Twice Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu to the reigning world champion Anna shcherbakova, some of the biggest names in figure skating team up with a stuffed animal fans could throw on the ice following an epic performance.
Yelizaveta Tuktamysheva Could have hoped that wreaths would be thrown at the self-proclaimed “Empress” upon her arrival at the 2021 World Figure Skating Championships – her first appearance at the event since her victory in 2015. However, the absence of non-athletic spectators at The Ericsson Globe in Stockholm, Sweden left Tuktamysheva to summon an inner strength, a force that had already brought her back to the top of the sport after six years on the outskirts, to ultimately win a silver medal as part of the ‘a Russian sweep alongside Shcherbakova and Aleksandra Trusova.
“I had to believe that was not the end,” she told NBCSports.com/figure-skating on Sunday. “I had to tell myself that I still had a future, that I had to keep going and that adversity would only make me stronger. Every time I’ve had a bad situation in my life I’ve told myself this. Bad things are going to happen, but I have to survive and move on.
“My career has been a lot like a mountain, something I climbed before I could climb again.
This rise was strewn with peaks and valleys during the last Olympic quadrennium. Tuktamysheva was on track for a place in the world team in 2019 after a bronze medal in this season’s Grand Prix final, only for pneumonia that forced her out of the Russian national championships. She eventually lost her spot to the Olympic silver medalist Yevgenia Medvedeva during a start for the Russian Cup final.
“I was really upset when I knew I wasn’t going to go into the world, and [that] has not been an easy time for me in my career, ”she said before laughing,“ I’ve been through a lot of times like this. “
This last season started off the same way; days after delaying Trusova and European champion 2020 Aliona kostornaya at the Rostelecom Cup, Tuktamysheva tested positive for COVID-19 and was off the ice for two weeks.
“I didn’t have terrible symptoms of COVID, just a fever for two days, and I remember feeling so tired. I’m glad I only got sick like this, and relieved it wasn’t anything worse.
Unable to afford another takedown, the 24-year-old made the trip to the Nationals, a thunderclap filled with teenage quad biking, and finished fourth among eligible athletes in the world to trigger another breakout. tie between her and Kostornaya – who had pulled out due to her own COVID diagnosis.
“I was happy to be able to show my programs at the national championships because it was important to be there and to skate as well as possible,” said Tuktamysheva. “I was happy that I didn’t fall with each jump and it wasn’t that bad!
“After COVID, it took a while to skate my free skate with good breath; I was getting tired faster than before. In the Russian Cup final, I realized I was back in shape and ready to compete.
A near-perfect free skate in Moscow – one that included a triple lutz-triple toe combination in addition to her pair of three-axis jumps – secured her a long-awaited return to the world, where she placed third in both games. of the competition. to finish second overall.
“For me, international competitions have always been less under pressure than those in Russia. Our national competitions have a good number of girls jumping in quads, and so when I went to the worlds I felt so much less pressure, and just… like I was able to appreciate the fact that I was am actually a very good skater. “
It is this kind of radical franchise that has helped make Tuktamysheva a fan favorite and one of the main figures in his sport.
“I feel people understand me because of my openness to them,” she explained. “I’m the same person on social media, in interviews, in real life, and I think that’s why people don’t just see me as an athlete, but as their friend. Their love and support gives me a lot of energy.
A season rich in domestic competition saw her gain the unlikely support of rivals like Shcherbakova, with whom she led Russia to a first World Team Trophy victory earlier this month. in which Tuktamysheva was the team captain.
“We started to look more like friends,” Tuktamysheva said. “She’s a really cute and sweet girl, and I feel comfortable around her. At competitions where her parents couldn’t be with her, I tried to keep her company.
Seven-year-old senior of Shcherbakova, Tuktamysheva does not envy the unique competitive atmosphere encouraged at the Sambo 70 club, led by the coach Eteri Tutberidze and home to a burgeoning new generation of Olympic-eligible talent such as the world junior gold and silver medalists Kamila Valiyeva and Daria Usacheva.
“I didn’t feel about the same amount of pressure at their age that I’m sure they feel now,” Tuktamysheva says. “It was another era in figure skating; the level was not as high so it was easier for me to feel confident about my place in the sport.
“At the same time, I was such a crazy girl growing up, and no one could stop me or say anything to me! I just lead with my mind.
Tuktamysheva’s triumphant victory in the 2020-2021 season puts her in a surprisingly good position to finally compete in an Olympics, having fallen short of the squad in 2014 and 2018. Looking to set her agendas with the famous coach Aleksei mishin before taking a short vacation in the Maldives, she plans to do everything she can to earn the only crown that is still missing from her collection.
“I had a lot of good times and had a long career,” she said. “An opportunity to finally make it to the Olympics would be the icing on the cake. In my wildest dreams, I see myself winning bronze, silver, gold, standing on this Olympic podium. It’s going to be so hard to get there, and I don’t want that to be my main goal for next season, but it would mean so much to me and my career to be able to make it to the Olympics.
“I’ve already done almost 100% of what I can do, and that’s all that’s left.”
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