There is one very notable absence from this week's Russian Figure Skating Championships: Alina Zagitova.
The 17-year-old Russian, who won the women's singles gold medal at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang becoming the second-youngest women's singles champion at the age of 15, announced that she is taking a season-long break.
Through missing the Russian Championships, Zagitova will be unable to qualify for the 2020 European and World Championships. After making this announcement, rumours started to fly that Zagitova was planning on retiring. She took to Instagram to confirm that this is just a temporary break.
On Instagram, Russia's official state news agency TASS reports that Zagitova wrote: "After the broadcast on Channel One, I have received many questions about my interview and about ending my career."
"I was very worried and I was not really able to send a clear message," she continued. "I’m not even thinking about any 'departure' or 'ending my career'."
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Zagitova went on to confirm her plans to continue training: "As an athlete, who has secured all possible top spots, I want to win the highest place on a pedestal." She added: "And to achieve this goal I have to train harder and harder."
She still intends to return to international competitions: "I’m still part of the Russian team and I can still compete for my country at international competitions"
"I’ll continue my path in figure skating with the support of my coaches."
Zagitova initially announced her plans to take a break on Russian TV, after a season where she has struggled to perform to her usual standard and faced stiff competition from younger skaters making their way up the scoreboard.
She is reported to have said: “I will stay on the ice, and I will continue my training,” according to a TASS translation. “I think it would be the right thing to do because I’m going to learn some new elements.”
Last season Zagitova placed fifth at the Russian Nationals, second at the European Championships and winning the world title.News Now - Sport News