Alina Zagitova and Evgenia Medvedeva are two rising stars of figure skating. The Russian duo are both expected to compete for the podium in PyeongChang. Medvedeva, 18, was the favorite heading into the 2018 Winter Olympics, however Zagitova, 15, scored a huge upset by winning the European Championship in January in Moscow.
The rivalry between the two is friendly. “We’ve really bonded during these competitions,” Zagitova told NBC after the team event. Medvedeva set a new world record in the short program of the team competition while Zagitova put on a stellar performance in the free skate, helping Russia win silver.
The two will meet again on the ice in PyeongChang, setting up an intriguing Russian matchup for women’s individual gold on Feb. 21 and 23.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Zagitova & Medvedeva Share the Same Coach
If their styles on the ice look similar, there’s a good reason why. Zagitova and Medvedeva share the same coach. They are also training partners. “Both athletes have been coached by Eteri Turberidze, who previously trained Yulia Lipnitskaya, guiding her to Olympic gold in 2014,” reports RT.
Zagitova “became the first skater in the world to place all her jumps in the second part of the program,” RT reports. Their coach wants the two of them to work in tandem and learn from each other. “Alina absolutely tries to copy her way to work, the amount of work and she doesn’t stop. This helps. I can sometimes show Zhenia and say, ‘Look how Alina is working,’ and I tell Alina, ‘Look how Zhenia is working,’” she said to NBC.
2. They Both Started Figure Skating When They Were Very Young
Evgenia got a head start, hitting the ice when she was just three years old. In an interview with the Russian Federation, Medvedeva could not recall her first moments on skates. “I do not remember the details of what my mother told me then, because I was three years old when I was led to the skating rink,” she said.
Alina also took to the ice early, at the age of five. “By age 13, she and her grandmother moved to an apartment in Moscow so Zagitova could train with a new coach,” NBC reports.
That hard work and sacrifice paid off in January at the European Figure Skating Championships as Zagitova upset Medvedeva, handing the two-time world champion her first loss in more than two years.
3. Zagitova & Medvedeva Both Have Parents Involved With Skating
The connection is more natural for Medvedeva, whose mother was also a Russian figure skater. Meanwhile Zagitova’s father “is the trainer of Russian ice hockey team Izhstal,” Russia Beyond reports. According to the news site, Zagitova is from Izhevsk, which is located 790 miles east of Moscow.
Despite her connection to the sport, Medvedeva’s mother is not her coach, “I believe that mom should be a mom, and a coach is a coach,” Evgenia said in a Russian-language interview, “There are people who have a mother as a coach.” She said that she thinks it’s harder when people mix the roles together because it can be distracting.
Figure skating also runs in Zagitova’s family. According to the PyeongChang Olympics website, “Her younger sister Sabina has also competed in figure skating.”
4. Zagitova Won The European Championship While Medvedeva Was Recovering From Injury
Zagitova set personal bests in the short program and free skate. She beat Medvedeva by 5.38 points. “I was nervous today,” Zagitova told NBC, according to the International Skating Union. “I did not expect to win.”
It was the first competition in two months for Medvedeva, who was still recovering from a broken foot. Despite the injury, Medvedeva fully rotated all of her jumps, however Zagitova was cleaner. “My main victory is that I am standing here [after the injury],” Medvedeva told NBC. “Silver is silver. You can’t change the value of a medal, but after a two month break it is really not a bad result.”
5. They Both Have Pets
Both skaters love animals, and it’s very evident on their social media profiles. Alina has an adorable pet chinchilla. She also likes cats. Medvedeva has a dog named Jerry. She often posts pictures of him on Instagram with the hashtag #JerryTheDog.
You can read more about Alina here and more about Evgenia’s family here.