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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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Tokyo Paralympic triathlon test event cancels swim due to water bacteria

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TOKYO (AP) — High levels of bacteria forced the swimming portion of a triathlon test event for the Tokyo Paralympics to be canceled Saturday.

It’s the second setback in the triathlon for organizers of next year’s Olympics and Paralympics. An Olympic triathlon running event was shortened from 10km to 5km on Thursday because of what the International Triathlon Union (ITU) called “extreme levels” of heat.

Tokyo’s hot and humid summers are a major worry for Olympic organizers. The water issues are a reminder of the Rio Games, when high bacteria and virus levels were found in waters for sailing, rowing and open-water swimming.

In a statement, the ITU said E-coli levels were “more than two times over the ITU limits.” It said the water was at Level 4, the highest risk level.

E-coli bacteria, which normally live in the intestines of animals and people, can produce intestinal pain, diarrhea and a fever.

The venue in Tokyo Bay, called Odaiba, has been a concern for organizers, who have experimented with different measures to clean the water in the area, located in an urban part of central Tokyo.

The ITU is scheduled to hold it final test event on Sunday “depending on the latest water quality tests”, it said in a statement.

A few days ago the ITU described water quality conditions at the venue as “very good.” However, swimmers at a recent distance swimming event at the same venue complained of foul-smelling water.

The water temperature at the venue on Saturday was 84 degrees Fahrenheit, with the air temperature hovering above 90.

Tokyo spokesman Masa Takaya said “we are set to conduct a comprehensive review with the international federation.”

He said a triple-layer underwater screen will be installed for next year’s Olympics, replacing a single-layer.

“Based on the results of multiple research in the past, we believe that the multiple layer screen will assure the successful delivery of the competitions,” he said.

Filthy water plagued the Rio Olympics. The South American city lacks a functioning sanitation system for much of its population. Open water there tested high for bacteria and viruses, which confronted athletes in rowing, sailing and triathlon.

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Women’s hurdlers take center stage as Diamond League hits crunch time; how to watch

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A showdown between world record holder Kendra Harrison (U.S.), reigning Olympic champion Brianna McNeal (U.S.) and 2019 world leader Danielle Williams (Jamaica) in the women’s 100-meter hurdles is the marquee event of the Diamond League meet Sunday in Birmingham, England.

With the track and field world championships not starting this year until Sept. 28, the Diamond League gets an uninterrupted run to its season finales Aug. 29 in Zurich and Sept. 6 in Brussels. The 32 Diamond League events are split between the two finales, with a $50,000 prize awaiting the winner of each final.

The last two meets before those finales — Sunday’s meet and the Aug. 24 meet in Paris — are all about qualifying for a shot at those final jackpots.

Birmingham will be the last chance to win points in the men’s 400m, women’s long jump, women’s 1,500m/mile, men’s javelin, women’s 100m hurdles, men’s 100m and women’s 200m. It’s the second-to-last chance in the women’s discus, women’s pole vault, men’s 400m hurdles, men’s high jump, women’s 3000m steeplechase and women’s 800m.

NBC Sports Gold streams live and commercial-free on Sunday, starting with field events at 7:15 a.m. Eastern and track events kicking off at 9 a.m. Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA airs coverage Monday at 4 p.m.

The women’s 100m hurdles also features two Americans who need points to reach the final — Nia Ali and Queen Claye.

Other American athletes aiming to improve solid chances of qualifying include Raevyn Rogers (women’s 800m), Jenn Suhr (women’s pole vault), Mike Rodgers (men’s 100m), Valarie Allman (women’s discus), Michael Cherry (men’s 400m), Kahmari Montgomery (men’s 400m), Vernon Norwood (men’s 400m), David Kendziera (men’s 400m hurdles), Jeron Robinson (men’s high jump) and Courtney Frerichs (women’s 3,000m steeplechase)

Americans who have already qualified in these events include Ajee Wilson (women’s 800m) and Brittney Reese (women’s long jump), both of whom will be competing in Birmingham,

U.S. qualifiers Jenna Prandini (women’s 200m), Emma Coburn (women’s 3,000m steeplechase) and Sandi Morris (women’s pole vault) will not be in Birmingham. Christian Coleman (100m) withdrew from the meet on Friday, spoiling a showdown with Canada’s Andre De Graase and leaving the potential qualification of Jamaica’s Yohan Blake as the most interesting question.

Americans who may qualify in absentia, pending other results, include Justin Gatlin (100m), Noah Lyles (100m), Jenny Simpson (1,500m), Rai Benjamin (400m hurdles), TJ Holmes (400m hurdles), Michael Norman (men’s 400m), Nathan Strother (men’s 400m) and Fred Kerley (men’s 400m).

In a non-Diamond League event, U.S. champion Craig Engels brings his famous mullet to Birmingham in the 1,500 meters.

Here are the Birmingham entry lists and the current Diamond League standings. The schedule (all times Eastern, x-event not counted toward Diamond League standings):

7:45 a.m. — Women’s Discus
8:02 a.m. — Women’s 100m Hurdles Heat A
8:07 a.m. — Women’s Pole Vault
8:14 a.m. — Women’s 100m Hurdles Heat B
8:26 a.m. — x-Men’s 110m Hurdles
8:46 a.m. — Men’s 100m Heat A
8:55 a.m. — Men’s 100m Heat B
9:03 a.m. — Men’s 400m
9:10 a.m. — Women’s Long Jump
9:13 a.m. — Men’s 400m Hurdles
9:19 a.m. — Men’s High Jump
9:23 a.m. — Women’s Mile
9:33 a.m. — x-Women’s 100m
9:38 a.m. — Men’s Javelin
9:43 a.m. — x-Men’s 1,500m
9:55 a.m. — Women’s 3,000m Steeplechase
10:12 a.m. — x-Men’s 800m
10:22 a.m. — Women’s 100m Hurdles Final
10:32 a.m. — Men’s 100m Final
10:41 a.m. — Women’s 800m
10:52 a.m. — Women’s 200m

Here are five events to watch:

Women’s Pole Vault — 8:07 a.m.
Suhr has no Diamond League points but has the world lead at 4.91 meters. Perennial contenders Katerina Stefanidi (Greece) and Yarisley Silva (Cuba) are also competing.

Men’s 400m — 9:03 a.m.
No one has clinched qualification yet, but Cherry is set to compete in Birmingham and should get through. Americans have the top four spots in the standings — Norman, Cherry, Strother and Kerley.

Women’s 3,000-meter steeplechase — 9:55 a.m.
World record holder Beatrice Chepkoech and three fellow Kenyans who have all qualified alongside Coburn will have their eyes on records.

Women’s 100m Hurdles — 10:22 a.m. final; 8:02 a.m. heats
Most of the top 12 on the world list this year and most of the hurdles who have clinched spots in the final will be here, including Williams and the American trio of Harrison, Sharika Nelvis and Christina Clemons. McNeal, who will run in the world championships with Harrison and Ali, will not qualify.

Women’s 200m — 10:52 a.m.
Dutch sprinter Dafne Schippers, who’s aiming for her third straight world championship, has qualified but will race in Birmingham against equally accomplished sprinters Shaunae Miller-Uibo (Bahamas), who has won the last two Diamond League titles at this distance and the 2016 Olympic 400-meter gold, and Jamaican Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, whose list of international honors is lengthy.

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