Brian Orser on Medvedeva, Yuzuru Hanyu, and figure skating friendship

Olympic champion Meryl Davis sat down with the legendary coach for the Olympic Channel Podcast.

It’s vacation time for figure skating coach Brian Orser.

The two-time Olympic silver medallist saw his skaters have a dramatic end to the season at the 2019 ISU World Championships.

Russia’s Evgenia Medvedeva fiercely fought her way to a third-place finish, an injury-stricken Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan finished the men's event in second place, and Jason Brown of USA claimed a small silver medal too.

He had committed to being coached by Orser at the ‘Cricket Club’ in Toronto around the same time as Medvedeva, who left her Russian coaching team behind to start a new life in Canada.

The Olympic Channel Podcast sent Olympic champion Meryl Davis to talk to Orser about Hanyu, the friendship between Brown and Medvedeva, and plans for next season.

Meryl Davis with Brian Orser

Orser on Brown and Medvedeva

Meryl Davis / Olympic Channel Podcast: Let’s talk about Jason Brown and Evgenia Medvedeva. It’s your first season with them as their coach and it's a big change. Are you pleased with their performances at the World Championships?

Brian Orser: We had some ups and downs on the way here. We learnt from each one of them. It's always difficult for an athlete [because] it's a pretty drastic change for both of them and you have to take a few hits along the way. You have to get comfortable with each other and continue to develop. They did that and they we were really proud of them. I always feel with new athletes that it's about 18 months of development and getting used to each other and for things to gel... I am excited for the next eight months and for things to really take hold.

I think both of them will flourish - Brian Orser on Medvedeva and Brown

MD: It feels like Evgenia and Jason have a real camaraderie between the two of them. What is their relationship like?

BO: They work hard and they do have a very special chemistry. And, because they are both new, they are in uncharted territory… But they have each other [which is] special. And [even though] they are from different backgrounds - they seem to jive really well [together].

Evgenia Medvedeva training at ISU World Championships

Orser on building relationships

MD: What specifically, from each of them, are you hoping to focus on in the months to come?

BO: They both have some pretty good skills in skating so we are always developing that. Jason is going to be a little bit more technically based. I have to strip down and rebuild it. Not that it was wrong before. But we need to do something new and different for him. And for Evgenia - I think we are over the biggest hurdle for her, which is competing under our style. I know that she is a very fierce competitor but she did have a few events this year that didn't go so well and she wasn't used to that because she was this kind of machine. I always think a really good coach and a great athlete situation - the coach becomes less relevant because they take control and they take ownership of their destiny.

She is a very fierce competitor - Orser on Medvedeva

MD: Can you talk a little bit about finding that right relationship between a coach and an athlete?

BO: It's automatic. For instance, with Javier Fernandez it was automatic and it was instant. He came to us and he was a lost little puppy dog. And with a lot of talent but had no direction. So, Tracy [Wilson] and I got him set up with a place to live. We figured out his schedule and how to let him have his PlayStation time. I've had instances where it just didn't jive and for instance with Elizabet Tursynbaeva - who just came second here at the worlds - and I am really happy for her. A year ago, we had that conversation where I said - I think that it's probably best if you stay in Russia. And [it was not] because she was misbehaving or not working hard but just something wasn’t working. So, she found her place.

Orser on Yuzuru Hanyu

MD: Let's talk a little bit about Yuzuru Hanyu. He is of course a legend and icon in the sport - two-time Olympic champion. The world championships [in March 2019] didn't necessarily turn out how he wanted but it was still an incredible show.

BO: It was a carbon copy of last year and injury to the same foot with maybe a little bit more time off last year. I guess learning from last year - he knew exactly the path to take to recover. And, also, to know when it was safe to turn up the heat and go full steam ahead. It's not the easiest way to get where you want to be but he was pretty much got there. It was really, I guess, his first time competing in Japan since he had won the Olympics for a second time. So, coming here, it was just overwhelming. I braced myself when we were flying over knowing that we would get to the airport and there would be a big media blitz and the fans. He would walk up those stairs for a practice and the practice is sold out. You can hear the other people skating but all you could hear this was crowd screaming.

MD: How do you guys in your team, how do you deal with that? How do you maintain on keeping the focus?

BO: We are pretty prepared for it. And he is very prepared for it. He has a great team around him. Separate from us, his coaching team, who will manage the media, the fans, meals and those things that are really necessary. Also, just for safety. But, I have to say as one of his coaches, it's kind of a fun ride actually. I think that he is such a great ambassador for the sport and figure skating is alive because of what is going on in Japan with figure skating.

Yuzuru Hanyu takes the acclaim of the Saitama crowd after his free skate at the World Championships
Yuzuru Hanyu stands in the 'Kiss and Cry' after his free skate in Saitama with Brian Orser (R) and Ghislain Briand (L)
Winnie the Pooh soft toys on the ice after Yuzuru Hanyu's free skate

Orser on a new rivalry for Hanyu?

MD: So, Yuzuru Hanyu and world champion Nathan Chen have a rivalry that is still relatively fresh. Talk a little about how they are inspiring each other motivating each other and where you see that going in the future.

BO: Yuzu is always motivated by challenge. It's really quite remarkable for someone who has already won two Olympic gold medals and two world titles. He never wants to plateau. He finds different ways to push it. With Nathan and Yuzuru - they are getting better because of each other. Now, how long this will go on? I have no idea. And it’s a question for Yuzu because I honestly don’t know the answer to that. Next year - he has hinted a little bit about that. But he will make that announcement and whether he goes on to the Olympics in Beijing - I don't know. Do I think he can physically maintain this? Yes. Because he loves it. He loves skating. He loves performing. he loves competing. What we saw here in Tokyo with the fans, it just creates magic. It's good for the sport. I guess we will have to wait and see.

Brian Orser was this week’s guests on the Olympic Channel Podcast.

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