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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Elena Fanchini, medal-winning Alpine skier, dies at 37

Elena Fanchini
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Elena Fanchini, an Italian Alpine skier whose career was cut short by a tumor, has died. She was 37.

Fanchini, the 2005 World downhill silver medalist at age 19, passed away Wednesday at her home in Solato, near Brescia, the Italian Winter Sports Federation announced.

Fanchini died on the same day that fellow Italian Marta Bassino won the super-G at the world championships in Meribel, France; and two days after Federica Brignone — another former teammate — claimed gold in the combined.

Sofia Goggia, who is the favorite for Saturday’s downhill, dedicated her World Cup win in Cortina d’Ampezzo last month to Fanchini.

Fanchini last raced in December 2017. She was cleared to return to train nearly a year later but never made it fully back, and her condition grew worse in recent months.

Fanchini won her world downhill silver medal in Italy in 2005, exactly one month after her World Cup debut, an astonishing breakout.

Ten months later, she won a World Cup downhill in Canada with “Ciao Mamma” scribbled on face tape to guard against 1-degree temperatures. She was 20. Nobody younger than 21 has won a World Cup downhill since. Her second and final World Cup win, also a downhill, came more than nine years later.

In between her two World Cup wins, Fanchini raced at three Olympics with a best finish of 12th in the downhill in 2014. She missed the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics because of her condition.

Fanchini’s younger sisters Nadia and Sabrina were also World Cup racers.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

USA Boxing to skip world championships

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USA Boxing will not send boxers to this year’s men’s and women’s world championships, citing “the ongoing failures” of the IBA, the sport’s international governing body, that put boxing’s place on the Olympic program at risk.

The Washington Post first reported the decision.

In a letter to its members, USA Boxing Executive Director Mike McAtee listed many factors that led to the decision, including IBA governance issues, financial irregularities and transparency and that Russian and Belarusian boxers are allowed to compete with their flags.

IBA lifted its ban on Russian and Belarusian boxers in October and said it would allow their flags and anthems to return, too.

The IOC has not shifted from its recommendation to international sports federations last February that Russian and Belarusian athletes be barred, though the IOC and Olympic sports officials have been exploring whether those athletes could return without national symbols.

USA Boxing said that Russian boxers have competed at an IBA event in Morocco this month with their flags and are expected to compete at this year’s world championships under their flags.

“While sport is intended to be politically neutral, many boxers, coaches and other representatives of the Ukrainian boxing community were killed as a result of the Russian aggression against Ukraine, including coach Mykhaylo Korenovsky who was killed when a Russian missile hit an apartment block in January 2023,” according to the USA Boxing letter. “Ukraine’s sports infrastructure, including numerous boxing gyms, has been devastated by Russian aggression.”

McAtee added later that USA Boxing would still not send athletes to worlds even if Russians and Belarusians were competing as neutrals and without their flags.

“USA Boxing’s decision is based on the ‘totality of all of the factors,'” he said in an emailed response. “Third party oversite and fairness in the field of play is the most important factor.”

A message has been sent to the IBA seeking comment on USA Boxing’s decision.

The women’s world championships are in March in India. The men’s world championships are in May in Uzbekistan. They do not count toward 2024 Olympic qualifying.

In December, the IOC said recent IBA decisions could lead to “the cancellation of boxing” for the 2024 Paris Games.

Some of the already reported governance issues led to the IOC stripping IBA — then known as AIBA — of its Olympic recognition in 2019. AIBA had suspended all 36 referees and judges used at the 2016 Rio Olympics pending an investigation into a possible judging scandal, one that found that some medal bouts were fixed by “complicit and compliant” referees and judges.

The IOC ran the Tokyo Olympic boxing competition.

Boxing was not included on the initial program for the 2028 Los Angeles Games announced in December 2021, though it could still be added. The IBA must address concerns “around its governance, its financial transparency and sustainability and the integrity of its refereeing and judging processes,” IOC President Thomas Bach said then.

This past June, the IOC said IBA would not run qualifying competitions for the 2024 Paris Games.

In September, the IOC said it was “extremely concerned” about the Olympic future of boxing after an IBA extraordinary congress overwhelmingly backed Russian Umar Kremlev to remain as its president rather than hold an election.

Kremlev was re-elected in May after an opponent, Boris van der Vorst of the Netherlands, was barred from running against him. The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled in June that van der Vorst should have been eligible to run against Kremlev, but the IBA group still decided not to hold a new election.

Last May, Rashida Ellis became the first U.S. woman to win a world boxing title at an Olympic weight since Claressa Shields in 2016, taking the 60kg lightweight crown in Istanbul. In Tokyo, Ellis lost 3-0 in her opening bout in her Olympic debut.

At the last men’s worlds in 2021, Robby Gonzales and Jahmal Harvey became the first U.S. men to win an Olympic or world title since 2007, ending the longest American men’s drought since World War II.

The Associated Press and NBC Olympic research contributed to this report.

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