Figure skating fans will have to wait for the first competitions in the 2020/21 season. The nearest international starts, which have not been officially canceled or postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, are scheduled only for September, and the Grand Prix series in the changed format will start no earlier than October.
The only outlet for domestic fans is the test skates of the Russian national team - a traditional event with the participation of the country's strongest skaters, where they demonstrate what they have achieved in the offseason. This year, adult athletes will take to the ice in Moscow on September 12 and 13, and juniors will show their new programs in the coming days and finish their performances on August 19.
Usually, only those skaters who have earned it with their past results and are direct candidates for participation in major international tournaments are allowed to adult skates. But this year there may be one exception. The President of the Russian Figure Skating Federation, Alexander Gorshkov, said that in September the world champion among juniors Kamila Valieva could compete with the adults.
“This option is being considered. The athlete has such a level that it makes sense for her to compete in adult competitions where possible. I think it would be right, "RIA Novosti quotes Gorshkov.
At the same time, in a conversation with TASS, he clarified that only 14-year-old Valieva will have the opportunity to take part in the test skates of the main team. Other juniors will skate in their age group at the Novogorsk base on August 18 and 19, rather than on the Megasport ice in September.
This event, at first glance, seems very insignificant. Test skates have nothing to do with real competitions and are needed only so that the figured community in Russia estimates the athletes' readiness for the new season. In fact, there should be no difference in who and when to perform. However, the situation with Valieva still requires a more thorough analysis.
Due to her young age, she has not yet shared the ice with adults, already established athletes. The student Eteri Tutberidze did not even compete in the Russian championship - recently, it is possible to participate in it only from the age of 14, and a year ago she did not fall under this condition yet. Like all beginner singles, Valieva had to follow the path of a smooth transition to the adult level, but now an unplanned jump is expected from her (and only from her alone).
While there are discussions around the world about a possible tightening of the age limit for girls, and fans regretfully note the transience of the careers of some skaters, the main rising star of Russia is being pushed to compete as soon as possible, albeit informally, with already adult singles. Of course, she will not have to fight for any particular award in the form of a medal or a place in the national team. But she will probably have to plunge into the atmosphere of adult competitions, which is different from the junior ones, right now.
The desire to quickly bring Valieva to a new level can be understood. In terms of the level of skiing and technical equipment, it could compete with adult girls. In her arsenal there is a quadruple toe loop, and in terms of components she is no longer losing too much to the leading athletes.
At the junior world championship, Valieva even scored more points for the free program than the Japanese Rika Kihira for her best skating of the season.
In the same way, many other Russian figure skaters were ahead of their time: they predicted a great future for Adelina Sotnikova, Yulia Lipnitskaya, Evgenia Medvedeva, and Alina Zagitova - and they all met expectations. But at the same time, they went to their goal progressively. Valieva, on the other hand, has to force her career because of the difficult circumstances that not only figure skating, but the whole sport faced. The coronavirus pandemic left her and other young singles without the main starts of the first half of the season - the junior stages of the Grand Prix. Participation in adult test skates will be small for Valieva, but still a compensation.
Another factor pushing the athlete to a symbolic parting with junior skating is the upcoming Olympics in Beijing. It is during the Olympic season that Valieva will receive admission to international adult competitions and, following the example of Alina Zagitova, will be able to immediately compete for the main peak in sports. Only Valieva does not have that certainty for the future and competitive practice that her classmate had.
In the era of coronavirus, it is difficult to predict how the career of any skater will develop, while Zagitova's path to Olympic gold was literally scheduled from start to start. In order for Valieva to truly become the main favorite of the competitions in Beijing by 2022, she should not neglect any opportunity to go on the ice.
Finally, in order to quickly grow up in sports terms, Valieva is pushed by her own coach. The current offseason was extremely difficult for Eteri Tutberidze. She lost two skaters, whom she hoped to bring to the Olympic Games, and the departure of Alexandra Trusova and Alena Kostornaya was completely unexpected for her. Of the TSCHK trio, only Anna Shcherbakova remained in the group, but Tutberidze has not relied on one athlete for a long time, always having a backup option.
Valieva now has to turn from the fourth or fifth number of the group (depending on the readiness and motivation of Zagitova) into the main spare for the only prima of "Khrustalny". Tutberidze is especially keen to see Valieva “sniffing gunpowder” at Megasport and be better prepared for her adult debut a year later.
It will be a blow for the coach, who has fully completed the national team with her students, if the numerical advantage in the national team now belongs to her former players. At least, at the next test skates, Tutberidze will not have to take Shcherbakov alone on the ice. Together with Valieva, they form, albeit a small, but still a team that will create a counterbalance to the growing group of Evgeni Plushenko.
So (due to circumstances) Valieva, if she is still declared for the adult part of the test skates, will have to accelerate her career even faster than other prodigies Tutberidze did before her. There is no tragedy in this, it only suggests that the speed with which figure skating is getting younger has not yet reached the limit.