All will not turn the same as ere: Tatar girl from Izhevsk Alina Zagitova stronger than march of history
Day of female defenders of the Fatherland at the Pyeongchang Olympics
Many Russians didn't sleep early in the morning, which was festive for the country, expecting the transmission of the biggest battle of modern figure skating and probably these Olympics. The fight of 15-year-old Alina Zagitova, who was born in Tatarstan and made her first steps in sport in Almetyevsk, against Evgenia Medvedeva who has been dominating in women's singles in the last two years, was to be the adornment of the whole tournament. It's symbolical that the girls' final performance coincided with 23 February – these fragile, really prepared figure skaters made a grandiose festivity in the end. Realnoe Vremya tells about the drama, which almost happened on the ice, and the victory that all Tatarstan and Udmurtia expected.
''Yagudin and Plyuschenko in women's singles''
The rivalry of Aleksey Yagudin and Evgeny Plyuschenko has been considered a major until today. Both deserved victories at Olympics, but the figure skaters weren't lucky to be born in one time lag (with a 2-years difference). But can we say so if each of them had a gold in the singles by the end of the career, while the rivalry of Yagudin and Plyuschenko has been written down in the history of world sport?
Alina Zagitova and Evgenia Medvedeva made remember the events in Salt Lake City 16 years ago with their performance in Pyeongchang. And the story repeated to details. But this time they were friends, not sworn enemies. Each of them had their own ''defenders'' who frankly supported ''theirs'' on the threshold of the major competition, like, for instance, famous coach Tatiana Tarasova.
''She (Editor's Note: Medvedeva) is a surprising athlete – very smart and fragile. She's real. While Alina is an explosion. In the short programme, she just performed more jumps than Medvedeva,'' Tarasova shared her impressions of the first stage of the rivalry of the girls in Pyeongchang.
The affection of Yagudin and Plyuschenko also divided. Aleksey claimed he supported Medvedeva.
''Evgenia Medvedeva grew up not just a technically gifted figure skater – she is presentable, she passes all through herself, she skates with a message. And Alina Zagitova's technical elements are a bit stronger. It's why she is ahead. Why should one be offended? It's life. Competitions take place to find the strongest at this stage. Undoubtedly, I want Evgenia to win because Zagitova is younger, anyway,'' Yagudin said.
Plyuschenko had another opinion. For him, Alina became a real revelation, and her style was closer to Evgeny than Medvedeva's artistry.
''On the one hand, Evgenia deserves the Olympic gold as no one else. On the other hand, can Alina's skating leave anybody indifferent? The girl is opening a new page in the history of our sport. She's doing what others can't now – she is complicating the programme as much as she can, including all jumps in the second part. They are artistic, with a good height, flight. Speaking about the technique only, Alina is closer to me than Evgenia,'' Plyuschenko admitted.
However, the opinion of the Olympic champion was one of many. It all created a heavy atmosphere around the rivalry of the athletes and made the complicated situation tenser. Especially for Zagitova whose potential was tried to be lowered by all means.
The set-up changed right before the Olympics
Daughter of the famous hockey player in Tatarstan and Udmurtia Alina Zagitova literally rushed into the world of figure skating at the right time. Medvedeva was the major and undoubted leader in the women's singles who won almost everywhere where she participated, either the Russian championship, Grand Prix final, world or European tournament one year to the decisive competition of the 4-years training cycle. However, the fate was so that Evgenia was injured several months to the major competition, and Zagitova got her chance, which seemed to be tiny. It had being considered for several seasons that Medvedeva simply didn't have real rivals in the fight for a gold. The facility she performed her programme with and the set of elements allowed her to win one medal after another without looking back at her opponents.
However, almost everyone supported Alina before the Olympics. The freshness of the programme, perfect technique and the complexity of elements with original distribution along the performance did their work. Probably Evgenia herself had to improve her performance beforehand, but it seemed that Medvedeva's coaches were confused because of the force majeure like injury, and their pupil simply lost her ''competitiveness''. Zagitova got a chance and challenge that she accepted due to her character.
Day of female defenders of the Fatherland
Alina went to the Olympics as the main candidate for the gold medal. But people talked about it with some caution, and when she appeared near the board after Japanese-born Kaori Sakamoto, there was fear – would the 15-year-old athlete go through it? All Izhevsk was nervous, Zagitova was the main athlete for Udmurtia, her victories, her medals are expected here like the air. And all people claimed ''oh'' when there was a fault after the first jump.
But Zagitova's fighting character made itself known. Alina's coaches seemed to have guessed the pressure that can affect the quality of elements in performance and did their best to solve this problem. All jumps and complications of the programme expected Alina at the end (though the tiredness too). But the anxiety she felt was to disappear by that time, and it seemed to save the athlete. The fault in the first jump and lack of confidence in the second one only challenged Alina, and the missed triple Lutz with the triple loop jump were heroically performed later.
Alina scored 156.65 for her programme, but Medvedeva's personal record is more than 160. As much as the ''Tatar princess' was hiding her concerns behind the smile, everything was on her face. She had to be in such a state for another 15 minutes without paying attention to Canadian Kaetlyn Osmond's performance and looking at her older teammate with a hope for a miracle.
Meanwhile, Medvedeva's state was far worse. She competed last, without having a right to the smallest mistake or fault. In the end, Evgenia tried to control herself, she was a bit cautious but couldn't repeat the story of Aleksey Yagudin. The latter also competed last in 2002, also had many exciting moments. But history loves repetitions, and this time it was different.
Previous merits don't work at Olympics
After her performance, Medvedeva was crying, her coach propped her up trying to calm her down, she perfectly understood her feelings. The champion who has got used to setting trends in figure skating in the last years, who is the winner of almost all big competitions, left behind. Modest but evil and ambitious as an athlete Alina Zagitova was first. Without doubt, sports justice has the merit: a person who is ready here and now always wins. Previous merits are previous to distract from them on time.
All in Russia expected a gold in the women's singles at the 2018 Olympics. But the fight between Zagitova and Medvedeva will be lettered to the history of figure skating in gold. The drama that can serve in films as a script was on the ice on that day. The athletes got medals, but millions of Russians who were nervous in that early morning won no less.