Alina Zagitova withdraws from Russian test skate to focus on TV show
Olympic champion figure skater will host "Ice Age" instead of skating in Moscow this weekend, sparking rumours over her future career
"I have decided against taking part in the pre-season test skate on September 12-13," Zagitova said in a statement issued by Russia's national figure skating federation (RFSF).
Instead, Zagitova will throw her focus behind hosting the new Russian reality TV show, Ice Age. "I am very interested at the moment to try myself in a new role.
"I ask to treat my request with understanding," she added.
So is this the end of her competitive career? Or will she still return to the ice?
"Accepted with understanding"
Zagitova 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.
She recently returned to full-time training with mentor Eteri Tutberidze and was named part of the long-list for Russia's international squad for the new season, with RFSF head Alexander Gorshkov saying there would be a place on the team should she want to return.
However, the new developments have thrown her entire skating future into doubt.
"In her request today, Alina spoke only about skipping the pre-season trials and nothing else," Gorshkov said to Russian news agency TASS. "We have accepted her request with understanding."
The RFSF's general director, Alexander Kogan, added: "We must be sympathetic towards the decisions of our Olympic champion. Of course, it's a pity that she doesn't perform. She has a very interesting short program, judging by what I've seen. Therefore, we feel sadness (from a sporting standpoint) because of this decision," he said to Championat.
Filming for Zagitova's new show, Ice Age, is also expected to clash with the domestic Russian Cup season.
That 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.
Alexander Zhulin, two-time Olympic ice dance medallist and a top coach in Russia, told TASS he believed Zagitova would not be returning. "It means that she is not coming back to sports," he opined.
However, fellow coach and Olympic medallist Ilia Averbukh suggested Zagitova's withdrawal had nothing to do with the show.
"She did not say that she had started preparations for this season," he pointed out. "If she decided to pursue a (hosting) career, I can say: the presenter is engaged in the project four times a month. This is just once a week. So her decision to withdraw from the test skates is not related to Ice Age," he told Championat.
Zagitova has also two Olympic medals – gold in singles and silver in team from PyeongChang 2018 – and the 2018 European Championship and Grand Prix Final gold medals during her career.