Dave Carmichael

The story behind Yevgenia Medvedeva’s divisive ‘7 Rings’ exhibition program

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Yevgenia Medvedeva divided figure skating fans with her new exhibition program set to Ariana Grande’s smash hit ‘7 Rings.’ Medvedeva is currently performing the number on the Canadian Stars on Ice tour while decked out in head-to-toe pink. She sheds a fur coach at the beginning of the performance and also mimics pop star Grande’s signature high ponytail.

Olympian Misha Ge choreographed the exhibition with Medvedeva around the time of the world championships, where she earned bronze. Ge chatted with NBCSports.com/figure-skating at an event in New York to explain the intent behind the program:

Credit: Dave Carmichael

“We want to go a little more mature,” he said. “I give her few music options and she’s like, ‘I wanna try this,’ which she never done before: be more sexy, be more open, more funky. I feel like American audiences and Canadian audiences love it more, but European audience, they have so much question regarding it. I’m like, ‘OK, we doing what we can.’”

“I could understand [why] some people might not really understand it,” he continued. “To understand it, you have to watch Ariana Grande’s music video. People [who] didn’t watch it, they’re like, ‘why her dress so pink?’ ‘why is crop top?’ ‘why is it like that?’ I’m like, ‘Guys, watch the original musical video. We follow that!’ People didn’t say much about Ariana’s style out there, but people have some issue with Yevgenia’s style – but it was identical. We couldn’t make anybody happy but we do the best we could in that situation.”

The choreography was piece by piece as Ge and Medvedeva sent videos back and forth via long-distance. He said it was done under a time crunch, too, which added to the difficulty.

“Of course, it’s harder to produce the same quality that we did during competition when everything was on the ice.

“But she’s happy, she loves it. She enjoys it, which is important for a skater to grow when they try new stuff. She haven’t done those things.”

Ge also choreographed Medvedeva’s short program for the 2018-19 season, set to “Tosca” by Giacomo Puccini. He said he’ll be working with skaters across the United States for the upcoming season at the sectional, regional and national competition levels.

MORE: Yevgenia Medvedeva responds to social media criticism

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Leanne Smith leads U.S. gold medalists at para swim worlds

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Leanne Smith has never competed at a Paralympics. Came into this week’s world championships with zero world medals. But she leaves London with three individual golds, most for any American, one year before the Tokyo Games.

Smith, 21, won the 150m individual medley, 50m breaststroke and 100m freestyle in her classification, all in American record times. The last two titles came on the final day of the seven-day meet on Sunday.

Smith, diagnosed with a rare neurological muscle disease called dystonia in January 2012, began swimming in 2013. By 2017, she broke a world record and then debuted at the world championships with a best individual finish of sixth.

The U.S. finished with 35 total medals and 14 golds, ranking sixth in the overall standings. Ukraine, usually strong at the Paralympics, led the way with 55 medals. Full results are here.

Jessica Long, the second-most-decorated U.S. Paralympian in history with 23 medals, earned six this week — five silvers and a bronze — to give her 52 career world championships medals.

Two-time Paralympian Mallory Weggemann earned two golds this week, giving her 15 world titles in three appearances (her others being in 2009 and 2010).

She won 50m titles in the butterfly and freestyle. Weggemann won a 2012 Paralympic 50m free title but was fortunate just to make it back for Rio after a 2014 accident that she said was harder to come back from than her teenage paralysis. She left Rio with no medals but a resolve to return for a third Games in Tokyo.

“I’m two seconds away from bursting into tears,” Weggemann said after winning the first of her two golds in the 50m fly, according to U.S. Paralympics. “I had a really rough go these past three years since Rio, so to finally be back after busting my butt to be here, and to be here in London of all places, is absolutely incredible.”

Fellow Rio Paralympians McKenzie Coan and Robert Griswold added two golds a piece.

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MORE: Five storylines to watch for Tokyo Paralympics

Heimana Reynolds wins skateboard world title, nears an Olympic goal from age 10

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In February 2009, a 10-year-old Heimana Reynolds was profiled by his local NBC TV station on Oahu.

“My goal is to become a professional skateboarder and compete in the X Games and the Olympics,” he said, according to the report.

Skateboarding would not be added to the Olympics for another seven years. But here Reynolds is, age 21, having just won the world title in park, one of two skateboarding events that debut at the Games in Tokyo.

Reynolds, who wasn’t named to the four-man U.S. national team in March, consolidated his lead in the Olympic qualification rankings by prevailing over a pair of Brazilians in Sao Paulo on Sunday.

A shirtless Reynolds scored 88 points in the final, beating Luis Francisco (85.50) and Pedro Quintas (85).

No more than three Americans can make the Olympic team in the event, which will make it difficult if three-time Olympic halfpipe snowboarding champion Shaun White decides to continue his skateboarding pursuit. White was the sixth-best American, bowing out in the semifinals in 13th place on Saturday in just his second contest since returning to competitive skating last year.

Back to Reynolds. He grew up on the North Shore and attended the Punahou School, where Barack Obama is the most famous alum. His first name is Tahitian, reportedly referring to the power of Jesus’ crown of thorns.

Reynolds, the son of a surfer, proved a natural on land. After pre-teen media profiles, he blossomed into a world silver medalist last year. He won an Olympic qualifier in China in July to take the top spot in the Olympic rankings despite a best career X Games finish of sixth.

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