Alina Zagitova, the Russian teen who narrowly edged two-time defending world champion Evgenia Medvedeva for the women’s figure skating gold at the 2018 Winter Olympics and recently took second at the European Championships, sat down for a series of interviews this week with Russian media. One of the running themes in these sit-downs was her body, and more precisely her weight.
When talking to Russian Glamour, Zagitova was asked if she had any specific food restrictions or if she ever indulged in food like chips. She answered:
“No, I don’t like chips. Well, perhaps it’s because I don’t eat them. I like sweets—chocolate, candy. Generally, I restricted myself during the Olympic Games. I was, you can say, not drinking water at all. That is, we just rinsed our mouths and spit it all out.”
So: during the Olympics, Zagitova pulled off her incredible performances while treating water like mouthwash. She did add that her eating habits improved after the Olympics. “I started paying more attention to my health. So, I started eating right, [started] both eating and drinking. And now I have some, I don’t know, strength, both mental and physical.”
Zagitova did later acknowledge that in the face of disappointment at last year’s world championships, where she fell in the long program and missed the podium, she did eat junk food and watch TV. At least we have some proof that she is human like the rest of us, and not an alien sent from another planet to do four triple loops in a row.
“After the World Championships where I competed unsuccessfully, I really got something sweet, I won’t tell what, and I ate all of it while watching a TV show. But it was the end of the season already, there were no more competitions, I didn’t need to prepare for anything, so I could afford it.”
Food and weight were also themes during Zagitova’s interview with Sport24:
“Eteri Georgievna always tells you when you gain weight. But there are no phrases like ‘you’re fat.’ We watch our weight by ourselves, we see ourselves in the mirror. I don’t restrict myself in anything besides, perhaps, cakes. There are sweets in my life but I’m fighting that [urge]. I look at my weight, if I gained a bit, I try to eat less.”
Eteri Tutberidze is Zagitova’s coach, and was Medvedeva’s coach for many years until she left after the 2018 Olympics to move to Toronto to train with Brian Orser. Tutberidze is something of a controversial figure in the skating world for seeming to push the young skaters under her tutelage too hard.
Tutberidze has also coached some of the most prominent Russian figure skaters from the last five years. In addition to Zagitova and Medvedeva, she is also coaching the top Russian junior skaters including world junior champion Alexandra Trusova, who can do several quad jumps in her program. Tutberidze also coached Yulia Lipnitskaya, who was one of the breakout stars of the 2014 Olympics in Sochi; though she didn’t medal individually, she helped the Russians win the team gold. About four years later, Lipnitskaya announced her retirement from the sport after she completed treatment for anorexia.
Zagitova appears to defend her coach in this interview:
“I can’t tell much about Tutberidze. But she is as dedicated as me. She never gives up. She moves towards the goal she set for herself. She has everything—both the carrot and the whip.”
But does Tutberidze let you eat the carrot? That’s the question.