Mark Kondratiuk: The Banksy fan who made Evgenia Medvedeva cry
(Top photo credit: Russian Figure Skating Federation)
After yesterday, Mark Kondratiuk can.
The 17-year-old, who has never competed at international ISU events, blew Medvedeva and the audience away at the Channel One Cup with an emotive, sensational skate.
"To be honest, I couldn't imagine such a thing," Kondratiuk told Channel One after his performance. "Two or three years ago I watched Zhenya Medvedeva's performances on TV - I could not imagine that some day I would skate and she would cry."
Until December, Kondratiuk was perhaps better known as a budding artist whose work has been exhibited at shows, before he caught the eye at the Russian national championships in Chelyabinsk.
Now, the Moscow skater is in the spotlight, and has his sights set on making his debut at the World Championships.
Kondratiuk is coached by Svetlana Sokolovskaia and Ilya Gurylev, who also train the former European silver medallist Alexander Samarin.
But surely neither Kondratiuk nor his coaches will have expected the whirlwind of what happened at the Channel One Cup.
Then in Sunday's free skate, he put together the skate of his life, later admitting that it was perhaps the best performance of his career "both in terms of the set of elements and in terms of points."
It was an extraordinary routine, a well-choreographed skate that opened with an on-point quad toe followed by a quad Salchow, double toe combination.
He followed that with an even nicer quad Salchow and a triple flip, before adding two combinations (triple Axel, Euler, triple Salchow and triple Lutz, triple toe) as well as a triple Lutz in the second half of his program.
Kondratiuk also has another quad in his repertoire, the loop, which he did not perform in Moscow.
Coaches Sokolovskaia and Gurylev hugged each other rink-side in sheer amazement at his performance, and the youngster later admitted he was having trouble processing what he had accomplished. "I have not yet fully understood [it]," he said, "but I saw that I scored more than (Mikhail) Kolyada."
The routine was worth 102.71 points in technical elements alone for a total of 196.23.
Medvedeva, standing with the rest of their team in the kiss and cry, was overwhelmed with emotion.
Until December's nationals, where Kondratiuk won bronze behind Kolyada and Makar Ignatov, the teenager was simply not on the radar.
In fact, Kondratiuk did not even qualify for nationals; he was a reserve and only invited to the championships due to an injury withdrawal.
He placed third in the short program in Chelyabinsk and second in the free skate, putting Russian figure skating watchers on notice.
But with no Junior Grand Prix or Grand Prix experience behind him – and only three minor wins at competitions in Turkey and Belarus to his name – he remained, for the most part, an unknown figure.
Until the Channel One Cup happened.
For all his on-ice exploits in the past two months, Kondratiuk is very different off-ice.
He's big into art, running his own project called Ninety Ninth, which is also the name of his Instagram account. His work has been exhibited at shows, and last summer the skater ran his own solo exhibition in the Russian capital.
Speaking to Channel One a few weeks after his nationals performance, he explained that his parents instilled the love of art in him.
"They took me to museums, classical art at first," he said. "Then I found modern art, and I started to like it more than classical art."
The Tate Modern in London is his favourite museum, and Kondratiuk cites the famously-secretive Banksy as one of his art inspirations.
"I really like Banksy, he's not really (mainstream)," he explained. "Everyone considers him to be (mainstream) due to the fact that he became a kind of street art icon."
Aside from his exhibitions, Kondratiuk's art has also been used by music artists as covers for their albums and singles.
Dreaming of Worlds
The nearly-overnight rise to fame for Kondratiuk has been a surprise.
While he has always had the jumping ability, he has rarely been consistent enough to string together routines.
His debut in the senior ranks in this season's Russian Cup domestic series was underwhelming; he placed eighth and seventh in his two outings.
Then, Chelyabinsk happened – followed by the Channel One Cup. "The performance at the Russian championships gave me added confidence," Kondratiuk said.
Now, he is a firm favourite for the Russian Cup Finals at the end of this month – and for the last World Championships qualifying spot that comes with it.
So is he hopeful of making his full ISU international debut at the Worlds in Stockholm in March?
"I'm thinking about the opportunity to qualify for the World Championships," he admitted.
"But I'll need to work hard and skate well at the (Russian Cup) Finals, and then we'll see how it will go."