Alina Zagitova: Only strong people remain in sport. You can learn a lot from them
Interview with Alina Zagitova for Russian skating magazine “The world of figure skating”
If we talk about the Olympic season, what was it like for you?
– At the beginning of the season, I thought a lot: the Olympic cycle, the Olympic season, but I didn’t reallyunderstand what it is, because I haven’t even been at international sinior competitions not to speak about the Olympics. Now I can say that the Olympic season turned out long and difficult, from the very beginning I was in constant tension. Control skates, pre-season competitions, Grand prix, championships … Experts from the Federation often came to our trainings, for me it’s also like a competitions, I’m nervous no less than at the competitions. During the whole season there was no opportunity to relax. With each competition it was necessary to improve. I can say that this year I have gained a lot of experience.
It’s a shame that at the World Championships in Milan, not everything turned out as I wanted. But all athletes go through this. We are not robots to win all the time. Anything can happen. Hence, someone needed this medal more than me. So someone above decided so. Moreover, if I had won the World Championships, then who knows what would have happened? But now I had a motivation to go further.
Of course, victory at the Olympics took a lot of energy. But you probably didn’t expect such a performance in Milan?
– I didn’t. At the Olympics, the first combination also didn’t turn out, but I managed to add the second jump and did a combination at the end of the program. In Milan, I failed to do this. And not because I fell, was upset and then the performance did not go, as many said. This is not true. I already had such situation in the season, when I fell on the first jumps but then skated the program cleanly. I can’t say that in the free program relaxed and gave up. It’s just seemed that I didn’t skate that day at all, it was like in a dream. I wasn’t nervous, absolutely not nervous. And for me it was a shock, how is it not to be nervous before the competitions? Then a thought flashed through: something is not right.
– Yes. Physically I was ready. We did full run-throughs of the program. I did everything in trainings. But … It happens.
After the free program at the World Championships, you had a day off before gala. Surely, you thought about many things.
– I can’t even describe what was going on in my head. Seriously, it was like a dream. I didn’t understand what was happening. And after the performance I had to pass the dope. I sobbed, the head hurted, and in addition I had to go to the dope-control.
How long did it take?
– You know. If I able to finish in one hour, it’s just a thank you. That day I sat there till 3 am. At the end I’ve already calmed down, accepted what happened. In the morning I got up and cried again. Then, thank God, I began to analyze, slowly came to my senses. I thought: you can’t help it with tears. I began to dig: what did not work out, why? Then coaches and the direction of our school took me to walk around Milan. They distracted me. They know how to do it. They can scold, cheer … And they succeeded. At the gala, I performed with a good mood.
Have you changed a lot this season?
– Of course, I have much more experience. This made me stronger mentally. I began to listen more to myself, what I should do, how to behave during the warm-up. What should I change, remove, add … I began to control myself in food – if yesterday I drank more water than I needed, then the next day I should drink less… I began to pay more attention to some things, not just go to the ice – skated and you’re free.
What was most memorable at the Olympics?
– I don’t even know. The Olympic Games are, of course, the most important competitions, but honestly at first I perceived everything as ordinary competitions. Only on the way to the village or back to the skating rink, passing by the Olympic rings, I remembered that I was at the Olympics.
Perhaps this feeling was due to the fact that at the Olympics in Korea, the Russian team performed without a flag and without an anthem? What did you feel during the award ceremony?
– When I stood on the pedestal, I sang an anthem in my head. You must have seen my face at that moment? No. There are photos. At first I didn’t know where to look, then I saw the Russian flag in the hands of the fans and looked at it. To be honest, I was afraid to sing the Russian national anthem loudly, so no one could say later that I violated the rules of the IOC. I sang it to myself. But our hockey players after the victory were not scared and sang.
After the Olympics there were many events in Moscow which were necessary to attend. At the same time it was necessary to prepare for the World Championships, not to relax. Was it difficult?
– For me it was a difficult time, because when I came back from Korea, I fell ill, and in this condition, with a cold I went to all events. But I needed it myself. We were received by the President of Russia in the Kremlin. Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin awarded me and Zhenya Medvedeva with the Orders. Then we talked a little, asked to build a new ice rink for our school. Because there are a lot of people who want to skate, and it is necessary to have enough ice for all the skaters and coaches.
Of course, it’s great when you’re invited to such important meetings. But pleasant excitement also takes away strength, you return home tired, do not want to do anything just lie on the couch and do not get up. But you need to be prepared for the fact that you become a public person, everyone wants to communicate with you, you need to attend obligatory events. If you don’t, then there is always people who will say: “Well, already got a “star dizziness” or something like that. And I don’t want to be talked about like that. I don’t have a “star dizziness”.
Do people recognize you on the streets?
– After the Olympics in Moscow, I walked a little along the street. The ice rink is near. Then we went to the show, on vacation, to Izhevsk. In Izhevsk, of course, they know me. In Moscow, sometimes passers-by recognize me. Ask to take a photo. I don’t refuse. When we returned from the Olympics, we were given a party at the rink. Of course, attention has added. Sometimes I go to the locker room, and one of the little ones says: “Mom, look, this is Alina Zagitova.”
In 2017, you won the World Junior Championships, in 2018 became the Olympic champion. How can you explain such rapid progress?
– We worked very hard, we trained. I realized that the most important thing in the work is to trust the coaches completely, listen to what they say and do what they advise. Then there will be a result. A lot of strong athletes train in our group. Young girls jump quadruple jumps. Competition pushes me forward.
There is an opinion that figure skating is becoming more and more athletic, technical. Art and everything that is connected with this, is moving into the background. What do you think?
– Figure skating is a sport and an art. We don’t just skate the programs, but we want to show our feelings, emotions to the audience. But for the execution of programs we get marks and we must skate them not only artistically, but also cope with all the elements.
I have been skating my free program “Don Quixote” for two seasons. But since the first skate till the World Championships, much has changed in it. I myself have changed too. I began to understand better what I’m showing on the ice, and I’m portraying a ballerina who dances this ballet, and I want to tell the audience what my ballerina feels. So before the program, when I just put on a ballet tutu, even my appearance changes. I start to walk differently, turn my head, hold my back … I become different. So figure skating is not just about jumping.
Don’t you have regrets that your life is not like ordinary teenagers?
– I like my life today. Every day is planed, you need to withstand the schedule. But I have enough communication with the guys at the rink. We go to competitions, we see a lot of new things. We communicate with interesting people, because figure skating is such a sport where you can get acquainted with choreographers, dancers, artists, musicians … The character of a person is developed from childhood. Only strong people remain in sport. You can learn a lot from them. So I have an interesting life.
Whom do you see yourself in 10 years from now? What would you like to do?
– I don’t like to guess forward. But I would like to open a Japanese restaurant in Moscow. Unusual. Not just a place where you can eat, but a “small corner of Japan”, where people will come and feel a special atmosphere, calmness. I was in Japan, and I really liked people, food, the friendliness of the Japanese.
What is your main goal in life?
– To find an interesting occupation that would make work fun, not a routine. Of course, I want to have a family. But I’m only 16 years old, so while I don’t seriously think about it.
by Tatjana Flade and Olga Ermolina for “The world of figure skating” #2(14) 2018