Alina Zagitova: ‘I broke my arm, then my leg and when after recovery I was back on the ice, Tutberidze said ‘I’m kicking you out.’
Interview with Alina Zagitova for 7Days.ru
Alina, you have recently, in May, turned 20 years old. By this moment you have achieved everything that any figure skater dreams of, won all the titles. You won the Olympics at the age of 15, the Russian nationals, European and World Championships. I can’t even imagine what wishes can be made with such a list … By the way, how did you celebrate your birthday?
Alina Zagitova: I flew to Dubai. I was alone there, without a family, but my friends Dasha Usacheva and Anya Shcherbakova, with whom I train with Eteri Georgievna Tutberidze, joined me. This is the first birthday that I did not celebrate with my family, I missed them very much.
Was there any gift that impressed you a lot?
Alina Zagitova: When I returned to Moscow, many gifts were waiting for me, including from my fans from different cities of Russia. I am extremely pleased, they even gave me a certificate for flying in a hot air balloon! In general, soft toys are thrown onto the ice after my each performance. Sometimes very big ones – there were teddy bears taller than me. One of the fans once sent a bouquet of a thousand and one roses. To be honest, I don’t even know his name. They give me a lot of flowers. Sometimes they are brought to the Khrustalny Ice Palace, where I train. Onece 14 bouquets of 101 roses were delivered. I am grateful to all my fans, they support me, their love is always with me.
Alina, for several seasons you have been taking part in Tatiana Navka’s ice shows. How did it start?
Alina Zagitova: I have known Tatiana Alexandrovna (Navka) for quite a long time, I have always admired her numerous merits in sports and, of course, ice shows, which she became the producer of. And when I suspended my sports career and stopped competing, Tatiana Alexandrovna invited me to participate in the winter fairy tale Sleeping Beauty. Now the Sochi Park is hosting a tour of the Scarlet Flower ice show. From August 6, for a month, I will skate the title role of Nastenka. I invite everyone who will be on the Black Sea coast at this time to our stunningly beautiful performance.
Is it hard to withstand such a rhythm: every day a show on ice?
Alina Zagitova: I got used already. I can say that in Sochi the schedule is not that tough as it was, for example, in the winter in St. Petersburg, where the show “The Scarlet Flower” was held two, sometimes three times a day. And now I even have one day off a week. But I’m not going to swim, sunbathe. It is necessary to prepare for the performance. For me, work always comes first, and only then everything else. Last year, also in Sochi, I took part in the Ruslan and Lyudmila ice show and swam in the sea only three times in two months. Although, in principle, from the very morning until seven in the evening I had free time, but I prefer not to go to the beach during the day, so that later it would be easier to concentrate and perform on the ice in front of the public.
Your father’s life is also closely connected with ice, please tell us about your parents. Do you know their love story?
Alina Zagitova: My dad Ilnaz Zagitov used to be an athlete, a hockey player, he played for different clubs, for Izhstal, Neftekhimik, Neftyanik, now he is a coach. Dad is five years older than mom. I know that my parents met each other in Izhevsk. As far as I remember, they were introduced by friends. It was my mother’s first love, and my father’s too. They are still together. For me their relationship is an example of a real great feeling. They are devoted to each other, dad is very attentive to mom. My parents have never quarreled in front of us – my younger sister and I have never seen anything like this. Mom, Leysan Zagitova, herself really wanted to do figure skating at one time, but their family did not have enough money for this. But now she is also “got involved” into the sport, you can say she is my manager. Mom has three beauty salons in Izhevsk. That’s why I love to make-up, take care of myself. All this was instilled in me by my mother. Now she is more engaged in my work, and her business is in the background.
Let’s remember how your path to victories began.
Alina Zagitova: I started skating at the age of five, but I tell everyone that at six or seven, because my dad played hockey for different teams and we moved with him from one city to another. And only when I was in Izhevsk, I took up figure skating professionally, then I was six or seven years old. And at age of twelve I got to the Tutberidze group. At first I went to Moscow with my mother, but then Eteri Georgievna said that it’s better for my mother not to be near me so that she would not distract me from training, although this had never happened. And then grandmother Nadilya, my mother’s mother, came to me in Moscow. She lived in Izhevsk, worked for many years in a cosmetics store, and held the position of a manager. Mom is her only child. Unfortunately, my grandfather is no longer with us, he passed away early. My grandmother behaved like a devoted person, she is a very beautiful woman, and many suitors tried to win her attention. But she told everyone: “I had the only husband, and I don’t need anyone else.”
She gave a lot of time and energy to her family. When my mother could not be with me, my grandmother always helped, took me to training, to classes. I remember how in Izhevsk she picked me up after classes at school, but there was no money for a taxi, and we walked for a very long time with three bags – in one there were textbooks and notebooks, in the other – skates, in the third – a sports wear for physical trainings. My grandmother felt sorry for me and dragged everything on her. In Moscow she also came to help, she said: “I will stay with Alina.” Oh, it was tough for her. When something didn’t work out for me at the rink, my mood deteriorated. And then my grandmother used tp scare me: “That’s it, Alina, we are packing our things, we are returning home to Izhevsk.” Sometimes she really used to pack the suitcase and put it outside the door, and I dragged the suitcase back. Now all this is remembered as a funny anecdote.
I am very grateful to my grandmother, she was alone with me in Moscow for six years. At first we lived with our relative, because there was no money to arent an apartment. And every morning we went by metro to the ice palace “Khrustalny”. I got up at seven. Training began at ten, and only at eleven in the evening I returned home. People who watch skaters’ performances on TV sometimes don’t even realize how much effort has been spended. We have a sport where you can’t show how hard it is for you, you need to do everything with ease. Therefore, it seems to everyone that skating is not difficult at all, but in fact there is a lot of work behind it.
Didn’t you ever want to leave Tutberidze, go home?
Alina Zagitova: Leave? .. No, but they kicked me out. As Eteri Georgievna says, I was lazy. Until the age of 12, I was engaged in figure skating in Izhevsk – in the provinces, they did not demand so much from us there. And at the moment when I got into the Tutberidze group, it seemed to me that I was squeezing the maximum possible out of myself. But apparently this was not enough. I was not used to such loads yet, I did not understand what they wanted from me. But then I started to get some kind of triple jumps (I didn’t do them in Izhevsk). And then in training, I broke my wrist. I went to the competitions with a special light splint, and broke my leg there. I returned home to Izhevsk with two plaster casts to recover from injuries. Time has passed. The casts were removed, I had a little practice in my hometown and went to Moscow. And at the very first training session, Eteri Georgievna told me: “I’m kicking you out.” Of course, I got upset. But what to do? I switched to another coach at the same rink – Anna Tsareva. I am also very grateful to her, because she took me through such a difficult period. But a lot didn’t work out. Then I decided to return home to Izhevsk. My grandmother and I bought a bouquet of flowers, came to Eteri Georgievna to give flowers, thank her and say goodbye, saying: “We are leaving Moscow, thank you for everything.” And she says, “Let’s try again.” Why she made such a decision, I don’t know, it’s probably better to ask her.
In any case, this is a wonderful decision, without it the world would not see your victories. Tell us about your coach Eteri Tutberidze. They say she’s tough enough??
Alina Zagitova: I think that it’s impossible without rigidity, then there would be no such results. Then Eteri Georgievna does not work alone, there is another group: a choreography coach, he is also a program choreographer, Daniil Markovich Gleikhengauz and Sergei Viktorovich Dudakov, he helps a lot with jumps. Success is the right team and stability. We train every day. I return home tired. The mood is not the best. At such moments, after hard training, I don’t really like to contact people, and my parents want to ask me, find out the details. I answer: “Mom, dad, I can’t talk.” In fact, I have a difficult character. Now I have already moved the whole family to Moscow, as I wanted. Because I really lacked my parents, they used to come only for the New Year, and the second time I saw them in the summer. And I decided at all costs to move them to me in Moscow. But now, in the summer, everyone is resting, my father and grandmother are in Izhevsk with my sister, and my mother and I are still in Moscow.
It is extremely important for a figure skater to be in shape, not to gain excess weight. Are you on a strict diet?
Alina Zagitova: When I was competing, I hardly even drank water. Both during the competition and during the preparation period. We just rinsed our mouths and immediately spit everything out. Because even one or two hundred grams of excess weight is noticeable for the body of an athlete, the body begins to behave differently. It’s harder to jump. My usual food is yogurt. I don’t eat fatty foods, I’ve given up sweets as much as possible. Although I love sweets, chocolates. I was a sweet tooth. Now, not that much. My grandmother cooks well. For six years, living with me in Moscow, she made all sorts of vegetable salads and cutlets for me. She used to cook soups, but I don’t liek them much. In principle, everyone in our family loves to cook: my grandmother, my mother, and my sister and I. I like this process, it relaxes me. Especially when there is time and energy. I have recently baked salmon in the oven. So tasty! I ate a piece myself. Now I managed to normalize my weight more or less, but at some point I gained a lot – four kilograms. It seems to me that even for an ordinary person this is a lot. Especially for an athlete. Then I began to listen more to my body, and somehow I managed to lose weight.
I know that you are studying at Russian Academy of National Economy and Public Administration. At the correspondence department?
Alina Zagitova: On full-time. Faculty of Journalism, direction “Production and cultural policy”. I study literature, and law, and history, a lot of things … When I took the state exams, I have been thinking for a long time where I should go. I wanted to be a journalist. Because now my life is connected not only with sports, but also with television, and this is very interesting. It is not always possible to attend all classes, it is difficult to combine training on ice and study. But still I try. I have already moved on to my third year. This summer, in June, like all students, I had exams. It was very nerve-wracking, of course. But, thank God, everything ended successfully. I took exams and tests on a general basis. Sometimes the teachers showed me even closer attention than they did to the others. Which is doubly hard. In this session we had such a subject as law. I tried to study the laws, and there are so many of them that it is impossible to remember everything. But I prepared myself, and I had a tutor. As a result, I passed the exam very well. But they didn’t give me a pass in physical education. Imagine, there were rumors on the Internet that I was being expelled from the university due to the fact that I had not passed the test in physical education. This is very funny. I do sports every day and I have achievements. I thought that I could be given an automatic pass. I understand that everyone should be on an equal footing. But I train every day at the ice rink. We have choreography and strength exercises there. We do push-ups twenty times … In general, I coped with the physical education test – I passed it.
On the Internet, they discuss literally every step you take. When you became the host of the Ice Age show on Channel One, there was a lot of criticism from haters. How did you cope with it?
Alina Zagitova: It was actually a very difficult moment for me. Of course, I’m not a TV presenter. Maybe I was unprofessional at first. But I took criticism so hard then! And now sometimes I don’t understand why people behave this way, but I don’t know them personally. It’s still a mystery to me. Sometimes I even want the person who criticizes me to come to me, express all the claims in my face and explain, argue them. Alexei Yagudin helped me a lot to cope with the situation. He is such an energetic person, he has more experience, he gave advice, prompted something and, if necessary, unloaded me. The shooting day on the show “Ice Age” lasted from nine in the morning to twelve at night. We filmed several programs at once, and in the evening I could no longer do anything from fatigue, sometimes I freaked out. I tried not to show it to anyone, but my strength was running out. And at that moment, Alexei Konstantinovich (Yagudin) supported me. I had both speech technique tutors and a psychologist. Actress Anna Glazkova – she starred in films and TV shows, worked in theaters in Moscow – worked with me and helped me in every possible way.
I like your approach. If something doesn’t work out, you immediately find a tutor for yourself.
Alina Zagitova: This, probably, has been customary since childhood, my mother always took me to some additional classes, not only to the rink, but also outside the ice, for example, to stretch and to tutors at school. If something doesn’t work out for you, you always need to do extra work.
Tell me, are you interested in coaching? Or at the age of 20 you haven’t thought abut it yet?
Alina Zagitova: I am interested in working with children. Together with my coaches, I have already held master classes on ice in different cities. I like it.
You have so many interests: studying at the Faculty of Journalism, and master classes, and ice shows, and projects on television …
Alina Zagitova: Yes, I try to develop a little bit in everything, to learn new things. During the pandemic, I also got my driver license. Now I drive my own car. There was such a situation recently: I was stopped for the first time in my life. I think why, I didn’t seem to break anything, I wasn’t driving fast, almost 40 kilometers per hour. But it turned out that the traffic police recognized me and just wanted to take a picture with me. I tell them: “Why are you scaring me like that?” I really enjoy driving. Recently, I have started soap making. I made soap myself and had a prize drawing in social networks among my fans. It seems to me that in this way I transfer to a person, one might say, a piece of my energy. Also, sometimes I knit, when there is a mood, I draw, I do pictures with rhinestones. But now less often. There is not enough time.
Of course, everyone is interested in your personal life. You were noticed at several hockey games, and immediately there were rumors that you liked some hockey player …
Alina Zagitova: I do not talk much about personal. But, in principle, I can say that there has always been a lot of hockey in my life, including because of my dad. Since childhood, my mother and I went to his games, and he constantly talked about hockey at home. I still go to the games, I do not see anything surprising in this.
I know you have three dogs…
Alina Zagitova: First, I got Masaru, after winning the Olympics in Pyeongchang, Japanese Prime Minister gave it to me. I was looking through a magazine at the training camp before the Olympics, and I liked the photo of the dog. I asked my mother: “Maybe we will take me such a dog if I perform well at the Olympics?” She replied: “Yes, we will think about it.” Immediately after my victory, I was interviewed by journalists. And they ask: “Now what do you want most of all?” I replied that I really liked the ancient Japanese breed of dogs – Akitain. The journalists were surprised: “Alina, why do you need a dog, ask for an apartment or a car for the victory.” But I answered them: “No, I want such a dog.” And Shinzo Abe fulfilled this dream of mine. He personally gave me Masaru in a solemn ceremony in one of the capital’s hotels. Then my dad worked in Kazan, coached a hockey team there, and my little sister got a little chihuahua dog. Of course, they took her with them when they moved to Moscow. She also lives with us now, very cheerful. And recently, literally a year ago, I got a dog Shanti of the Maltipu breed, it was presented to me by fans.
Who walks with all these dogs?
Alina Zagitova: When I have time, I walk with Masaru, I often take her with me, she starred in various TV programs with me. And small dogs usually go to the toilet on a diaper, I rarely take them out. But Shanti loves to walk very much. It happens that in the morning I leave home for training, I tell her: “Shanti, I won’t take you with me.” And she starts to whine so much and looks at me with her eyes so plaintively that I give up: “Well, let’s go.” Then she sits on the rink, waiting for me. I will take small dogs with me to Sochi. And Masaru spends the summer in Izhevsk, in our house, she feels good there with my grandmother. In autumn they will return to Moscow.
Alina, I’m just shocked, you have enough time for everything, even for dogs. Where do you draw energy?
Alina Zagitova: Proper time management! I don’t even know, I just live like this all the time. I want something and I do it. And now, at twenty, I think it’s time to try everything.
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