Russia’s Living Legend Victor Nikiforov Retires After Fifth Consecutive Win at World Figure Skating Championships
It’s a sad day for all skating fans as Victor Nikiforov, Olympic gold medalist, has announced his retirement at the press conference held yesterday for his fifth consecutive win at Worlds. Many rumors had circulated about this season being his last but Nikiforov had neither confirmed nor denied these claims until now. He thanked everyone for their constant support and expressed his utmost gratitude to his coach, Yakov Feltsman, for… [Read more]
DRAMA ON THE ICE: COACH UNAWARE OF STAR PUPIL’S RETIREMENT?! WHAT HAPPENED NEXT WILL STUN YOU
Time for our juiciest scandal yet! We’re sure all skating fans have heard about Victor Nikiforov retiring after a well-deserved win and have been quite shocked as a result. Turns out they weren’t the only ones! Indeed, Yakov Feltsman, Victor’s coach, apparently didn’t know his student had planned on publicly retiring after claiming yet another gold medal and, as you can imagine, his reaction wreaked havoc at the press conference (video link can be [Read more]
[Picture of Victor cuddling with Makkachin]
v-nikiforov Missed spending time with this very good girl #bestdog
Athinkingskate Aaaaaaah I finally met @v-nikiforov today!!!! *fans self* He’s so handsome and nice!
LordOfTheSnails Duuuuuude, so lucky!! I bet he was, I’ve heard he’s super nice to his fans
Athinkingskate He def was!!!! He loved the Makkachin keychain I made for him and was all excited to show it to her <3
Kyo-on-ice Met him recently too. I asked him if he wasn’t too sad about not competing anymore and he told me he had really been looking forward to spending more time with his dog. Even showed me a pic of her, that was so adorable????
Athinkingskate Awwwww<33 I CAN’T WITH THAT MAN! HE’S TOO PRECIOUS FOR WORDS
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[Picture of Victor and Makkachin playing catch at a dog park]
[Pictures of Victor walking Makkachin and looking increasingly worried]
[Grainy pictures of Victor entering and leaving a vet clinic]
[Picture of Victor sitting on a bench alone]
The Strange Case of Victor Nikiforov’s Disappearance
Five-time winner of the Grand Prix series, Victor Nikiforov, seems to have recently completely vanished from the public eye. His social media accounts haven’t been updated in a while as well. The Olympic medalist retired after last skating season, which had ended with him taking gold once again. Concerned fans and reporters alike contacted his former coach, Yakov Feltsman, to ascertain his whereabouts, but Mr. Feltsman refused to comment on the situation [Read more]
Edit: Nikiforov’s PR manager has since released a public statement assuring that there was no need to worry and that he had merely decided to travel for a change of air. The statement further thanked fans for their concern and urged them on behalf of Victor to keep supporting the other athletes during the upcoming season.
Victor had decided to move to the US on a whim, really. After the death of his dear Makkachin, the mere sight of his home kept leaving a sad aftertaste in his mouth. Yakov hadn’t answered his calls in months. He hadn’t heard from Lilia, Yakov’s estranged wife, ever since she and Yakov had divorced a few years after Victor had gotten into seniors. Georgi, his former rink mate, was nice enough but they had never been particularly close. Victor suspected it was because Georgi was resentful he had spent his entire skating career in Victor’s shadow. These three people plus Makkachin had constituted the entirety of Victor’s social circle in Russia. It had, therefore, seemed pointless to stay there with only one person still willing to talk to him.
He could have gone to Switzerland where his
fellow former competitor, Christophe Giacometti, was training. They had known and supported each other ever since they were teens, engaging in a friendly rivalry that had lasted until Victor had retired. Their busy schedule hadn’t allowed them to meet as frequently as they would have liked, although they had always managed to hang out whenever they had been in the same competitions. In their younger years, they had often been up to no good and had harshly been scolded by Yakov and Josef, Chris’s coach, more than once as a result. Even so, Victor kept a fond memory of these wilder times. Unfortunately, Chris would be busy with his training regimen. Now that Victor was out of the picture, Chris would aim for a gold medal and he certainly couldn’t blame him for that. Plus, people would recognize him and he wanted a break from all the stares and cameras.
He had then reached out to Nikolai Plisetsky, an old family friend, who had moved to Ashland when Victor was 16. Nikolai’s family had purchased a building there, which he was now in charge of with his grandson Yuri, with whom Victor remembered playing back when he wasn’t a busy living legend of figure skating. Over the years, Nikolai had often invited Victor to pay them a visit whenever he had time, but he had never been able to make it. At first, Victor had thus only wanted to finally make good on his promise to visit after so long. However, upon hearing a condo was available in the building, Victor had pondered over the possibility of moving there permanently. A look at his empty and sad flat and his even sadder and emptier life now that Makkachin wasn’t there anymore had helped him come to a swift decision. He had then packed a few belongings of sentimental value, mainly pictures and some books, furniture that felt too comfortable to just leave there, and had flown to Ashland almost without looking back. Before going to the airport, he had still left Yakov a voicemail explaining where he was going in the hopes his old coach would reply to him, one way or another.
When Victor landed in the US and checked his phone, he still hadn’t gotten a reply. Pocketing the device with a sad smile, he retrieved his suitcase from the carousel and started looking for the friend of Yuri’s who was supposed to meet him to bring him to his new home. Glancing at people, he made sure the beanie he was wearing covered his trademark hair. He had also donned sunglasses in the hopes that it would suffice as a disguise. Victor had mentioned to Nikolai that he wanted to keep a low profile for a while, but maybe the person in charge of picking him up hadn’t gotten the memo and had showed up with a huge neon sign flashing Victor Nikiforov for all to see. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case, as Victor soon spied a young man with an undercut nonchalantly holding a cardboard sign that simply said Victor. Sighing in relief, he made his way to the other and smiled.
“I think you were expecting me? For the condo?”
He received a curt nod in response as the young man motioned for Victor to follow him. On their way out, he carefully tore the cardboard apart and threw it in a bin before leading Victor to a grey minivan, all in complete silence. Maybe he was mute? Loading his suitcase inside, Victor couldn’t help but ask, “Sorry, I don’t think I caught your name? I’m Victor, as you might have guessed.”
“Otabek.” He shook Victor’s hand with a rather strong grip, then, having said his piece, closed the trunk and headed toward the driver’s seat. Not mute, then. Not much of a talker, either, it seemed. Victor soon joined him in the van, secretly hoping while buckling his belt that Otabek had indeed been sent by Nikolai and wasn’t some kind of psychopath on the loose. He could already imagine a red-faced Yakov yelling at whoever would tell him Victor had been abducted and had to hold back a bitter laugh. He missed Yakov’s shouting.
Predictably, Otabek didn’t become more talkative during the ride, focusing all his attention on the road instead. Studying the young man’s stern profile, Victor wondered how he had become friends with Yuri. He remembered him as a rather delicate looking child with a bowl cut and slightly chubby cheeks, always soft spoken and well-behaved. He didn’t really get along well with other children, so Victor had been his only companion. Yuri had also been very keen on mystical creatures and, for some reason, had been convinced Victor was a faerie. It might have been because Victor had looked the part back then, with his long hair and androgynous features, especially when he was on the ice. Now that he was thinking about it, Yuri had always loved watching him skate, begging Victor to teach him how to glide and jump as well as he did. So much time had passed since then. If Victor wasn’t mistaken, Yuri would be fifteen now. From what he had gathered, he and his grandfather were as close as ever, Yuri’s parents often having been out of the picture because of their respective jobs ever since he was a child.
Lost in his thoughts, he hadn’t realized he was still staring until Otabek unexpectedly spoke.
“Yura will be happy to see you again.”
Victor smiled politely. “I hope so. It has been a long time since we saw each other, after all.”
Otabek nodded, and Victor, sensing the conversation had ended, looked out the window and started contemplating the scenery outside instead.
By the time they arrived at their destination, it was already late afternoon. As Otabek expertly parked the minivan, Victor took his first good look at the building. It was smaller than he thought it would be but not unwelcoming. A few bushes and trees lined up the front and Victor could see more trees disappearing behind it, probably delimiting a common garden. The building itself was two stories high, the front showcasing mismatched colored doors: a green one on the ground floor and a black one on the second, which was given access via a black staircase. From what Victor could see, tenants had their own private balconies. Four windows framed the door of the second floor, though Victor couldn’t see inside the flat as the blinds were drawn. The other flats were probably on the side or at the back. Getting out of the car with Otabek, all he could hear was the rustle of leaves and the distant chirp of birds. He had noticed Otabek driving out of the city and figured they would be pretty isolated, but still, this was a pleasant surprise.
Victor removed his beanie and raked a hand through his hair, the wind lightly mussing it up. He could live there, he thought, as the door on the ground floor opened on Nikolai. He was older than Victor remembered, of course, but still looked at him with the same fond look he’d given teenage Victor all those years ago. They hugged tightly.
“I’m so glad you could make it, Vitya,” said the old man in Russian.
“It has been a while. Sorry for not visiting sooner,” replied Victor “Is Yura—”
“OI VICTOR!” Victor looked behind Nikolai’s shoulder and saw an angry looking blond teen wearing a sweatshirt with a tiger along with cheetah print sneakers storming out of the building and heading in their direction. The teen (Yuri?) proceeded to jab Victor in the chest.
“Why the fuck did you retire?? What were you thinking? You’re as good as dead now, you idiot.”
He then continued to let his displeasure be known, various colorful curse words punctuating most of his sentences. Victor could only harbor an empty smile, completely speechless.
“Yurachka, language,” chided Nikolai in Russian. “Don’t speak to Vitya this way.”
Ah, so it was indeed Yuri. Sweet Yuri, who used to look at Victor with stars in his eyes and gush about how cool he was. Maybe Yakov had died and his spirit had possessed the teen to take revenge on Victor for all his lost hair.
“I’m sorry grandpa,” muttered Yuri, reverting to Russian. Then, with once last glare directed at Victor, he retreated into the building and slammed the door shut.
Nikolai shook his head and sighed. “I’m sorry, Vitya. Yurachka has still not accepted the fact that you retired. I’ll go talk to him. Come eat with us tonight, alright?” From his pocket, he fished out a set of keys that he gave Victor. Nikolai then looked at Otabek, who had retrieved Victor’s luggage from the trunk in the meantime, and asked in accented English, “Will you show Vitya his room, please?” The old man gave Victor one last hug and went back into the building, leaving him alone outside with Otabek.
Victor remembered that Nikolai had indeed mentioned at some point during their recent exchanges that Yuri had been devastated by the news of Victor retirement, but clearly even that was an understatement. Still slightly disconcerted, he removed his sunglasses with a soft sigh and let them hang from his t-shirt before nodding to Otabek, who was patiently waiting next to him, holding Victor’s suitcase. As they made their way to the side, Victor tried to stay optimistic. Sure, he hadn’t expected such a cold welcome but things would get better eventually, right? At least he probably wouldn’t have to worry about people recognizing him in this secluded place and screaming—
“Oh my God, it’s Victor Nikiforov!!!!!”
Oh. Well, at least the building was pretty.
The commotion had apparently attracted the attention of the upstairs neighbor that occupied the flat behind the black door. Looking up, Victor saw a dark-skinned young man with Asian features wearing a white crop top and black shorts excitedly pointing at him from the balcony. Lightly combing back the hair that fell over his left eye, Victor flashed his best press smile.
“Hi!” he said, waving.
His neighbor beamed and, to Victor’s surprise, crossed the railing and jumped from the balcony like some kind of cat. Victor had only time to notice that the other was barefoot, pastel pink nail polish adorning his toes, before he all but bounced to Victor, shaking his hand with both of his, and started flooding him with questions.
“It’s such an honor to meet you!!! I’m Phichit; I live in the flat up there. Are you moving in? For how long? Why did you choose to come here? We love your skating so much, we’re such big fans!!! Can we have autographs?”
Suddenly looking appalled, his neighbor—Phichit—put a hand in front of his mouth and added just as quickly, “Oh my God, I’m rambling aren’t I? You must be tired, I—”
“No, it’s okay, don’t worry about it,” interrupted Victor with another blinding smile “Thank you very much for you support. I am indeed going to live here for a little while. Nikolai is actually a good friend that I haven’t seen in the longest time.” Bringing a finger to his lip with a mischievous expression, he added, “I’d appreciate if you wouldn’t post anything online for now. I’m, ah, technically supposed to be here incognito and wouldn’t want to cause him any trouble should the press find me.”
Phichit nodded vigorously, looking even more excited than before, if such a thing was possible.
“It will be very hard not to, but I promise I won’t tell a soul! I’ll also make sure everyone here keeps their mouth shut.”
Victor gave him another smile, though he internally wondered how refraining from posting anything could be so unbearable to anyone. Next to him, Otabek was politely listening, seemingly unbothered by the interruption.
“As for the autograph, I’ll be more than happy to give you one. Just bring me anything you want me to sign next time,” Victor concluded, ready to bid Phichit goodbye.
As he opened his mouth to do just that, a small brown poodle came running from the back of the condo and rushed to Victor while barking wildly. It then proceeded to sniff and nibble at Victor’s shoes before Phichit scooped it up in his arms, tutting disapprovingly at the animal. Victor was instantly reminded of Makkachin. What were the odds that somebody here would have a brown poodle too?
“Phichit, is Vicchan with you? He ran away all of a sudden—” said a slightly out of breath voice.
Another young man, presumably the dog’s owner, had shown up from whence the poodle had come. Victor’s heart missed a beat. Like Phichit, the newcomer had Asian features but his skin was pale. Blue-rimmed glasses framed soft brown eyes. He was wearing black trousers with grass stains on the knees and a cream-colored sweater, the hem of which he was nervously fidgeting with. His black hair was wild but looked soft to the touch. As he must have been running after his dog, his cheeks were slightly red. Victor found him undeniably attractive. He’d let Yuri scream at him every day if it meant he could share a building with this gorgeous man.
“Yuuri! No worries, I have him!” shouted Phichit “Had to keep him from eating the shoes of our esteemed guest, though!”
This made Yuuri, a name as pretty as his owner, Victor thought, realize that Phichit wasn’t alone. As soon as he noticed Victor, his face became cherry red and he fidgeted even more. Victor found that reaction quite cute. He was probably a fan as well. Extending his hand towards Yuuri, Victor winked.
“Hello, Yuuri! Would like an autograph too?”
Victor always tried to keep some boundaries with his fans, despite what the press claimed, but this was the first time he ever felt such a strong pull towards someone. He’d even sign Yuuri’s chest if he asked him to. However, Yuuri’s reaction was rather unexpected, as he squeaked, turned on his heels, and ran away. Literally ran away, as if Victor was the most repulsive thing he had ever encountered.
“…wow.” Was all Victor managed to say, lowering his hand. Had he been mistaken about Yuuri being a fan? He knew his confusion was showing on his face but he was too stunned to even try to hide it. Phichit laughed nervously.
“Haha, don’t take it personally. Yuuri is very anxious and needs some time to warm up to new people. He’s a very big fan, though, I swear!” He paused. Silence fell between the three of them, only broken by the rustling of leaves and Vicchan’s panting. Phichit cleared his throat awkwardly.
“Anyway, I should get going and get Vicchan home. Yuuri usually gives him a light snack after his walk.”
“Of course, don’t let me keep you,” said Victor pleasantly, restraining himself from asking if Yuuri and Phichit were living together. He did want to know more about the elusive man but not to the point of sounding desperate.
“See you around!” said Phichit with a wave while Vicchan boofed.
Otabek guided Victor to the back of the building. As he had suspected earlier, it was surrounded by a garden, and a massive one at that. Actually, it looked more like a small park than a garden. There were trees and bushes everywhere, so he had a hard time figuring out where it ended.
Once again, the doors of the flats were different colors. The one Otabek indicated as Victor’s was purple and situated on the second floor. Right below was a pink door with a sign that read Pink Palace hanging from a nail. Victor supposed it was a rather fitting name.
Otabek helped Victor carrying his suitcase in front of his door and, before leaving, told him,“All your stuff is here already.” A pause. As if feeling sorry for Victor, he added, “If you need help, knock on the brown door on the side—that’s where I live. I can also show you around one of these days, if you’d like.”
Victor noted it was his longest sentence yet. He thanked Otabek for his kind offer with another press smile and received a thumbs-up in answer.
Left to his own devices, Victor started exploring his new home. He had a fully equipped kitchen through which he had access to a private balcony. From there, he could see the garden, the autumnal colors of the late September trees making for a stunning view. Next was the living room with its faded lavender carpet. There also was a fireplace, but unfortunately, it had been sealed shut. All of Victor’s boxes had been scattered across the room and he figured he’d start unpacking after a good night’s sleep. Then was the bedroom, the only thing inside for now being a desk facing the windows. Victor would have to ask Nikolai if he had a cot or something that he could borrow to sleep on tonight. The wooden floor creaked when Victor walked across the room. Next to his bedroom was a spare bedroom with maroon walls, not that Victor would have any guests that’d spend the night. It didn’t have windows and the lights flickered when he turned them on, giving the empty room a rather creepy vibe. He wouldn’t be sleeping there for sure. Finally, a bathroom with blue tiles completed his flat and he was quite pleased to notice a rather large golden tub to soak in. His abused joints would certainly be grateful.
Victor went back to the living room, removed his shoes and coat, and sat on the carpet. He then sighed heavily. Today had been a very long day. He couldn’t help but think back to what Yuri had said. Unknowingly, he had almost sounded like Yakov. His old coach had screamed so much when Victor had announced his retirement at the press conference. He had said Victor was stupid. Ungrateful. Selfish. But Victor didn’t see it that way. He had given up everything for skating. His life and love, his body, his soul. For years, he had thought sacrificing everything to the ice was worth it. He felt so free when he skated, it felt right. Like he was born to stand there.
Over the years, that feeling had changed. The more medals he won, the more they felt like shackles around his neck. He was constantly pressured to surprise people even more and he progressively stopped skating for himself. His love for skating grew dimmer as a result. He also began to realize that people didn’t see the real him, but rather the façade he had constructed. The few that did preferred the Living Legend who flirtily winked at them over Victor himself, who liked reading books and trying to cook new dishes with cute pins in his hair. Then, there had been Makkachin. He could never see her much and she hadn’t been getting any younger. Ultimately, he had just wanted to spend time with her before it was too late—that had been his true motive for retiring.
Even though Victor had tried to explain all of this to Yakov before announcing his decision, his former coach had always waved him off as if Victor was a whiny child. He had hoped Yakov would have understood his choice. As Yakov still must have felt stabbed in the back, Victor had accepted his harsh words, thinking he simply needed time to digest the news. But it had been months now, and Yakov still kept ignoring him. In a way, he supposed Yakov had been right. He had been selfish. For the first time in years, he had wanted to think of himself for once, but it had been too late already. Skating had truly taken everything. And now, here he was, in an unfamiliar place, his life empty and in disarray. His dog and only friend was gone, and Victor had never felt more alone.
He didn’t know what to do anymore.
Hugging his knees and hiding his face in his arms, he didn’t notice the inconspicuous little door that blended in almost perfectly with the wall.