Figure Skating

Alina Zagitova returning to ice in Russian annual test skate

The Olympic champ, who has taken time off since December 2019, still has not yet decided on returning to competition.

By ZK Goh ·

Is this the start of a competitive figure skating comeback for Olympic champion Alina Zagitova?

The 18-year-old has been out of the sport since finishing sixth at December's Grand Prix Final in Turin, missing the Russian and European Championships that followed, as she decided to take a break from competition.

However, after recently returning to full-time training with mentor Eteri Tutberidze and being named part of the long-list for Russia's international squad for the 2020/21 season, the teenager is now another step closer.

Figure Skating Federation of Russia president Aleksandr Gorshkov has told Russian media that Zagitova will take part in the federation's pre-season test skate in Moscow from 12-13 September, where she will perform her new programs.

The annual event sees the country's top skaters come together to show off their new routines in an – officially at least – environment that is non-competitive.

Non-competitive

With the non-competitive nature of the test skate, Zagitova will still not have officially returned to figure skating competition even by taking part in the event.

Instead, the skater – who recently graduated from high school and has taken up a university place studying journalism – will wait to see how she feels after the test event before making a decision on her return.

Gorshkov, himself an Olympic champion for the Soviet Union at Innsbruck 1976, said Zagitova's participation in the domestic Russian Cup series was still in the air.

The Russian Cup series acts as a qualifying event for the Russian national championships in Chelyabinsk in December. Without taking part in it, Zagitova would not be able to compete in the nationals.

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Upheaval

It has been a time of upheaval for Zagitova and her coach Tutberidze.

On Zagitova's part, aside form the changes in her personal life – leaving school and going to university, she also recently spoke out publicly about online trolls and how she has had to deal with them.

She admitted that she let remarks on the Internet affect her early in her career.

“At first I tried to ignore the comments of the haters,” Zagitova said. “But there were times I had a bad start and they got through to me anyway. They were writing to tell me what I should do.

“At first it bothered me, but my coaches and parents reassured me that this was normal and not everyone would like me.”

Zagitova, who won the 2019 world title, remains the reigning world champion due to the cancellation of the 2020 World Championships.

But now at her training base with Tutberidze in Novogorsk, she no longer has the company of Alexandra Trusova and Alena Kostornaia – two of last season's stand-out stars – after both switched coaches to join Evgeni Pluschenko.

What effect this will have on Zagitova – if she returns – and the remaining "3A" skater in Tutberidze's team, Anna Shcherbakova, when the regionalised ISU Grand Prix season starts, is yet to be seen.