Alina Zagitova: "I want to do things my way"

The newly crowned Figure Skating world champion opens up about her struggles after the Olympic season, the love for Japan and...her dog Masaru

Alina Zagitova has added a world title to her Olympic and European crowns.

At 16 years and 308 days, the PyeongChang 2018 gold medallist has become the youngest skater to win the treble, beating gymnastics legend Nadia Comaneci (who was 39 days 'older' in 1978).

The Russian bounced back from a disappointing fifth place at last year's worlds in Milan and a sub-par season by her standards. She finished fifth at the national championships and took silver at both the Grand Prix Final and the European Championships.

Zagitova has spoken with reporters the day after her victory in Japan. The Olympic Channel was there to document it.

At this stage, is this gold at the worlds maybe more important to you than the one you won at the Olympics?

Alina Zagitova: In the Olympic season every performance was something new for me. Now, it is twice as hard to prepare for a performance. It was very important for me to perform well here and end the season with dignity.

How have you managed to get out of your head what happened a year ago when you finished fifth?

I tend to forget my successes as quickly as my failures and start everything from scratch. To be honest, I went to the World Championships to ensure that we would have 3 quotas for this year's edition. This was the most important thing for me. Maybe I did not even realise that I did have the physical power but not the mental one to perform. What's happened has happened.

You must have been aware of what routines your rivals from Japan or Kazakhstan were preparing. How did that affect your preparation?

Well, maybe you heard many athletes saying that their most important rival is themselves. I am no exception. You should perform what you trained for during practice and present the program at your best.

What is the most difficult element for you now?

I cannot even say, as every element is difficult in its own way. Every element is technically different.

What did you think about last night after you were alone for a while?

How I can pass the doping test faster! [laughs]. Yesterday I beat my record: I waited from 9 pm until 5am! That’s why I did not have time to be alone with myself yet, I haven't slept yet, I haven’t had the chance.

I proved to myself that I can overcome issues in technical part and also I can handle stress, most of all - Alina Zagitova

You won gold at the Olympics and at the World Champs: what else do you want in life?

For me the most important thing now is to continue performing. I can also become a two-time, three-time champion...But I am not thinking of any records, I am always saying that, for me the most important thing right now is to skate. I do it for myself and for my supporters, who are following me in different countries. Some came here from Russia to support me, and I appreciate it a lot.

This season was very hard. How often has it been a pleasure for you to actually skate?

Less often than in the previous one. But when it is hard and you overcome it, it is twice as pleasant. It was a tough ahead of these World Championships. When I had won, I was two or maybe three times happier, than after the Olympics. This season was really hard for me.

What was the most critical period?

The Russian Championship, after the free program. There was a moment when I lost confidence, but my coaches found the right words. There were a lot of people who were helping me, giving me strength. It was very pleasant to win in Japan, I wanted it very much.

Your parents said that they were really happy for you: how close were your family before your performance?

Usually we do not talk before the performance. But before the short program, I was already putting my skates on when I got a phone call from my sister. She asked me how I was and I told her, 'I was fine'. ‘Preparing for the short one?’ ‘Yes’. ‘Well, just try not to fall down!’ – she tells me like that. I was like, my younger sister? Did she really tell me that?.. It was motivating. She told me she would be watching my performance and supporting me. So, being the older sister, I needed to provide a good example. Maybe, this also played an important role before this performance. Regarding my father, he is always giving important words of advice: he's been in hockey for 40 years and is now a coach himself. He went through a lot of injuries and he has a lot of willpower. I think I inherited it a bit!

When I understood I won, I was two or maybe three times happier, than during the Olympics - Alina Zagitova

Alina Zagitova during the Women's Award ceremony in Saitama
Alina Zagitova during the Women's Award ceremony in SaitamaAlina Zagitova during the Women's Award ceremony in Saitama

Coming back to this season: what did affect you the most, physical or mental stress?

I think it was both. In the beginning, it was harder technically, then before the performance, thinking everything over, mental issues started.

You showed, yet again, a great performance, do you think you have proved something with this?

First of all, I proved to myself that I can overcome issues, and also I can handle stress, most of all.

In your team there are girls who are jumping quads: are you planning to have quad jumps in your programs?

I tried Q flip, Q rittberger, but so far it is just the beginning. So far I haven't planned them, but I understand that, with time, it will be necessary to jump them, if you want to be at the top. But so far I have enough content for the programs, so, we will see ...

When it is hard and you overcome it, it is twice as pleasant - Alina Zagitova

Spectators were throwing some gifts for you on the ice, could you share how many packets did you receive and which present was the most memorable?

6 or 7. The best ones for me are those that fans made with their own hands. I received some handmade books, with drawings of my history from junior’s time till Olympics. I always keep those for memories.

You achieved a lot as an athlete: what motivates you every day?

Maybe, my love for figure skating. Every athlete has a moment when they achieve everything, they just want to leave everything behind and live an ordinary life. But then I am thinking: 'how will I live an ordinary life, now that I have seen the world, thanks to the work that I love?' I understand I will not be able to live without figure skating. So that’s it: first I think I would stop, then I realise I cannot leave it as I have dedicated all my life to this until now. So I will not be able to leave figure skating!

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Мои первые и дорогие мне медали 🥇🥈 в 2019 на Чемпионате Европы! Спасибо Минску и всем болельщикам, кто переживал за меня 👏🤗. Большая благодарность моим тренерам Этери Георгиевне , Даниилу Марковичу и Сергею Викторовичу Дудакову за то, что вы всегда со мной. Отдельное спасибо моим фанатам за "плюшевый флешмоб" на льду - ВЫ ЛУЧШИЕ 💥❤💥🤩💥. С такой поддержкой я чувствую себя уверенно, и мне хочется радовать вас новыми прокатами ⛸💃🎯🏆Игрушки подарила детям из детского дома, пусть у них тоже будет отличное настроение 💝👭👬🏼👫💝. 欧州選手権で2019年初の貴重なメダル 🥇🥈 を取ることができました! 開催地ミンスク、そして、私を支えてくれたすべての皆様、ありがとうございました👏🤗 特に、スケート上でのぬいぐるみフラッシュモブをしてくださったファンの方に、感謝を伝えたいです😁みんな本当に最高です💥❤💥🤩💥 みなさまの応援が、私に自信を与え、みなさまへ次のパフォーマンス見せたいというモチベーションになります⛸💃🎯🏆😊 子どもたちへ幸せを運んでくれることを願って、皆様から頂いたぬいぐるみたちは、孤児院へプレゼントさせていただきました💝👭👬👫💝 欧州選手権で2019年初の貴重なメダル 🥇 My first and much precious medals 🥇🥈 in 2019 at the European Championship! Thank you, Minsk and all the people who cared about me 👏🤗. My sincere appreciation for the continuous support to the best coaches in the world Eteri Tutberidze @tutberidze.eteri, Daniil Gliekhengauz @d_gleikh and Serguey Dudakov. Special Thank You to my fans for your "plush flashmob" on the ice 😁 - YOU ARE THE BEST 💥❤💥🤩💥. Such Support makes me feel confident and motivates me for further performances for YOU⛸💃🎯🏆😊 As for the toys, I gifted them to the Orphanage bringing the kids happiness 💝👭👬👫💝. #фигурное катание #figureskating #чемпионатевропы #europeanchampionship #isu #teamrussia #teamtutberidze #shiseido #shiseidoginzatokyo #資生堂 #资生堂 @shiseido

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In Minsk, you said that the first thing you would do after the European Championships was going for practice. What would you like to do now, after you return?

To sleep a bit.... [laughs] But now I am not going anywhere, I am staying here, in Japan, performing for the show. Then, I am going home.

We read you are going to Okinawa after here. Why are you going there?

First of all, the country itself, Japan. Secondly, the sea is very blue there, lots of fish, corals...It is also very calm there.

Are you going to snorkel?

Of course!

How about diving?

I am very intrigued, but I am afraid at the same time. I've never tried it, but I have a kind of phobia when I am in a closed space...

How does your dog Masaru feel on the ice?

She is just falling down and licking it! She is coming to the ice rink with me sometimes, but not very often. When she comes, she distracts me a bit from my training mood and she brings some joy, it's great.

They say that her breed, the Akita, has a difficult character. Is this true?

Yes, it is difficult, but Masaru is a very calm dog and she understands everything. However, sometimes she wants to do the opposite of what she is told: for example, we do not allow her be in the kitchen, so she is, like, looking: ‘hmmm... I think I will lie down here...' Then it is not possible to move her as she is like 25 kg right now. She understands it perfectly well and just lies down on her back with the paws in the air. She is so funny!

They say 'dogs mirror owners' personalities', is that so?

Yes, it is so. I also like showing my character now, I want to do things my way: if they tell me yes, I answer no, if they tell me no, I reply yes. But this will pass with age, I think, every person goes through this. I am trying to fight this.

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🎈🐕 Масару сегодня 1 годик 🎀!!! С Днём Рождения, моя любимая 🐕! Моя радость, поддержка и вдохновение!!! Будь здоровой и послушной 🐶🎁🎉 🎈🐕今日、マサルが1歳の誕生日をむかえました🎀 私の愛犬、誕生日おめでとう!🐕あなたがいてくれて私は本当に幸せで、あなたは私の支えであり、私を鼓舞してくれる存在です!これからも素直で元気に過ごしてくれることを祈っています🐶🎁🎉 🎈🐕 Masaru is celebrating her 1st year today !!! Happy Birthday, my lovely dog! 🐕 You are my happiness, support and inspiration! Wish you to be healthy and obedient 🐶🎁🎉 #масару #акитаину #акита #собака #люблю #япония #masaru #マサル #秋田犬 #日本 # 愛してる #akitas # japan #puppy #mylove

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