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Yevgenia Medvedeva responds to social media criticism

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GRENOBLE, France — Yevgenia Medvedeva has been affected by social media critics since moving from Moscow to Toronto. Her fourth-place finish at Internationaux de France last week, her first time off a senior international podium, fueled her to discuss how she’s handling it.

“I never expected that there would be so much negative on social media,” said Medvedeva, the Olympic silver medalist and two-time world champion. “So I’ve made a strong rule between social networks and me. I only have one Instagram page at the moment, and it’s completely private. I only have 16 subscribers, and they are my closest friends. I know that there are lots of followers and fans out there. Fans send me warm messages of support as well. There is so much good stuff there that it will eventually cover all the bad in this life.

“But now the connection with social media is running through my agent, and I’m not using it anymore.”

The skating world is putting pressure on Medvedeva to digest rapidly digest her changes in the last year. She would also love to, actually. But she is well aware that it can’t be so.

“You know, I have such a personality,” she said. “It comes from my ex-coach’s team: we want to do everything right here, right now, right away. Well, maybe there was a time for it, but it’s not the case anymore. That’s finished. Now I have to find myself a new style: a new style of skating, a new style of practicing, a new lifestyle. The change is even much bigger than I had anticipated.”

New coaches Brian Orser and Tracy Wilson agreed.

“I can fix things, but I can’t do quick fix,” Orser said. “Jason Brown [Medvedeva’s new training mate in Toronto] always repeats that: ‘step by step, step by step.’ I don’t really like these words, but it’s a rule of life. It has to be the way. Fortunately, I’m not a person to give up. I was so sad after my free program Saturday that I even didn’t want to talk to anybody. But I also have to understand that such a time will not last forever. It will come to an end. If I keep going, things will get fixed. If you’re working, you will have a result.”

The anticipated showdown between Medvedeva and former training partner and Olympic champion Alina Zagitova at the Grand Prix Final next week will not happen. Medvedeva failed to qualify for the six-skater event, pushing their first head-to-head since PyeongChang to Russian Nationals in late December.

“Of course, our role is to make Yevgenia happy on the ice, a little bit like we had done with Yuna [Kim, the South Korean 2010 Olympic gold medalist, also an Orser pupil],” Orser said before the French Grand Prix. “But not only this. We also want [her] to stay a fierce competitor. There is balance to find between the lightness of life and the fierceness of the athlete. The risk otherwise is to be vulnerable technically. So we need to work on awareness and focus. We may have come too soon to show the difference.”

Medvedeva has seen eye-to-eye with Orser since the summer.

“No one is in prison, right?” she said, laughing, in Grenoble. “We can do anything we want. But I think that at this point I have to be more open to the world.

“The competition in Grenoble was mentally hard for me. I think it’s just because I closed my mind too much inside myself. There was too much tension. It was not a good experience – but it was an experience. We need to find a balance at the moment, and we’re trying to find one. It’s sad, but we really need time.”

Change – the changes her life had to meet when she relocated to Toronto – is certainly the one topic Medvedeva favors most nowadays. She speaks Russian only with her mom and friends back home.

“It will require at least a year for me to get used to all this – my new coaches, my new friends, my new apartment,” she said.

Another change which Medvedeva is undergoing, at the moment, is physical at age 19.

“It’s hard to get used to a new body,” she said, adding that she’s working with a nutritionist. “It’s not that I want to be skinny or because I feel I need to lose weight because I’m fat. But I want to gain muscles and make my body feel better. That’s a part of the work, nothing else.”

Orser noted it, too. Body changes imply that technique has to be adjusted accordingly.

“Yevgenia came to us with a very good technique,” he said. “It’s just a matter of small adjustments. She is now changing and maturing, and we have to pay attention to her jumping technique. Physically, it’s already a big change.”

Russians before Medvedeva starred as teens but could not endure nearly as long as she has. More young Russians are on their way to challenge her for a place at March’s world championships and beyond.

“You see, there are also lots of rumors right now, also on social media saying that I want to prevent junior skaters to access the senior ranks, that I get mad at them. I’m not!” Medvedeva said, alluding to former coach Eteri Tutberidze saying in May that Medvedeva asked if Zagitova could have been left in junior division for the Olympic season. “I look at this in complete quietness. You know, that was me. I came to the senior ranks myself, and I won everything in my first senior year. It’s always been like this. I see the difference between younger skaters and me, skating wise. But at the same time, I also see the difference between their body and mine. We may stay in our children’s bodies as long as we can, but not forever. It’s OK. Just keep going, it’s natural. These girls will change, too. There is one thing I wish to tell them, though: stay kids and childish, in your bodies but especially mentally, as long as you can.”

Medvedeva’s choreographic process for this season also marked quite a change, working with Canadians David Wilson and Sandra Bezic after all those years in Moscow.

“The goal is to grow with the sport, not to be diminished by it,” Tracy Wilson said. “It takes about one year and a half for a skater to find that balance. The same happened to us when [Javier Fernandez] came to us. In his second year with us, it was around Christmas, before Europeans, Brian and I were watching him skate, and we both saw that he was getting it. Before then he was skating to what he was learning, and all of a sudden, he was owning it. It’s like when you’re learning a new language: for a while you keep thinking in your regular language, and all of a sudden you start thinking in your new language.”

L’Equipe journalist Clémentine Blondet assisted with the Medvedeva interview.

As a reminder, you can watch the ISU Grand Prix Series live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

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Too early to say whether virus threatens Olympics, WHO says

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GENEVA (AP) — Despite a virus outbreak spreading from China, a top World Health Organization official said Tuesday it’s much too soon to say whether the Tokyo Olympics are at risk of being cancelled or moved.

Tokyo organizers and the International Olympic Committee have repeatedly said they have no contingency plans for the July 24-Aug. 9 Summer Games since the WHO declared a global health emergency last month.

The U.N. agency’s emergencies program director, Michael Ryan, said Tuesday the sporting event was “way too far” away to consider giving advice that would affect Tokyo’s hosting of the Olympics.

“We are not there to make a decision for that,” Ryan told The Associated Press on the sidelines of a news conference at WHO headquarters.

Geneva-based WHO has been in regular contact with the IOC in nearby Lausanne since the virus known as COVID-19 emerged in December.

“We don’t give them judgments,” Ryan said. “We assist them with their risk assessment. We will be working closely with them in the coming weeks and months.”

The death toll in mainland China due to the virus rose to almost 1,900 on Tuesday, with more than 72,000 confirmed cases.

The outbreak has caused numerous sports events in China to be canceled, postponed, or moved, including qualifying events for the Tokyo Olympics.

Chinese athletes and teams have also been unable to travel for some competitions. China sent a team of more than 400 athletes to the Rio Olympics. It won 70 medals, including 26 gold, to place second in total medal standings.

Around 11,000 athletes and many more team coaches and officials from more than 200 national teams are expected in Japan for the Olympics.

Japan has experienced the most significant outbreak of the virus outside of China, on the cruise ship Diamond Princess docked in quarantine at Yokohama in Tokyo Bay.

During a 14-day isolation that ends Wednesday, 542 cases have been identified among more than 3,700 passengers and crew.

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For Mike Eruzione, Al Michaels, it’s no miracle that 1980 Olympics endure

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Mike Eruzione has been reminded on a daily basis about the Miracle on Ice for nearly four decades. While playing celebrity golf tournaments. At speaking engagements. Or that time he auctioned his jersey and stick from the Soviet game to a 9-year-old boy named Seven.

Eruzione, now 65, likes to open conversations with one anecdote about meeting strangers, which he repeated in a call with reporters last week.

“The stories I hear, 40 years later, it’s depending on their age — I remember where I was when Kennedy was assassinated, I remember where I was on 9/11. I remember where I was when the Challenger blew up. And I remember where I was when we won,” Eruzione said. “And I always say, ‘We? I didn’t know you were on the team.’

“But people felt a part of it. … It’s nice to know that people remember and share some great stories about what we did so long ago.”

The captain of the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team owns a last name that means “eruption” in Italian. Eruzione scored the decisive goal in the U.S.’ 4-3 win over the Soviet Union en route to a shock gold medal during the Cold War in Lake Placid, N.Y.

NBCSN airs a 30-minute special marking the 40th anniversary of the Miracle on Ice on Wednesday at 11:30 p.m. ET. It will feature a conversation between Olympic primetime host Mike Tirico and Al Michaels, the play-by-play voice of the game dubbed by Sports Illustrated the greatest sports moment of the 20th century.

Eruzione has grandchildren now. Three of them skate at the Mike Eruzione Center in his hometown of Winthrop, Mass.

“They don’t even know who Mike Eruzione is,” Eruzione said of the 5-, 6- and 7-year-olds, “but they know about the Miracle.”

All credit to the U.S. Olympic team of 20 players between ages 19 and 25, back when the NHL did not participate in the Olympics. The Soviets were essentially a team of professionals. The nation won the previous four Olympics and throttled the U.S. 10-3 in a pre-Olympic exhibition at Madison Square Garden.

Enter Michaels, calling hockey at the Lake Placid Winter Games alongside Hall of Fame goalie Ken Dryden. Michaels, then 35, said he was assigned the sport because he had the most hockey experience on the ABC Olympic talent roster — one game. He called the 1972 Olympic hockey final by himself.

Feb. 22, 1980: As the U.S. led the Soviet Union 4-3 and the final seconds ticked down, one word came to mind: miraculous.

“It got morphed into a question and quick answer, and away we went,” Michaels said.

Eruzione said he didn’t learn of Michaels’ call — “Do you believe in Miracles? Yes!” — until two weeks after the Olympics. He didn’t watch the game broadcast until years later.

“I never thought it was a miracle, but it was a catchy phrase and it sounded right,” Eruzione said, noting he preferred Michaels’ call in the final comeback win over Finland to clinch the gold: “This impossible dream comes true.”

Team members since gathered often — to light the 2002 Olympic cauldron in Salt Lake City, for fantasy camps in Lake Placid and for coach Herb Brooks‘ 2003 funeral. Eighteen of the 20 players are scheduled to reunite this weekend in Las Vegas.

Absent will be Mark Pavelich, who was jailed last year on assault charges and ruled mentally incompetent to stand trial. And Bob Suter, who died in 2014 of a heart attack at age 57.

It was Suter’s death that motivated Eruzione and others to commemorate the 35th anniversary together in Lake Placid. It was believed to be the first time all living players were together in Lake Placid since the 1980 Winter Games.

Eruzione said that the 2004 film “Miracle” introduced the team to a new generation. Now at many of his speeches, the majority of Eruzione’s audience was born after 1980.

“I’ll say, how many people watched the movie ‘Miracle,’ and almost everybody raises their hand,” he said. “So I think what the movie did for us as a team was kind of rejuvenated our team as far as people knowing who we were and what we are and what we were about.”

NFL coaches set up “Miracle” viewings for their teams before games. Michael Phelps watched it for motivation at the 2004 Athens Olympics. Phelps told relay teammates, “This is our time,” before they beat rival Australia. An ode to Brooks’ pregame speech before the Soviet game.

Michaels, whose 13-year-old grandson won an October hockey tournament in Lake Placid, said he watched “Miracle” last week for the first time in about a decade. He helped do voiceovers in production more than 15 years ago, though the original Lake Placid audio was used for his signature call.

“The great thing is, in a way, when you watch it back or you watch highlights back, you almost become like in the third person, like somebody else is doing this and announcing this game,” Michaels said. “I exult the way I think most of the country did and do when they see highlights of it. So it’s kind of an out-of-body experience in a way, but it’s a beautiful thing.”

After Eruzione shared his tale of strangers’ memories, Michaels added one of his own.

“One of my favorite stories is Mike Eruzione calling me maybe eight to 10 years ago and saying, ‘The greatest thing about this is every time I come home and maybe I’m a little down, I need a little pick-me-up, I’ll put the tape in,'” Michaels said. “‘Every time I shoot, the puck goes in. It will forever.'”

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