Ice Network

Russian Solyanka: Medvedeva appears in top form

Orser says Hanyu will be "fine"; Kostner skating with grace in practice
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After missing the Grand Prix Final and the Russian championships due to injury, Evgenia Medvedeva appears healthy once again. -Getty Images

Solyanka, as you may know, is a spicy and sour Russian soup. It usually includes pickled cucumber, which adds the spice element. Sour cream is also an important ingredient, though adding too much will give the dish an overly heavy texture. Some solyankas are made with meat, while others include fish or mushrooms. The one we propose to you each day throughout the 2018 European Figure Skating Championships in Moscow will be made with the efforts and dreams of the brightest skaters of the continent, so it should be both tasty and spicy. We hope you enjoy!

Stay tuned to Moscow!

These European championships begin just 3 1/2 weeks prior to the opening of the Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea.

"These championships are taking place just at the threshold of the Olympic Games. For many of the contestants, they will be the ultimate stop before the most important event in the life of every athlete. We should witness an extremely high level of competitiveness in all four events," declared Alexander Gorshkov, president of the Russian skating federation and the 1976 Olympic ice dance champion.

This event should be even more exciting, as most pre-Olympic Europeans have been. At this point of the season, most skaters are reaching their peak, trying to impress their competitors and judges at the same time. Stay tuned!

Top-secret Yuzuru Hanyu

"I'm not allowed to say anything about Yuzu!" coach Brian Orser said in Moscow, where he is supervising Spain's Javier Fernández. "Those are my instructions, and I will comply with them."

Then he nodded his head, adding with a big smile, "Everything will be fine."

Russian or Italian ballet?

Is it because the European championships are being held in Moscow or because the Olympic Games are fast approaching that the theme his week appears to be "keeping secrets"? And not just concerning Yuzuru!

Standing alongside Italy's Carolina Kostner this week is Michael Huth, who coached her from childhood to skating glory. Alexei Mishin, who coached the Italian icon for the past two seasons, was not seen rink side. Does this mean Huth will be the one going to PyeongChang with Kostner?

"We'll see!" Huth answered enigmatically. "For now, one thing is sure: I'm here!"

Emotion in practice

There are no stands in the practice rink, and general audience members aren't allowed inside. Instead, there were only the competitors' teams, as well as a few journalists and judges, as Kostner rehearsed her short program Wednesday afternoon.

Kostner elected to skate to "Ne me quitte pas" this season, or "Please don't leave me," a song created by Belgian singer Jacques Brel. Kostner selected the version sung by Canadian Céline Dion (also in French), to have the lyrics match the situation of a lady praying for her beloved to stay.

Skating with her eyes half closed, Kostner was like a music virtuoso finding her own inspiration beyond the musical notes she was creating. And emotion was surely palpable in the rink throughout her practice session, which remained completely silent throughout. Even those who have seen so much skating through the ages -- including coaches, journalists and judges -- are still able to be moved by a program.

She's back!

Two-time defending world champion Evgenia Medvedeva left her fans wondering what the future held when she was forced to withdraw from both the Grand Prix Final and Russian Figure Skating Championships due to a stress fracture in her foot.

Despite the injury concerns, Medvedeva is back in Moscow, and her practice sessions put any fears of her still being injured to rest.

When the time came for her music to be played, she did a full run-through of her free program, only this time the Russian added a triple toe to each of her triple jumps: one after the opening triple lutz, one after the triple flip, another after her triple loop and a final jump following the last triple salchow. At least she is ready for any mishap that might happen during her program.

After her program was over, she embarked on a real demonstration of her mastery, landing a triple toe-triple toe-triple toe combination, followed by a triple lutz-triple salchow, triple loop-triple loop, triple lutz-triple toe-triple toe, triple lutz-triple salchow-triple toe and a final triple flip (with both arms extended over her head)-triple toe-triple toe. To no one's surprise, each jump seemed so incredibly natural and easy!

Logistics will (surely) follow

What happens if you are a French skater training in the U.S. and preparing for the Olympics, which happen to take place in Asia less than three weeks later? Vanessa James, who will be vying for a medal in the pairs category with Morgan Ciprès, has her plan all set.

"We will go back to Florida right after this event, even though it's for less than three weeks," she said. "It would just be too tough on our minds otherwise. We could have stayed in Paris to train, just to reduce the impact of jetlag, but the practice time was not adequate. An alternative was to go to Vaujany (a winter resort in the Alps), but there we would have lived in a hotel, out of a suitcase again, with everything to do by ourselves. That would have been too tough, so we decided to go back to our usual training base.

"But please think of those who go to the Four Continents, with just two weeks to go," she offered with her gracious yet sympathetic smile.