The Grand Prix final in figure skating in Turin will be remembered for a long time not only by the triumph of the Russian athletes Alyona Kostornaya, Anna Shcherbakova and Alexandra Trusova. While they were playing medals among themselves at a height unattainable for rivals, the Olympic champion Alina Zagitova was experiencing her sports tragedy. She took the last place among all six participants, and for one of the most titled figure skaters of the country, it was a real collapse.
Zagitova from the very beginning flew to the tournament as a dark horse, not a pretender to medals. It was naive to believe that while the Trusov-Shcherbakova-Kostornaya trio was breaking world records, including the old achievements of the 17-year-old athlete herself, she would suddenly make a qualitative leap and would gain the same points as the young shoot of Tutberidze. Zagitova was not a clear favorite in a personal confrontation with Rika Kihira - only on condition that the Japanese herself made mistakes, which happened to her more than once.
Nevertheless, the Russians expected a beautiful fight with an emphasis on the first word. Half Zagitova met these expectations. The short program performed by her turned out to be wonderful, without mistakes and mistakes, with the third result for the components in the last two seasons. Even the technical side of the rental caused certain reasons for pride.
Besides the fact that Zagitova received the best marks for individual spins and tracks, she also scored more points for jumping than some rivals. The second place of the Olympic champion was collected by these grains, which gave the fans some hope.
The hope that Russian girls will occupy not the first three lines, but four. By the way, at the competitions in the USA, fourth place is encouraged by the tin medal, and figure skating fans around the world would hardly have something against it, since three awards are sometimes really not enough to mark all worthy athletes. Zagitova would be an excellent contender for a virtual tin medal, since before her performance in the free program, both Brady Tennell and Rick Kihira remained quite within reach.
But what happened happened. Although Zagitova during the season quite confidently acted in the image of Cleopatra in the free program, this time everything fell from her hands. One drop from the double axel was not enough - the technical panel recorded undercuts in five of the seven triple jumps.
On the plus side, and even then very modest, only two jumping elements went. Worst of all, after the furor of the trio of younger pupils Tutberidze Zagitova pressed the marks for the components - the falling skerbakova and Kikhira also overtook the 17-year-old skater in this, and the heavily skating world champion did not impress anymore.
Sixth place with a score of 205.23 points can definitely be called the worst result of Zagitova's career. Only three times, if you keep a report from the beginning of the last junior season, she was left without medals - at the post-Olympic world championship, at the last Russian championship (in which she still became the second among adults) and in the Grand Prix finals in Turin.
Zagitova scored fewer points for her adult career stage only at last year’s European Championship, but at least she won silver. However, one can look at these statistics differently - these are just three tournaments without medals in three and a half seasons. Not every skater is able to demonstrate something like this.
Of course, after such a disappointing performance, talk began that Zagitova was no longer a figure skater, claiming medals. Actually, they sounded even earlier, when she did not win a single Grand Prix stage, both times losing to Kostornaya. And for Zagitova, such pressure was not the first time - last season she too was rushed to cross out from the list of favorites. The Russian woman was able to heroically overcome everything and win the World Cup, although even then her technical lag behind other skaters was outlined.
But for the second time, it will indeed be impossible to put critics of Zagitova to shame, and it is impossible to hope that the end of the season will put everyone in their places. If last season ideal rentals could be enough to beat overly risky rivals, now there is no more.
Zagitova took a step back in technology, becoming able to execute even simpler programs, and she cannot win back by evaluating the components. Rivals, and not only Trusov, Shcherbakova and Kostornaya, went too far forward in both directions. The Grand Prix finals did not open their eyes to this, it only became a very grotesque illustration of what situation Zagitov had got into.
Making a difficult decision about what to do next is overdue. Already during the competitions in Turin, rumors began circulating on social networks that the Olympic champion would soon end her career. Some closed Twitter accounts posted messages that Tutberidze had set a condition for Zagitova - in case of an unsuccessful performance in the Grand Prix finals, she hangs skates on a nail. In all cases, the sources did not withstand any criticism - users sometimes claimed that they themselves had heard such a thing from the coach.
Some logic can be found in this. Zagitova loves figure skating and competitions, but sometimes she does not like sport itself, which she admitted more than once - in her career there were periods of lost motivation and unwillingness to train. She does not like the attention of the media, and it is riveted to her successes and failures precisely in the sports field. The easiest option would be to officially end your career, which can be completed even in high season.
You don’t have to worry about unpleasant moments in competitions anymore, die in training sessions next to incredibly strong rivals that you can’t catch up with, and end up with nothing. Finally, it will be possible to concentrate on performances in the show, from which Zagitova receives not only pleasure, but also a good income.
But still, Zagitova’s career cannot be completed. She became a greater symbol of figure skating in Russia than her predecessors on the Olympic pedestal - Adelina Sotnikova and Julia Lipnitskaya. Those in more difficult situations were in no hurry to retire officially and continued to compete. Sometimes this caused ridicule from the fans, but they really continued to squeeze the maximum out of their sports career, despite the fact that they were very far from participating in the Grand Prix finals in the second year after their Olympics.
Finishing a career now is to leave alone your fans who simply don’t understand why the idol leaves them at 17, while there are more age-related skaters who continue to fight. Finishing a career now is to confirm the thesis that in women's skating there is no success without ultra-si. Finishing a career now is to leave some of your younger friends alone. Kostornaya once said that she especially likes to play when the whole group of Tutberidze is assembled - that’s why Zagitova should not leave the sport.
Of course, there is another radical option - a change of coach. Evgeny Medvedev had already decided on this from the stars of Russian figure skating, and she herself was clearly pleased with the decision a year and a half ago. But, firstly, she went to Brian Orser when her relationship with Tutberidze deteriorated, and in the current situation this option could be forced. Secondly, at that time the revolution of the quadruple jumps had not yet taken place, the fruits of which the current athletes were forced to squeeze, and Medvedeva had real chances for the most valuable medals after coming to Orser. Thirdly, it makes sense to go only to a stronger coach and, no less important, a choreographer, but in Russia no one can give Zagitova something new, there are not many options abroad.
The Olympic champion needs to continue her career, which is what the experts are calling for, but then it will be time for the fans to slightly change their perception regarding her. Stop talking about medals in those tournaments where obviously stronger rivals are performing. Do not send Zagitova ahead of time to the Russian team. To be prepared to wait for her at the stages of the Cup of Russia and other less prestigious competitions - the fans of Medvedeva had to endure it. Zagitov is needed by Russian sports and fans in any form, and not necessarily as a champion.