Alina Zagitova is proving she belongs. The 15-year-old figure skating sensation turned in a dazzling individual performance in her Olympic debut, helping Russia win silver in the team competition.
“Wearing a flashy red tutu, Zagitova cleanly executed all elements of her jump-packed free skate to take first place with a more than 20-point lead over second-place finisher Mirai Nagasu of the United States,” Reuters reported.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Zagitova’s Father is a Russian Ice Hockey Trainer
Alina’s family tree also has a strong connection to the ice. “Her dad is the trainer of Russian ice hockey team Izhstal,” Russia Beyond reports. Zagitova’s father also played hockey ice hockey at the national level and worked as a coach. Zagitova is also not the only figure skater in the family. According to the PyeongChang Olympics website, “Her younger sister Sabina has also competed in figure skating.
2. Alina Sometimes Feels Isolated On the Ice
Figure skating can be lonely due to the individual nature of the sport and the training time required. Alina moved away from her parents in order to be closer to her coach and training facility. She admits she has few friends. “Only in figure skating, there are people who I see constantly. But this is sport, we are rivals,” she said to Russia Beyond.
The 15-year-old has not had a normal upbringing, but she still has hobbies off the ice. Her hobbies include watching TV, drawing and traveling, according to the PyeongChang Olympics website. According to NBC, she also enjoys rhinestoning.
3. She Was Named After the Famed Olympic Gymnast Alina Kabaeva
Being an Olympian was Alina’s destinty from the moment she was given her first name. Her parents chose Alina after watching the performance of Russian rhythmic gymnast Alina Kabaeva. “I was named in her honour. When I was born, they did not give me a name until I was one year old. Once my parents watched gymnastics. Alina Kabaeva was competing, they looked at each other and decided to call me this name ,” she told PyeongChang Olympics website.
Zagitova also lists Kabaeva as one of her sporting idols. “I know how strong her character is. And I liked very much how she performed,” she said. Zagitova also looks up to fellow Russian figure skater and training partner Evgenia Medvedeva. “I think that Zhenia (Evgenia Medvedeva) is her role model in life, in behavior, in her way to work,” Zagitova’s coach said to GoldenSkate.com.
4. Alina Began Skating at the Age of Five
Alina took to the ice at a very early age. Her professional training began when she was seven. “By age 13, she and her grandmother moved to an apartment in Moscow so Zagitova could train with a new coach,” NBC reports.
That hard work and sacrifice paid off in January at the European Figure Skating Championships as Zagitova upset Evegenia Medvedeva, handing the two-time world champion her first loss in more than two years.
5. Alina Lives With Her Grandmother
Alina only sees her parents and sister about once ever two months, according to NBC. When she was 13, she left her home of Izhevsk and moved to Moscow with her grandmother in order to be closer to her coach and training facility. Zagitova also has a pet chinchilla, which her grandmother takes care of while she is away at competitions, according to NBC.
Zagitova will need a long-term babysitter for her pet chinchilla during the Olympics. She will compete for women’s individual gold on Feb. 21 and 23. You can read more about Zagitova here.