Russian figure skater Kostornaia leaves Tutberidze to join Plushenko camp

Alena Kostornaia was a top-performing star for Eteri Tutberidze, but now joins former training mate Alexandra Trusova in leaving her coach.

By Nick McCarvel

Alena Kostornaia, the Grand Prix Final and European champion this past season in figure skating, has left famed coach Eteri Tutberidze to join Evgeni Plushenko’s team, according to Tutberidze’s Instagram.

Tutberidze posted a photo of Kostornaia Friday with a long caption that – via translation – said: “The outside world affects our dear and kind” skaters, going on to detail issues with former Tutberidze pupils Evgenia Medvedeva and Alina Zagitova, the Olympic silver and gold medallists, respectively.

“Are we going to change something in our training system? No.” Tutberidze continued. “I am sure that those with us are solid, loyal and resistant to outside” influences.

The news made headlines in Russian media on Friday, citing Tutberidze’s post.

Kostornaia is the second big name to leave Tutberidze for Plushenko after Alexandra Trusova made the switch in May.

Kostornaia did not confirm the move herself but Plushenko responded in an interview given to R-Sport.

He said the 16-year-old approached him "two weeks ago" about wanting to work with him and former Tutberidze assistant Sergey Rozanov, claiming she did not like her new programs - "What I've seen on Instagram from her recent programs is just awful. Alena doesn't like it, she said so herself."

The double Olympic gold medallist also hit back at Tutberidze's claim that there were certain skaters Kostornaia would not train with, saying, "It's complete nonsense, she was ready to train with everyone. She has no problems, she thinks very highly of all athletes."

Plushenko added that Kostornaia and Trusova could train together but that his setup was "very flexible" and that they would "analyse the situation".

On the day of the interview, Plushenko posted a picture of his 12-year-old prodigy Veronika Zhilina - who like Trusova left Tutberidze in May - landing a triple Axel for the first time.

"The doors of my school are always open. We are open to dialogue and ready to work with any athlete." - Evgeni Plushenko speaking to R-Sport

The 'Triple A' is down to one

This past year the Russian trio of Kostornaia, Trusova and Anna Shcherbakova dominated the Grand Prix Series, winning all six events between them before Kostornaia reigned supreme at the Grand Prix Final.

Zagitova, winner at PyeongChang 2018 and reigning world champ, stepped away from the sport mid-season after a sixth-place finish at the Final.

Medvedeva, who now trains with Brian Orser in Toronto, didn't compete in any major international competitions after withdrawing from the national championship due to problems with her skates.

But Trusova’s move to Plushenko this spring broke up the trio many called ‘Triple A,’ and Kostornaia’s departure and subsequent move to Plushenko comes just weeks after the young star told Olympic Channel that her now former coach was often misunderstood.

“Eteri Georgievna is very often referred to as ‘the snow queen,’” Kostornaia said in an exclusive chat. “I believe this is not the case. She is a very kind, open and honest person who will always tell the truth… she’ll never keep it away from you.”

In her Instagram post, Tutberidze said her team had achieved “colossal results” and also acknowledged a rift between Medvedeva and Zagitova while they trained together, and an attempt to quell the various demands of skaters.

The figure skating season is set to begin in full in October, though the ISU is expected to announce next week whether it will move forward or not with the Grand Prix Series.

Earlier this month the organisation cancelled the Junior Grand Prix, citing COVID-19-related travel and health concerns. The 2020 figure skating World Championships in Montreal were also cancelled, having been planned for March.