A seemingly innocent interview Velikova gave to the Russian outlet Sport-Express caused quite a stir when her words were taken out of context.
The renowned coach was talking about a newly introduced format for qualifying for the national championships – an obligatory selection where spots on the Russian team will be at stake.
According to the new regulations, all skaters will need to take part in at least two stages of the Cup of Russia to be allowed to compete in the nationals. The Russian Cup will consist of five stages, which will be held in Syzran, Moscow (two stages), Kazan and Sochi.
The ruling stipulated by the national federation has left many questions unanswered, including the participation of athletes who train abroad, as Medvedeva has done.
Some of the Russian pundits, including world champion Maria Butyrskaya, said that Medvedeva should be given the privilege of skipping the Russian Cup selection and be allowed to directly qualify for the national championships, given that she lives and trains in Canada.
That was the issue being discussed by Velikova when she suggested that Medvedeva should be treated equally with other skaters and without any indulgence.
“She should decide for herself which country she represents: Russia or some other state?” Velikova said, apparently referring to the fact the skater lives abroad. “She’ll need to make a choice. No exceptions should be made for her. Honestly, I don’t think the national federation is interested in supporting her anymore, because there are so many other talented girls,” she added.
Her words made a stir on social media, with Medvedeva’s fans launching a vocal campaign in support of their idol. An avalanche of messages under the hashtag #ISupportZhenyaMedvedeva flooded Twitter, with fans condemning Velikova for her seemingly critical comments.
“The fierceness and passion she shows just explains how much she loves the sport … and how she won’t sit back and let everyone tell her what to do! Raising her fists before the Stsq [steps sequence] in Worlds 2019 really made me cry… so powerful!” one person wrote.
“Mind your own business!” another comment read.
“The things this young woman has done for her country, and such an awful behavior she receives for her efforts. She held all of you on her back for over TWO years at the very top,” one more fan added.
“She’s such an inspiration! Her achievements as an athlete and as a person are phenomenal. She went through hell and came out of there stronger than ever! Medvedeva skates with so much power and yet so much grace. I will always admire and love you, Zhenya!” a fan wrote.
Medvedeva is currently training in Moscow, but is expected to return to Canada as soon as international flights resume. It remains unknown how she’ll be able to combine her Grand Prix performance with the Russian Cup events, which are sometimes held practically simultaneously.