Brian Orser, two-time Olympic silver medalist, is gathering and developing some of the world’s elite talent at his Toronto base. He is in Minsk at the European Championships coaching Javier Fernandez, the first protégé of his that is still skating. He agreed to give an update on his many prominent students to NBCSports.com/figure-skating.
You elected to come to Europeans with Javier?
Yes. Tracy [Wilson, who teaches alongside Orser in Toronto] is in Detroit for the U.S. Nationals. You know, this is Javier’s last time. I wanted to be with him and see this.
What will Javier leaving competitive skating mean for you?
There is something special about Javier. When he came back to Toronto, a few weeks ago, to get ready for this event, the level of everybody’s skating went up all of a sudden, simply because he was there. Javi is loved by everybody – parents, skaters, and the whole club. He worked hard as always, with a good attitude.
We will miss his spirit. For me and Tracy, he is our “poster child,” the very example of what we do with our style of training and coaching. He came through the way we planned it. But you know, I’m sure we’ll see him again in the future. He’ll be up in Toronto again, just to visit!
What do you think his legacy to the sport will be?
No one has asked me this question yet… This is our eighth season together. Javier has done something great for men’s skating. He has embraced the rules and all the changes in the judging system – as we have as teachers.
He is a perfect model for what male skating should be: athletic and aesthetic, bringing a very personal style. His fan base has kept increasing through the years, and he’s been very good at it. He is also the young boy from Spain who made it. This is something very important and special about him. He promotes skating in his home country, through his shows all over Spain and skating camps.
Have you taught him how to coach?
He had already an excellent coaching base. He’s done the Alexei Mishin camps. I’ve seen him teaching. He teaches technique and style the way we do. This makes me very proud. He will be an excellent coach.
Still, my advice to him was to first do the shows. He loves them, and he is excellent at them. He’ll feel it when the time comes for switching to coaching. It will come naturally to him, and the transition should be smooth.
Can you talk about your other protégés? How do you see Jason Brown improve?
The timing is perfect at the club: Jason is in, Javier is out. They are quite similar. Both are polite, respectful, and both work hard. Jason is like a breeze of fresh air at the club. Also, he brings a fantastic style. This year the change of rules suits him quite well, too.
There was a rumor that Yevgenia Medvedeva might come to Minsk as a spectator.
(He laughs) Oh no, she had enough travel! Yevgenia is in Toronto right now, training. I’ll be jumping in both feet with her next week. She has a smaller competition planned in Russia next month, and we’re standing by for a potential spot for Worlds.
Two months ago, you had mentioned that you needed to pay attention to the body changes that she was experiencing. Where do you stand now?
The changing of her body is done now. She is 19, so it should be over. It’s a matter of getting used to it. You have a few things to relearn. Your center of gravity is higher and you need to adapt to it. She got used to do that.
The whole is a matter of pushing through and persevering. From the beginning, as she came in Toronto, we told her that she would take a few hits in the first year, but that she had to trust the program and stick to it. Trust us, trust the program, and you’ll come out of the process better. We are taking the hits this year, and it certainly hits her confidence as well. But she’s trusting the program and I feel confident for her. We have to push through, be it for boys or girls.
The same happened to us with Javier. In his first season with us, his first Europeans were not good. His first Worlds were not good – although he had already improved. Things started to happen the next year. I’m anticipating the same with her.
What about Yuzuru Hanyu?
I can’t talk much of Yuzu. His injury is feeling better. He’s back on the ice in Toronto. I’ll tell you the same as last year: he’ll be fine. His focus is Japan and Worlds. He is not a stranger to that kind of a situation anymore. It was the same last year [when Hanyu spent significant time off the ice due to injury], and he became the Olympic champion. This year he is [back] even earlier than one year ago!
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