Evgenia Medvedeva exclusive Q&A: On her life now, facing Olympic pressure and much more

In a wide-ranging one-on-one interview, the PyeongChang 2018 silver medallist discussed how she’s matured over the last four years – but is still striving to be better.

By Nick McCarvel & Ekaterina Kuznetsova
Picture by 2018 Getty Images

Nearly four years from her silver medal performance at PyeongChang 2018 and some two years since she last competed internationally in figure skating, Evgenia Medvedeva has good news for her legions of fans around the world: She’s content.

“I feel like I'm flying through my life and trying so many new things,” she told Olympics.com in an exclusive interview at the Rostelecom Cup in Sochi last week (27 November).

She added: “When I competed, I was afraid for this situation, like no competitions, no practices. I thought I will feel like I'm lost. But now I feel like I'm so interested in my life. It feels amazing, actually. And I'm so happy to be here.”

“Here” for the weekend was commentary for the Russian station Channel One, Medvedeva moving as seamlessly into the TV booth as she did on the ice itself. But the two-time world champion and one of the sport’s most beloved personalities of the last decade isn’t sitting still otherwise: She’s skating in shows, doing photoshoots and sponsor appearances and competing in the popular on-ice competition show Ice Age – all while keeping an eye on the next generation of Russian women who are changing the sport this Olympic quad.

“Well, the Russian figure skating is the highest level we've ever seen in history, and all girls are doing really crazy things [on ice],” Medvedeva said, calling out by name new world-record holder Kamila Valieva, as well as reigning world champ Anna Shcherbakova. “[When] I was competing at the World Championships... it was enough just to [do] triple-triple combos and just to do your program clean.

“[The Russian women] are doing amazing things [technically], which I didn't even imagine in my head and in such a short time[frame]. The Russian figure skating did a huge jump in the history, and I'm so proud that we're living at the same time with them because they are really doing the gold history of figure skating.”

Medvedeva, who turned 22 on 19 November, is enjoying where she is in her life: She’s reading more, going to school, has dreams of being a producer – for ice shows, TV or both – and is keeping one metaphorical blade firmly planted on the ice, though she’s confident she won’t go to another Olympic Games.

“I'm not planning to compete in the Olympics again, and I [knew that] in” 2018, she said. “This is one more thing which makes Olympics so special: That you are going there and you know that this is the only chance in your life [to go]. You have to use like 100 percent, and it's this situation like you staying on a thin rope. Will you do it or not?

"And it will decide your future, your future life.”

Lessons of a silver medal: ‘It’s not about’ being perfect

While Medvedeva was the two-time and reigning world champion heading into the Winter Olympics in 2018, she was clipped by the 15-year-old force that was training mate and compatriot Alina Zagitova, whose senior debut season was timed just right to surge to gold in PyeongChang. 

It’s a second place finish that Medvedeva has learned from each day in the nearly four years since. 

“For four years I always feel like something [is] not enough, not good enough, and it's pushing me forward,” she shared. “At first it annoyed me; it doesn't make me happy. But now [I feel] transformed by it somehow. I will still have the same feeling until the end of my life, because Ilia [Averbukh, Medvedeva’s former choreographer] is a silver medallist and Brian Orser [Medvedeva’s former coach] is a double silver medallist, too. And they told me, ‘You will always think about, that something is not enough.’ And yeah, I think it will push me forward. And I’ve just made this feeling my best friend.”

Medvedeva has invested in those around her, saying she believes in the power of having strong people by her side, namely her family, friends and support system.

“Everybody in this life has to believe in themselves, [but] we’re not always in the power to do this,” she said. “So we have to have people around us who will believe in us even more than we are believing in ourselves. Sometimes you are in situations [where], I mean, really hands down, you don't know what to do. You just have to have at least one person who will sit in front of you and say, 'Look, you're loved; you're great. Yeah, it's hard time, but we will go through this and you will be amazing.’ So that's it.”

Medvedeva spoke in a wide-ranging interview about a variety of topics, including her work as a commentator, skating on Ice Age, her relationship with Toronto training partner Jason Brown, her want to be a producer, the pressure of the Olympic Games, where she thinks skating is going next – and much more.

Read the full Q&A below.

Evgenia Medvedeva: The full Q&A

Olympics.com: You just turned 22. How different does life feel now to you?
Evgenia Medvedeva:
It's so different compared to my life two years ago, and it's actually really interesting because so many things [are] happening in my life now. [We’re here at Rostelecom Cup], but I'm playing another role and I'm commentating and I'm sitting here with you. It's so interesting and so it's so different, but it's amazing.

Olympics: You have been skating on the popular Russian TV show, Ice Age, competing with popular TikTok influencer, Danya Milokhin. What has that experience been like?
Medvedeva:
There is the professional figure skating figure skater, which I mean, is me and [we’re paired] with one of our celebrities. I'm skating with a young guy who is a singer and popular on TikTok. We’re doing great. I think it's so interesting for me because it's something new again because I'm a singles skater. And I'm skating in a pair with unprofessional guy, which is making me so excited for our practices and competitions. Because it’s a TV project, but it’s still a competition.

Olympics: You mention competing – do you miss competitions?
Medvedeva:
Well, I should say that I like that adrenaline that you feel in your blood when you’re taking the ice for a World Championship. But I have to say that it's been two years since my last competition, and I don't feel that I really need it. Maybe in a few years, yeah, I will feel it. But now, I have so many activities that I don't even have time for sleep, which is amazing. I really love it. Yeah, I'm tired. Yeah, sometimes I don't want to see anybody, you know, I just want to close up in my room and maybe cry because I'm so tired. But I love it. I love it. I love to feel that people like to see me. And this is amazing feeling, so I cannot say that I need this adrenaline because I'm still on a TV project that is still a competition, and I'm really nervous. And not only for me, but for my partner too. So, yes, so, so many things happen. So I just enjoying it.

Olympics: Is there anyone you want to mention from skating that you keep in touch with even though you are not seeing them regularly?

Medvedeva: But of course, Jason Brown, because I mean, he is a really important person in my skating career, because he helped me mentally when I was like, let's be honest broke - and broke, I mean, in my [technique] and my mentality - everything.

Producing, Cardi B and the Olympics

Olympics: You are back in school? Do you have a career in mind for what you would like to do?
Medvedeva:
I would like to be a producer. For what? We'll see. But it's so interesting for me, for my future, and I think I will need [more education].

I still didn't decide about my future career, but I think that ice shows, I would like to do that myself. Like to create it, maybe in the future. And that's why producer, I think it's so interesting. To work with the people, to make something new which will entertain people, and I can put my art inside the show.

Olympics: Do you feel like that want to be a producer is lining up with the work ethic that you have learned in the past and are seeing in yourself now, post-skating?
Medvedeva:
Yeah, I think so. I think so. I think it's just my type of job to make different events which will entertain people and which I can put my art in it. And I just have so many ideas in my head for the [TV] programs and for shows. But I don't think that I would like to be a choreographer for the figure skaters, and I don't think that I would like to be a coach. So, yeah, we'll see. I decided to go to university and [study] to be a producer.

But maybe in five years, I’ll be a totally different person, which will, I don't know, do paintings or something. I just to want have fun in my life.

Olympics: Say it’s a holiday dinner and you get to invite three people to dine with. Who do you choose?
Medvedeva:
Well, I think the first will be Cardi B, because... I don't know. I think she will entertain everyone in this world and I like her humour. It’s a crazy idea. Just for fun. Why not?

So second is, oh my best friend. And third? For now it is my granny. [Laughs.]

Yeah, it's a strange collab, but... [Shrugs.]

Olympics.com: Let’s talk about the Olympics. What makes the event so unique versus the other competitions that skaters go to?
Medvedeva:
Olympic Games is [such a] different competition compared to Europeans, World Championships, Grand Prix or anything. And at the Olympic Games, anything can happen. I mean, it's so different.

And the mental position for athletes, it’s different for everyone. I know we all saying that everybody is in the same situation, but I don't think [that’s true] because everybody's having different [approaches] and different mindsets and we don't know what will happen. And we hope that everybody will prepare and compete in the Olympics without injuries and... and the mental injuries, too.

I don't want to answer the question of who will be first, second, third podium or not. The podium or who will fall, who will fail because I think... everybody's working so hard and we just have to appreciate the opportunity to all to follow the history.

Russia's female forces - and how the technical bar is raised

Olympics: Can you set the scene for us a little bit when it comes to how competitive the ROC women are going to be for Beijing 2022?
Medvedeva:
Okay, so here's the Russian girls... Kamila [Valieva] and Liza [Tuktamysheva] and Alexandra [Trusova] and Anna [Shcherbakova]. We're wishing great health to Daria [Usacheva]; she was injured at the last competition [NHK Trophy]. And as I know, it's a really serious injury, and we're just wishing the fastest recovery.

From the other countries, too, Rika Kihira [Japan], who is doing quads and the triple Axel. She’s so strong technically, and I really like her programs. I like her step sequences and spins and everything. I think her skating is so on a good level.

[There are] so many talented girls and so many, so many hard workers. But as a Russian, my preference will be the Russian girls, for sure. So [I] will cheer [for] them.

And I think that is because I saw how they were growing up. I remember Sasha [Trusova] and Anna since they were six years old? And they were learning doubles and now they're doing quads, and this is amazing to see. And they still, in my eyes, are little girls, which, as I remember [them] that had just with the triples and doubles and triple-triples. And now they're doing amazing. And then they do quads, and they’re winning European and World Championships. And it's like, 'Wow! The kids are growing up!' [Laughs.]

Olympics: The technical bar has been raised so high – and so fast. Where does the sport go next, for both the men and the women?
Medvedeva:
I guess, you know, let's take a look at Yuma Kagiyama who is like spinning and he's over-rotating his quads. And I think that in the [near] future, we will see the quintuple [jump] and the quad Axel.

I cannot tell you how it can be improved because, well, let's take a look at Nathan Chen: How can he be improved? Quintuples. OK yeah, he can be improved. [Laughs.]

When I was 11 years old, I competed at Russian nationals and I was, I think, the only one who did two triple-triples in my long program. And everybody was like, ‘Oh, no, no way. She did it!’ And I was like, ‘Why are they reacting like this? It's just the triple-triple.’ But back then it was like something crazy. And even when I competed for the first season of senior level, my triple-triples, [the reaction was like], ‘Wow! And in the second part of the program?! Wow!’ And now girls who do quads in the second part of the program and everybody is like, ‘Oh, she stepped out of the landing. She's weak.’

I'm the person who tried to learn quad. And it's so hard! I have to say to tell you. I think that we have to treasure it because, well, we hope that through the years we will see more and more for sure. But first of all, the health is the most important.

Medvedeva on: Mental health and Hanyu Yuzuru

Olympics: You mention health, but what does mental health mean to you now? And when you think back to your career when you were competing – how do you compare how you thought about it then?
Medvedeva
: Well, now I feel like I'm healthy because I have good relationships with my parents, have a good relationship with my coach, all of them, and I have a good relationship with the food, which is a big deal. And I mean, with my job, and even if something happens, something bad happens, let's be honest, in my life, I can manage it mentally.

[Now] if something happens, I'm not trying to hide it inside of myself. I'm letting myself to be emotional. I'm letting myself to share it with my friends or with the people around me... that I feel bad and I need help. And it's a really big deal, too, because we really need help when we feel bad and we have to let ourselves do this. Life is so [much] easier when you feel that you are supported and that you're not alone. So, yeah, now I feel like I'm healthy mentally.

It takes time. It takes time to understand it and to get used to share with the people.

Olympics: What makes two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu so special? You spent some time training with him in Toronto.
Medvedeva:
I think it's his ability to put his anger at the right time and the right place [on the ice]. So I think when he's angry, he's doing something in his head to put it in his jumps. And yeah, he's angry and he's going to do this. And not like, ‘Oh I'm sad, I'm angry, I'm going to sit here.’ No, no, he's not doing it [this way].

Not everybody can do this.

Olympics: If you could describe him in one word, what would it be?
Medvedeva:
He is a king. I don't think that I'm the only one who thinks that.

'I'm always trying to be better'

Olympics: If we can go back to the Olympics, when you reflect on it, what makes it so special in your opinion? You talked about it being different, but...
Medvedeva:
First of all, this competition is a once in four years. That's why it's unique, and not everybody can stay in the sport for so long, so they compete at the one Olympics [usually].

It's actually mentally so tough, especially when you go in there and you are one of the favourites of this competition, like when you go in there, everybody thinks, ‘She's going to win.’ And you're just like, ‘Oh my God!’ You have to have the power and the right people around you to just to avoid the pressure and just go your own way. And it's really hard to do. So that's why the Olympics is so hard and why it is really special.

Olympics: Who are the people you felt like really stood by you in that time? In your career and those pressure moments?
Medvedeva:
I will be so original if I will say family; mom, granny. I was raised by them and, of course, a coach who did everything just to make me the great skater.

Olympics: You mentioned earlier about pushing yourself to always try and do more – this feeling you have. Does that make you a perfectionist?
Medvedeva:
I don't think that ‘perfectionist’ is a good word because perfectionists are always annoyed by everything that they're doing. But now I'm happy with everything that I'm doing. And yeah, maybe it's not perfect, but I'm always trying to be better. Better, better and better... in all ways and in everything that I'm doing in my life. And it's not about to be perfect. It's about to be better.

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