Figure Skating is an individual sport, but at the same time, skaters usually start travelling to international competitions at a young age and make friends all over the world. Friendship is always important, but especially in challenging times like now with the COVID-19 pandemic affecting everybody’s life. Skaters are relying on their friends from all over the world to overcome these challenges together.
Jason Brown (USA), Javier Fernandez (ESP), Yuzuru Hanyu (JPN), Gabrielle Daleman (CAN), Evgenia Medvedeva (RUS)
“We are very close within our skating community,” two-time ISU World Figure Skating Champion Evgenia Medvedeva (RUS) told the ISU. “I am talking basically to everyone in the skating world. My closer friends in Figure Skating are Jason Brown (USA) and Katia (Ekaterina) Bobrova (RUS). We have all a very good relationship and when we are far away from each other we write to each other,” she noted. “For me, their friendship means an absolute equality and that one common thing unites us, one common dream. No matter which country, which nationality, we only appreciate the person you are and what you want from this life. We are all going out on to the ice, we are all fighting and that unites us.”
During the quarantine time, Evgenia and her fellow skaters from the Toronto Cricket Skating and Curling Club had online meetings. “There were a lot of people, one time there were like 10, 12 people in Zoom. It wasn't so easy, because we all talked over each other because of the time delay, but it was great and I want to say that I am really missing the Cricket Club, Brian (Orser), the friends,” the two-time ISU European Figure Skating Champion shared.
Evgenia’s friends mean a lot to her. “My friends always helped me in difficult times in my life and when I felt totally helpless and when I needed moral support and help, I was lucky with the people around me. Not only my parents that are always there for me came to help, but also true friends,” the Olympic silver medalist said.
Two-time ISU World Figure Skating Ice Dance medalist Zachary Donohue (USA), who competes with Madison Hubbell, agreed. “Especially during this time of craziness and uncertainty in the world, having friends from multiple backgrounds and mindsets is so very helpful,” he said. “Even though I consider myself someone that usually takes care of others, having my friends around to help me back up is a privilege I cherish. We call each other, take time for coffee or drinks and unload what weighs us down. Sometimes, just having someone to listen can mean so very much. I try to do this for anyone I come across that needs an ear. And will always make time for my friends.”
View this post on Instagram
So proud of this team and honored to stand side by side with these amazing athletes, people & champions. And such an amazing thing....to share the podium with my Montreal family and training mates. Love to you all and huge congratulations. I’m truly honored to share the ice with you 🙇🏻 🙏🏻 ❤️
The two-time U.S. Ice Dance Champion trains in the Ice Academy of Montréal (CAN), home of Ice Dancers from all over the world. “I am very fortunate to have many international friends. From Nik (Nikolaj Sorensen) and Laurence (Fournier Beaudry, CAN), to Olivia (Smart) and Adrian (Diaz, ESP), Gabby (Gabriella Papadakis) and Guillaume (Cizeron, FRA), Madi (Madison Chock) and Evan (Bates, USA), Michal Brezina (CZE), my Canadian roommate, Simone Vaturi (ITA), Anna (Cappellini) and Luca (Lanotte, ITA). From China to Russia, the U.K. If I were to list all my international friends, the readers would get bored and skip ahead so I’ll save them the struggle,” he added, laughing.
Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue (USA), Olivia Smart andAdrian Diaz (ESP), Shiyue Wang and Xinyu Liu (CHN), Carolane Soucisse and Shane Firus (CAN), Marie-Jade Lauriault and Romain Le Gac (FRA)
“I find my international friendships invaluable”, Donohue pointed out. “I have learned so much from the many countries and customs that come along with my friends. Just meeting so many has helped open my eyes and heart. To look at the world through not just my own experiences, but through the eyes, ideals and lifestyles of the rest of the world. It really has an effect on my day to day experiences. And I am eternally grateful for all they have taught me and am looking very much forward to what the future holds for me. All the new experiences and people I will meet along the way.”
Latvian Champion Deniss Vasiljevs and Japan’s Koshiro Shimada train together in Stéphane Lambiel’s “Skating School of Switzerland” in Champéry and have become close friends. “My biggest friend is Koshiro, he is here, that is good,” Deniss said. “I am not a big friend of distant communication. I really like to see the person, to talk to him, to see how he changes during the communication. I want to be present in the moment. I don't find much pleasure in writing (messages) and wait for hours until someone writes back,” he shared and added that he is also friends with Satoko Miyahara (JPN). “She is a person that I admire a lot. (During quarantine) she sometimes sent challenges, physical exercises that were very hard to do. I hoped that she would come to our training camp, but because of the situation unfortunately she is unable to do so,” the Latvian skater observed.
Deniss Vasiljevs (LAT) and Koshiro Shimada (JPN)
“Deniss (Vasiljevs) and I are very good friends, but there is really a kind of good distance there. We're best friends, but we are also rivals, for me it's a very good feeling”, explained Koshiro who also names Shoma Uno (JPN) and Kazuki Tomono (JPN) as very good friends. “We had a live talk on Zoom. It gave us a very fun time. During the Corona time, we talked a lot,” the 2018 ISU Junior Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final bronze medalist explained. “When I cannot skate, my motivation is I don't know … somewhere. I lost myself. Even if there was off-ice work, I still was stuck in my feeling. It was such a hard moment. But when I talked to Kazuki or Shoma or to Team Champéry, it gives me the feeling that I will be stronger when I'm through this Corona time. That is my motivation. I was talking to Kazuki and sometimes he was not motivated to skate again. It was a very hard time and we are sharing that feeling. It is much lighter, the negative feeling is gone (when you talk to each other). It is very helpful to keep the motivation to skate,” he continued.
View this post on Instagram
from ice house to your house, from Korea to Russia, from 5 years ago to now, we did it all. When I am down you always find a way to make me laugh. I’m so happy that you have been there through all the good, and ALL the bad times, and that we can literally talk about everything and anything. Traveling the world with my literal best friend has been the most surreal thing and I am so thankful for it❤️ Happy birthday to a beautiful strong woman, I am so happy that you are in my life💓Hope your day is as amazing as you are, and I’m sad that I wasn’t there today. So excited to celebrate with you so soon though 😉 Love you so so so much Pegs❤️
Swiss Champion Alexia Paganini has recently joined Team Champéry in Switzerland and feels very comfortable there. “My best friend is a girl in New York, her name is Isabelle. We talk a lot and I think here (with Team Champéry), as a family we are all kind of close. No one is different than the other, we are all kind of best friends, because we train together. I think they helped me, because if ever I'm tired or I'm having a bad day, then I have always them to see that they're training and they're happy and they're always cheering everyone up. I think we help each other, all of us friends, as we are training together to lift the mood up and keep everyone motivated,” she commented.
Alexia, too, felt the importance of her friends especially during the lockdown time. “It's very important to have someone to talk to, no matter what, because in quarantine especially it gets pretty lonely if you're not leaving your house. You need someone to call, to text, to face-time whatever. It's very important to socialize even if you can't leave your house. I talked to Emmi Peltonen (FIN) often, me and Nam Nguyen (CAN) are close friends. I also talked to Evelyn Walsh (CAN), Lukas Britschgi from the Swiss team, Brendan Kerry (AUS), Jimmy Ma (USA). I talked to a lot of skaters actually, because now it's my fourth year going to be senior. I made more friends. We all kind of check up on each other.”
Most skaters are back training now, but not all of them can meet their friends at training camps or go to their usual training bases because of travel restrictions. Medvedeva for example is currently stuck in Russia and works with her coach Brian Orser from a distance. For her and others, the best friendship stories are spending time together – and keeping friendships alive for a long time. “Just yesterday three of us met, three girls,” Evgenia recalled. “We started skating together, so we know each other since we were three years old, that is for 17 years already we have known each other. We are socializing until now and that is great. For me it is important to have friends from childhood, because I never had classmates, that was always difficult for me because of the sport and I didn't go to school like a normal kid. But, instead I have the girls from my group that I started to skate with when I was three years old.”
Zachary Donohue said he has too many favorite friendship stories to just pick one. “I have been blessed in that I am surrounded by so many amazing and fun, wonderfully talented people. I think in every story I would tell, it centers around good conversation, laughing until my sides and jaw hurts, and usually good food! Honestly I love just chilling and laughing. Sometimes just having some wine and get deep. Talk about the things we wonder about as we fall asleep. For me the best things about true friendship are Living, Learning, Laughing and Loving. Doesn’t matter the specific story, if the ingredients are there, it’s a treasure to me.”