Chasing Feelings


Evgenia Medvedeva in her short program performance at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics.

Victoria Liu, Editor of News & Opinion

“I’m not chasing numbers, I’m chasing feelings,” Evgenia Medvedeva said.

When I settled my eyes on Evgenia Medvedeva in her 2016 World Championships performance, I discovered the world of figure skating.

She began her performance by putting her hands on her ears as if to shy away from the crowd for a moment of solitude. Seconds later, she released her hands with a face of complete awe and excitement, as if she was born to ride with music. Then, she gracefully started, travelling back and forth in circles. Jumping with arms over her head, using slightest gestures of her finger tips, tip-toeing on the ice, and transitioning all the way through…

Watching her skate took me out of the entire competition arena, out of piles of large advertisement billboards, and out of murmurs of crowded spectators, enabling me to unconsciously enter into a dark, silent world with lights only around her, as she was dancing on the ice.

Utterly drawn, I scrambled to find myself breathe out at the last moment, when commentators wowed at Evgenia Medvedeva.

I continued to watch the “Kiss and Cry” section as Evgenia finished off her unbelievable free skate. While waiting for numbers, she put her hands on her head to create two buns while enthusiastically smiling at the camera. I was marvelling at her loveliness, when the audience and commentators cheered at a world record score: 150.10.

I delved into a rabbit hole to read her Wikipedia page, scrolling through her Twitter feed, Instagram posts, and even her own Russian website, though I barely understood anything. Before winning World Championships, she has also won the World Junior Champion and the Russian Nationals.

With infinite calculus and maga data by some scary artificial intelligence, my Youtube list quickly contained more recommendations about her, including her gold-medal performance in the 2017 Worlds. She skated to a program with clips from the movie Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close to present relief from grief. The initial tranquility of the music got abruptly interrupted by the extreme confusion on her face. With a sudden change in step sequences, she conveyed the chaos along a sound mixture of snippets of President Bush’s announcements, frenzy media reports, screams, and ambulances passing by.

All the chaos eventually ended at the last minute when she landed a magical triple-loop. As the music eventually slowed down, she looked above the skating arena with her right hand making a phone call gesture. The extreme sadness and tears in her sparkling eyes lasted seconds after the crowd started cheering.

Who can say Evgenia Medvedeva did not elevate her performance into theater?

154.04, a new world record.

What could possibly go wrong with Evgenia Medvedeva? She is undefeatable.

Until everything changes in the Team Trophy in Japan, November, 2017.

“My main victory is that I am standing here,” Evgenia said. It pained me extremely when I learned that she suffered from a broken metatarsal bone in her right foot, the foot that lands all jumps. Just as my passion for figure skating frew exponentially, Evgenia decided not to compete at the Grand Prix Final and the 2018 Russian Nationals. I lost part of the crucial joy in expectations to watch these two important skating competitions.

Somehow, it never crossed my mind before this that Evgenia is a human and is deeply fragile. It took me a long time to mentally respond to her multiple falls in the free skate. I used to think: if there is one thing I can count on in this world, it is Evgenia Medvedeva’s skate. However, I had to confront the hard truth: Just like any other figure skater, no one can continue the era of reigning, and Evgenia Medvedeva is the same.

As Evgenia recovered, I looked forward to PyeongChang, the Olympic competition she advocated to participate in and was favored to win since her world record skate in 2016 Worlds. I checked out multiple Wikihows about connecting myself to a live streaming service in my dorm and ended up registering for Sling TV as I made all the preparations (both technical and mental) to watch her.

February 21, Claremont, USA. Unbounded Days kicked off, as our group in “Women’s Activism Then and Now” started by watching Iron Jawed Angels, which directly ran into conflict with the individual free skating short program on Tuesday night. I was devastated!  I quickly downloaded the competition schedule from the Olympic official website, found out she was supposed to compete aroundroughly 13:57 pm in South Korea, calculated the time difference, and prepared to multi-task, as I learned about women’s suffragist movement while watching her skate at 7:57 pm in Claremont.

My heart was too excited and nervous to only begin watching at 7:57pm. I kept my phone on the official Olympic page which offered live updates of skater’s performance and scores. I kept glancing back and forth between the TV screen in the South Hutch lounge and my own phone screen. Checking back and forth about different figure skaters’ scores, I can feel my heart rate gradually increasing as 7:57pm got closer. I turned to my phone screen and hid my phone under my jacket, as I wholeheartedly focused on it. My heart hung in the air every time she attempted a jump.

Skating to Nocturne No.20 in the short program, Evgenia Medvedeva in NBC enhanced coverage explained how her skate was about “’the flight of the soul’ as it left someone’s body at the point of ‘clinical death.’ ” One thing that makes me love Evgenia is how she always strives to convey a story of larger significance in her skating. She joked to the media about her free skate based on Anna Karenina that “I’m skating to show that I won’t be an old maid.”

81.06, a new world record in the short program, just as my heart can finally enjoyed some inner peace…until the record was broken again by her teammate Alina five minutes later.

I was heartbroken.

February 22, 2018. Evgenia cried right after she finished her free skate as the last competitor. I painfully felt the recognition of the mixture of relief at the last moment, sadness, anger, and some temporary comfort for having endured throughout.

I felt heartbroken. Again.

February 22, 2018. Tarry Gannon, the figure skating commentator, said,“I don’t know if we just watched gold, but we watched greatness.”

The scores came out. Alina Zagitova topped Evgenia in technicality with a score of 81.62, whereas Evgenia prevailed over Alina in component scores. They ended with an even free skate score. Not enough for Evgenia to claim gold.

PyeongChang, 2018. The New York Times reported, “Medvedeva was forced to confront a sobering reality on Friday at age 18: Experience and artistry and expressiveness did not prevail over mathematics.” For many in figure skating industry, Medvedeva’s loss points larger to the debate between technicality and artistry.

“I’m not chasing numbers, I’m chasing feelings,” Medevedeva said.