Figure skating coach Brian Orser requests ‘patience’ with Evgenia Medvedeva

Two-time world champion missed out on Grand Prix Final after switch from Russia to Canada but her coach says change will take time.

Two-time silver Olympic medallist and world-leading figure skating coach Brian Orser has asked people to be ‘patient’ with the performances of Russia’s Evgenia Medvedeva.

The double Olympic silver medallist will face fierce competition in the Russian national championships in Saransk which start on 19 December.

A strong field including Olympic champion Alina Zagitova plus promising youngsters Alexandra Trusova and Sofia Samodurova.

“I just think with any athlete it takes a year and a half to two years for everything to start to gel,” Orser said to the Olympic Channel Podcast.

“I’m asking everybody for their patience, please. I think it will be great, really great, but there’s no quick fix.”

In a wide-ranging talk with Sochi 2014 ice dancing Olympic champion Meryl Davis, Orser also spoke about Yuzuru Hanyu’s injury and Javier Fernandez’s European Championships mission.

New Culture

Meryl Davis: When you’re working with these athletes, perhaps coming to North America for the first time, do you often find, culturally understanding the athletes is the first step to connecting with them?

Brian Orser: I think, for me, yes. Of course, we have to work with each of the athletes in their cultures. And it’s up to us, as the coaching team, to adapt to them. So, it’s not really my way or the highway. And you think about it with Javi (Fernandez) and Yuzu (Hanyu): they could not be more opposite. And now with Evgenia Medvedeva, she’s now with us and she’s come from a system in Russia and she’s thrived, she’s done pretty well, she’s been the world champion twice, an amazing junior skater.

She’s making that transition to train with us and at the same time becoming a young woman and you think of some of these athletes that come to mind when I think of women’s skating, you know, Carolina Kostner, Yuna Kim, Miki Ando and some of these amazing women that have come through and contributed to the sport in that way. Kaetlyn Osmond. You know, it’s a funny time in between.

It is and it’s a difficult transition but so rewarding when it works out so beautifully.

Well, we’re getting there and it will take some time. But I think that’s what women’s skating needs. We need to have a really great, strong (field) – and not that we don’t have (that) right now – but that’s going to be my project.

Evgenia Medvedeva at Skate Canada
Evgenia Medvedeva at Skate CanadaEvgenia Medvedeva at Skate Canada

I was reading an interview where you said the transition with Evgenia will take about two years. What’s the thought process there? Why two years? What’s the approach like with Evgenia?

I just think with any athlete it takes a year and a half to two years for everything to start to gel. It’s funny though, I’ll get a federation or somebody that will say, ‘Can you take our skater?’.

They think I just have this magic wand and everybody on the social media is like, ‘I can’t wait to see so and so. They’ve already been with Brian’s team for a month!’. I’m like, 'Are you kidding?!'. You literally have to break it down and then put all the pieces back together.

Especially skaters who have had so much success. To break old habits, I think would almost be the biggest challenge.

Yes, it is the biggest challenge. It’s not easy but if they are open to it and they buy into it then it’s amazing. But it does take a year and a half to two years and so I’m asking everybody for their patience please.

I think it will be great, really great, but there’s no quick fix.

Yuzuru Hanyu misses Javi Fernandez

I want to ask you a little bit about the training atmosphere and sort of the way that (Yuzuru Hanyu and Javi Fernandez) have been able to support each other and the roles that they’ve played in your camp and supporting each other in their growth.

As you know you have training mates, even from different countries, where you’re at a certain level and a certain standard and you create a community with your coaches and with your rivals, with the other athletes.

You just push each other and support each other, even though you are rivals. But everybody has, they have their mission, for sure. But they help each other and they’re at that level. And it’s a really great role model for the other athletes that are coming in. So, you get some young novice or juniors coming in and they kind of see that. And they also see that it’s possible that you can be top skaters working with the same coach and in the same team.

Respect, I would imagine, is a key there.

There’s a lot of respect. You know it’s funny because just like, maybe, a month ago or six weeks ago, we were doing a session and we were doing like an edge class. So Yuzu just sort of stopped in the middle of it, he was looking up and I was like, ‘What are you doing?’. In our rink we have a whole bank of flags of all the countries that have trained at our rink. And he was standing under the Spanish flag, I said, ‘Is everything ok?', and he’s like, ‘I just miss Javi’. I’m like, ‘Aw!’.

That’s so special!

So, he’s getting revved up for the new season, he’s won two Olympic gold medals and you try to think like, ‘Where’s this motivation coming from?’.

Yuzuru’s new goal

It just takes such a unique individual to win two Olympic gold medals and then think here’s this new challenge that I really want to tackle again, I mean it’s just incredible.

The one thing that he did say to sort of keep him going, I mean these are his words, that he wants to be the first person to do a quad axel. So, that’s a huge task. But if anybody can do it - it will be him. It’s on the back burner now because he’s been re-injured, and on the mend, but he likes to have these challenges. That’s what keeps him going.

And we’re certainly all lucky to have the opportunity to continue watching him tackle these challenges.

It’s fun for me to be kind of part of this circus, if you will, of the stardom. That’s his thing but it’s kind of fun. I’m on the peripheral but it’s fun to be part of that because I kind of went through that with Yuna (Kim) and somewhat with Javi but this is on a level, like a stratosphere level with Yuzu and that stardom.

More so than Yuna, would you say?

Yeah, I think so. I really do think so. I mean, I was marvelling at the Yuna Kim sensation and ‘Queen Yuna’, and now it’s with Yuzu and Pooh Bear.

Yuna Kim's mesmerising skate to 'Imagine' at Sochi 2014 | Music Mondays

Yuna Kim's mesmerising skate to 'Imagine' at Sochi 2014 | Music Mondays

Yuzuru’s injury

So, with Yuzuru Hanyu out with unfortunately an ankle injury, I believe it’s the same injury that was plaguing him ahead of the 2018 Olympic Games, how’s he doing with that? When do you see him returning to competition?

It’s the same ankle. Similar injury, but not exactly the same, but an injury’s an injury. And if anybody can bounce back from this it will be him. He has every intention of competing for the rest of the season. It’s going to be a slow process. And the thing is with Yuzu, because of his experience from last year, is that he listens to everything his medical team recommends.

Some athletes will be eager, they want to get on the ice too soon and they get hurt again. Just because of last year’s experience, he trusts these people and if it means waiting longer but to be able to be fine for the end of the season, you know, that could be an option. … I honestly don’t know a whole lot about it (the injury).

He has a great team, I’m sure.

He has a great team and I can trust that team. It’s probably best that I don’t know a whole lot about it. So when things are ok with him then we communicate about it. So I’m just always kind of there to support him and ready to go.

And I know you said one of his major goals is to be the first to land a quad axel. So that is something he wants to be (in) top-notch shape and feeling healthy to accomplish so we definitely wish him the best with that.

It’s everything. For him to do that it’s like, body, mind, the moon, the stars. Everything.

I can’t relate. I literally cannot even imagine what it’s like to be able to do something like that.

Javi and Junhwan Cha

So, you were just telling me that Javier Fernandez decided to go to Europeans, 2019 European Championships.

I know! But his motivation for that is that… he wants to have one more title. So, he wants to have seven titles and hold the record (with Evgeni Plushenko). Anyway, I’m proud of him to take on this challenge and he’s serious about it so we’ll see. Three weeks of training, we’ll see what he can do.

Well, speaking of stars in the figure skating world, you have a rising star with Junhwan Cha of South Korea. He is the first South Korean medallist at the Grand Prix Final since Yuna. So, can you talk to me a little bit about what you see in his future? Do you think that he can take it all the way?

He’s a special athlete. I’ve had him since his first year as a junior and he was little and cute as a button and very keen to come to Toronto and follow the footsteps of Yuna Kim. (His was) open to everything that we do and how we train and perhaps it’s different from what they do in Korea but they bought into it.

And now he’s grown, he’s gone from a young boy to a young man. He’s filled out (physically) but he’s also filled out in the skating. He grew a lot last year so that was kind of a little rocky, as I prepared them for that, and then he got through it and everything is coming together and I’m just so proud of him because he’s open to all kinds of ideas, working with great choreographers and being committed to that craft, that part of it. So, he is a rising star. So we’ll see. He’s becoming a big star in Korea and that’s fun and we have to manage him a little bit.

Thank you so much for your time, thank you for chatting with me, I know you’re a very busy man, and we wish you the best for the rest of 2018.

Thanks

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

Each week we find the biggest athletes and speakers athletes to talk about the Olympics.

Head here for ways to listen and subscribe.

Enjoyed this story? Share it with your friends!