Reigning Olympic and World champion Alina Zagitova has decided to take a break from competing for the remainder of the season. The 17-year-old made the announcement during an interview with Russia’s Channel 1 network on Friday evening (Moscow time).
“I am not going anywhere, but I am not taking part in the Russian national championships,” Zagitova said, adding that she will not ask for a bye to Europeans or the World Championships.
Zagitova said she will perform in many different ice shows and will continue to work with her coaching team (Eteri Tutberidze, Sergei Dudakov and Daniil Gleikhengauz). “I will train, go to practice and I think that is good because I will search myself, learn new elements, learn new entries into the jumps. I will stay with my coaches with whom we went down this long path.”
The teenager has won every title there is to win in the sport, and is the only Russian lady to have won Olympic gold, the World and European Championships, World Junior Championships, the senior and junior Grand Prix Final and the Russian Championships.
It is not easy to stay motivated for the gruelling training process, while at the same time, be overtaken by the next generation of young skaters who have quads and triple Axels in their arsenal. At the Grand of Figure Skating Final last week, Zagitova was second with a strong short program but then faded to sixth and last after an error-ridden free skate. Her three training mates –Alena Kostornaia, Anna Shcherbakova and Alexandra Trusova – swept the podium for Russia.
“I now have everything in life, but I think there should always something be missing. And therefore I want that this condition comes back to me – that I want to go out to compete,” said Zagitova. “When I started training after the Olympics, in the off-season, when you have to break in the new programs, which is always very hard, I always wanted to stop in these moments, but I realized that I like it. It was a mixed feeling, I can’t even really say what I was feeling at the time, but, honestly, it was a very difficult period. And it was the same this season. My coaches helped me, they found the right words, motivation.”
Zagitova found motivation for the World Championships in 2019 where she won with excellent performances. She also skated well at the Japan Open this fall and qualified for the Grand Prix Final with a silver and a bronze medal from her events in Grenoble and Sapporo.
However, Zagitova pointed out that she feels one needs to learn a quad jump at a younger age than 17. “Our sport is like that, it is getting younger. I would have needed to learn them (quads) before the Olympics (in 2018), but there was the risk of injury. At this time, my arsenal of jumps was enough,” she said.
Following the Olympic season, Zagitova grew and said she needed to make sure she kept the jumps she had and could not learn new ones. In an interview in Grenoble, the Olympic champion said she would need to lose some weight in order to learn a quad. Earlier this year, there was footage of her doing a quad flip on a harness, but she said she then stopped working on it.
Channel 1 also quoted Tutberidze during the broadcast. “This decision, unfortunately, doesn’t come by chance. Alina, in general, has talked about this decision for one and a half years, so it is not unexpected,” Tutberidze said. “She asked back then – ‘give me a break, just a break, I want to come to the decision myself that I want to compete.’”
The coaches then convinced her to stay. Now Tutberidze said that her prime student needs to feel herself the desire to compete and the coach has hope that she will return. “She is not stopping training, she is coming to practice and is working so that at any moment, when she makes the decision to come back she can do it. We allowed Alina to make this decision, probably because as it seems to me, she’ll miss (competing) and come back.