Figure skating is very much a young person's game. So much so that a lady is considered "old" at 18, and ready for retirement at 24! In recent years, the top ladies seem to have gotten younger, and younger. There are a multitude of reasons why this might be, and a number of fans who are staunchly against it, and particularly against the seeming "factory" of young Russian ladies, some of whom blast onto the Senior circuit, win a few big crowns, and then fade away.
So on that Saturday night in the TD Garden, there were many ready to doubt Evgenia Medvedeva. The reigning Junior World Champion, she had burst onto the Senior stage at barely sixteen, winning all in her path before taking this crown also. And her big, secure jumps and mature confidence suggests she will not fade quietly, if at all.
The three Russian ladies - Evgenia, Elena Radionova and Anna Pogorilaya - adopted a curious approach leading into Boston. They flew in from Russia on the Tuesday before the event, flying into Boston late Tuesday afternoon, and had just one whole day before their event started. Many predicted that this would turn to disaster for them, but the short program results said otherwise - Anna second, Evgenia third, and Elena fifth.
Then came the free skate. Evgenia was second to skate in the final group, and the first hint that she was storing up for a special performance came as her countryman Elena's scores were announced - Evgenia covered her ears, so that if the score was big, as she knew it might be, she would not hear it, would not let that seep into her psyche.
What happened next was pure magic.
Evgenia's free skate tells the story of a deaf girl hearing for the first time, and her expressive movement conveys this beautifully. The first jump combination, a triple flip triple toe, was absolutely perfect, and with the arm over the head in the "tano" position for extra points, no less. The fabulous triple Lutz immediately afterwards set the tone for her skate.
A flying combination spin was next, with each of her positions well-extended, and led immediately into a finely-nuanced step sequence, with her movements acknowledging the music at every beat. By now, she was building an aura in the arena, and the massive triple flip (tano again) that followed was greeted with excited cheers. A few strokes later came an elegant triple loop, and now the message was loud and clear: this was going to be clean. It was going to be clean and it was going to be great.
Even as Evgenia continued towards her pretty double Axel-double toe-double toe combination (each jump with the arm overhead for added difficulty), her light, joyful expression was contagious. How was it possible to not feel joy, when she was giving it to us in spades? It was obvious that skating at such an event, under enormous pressure, was no hardship to her; or if it was she certainly wasn't showing it!
The triple Salchow-triple toe combination elicited more cheers from the crowd for its sheer ease, even so late in the program; the second double Axel followed quickly, and Evgenia's smile grew as she made her way into the choreographed sequence, complete with incredible skid spiral in an I position.
Even the two spins to finish her program did not feel like they had been forced into the choreography; they flowed with the music. Evgenia's pure delight as she finished was plain to see, opening her heart to the Boston crowd, who in turn rose as one to acknowledge the incredible performance they had just seen.
On just such a night in Vancouver, six years ago, Korean champion Yuna Kim had laid down a free skate score of 150.06. For six years that record had stood while others tumbled, but on this night in Boston, there was no question, and it was joy rather than surprise as Evgenia's score of 150.10 squeaked past Kim into the record books. It was well deserved, and the humble look of shock, mixed with delight, on Evgenia's face later when told of the record, said the story. She hadn't gone chasing it; she had just wanted to skate her best, and on this night, her best was one of the great ladies' free skates of the modern era.
You can watch Evgenia's incredible free skate here.