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Alina Zagitova, Yevgenia Medvedeva defeated by 14-year-olds at Russian Nationals

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A pair of 14-year-olds defeated the Olympic gold and silver medalists at the Russian Figure Skating Championships, arguably the deepest competition in figure skating.

Anna Shcherbakova and Alexandra Trusova, who are too young for senior international events, went one-two in Saransk on Saturday after Olympic champion Alina Zagitova had a disastrous, 12th-place free skate that included two falls.

Zagitova dropped from first after the short program to fifth, two spots ahead of two-time world champion Yevgenia Medvedeva, who rebounded from a 14th-place short program.

Medvedeva was unsurprisingly left off the three-woman team for January’s European Championships, the first time she will miss the event in four season as a senior skater.

Shcherbakova and Trusova each landed a quadruple Lutz, a jump none of the world’s top senior women are doing.

Zagitova still made the Euros team and is likely for March’s world championships, given Shcherbakova, Trusova and bronze medalist Alena Kostornaya are all juniors and thus ineligible.

Stanislava Konstantinova and Sofia Samodurova, who finished fourth and sixth, round out the Euros team. Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, the 2015 World champion who missed nationals due to pneumonia, and Medvedeva are the alternates.

The world team, also three women, will be named some time after the European Championships.

Medvedeva, who went undefeated from 2015 to 2017, hasn’t won in more than a year. She placed second, third or fourth at her last five international events since suffering a broken bone in her foot in fall 2017. She fell in all four of her competitions this season under new coach Brian Orser, who stresses patience as his latest star pupil makes technical changes.

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Yevgenia Medvedeva’s struggles continue at Russian Nationals

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Yevgenia Medvedeva rough season hit another stumbling block Friday. She placed 14th in the short program at the Russian Championships.

The Olympic silver medalist and two-time world champion botched her opening combination and then fell on a double Axel (video here). She scored 62.24 points, 18.38 behind Olympic champion Alina Zagitova in the deepest national competition in the world.

The second-, third- and fifth-place finishers in the short are all 14- and 15-year-olds that aren’t eligible for senior international events this season. This is key, as Medvedeva is vying for one of three Russian spots at January’s European Championships and March’s world championships.

Zagitova and 2015 World champion Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, who is out with pneumonia, would seem obvious candidates for two spots at Euros. Medvedeva’s primary competition for a spot are Stanislava Konstantinova, who was fourth in the short, and Sofia Samodurova, who was sixth.

Samodurova had the best fall Grand Prix season of the trio, placing fifth at the Grand Prix Final in her first senior international campaign.

Russia has in the past named its world championships team after the European Championships, making the latter another selection event.

Medvedeva went undefeated for two years from 2015 to 2017 but hasn’t won in more than a year, placing second, third or fourth at her last five events since suffering a broken bone in her foot in fall 2017. She has fallen in all four of her competitions this season.

Training partner Zagitova edged Medvedeva for gold in PyeongChang by 1.31 points, after which Medvedeva moved from Moscow to Toronto to train under Brian Orser.

Orser, who has stressed patience as Medvedeva processes technique changes for the second act of her career, encouraged Medvedeva after Friday’s skate. They conversed in the kiss and cry as fans would not stop applauding her during the wait for her scores.

“Stand up and wave,” Orser urged her. She obliged, smiling, The scores came up. She nodded and repeated her placement, “14th.”

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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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