Figure skating-Medvedeva shows mental strength to match sublime skill

Pritha Sarkar
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HELSINKI, April 1 (Reuters) - Evgenia Medvedeva may or may not be familiar with the Rudyard Kipling poem 'If' but her ability to keep her head when all around her were losing theirs certainly helped the Russian to a second straight world title on Friday. Drawn to go on the ice after Anna Pogorilaya in the free skate at the world figure skating championships, the 17-year-old Medvedeva stood rinkside as her team mate's routine went into a tailspin. As Pogorilaya fell - over, and over and over again - Medvedeva could easily have been distracted by the hullabaloo going on around her. Even when the routine from hell had ended, there was no end to the commotion with the crowd chanting "An-na! An-na! An-na!" as a red-faced Pogorilaya spilled a flood of tears. There is a reason, though, why Medvedeva has won 10 titles in a row stretching back to December 2015 and it became abundantly clear on Friday. "Before I compete, I am so closed in on myself that I don’t notice even if someone is talking to me," said Medvedeva, who became the first woman since Michelle Kwan in 2001 to win back-to-back world titles. "I shut out everything around me ... because on the ice I have a job to do and I need to focus. "I saw something was going on but in the next second I had already forgotten about it. I didn't even know if it was tears of joy or tears of grief as I had no idea how she had skated." Since winning her first major title at the 2016 European championships by 5.46 points, the gap between Medvedeva and the chasing pack has been widening at an alarming pace. Medvedeva won the 2016 worlds by 8.47 points and this year's Europeans by 18.32 points. While Friday's winning margin over Canadian Kaetlyn Osmond in Helsinki was 'only' 15.28 points, her points tally was a world record 233.41. With poise and artistry oozing out from every pore, rivals might be wishing they could invent new rules to somehow rein in her talent. No matter what obstacle or distraction has been placed in front of her to date, though, Medvedeva has found a way to overcome it. Hence it would have come as little surprise to her rivals when Medvedeva revealed that she eventually hopes to do something no woman has yet achieved -- land a quadruple jump. "I have not done a quad in training yet ... but the plan exists because figure skating should move forward," she said. "You should try something new. I think I will try a quad and most probably that will be a Salchow." (Editing by Nick Mulvenney)