard to find words. Jana was a great girl and I’m happy that she won Wimbledon after all. It’s so sad when someone so young dies.”

During a 14-year professional career, Novotna won 24 singles titles and reached a career-high No. 2 in the singles rankings in 1997. She was a prolific and top-ranked doubles player, collecting 16 slam titles in doubles and mixed doubles.

She also won the Fed Cup with her country in 1988. Novotna was inducted into tennis’ Hall of Fame in 2005.

Even after retiring in 1999, Novotna was desperate to stay involved in tennis and became a commentator and coach.

“I’m dependent on tennis,” she said in an interview two years ago. “A day without it would be terrible.”

Members of the current Czech Fed Cup team said Novotna “supported us in the stands any time she could be there. We’ll miss her.”

“Jana was an inspiration both on and off court to anyone who had the opportunity to know her,” WTA chief executive Steve Simon said. “Her star will always shine brightly in the history of the WTA.”