Dayeon Hwang North Hollywood HGM 11th Grade
For the past 2 consecutive seasons in ladies’ figure skating, Evgenia Medvedeva, the 18 year old sensation from Russia, has dominated all competition and broken multiple world records, of which 7 were ones she herself set. Having debuted on the senior scene during the 2015-16 season, Medvedeva surpassed expectations when she finished ahead of American Gracie Gold in the 2015 Skate America. Her success was not unforeseen, however, as she had emerged as Junior World and Junior Grand Prix Final Champion in her previous season as a junior. Medvedeva’s second senior Grand Prix event saw her lose the gold to countrymate Elena Radionova. This would be her last defeat for quite a while.
Medvedeva went on to win all remaining competitions in the 2015-16 season and even broke Yuna Kim’s historic free skate world record of 150.06 points, set in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, by earning an astonishing 150.10 points for her free skate in the 2016 Boston World Championships. Medvedeva continued her success by winning all events she participated in during the 2016-17 season. She broke Mao Asada’s short program record, set in the 2014 Saitama World Championships, when she received 79.21 points for her short program in the 2016 Marseille Grand Prix Final. She also broke Yuna Kim‘s world record for combined total score in the 2017 European Championships, where she earned a total of 229.71 points to take the lead.
The 2017-18 season, however, is proving to be Medvedeva’s most physically and psychologically challenging one yet. Despite having taken home the gold medals for her first three international competitions, Medvedeva suffered a foot injury that led to her absence in the Grand Prix Final and Russian Championships. Meanwhile, Alina Zagitova, Russia’s new 15 year old starlet, took home the champion titles for both competitions. The gap between their PCS scores significantly shortened within the 2 months that Medvedeva took her break. In the 2018 European Championships, Medvedeva’s winning streak was finally broken. She placed second to Zagitova just a month before the most important competition of her life. The last time she had lost the gold was in 2015.
Zagitova, who debuted on the senior scene just this season, also dominated the junior figure skating scene during the 2016-17 season. She became the first junior lady to break the 200 point margin for combined total score.
Zagitova left her hometown of Izhevsk, where her parents currently reside, to train in Moscow with the Sambo70 skating club. She is coached by Eteri Tutberidze, the same coach to Evgenia Medvedeva. Just a few years back, Tutberidze kicked Zagitova out of the Sambo70. Zagitova was simply too unpassionate when training and required constant push from the staff. She packed her bags, thinking her skating career to be over. She bought some flowers to gift Tutberidze as a farewell gift. Tutberidze, who sensed untapped potential in Zagitova, suggested they try working together again.
Zagitova went on to break her arm while training. She then broke her leg at the Youth Olympic Games. Before skating, she first had to relearn how to walk. She then had to relearn how to balance and skate on ice. Her body completely forgot how to perform jumps and tricks crucial for placing well at international competitions.
Almost nobody knew her name when she first debuted on the junior scene. She had not made much notable progress in prior seasons and was considered one of Russia’s weaker junior skaters. Zagitova managed to completely change this perception as she placed higher and higher at international competitions, eventually becoming Junior GPF and World Champion.
Now she threatens Evgenia Medvedeva for the Olympic title, a scenario which would have been unimaginable just 2 years back.
The ladies’ individual figure skating short program event is now over, and Zagitova is in the lead by a little more than a point. It is a gap that could easily be broken by either skater in the high scoring free skate.
No matter which skater of the two it is that claims the Olympic title come tomorrow evening, we know that she will be a figure adored by her country and skating fans for years to come.
<Dayeon Hwang North Hollywood HGM 11th Grade