Figure Skating

Brian Orser holds "no bitterness" over Evgenia Medvedeva split

"It was a great experience to coach her," Canadian trainer says after Olympic silver medallist returned to old coach Eteri Tutberidze

By ZK Goh ·

Canadian figure skating coach Brian Orser says he is "definitely not angry" and holds "no bitterness" towards Olympic silver medallist Evgenia Medvedeva for her coaching switch back to Eteri Tutberidze.

Medvedeva had informed Orser of the change on Tuesday, before the news broke publicly on Wednesday morning in Russia.

Speaking to NBC Sports, Orser said the move had been forced by the current global circumstances, with Medvedeva stuck in Moscow and unable to return to Toronto to train with Orser's group.

"She and I agree if there was no pandemic, we would not be having this discussion right now."

Virtual coaching

When the coronavirus pandemic struck, March's World Championships – set for Montreal – were cancelled at short notice. With ice rinks in Canada shut, Medvedeva travelled to Los Angeles, then to Japan where she was to take part in an off-season show (that, too, was later cancelled).

Speaking to the Olympic Channel in April, Orser said that Medvedeva was quarantining in Japan. From there, she returned to Russia to work temporarily with legendary coach Tatiana Tarasova, while Orser provided input virtually via video call.

Returning to Canada would be difficult with the current travel restrictions in place, and Orser said he could not solely continue working with her through a smartphone.

"I told her she needed to get some real coaching, daily coaching," he told NBC Sports.

Bombshell

The temporary set-up would persist even through the Russian national test skate this past weekend, where Orser coached Medvedeva before and after her routines from Toronto.

Orser said that the bombshell was dropped on Monday (14 September), when the pair spoke to review Medvedeva's performances at the test skate.

"These wheels were not in motion prior to the test skates. She got right to the point and said, 'I'm thinking of going back to Eteri' – of course I was kind of shocked."

However, Orser said he understood, given the difficulties and realities of the current situation.

"I told her, I can’t do anything for you if we can’t be together. The pandemic is bigger than both of us. Our hands are tied."

Medvedeva finalised her decision the following day.

"Great progress"

In the two seasons she worked with Orser, the pair shared a few highlights. Medvedeva won bronze at the 2019 World Championships, and put in a strong skate at last season's Rostelecom Cup where she finished second.

Orser told Olympic Channel back in April that the latter skate was "probably (…) her best skate ever. It all came together, and it was incredible, it was athletic, it was beautiful."

However, that second season ended on a rough note after Medvedeva struggled with her skating boots at the Russian Championships, before deciding to withdraw from the competition and terminate her season early.

While Orser is unsure if Medvedeva will return to Toronto once the global Covid-19 outbreak is controlled and restrictions are lifted, the Canadian coach believes the pair "made some great progress" together.

"I think I got her back on track emotionally to the point where she really loves skating and training," he reflected.

"It was a great experience to coach her."

Russia's Evgenia Medvedeva and her coach Brian Orser react after her performance at the 2019 Rostelecom Cup. (REUTERS/Evgenia Novozhenina)