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Injuries and stress are the flip side to the success of Russian skaters

Russian figure skater Evgenia Medvedeva has already twice been a world champion and, by all accounts, was the main contender for the 2018 Winter Olympics gold. This was considered a few weeks before her eighteenth birthday last fall.

At the competitions held in October in Moscow, she laughed at ease. A few months earlier, she embodied on the ice the image of the anime character Sailor Moon in the costume of a Japanese schoolgirl, turning into a superheroine. Then she was the tragic heroine of Tolstoy Anna Karenina and joked: “In this program, I show that I will not be an old maid.”

She wore a toy cat like an amulet and became a prominent representative of the Russian Olympians. She passionately and successfully argued at the December meeting of the International Olympic Committee that all Russian athletes should not be prohibited from participating in the 2018 Olympic Games because of the state doping system at the 2014 games in Sochi.

Medvedeva and her 15-year-old teammate Alina Zagitova are considered the main contenders for two of the three possible medals in women’s singles at the Winter Olympics, it is they who should make Russia a favorite in the gold competition in team competitions. But Medvedev no longer seems invincible. As, however, and Russian figure skating in general.

Almost three decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russian women were suddenly at the forefront, as were tennis players in the 2000s. And functionaries in the world of figure skating realize how exactly this affects the level of performance and the health status of athletes.

On ice, Medvedeva seemed a developing athlete, an innovator in terms of technology, riding with steady perseverance. When she fell, performing a double axel at the Moscow competitions in October, first of all it was a surprise for the athlete herself. She called her fall “moral weakness.”

“I began to rejoice too soon,” she said.
Looking back, it can be assumed that this fall was associated more with an injury to the right leg, which was then defined as a fracture, and not with premature joy.

Medvedev is the third famous Russian skater, forced to interrupt her career in recent years due to trauma or illness associated with eating disorders.

Her trauma raised questions about whether Russia’s bet on young figure skaters – the best performing the difficult jumps required in the current grading system – served as the reason that some of the best athletes risk their health and career even in their teens.

Adeline Sotnikova, who received the first Russian gold medal in women’s figure skating in 2014, when she was 17 years old, missed this entire Olympic season due to injury.

Yulia Lipnitskaya, who received a gold medal in 2014 in the first team competition when she was 15, announced her retirement from sports in August 2017, admitting that she had to fight against anorexia.

“We didn’t have such a situation before,” said Alexander Lakernik, Russian vice president of the International Union of Skaters, the governing body of figure skating. “We need to understand what is happening with this generation of girls.”

In early November, Medvedev received the NHK prize, the Japanese Grand Prix. But, returning home, she said that she had to take painkillers at a performance in Moscow in October, and in Japan she competed, having received a metatarsal bone fracture on her right leg.

She took the risk of taking part in the competition if there was an injury, according to her, because: “… this is the Olympic season.”

Injuries and malnutrition are common in figure skating, and skaters from many countries suffer from them. Gracie Gold from the United States, who finished fourth in the 2014 Olympic Games in singles and received a bronze medal in team competitions, is currently not involved in figure skating, she said, due to depression, anxiety and eating disorders behavior.

The need to maintain a low weight in order to skilfully jump is a heavy pressure for skaters. “I can’t eat what I want, after six in the evening, as it was before,” Medvedev said in October. – Everything has changed in comparison with what it was two or three years ago.

The main secret is discipline. Our sport really requires constant self-control. ”
This is confirmed by the existing system of ratings in figure skating, in which a point is given for each element from jumps to spins, leg work and interpretation of music, and at the same time special preference turns out to be very difficult jumps.

Russia has incredibly expanded the capabilities of the assessment system. For example, a skater gets a ten percent bonus for every jump in the second half of his number when his legs are already tired. Zagitova makes all the jumps in the second half of her composition. Medvedev performs several jumps, raising one arm above his head to increase the level of difficulty.

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