At 15 years old, Russian figure skater Alina Zagitova is already making waves in the sport. She's ranked fifth in the world as of January 21, and has the potential to win the gold at the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang. Here's everything you need to now about skating's newest superstar.
1. She was born in Izhevsk, Russia, almost 800 miles east of Moscow. But she moved to Moscow to live with her grandma at the age of 13. She now trains there.
2. She was named after another Russian performer. Alina's parents named her after watching Russian rhythmic gymnast Alina Kabaeva perform, according to the PyeongChang Olympics website. Just by the way, her parents didn't give her a name until she was one year old and they were watching gymnastics. They saw Kabaeva perform and were inspired. Now, Alina says Kabaeva is one of her idols. "I know how strong her character is. And I liked very much how she performed," she said. As a totally unrelated side note, it's often been rumored that Kabaeva is dating/has dating Vladimir Putin (emphasis on the word rumored here).
3. Alina started training professionally in figure skating aged 6, and skating runs in her family. Her father, Ilnaz Zagitov, is an ice hockey coach who competed at the national level in Russia. Her younger sister Sabina is also a figure skater.
4. She says figure skating can be lonely. Alina lives away from her family, and said that, "the first months it was very difficult to cope with the fact that I do not see my relatives – mom, dad, sister... There was some devastation in my soul. But then we began to communicate on Skype and the mood improved."
Zagitova also says she doesn't have that many friends. "Only in figure skating, there are people who I see constantly," she said. "But this is sport, we are rivals”
5. She trains with Evgenia Medvedeva, who many favor to win the gold medal in PyeongChang. The two Russian skaters are poised to take first and second place at the Olympics. Despite the potential rivalry, the girls seem to support each other. "Zhenya congratulated me, and I congratulated her yesterday," Zagitova said after the team competition on February 12, referring to Medvedeva by her Russian nickname. "We've really bonded during these competitions."
6. This is only her first season skating at the senior level. Up until this year, she had been skating at the junior level. She moved up to the senior level last summer, and winning her first medal at the 2017 CS Lombardia Trophy in September. In December, she won the Grand Prix Final and the Russian National Figure Skating Championship. She was named to the Olympic team in January after beating Medvedeva in the European Championships.
7. But she's already a world record holder. Her performance in the free skate at the Olympics on February 12 earned the highest ever technical score of any women's team skater at 158.08. She became the first figure skater in the world to put all her jumps in the second half of her program, because skaters are rewarded bonus points for anything they do in the second half.
8. Technically, she's competing as an Olympic Athlete from Russia, not a Russian Athlete. As a punishment for doping in the Sochi Olympics in 2014, Russian athletes cannot compete under the Russian flag. Instead, they're called Olympic Athletes from Russia. When they win medals, Russian athletes stand on the podium in an International Olympic Committee-approved neutral red tracksuit as the Olympic anthem plays, not the Russian anthem.
9. She has a pet chinchilla and it's really adorable. She also has cats.
10. And in her spare time, she likes to rhinestone. Yes, rhinestone. She also likes to draw and watch American TV shows.
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