Olympic champion Zagitova, in new role as TV host, unsure about return to skating

Alina Zagitova is sitting out the competitive season to host 'Ice Age', a skating show on Russian TV. "We'll see," she says of if she'll try and come back.

By Nick McCarvel

Alina Zagitova isn't rushing back to figure skating - for now.

The PyeongChang 2018 Olympic gold medallist and 2019 world champion from Russia is content with her decision to opt out of the Grand Prix Series and competitive figure skating to instead host "Ice Age", a skating show where celebrities compete week in and week out, on Russian TV (Channel One).

"Will I return to sports? We'll see. Now the coronavirus (situation) is very difficult," she told Match TV in an interview that was translated by RT Sport. "A lot of competitions are cancelled (while others) are in question. It is a difficult situation for the whole sport."

Zagitova, 18, opted out of the competitive season before cancellations to major events, include Skate Canada, Internationaux de France, the Grand Prix Final (currently postponed) and Four Continents.

Cutting through social media noise

While she was seen working on her exhibition program recently at the Sambo-70 figure skating school with coach Eteri Tutberidze, Zagitova has launched herself fully into her television hosting duties, working with a speaking coach.

In the Match interview, the Russian was outspoken and honest about her approach to online criticism, saying candidly:

"I have a good attitude towards haters. I used to pay a lot of attention to them."

Zagitova said she's learned to rise above online comments: "I was worried, but now I understand I'd be nowhere without it. It is an incentive to rise even higher."

With 800,000 followers on Instagram, Zagitova said she's built a digital "fortress" for herself that is filled with positivity from family and friends. She admitted to being "very annoyed" with the criticisms she'd face from fans online after not performing a perfect program.

Zagitova described her new role as a TV host as "very difficult" but a new challenge that she was embracing, as well.

No plans of a return - yet

Zagitova, following her Olympic triumph at 15 and follow up victory at the world championships in Japan in 2019, was pushed last year by a trio of big-jumping Russian compatriots, including teenagers Alena Kostornaia, Alexandra Trusova, and Anna Shcherbakova. Neither she nor training mate and Olympic silver medallist Evgenia Medvedeva possess a quadruple jump or triple Axel, two technical weapons now being made more common in senior women's skating.

Zagitova said earlier this season she would not skate again until 2021 at the earliest.

With COVID-19 heavily impacting the figure skating season, 2021 will serve as an important year as athletes get ready for the Beijing 2022 Winter Games.

It is rare for a figure skating gold medallist - in the ladies discipline - to try and defend her gold. Kim Yuna did so at Sochi 2014, the 2010 winner finishing as runner-up to Adelina Sotnikova. But Sotnikova, 2006 winner Shizuka Arakawa as well as Sarah Hughes, Tara Lipinski, Oksana Baiul, and Kristi Yamaguchi all opted out from trying to go for back-to-back golds.

Katarina Witt is the last female to win back-to-back Olympic golds, doing so in 1984 and 1988. Hanyu Yuzuru did it most recently in men's skating, winning in both 2014 and 2018.


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