How did three Russian teenagers – and their training partners – become the best figure skaters in the world?


In what should be a groundbreaking display of technical ability, a young but mighty trio of Russian figure skaters are set to light up the ice at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

Run by a 15 year old Kamila Valievareigning world champion at 17 Anna Shcherbakova and “Quad Queen” Alexandra Trousovaalso 17, Russian skaters are favorites to sweep the podium in Beijing – just as they did at the 2021 World Championships – and continue a trend that began in 2014 when their Russian compatriots Adelina Sotnikovathen 17, won gold in Sochi.

Since then, Russian teenagers have dominated the event, with two teenagers from the same Moscow rink – then aged 15 Alina Zagitova and Eugenie Medvedeva, then 17 – winning gold and silver in PyeongChang. And heading to China, that same rink is home to the three skaters representing the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC). Also in common is their trainer, Eteri Tutberidzewhich guides the Russian contenders into a third consecutive edition of the Games.

But it was their jumping power that lifted these skaters into the next stratosphere and iteration of the sport.

All three have the elusive “quad” in their arsenal. The quad – a four-revolution jump – was once considered an almost impossible feat for female skaters and is only allowed in free skating. Valiyeva is expected to do three in her free skate, while Trusova landed five clear quads at a national event in September.

While such feats ultimately pit these teammates and sparring partners against each other in competition, Valiyeva expressed the perspective of a seasoned competitor after winning the Russian Championships in December: “Rivalry is always good, in any sport, and she probably pushes you forward.”

As the success of young Tutberidze students soared, concerns were raised about eating disorders in the Russian camp, especially after Yulia Lipnitskayaa former student of Tutberidze who won team gold in 2014, opened up in 2017 about dealing with chronic anorexia.

How did Valiyeva, Shcherbakova and Trusova reach the top?

Born in Kazan, Russia, Valiyeva started skating at age 3 and doing ballet at age 5. In kindergarten, she said she knew she was destined to compete in the Olympics. Her love of ballet and other visual arts – especially painting – influenced her skating, and she is known as much for her artistry as her technical prowess.

Moscow-born Shcherbakova also skated at the age of 3, when she followed her older sister Inna to the rink. She burst onto the scene with a surprise victory at the 2019 Russian Championships, but her last two seasons have been a mix of triumphs and health battles. Last year she recorded an impressive third consecutive victory at the Russian national championships, but a bout of pneumonia during the 2020-21 season and a broken toe in June caused her to miss long periods of training. .

“You want to follow this level [of others] and keep staying fit,” Shcherbakova said in December at the national championships, showing her determination to make up for lost time. “I will dedicate the maximum training time to quad jumps and in future competitions I will try to complete all jump combinations, making them more advanced.”

MORE ON HER TURF: 2022 Winter Olympics schedule – How to watch every women’s event

Trusova, who was born in Ryazan, Russia, started skating when she was 4, but says it was watching fellow Russian skaters Sotnikova and Lipnitskaya compete at the 2014 Sochi Games that her goal of participating in the Olympics was inspired. She has achieved several “firsts” since, becoming the first skater to land a quad Lutz and a quad toe in competition as a junior, as well as the first to land two quads in one program. In her first senior season, Trusova became the first skater to land three quads in a single program and the first to land a quad flip in competition.

Off the ice, this quad team shares a common love for animals: Trusova is a mother dog of a Chihuahua Tina and miniature poodles lana, Alita and Cruel – the name of the soundtrack of the film which serves as music for his Olympic free skating; Shcherbakova says her cat Mafia dominates the perch; and Valiyeva’s Pomeranian Spitz named Lyova was a gift from his fan club.

Which Russian figure skater is the favorite to win gold in Beijing?

Ahead of the Olympics, Valiyeva is unbeaten in her first senior international season and has won two of the toughest competitions – the Russian national championships and the European championships in January – by record margins. She landed three quadruple jumps in the free skate in Tallinn, Estonia, totaling 259.06 points and setting a new record winning margin. Valiyeva won by 21.64, breaking the previous women’s record set by Medvedeva in 2017 (18.32 points).

Last fall, Trusova became the first woman to land five quads in a program, while Shcherbakova has the quad flip and the quad Lutz in her repertoire.

“Without quads you have no chance of winning competitions now,” Shcherbakova told last month. “So I know that for me it’s really important [to add more]. … My goal is not to do a single quad [but] work more on it and show more quads in my program.

MORE OLYMPIC FIGURE SKATING: Kamila Valiyeva becomes the first woman to land a quad at the Olympics

Before the arrival of the powerful Russian trio, only a few names had even attempted the quad jump, with France Surya Bonaly he blazed the trail 30 years ago at the 1992 Albertville Winter Olympics. Bonaly landed an attempt at the underpinning quad, which was not ratified, and no other woman has tried one one at the Olympics since.

Expect that to change when Olympic figure skating competition begins.

“It’s going to be very difficult for skaters who don’t have those quads to compete for a medal,” said the NBC analyst and 1998 Olympic gold medalist. Tara Lipinsky. “No one fundamentally likes change, and this is going to be such a drastic change. I wonder how are you going to balance what figure skating is – the balance between technical and artistic, which has always been an issue in our sport It is a time of change.

2022 Winter Olympics: Women’s Figure Skating Schedule

After the team event at the start of the Olympics, the women’s figure skating competition will begin on February 15.

Event Date/Time (US Eastern Time) Date/Time (Beijing, China)
Women’s short program 02/15/22 05:00 02/15/22 18:00
Women’s Free Skating 02/17/22 05:00 02/17/22 18:00

NBC Olympics researcher Sarah Hughes contributed to this report.

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