Two-time world champion and Olympic silver medallist withdraws from this month's Russian nationals to seriously dent hopes of making 2021 World Championships.
Olympic silver medallist Evgenia Medvedeva has called this season “the most difficult” of her senior career.
The reflection comes as Medvedeva, who turned 21 last month, confirmed she would miss the Russian figure skating national championships which provides the main basis for selection for January's European Championships in Zagreb.
That event was cancelled on Thursday (10 December), but she is left with limited opportunities to impress ahead of the World Championships scheduled for March.
"This is the sixth season in adult figure skating for me and, probably, the most difficult. We will work to keep everything going well,” she told the Russian news agency TASS. “I understand that I let my fans down, but such is the life of an athlete."
The two-time world champion has endured a sequence of challenges in what has been a complicated time for all athletes in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Medvedeva herself contracted the coronavirus in November, and revealed that it left her with “serious lung damage,” though she has since returned to training.
With the Russian nationals set to begin on 22 December in the city of Chelyabinsk, Medvedeva said she simply ran out of training time, having been hampered by a back injury in recent months.
“I essentially [had] two weeks to prepare for the Russian championship, in such circumstances and with the recommendations of doctors - it's impossible.”
Medvedeva will have a narrow path – if any – to skate at the Worlds, set for late March in Stockholm, as the Russian skating federation normally bases its selections on performances at nationals.
“This season is probably the most difficult, if we talk about health," she said. “In the fall there were problems with my back, severe pain, because of which I missed more than a month of training. After my back felt better and I just began to enter the training regime, I became very ill.”
In 2019, having finished seventh at nationals, Medvedeva won a domestic Russian Cup event in late February, booking her ticket for the Worlds in what some deemed as a “skate-off”. It is unclear whether the same process could play out in early 2021.
Tutberidze, who helped Medvedeva to her silver medals in both singles and the Olympic team event at PyeongChang, has not had the chance to train properly with Medvedeva due to injury and illness.
The trio of Russian teens – Alena Kostornaia, Alexandra Trusova and Anna Shcherbakova – will be among the favourites at the nationals, along with recent Rostelecom Cup winner and 2015 world champion Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, and reigning junior world champion, Kamila Valieva.