Russia’s Evgenia Medvedeva left it all out on the ice at the World Figure Skating Championships on Friday in Helsinki. She won gold with a world record score of 233.41 points and became the first woman since American Michelle Kwan to earn back-to-back titles. Medvedeva also made history as the first person to win the title by skating to a soundtrack that included audio clips from Sept. 11.
Medvedeva, 17, has been skating to music from the film “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” which follows a young boy who lost his father in the 9/11 attacks, all season long. While the music begins melodically, it’s interrupted in the middle with audio clips of newscasts from that day, as well as the voice of former president George W. Bush announcing that two planes had leveled the World Trade Center towers.
According to those close to Medvedova’s team, however, the program isn’t really about 9/11, but about generally dealing with tragedy.
“It is not dedicated to the September 11 attacks — this is the wrong interpretation,” former ice dancer Ilia Averbukh told Russian tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda.
A close friend of the routine’s choreographer, Daniil Gleykhengauz, Averbukh said the program isn’t based on a particular event at all, but “about how it is important to appreciate the time we have, and how important it is to believe that a phone call one might receive one day about a the fate of a loved one will be good news.”
This is not the first piece of controversial choreography involving Averbukh. He has had a hand in two routines that made headlines, most recently last year, when he put together a program for a Russian figure skating reality series (think “Dancing with the Stars” on ice) that saw two people skating in bedazzled concentration camp uniforms.
Averbukh also choreographed the program set to music from the movie “Schindler’s List” skated by Russia’s Yulia Lipnitskaya at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi.
“This is the main task of a choreographer — to find those few hooks that will the viewer will remember,” he said. The execution, meanwhile, is up to the performer, he added.
Medvedeva nailed the execution on Friday, sending the audience to its feet. But not everyone was cheering for the routine, including American Ashley Wagner.
“The only thing that I know about is her long program music is not my favorite piece of music,” Wagner told NBC Sports ahead of the event. Wagner, who skated to “Exogenesis: Symphony Part 3″ by the rock band Muse, came in seventh place.
Canadians Kaetlyn Osmond and Gabrielle Daleman won the silver and bronze, respectively, with programs set to a Puccini opera and George Gershwin.