‘I’m more recognized in Japan than in Russia,’ says Olympic champ Alina Zagitova

Russian figure skating ace Alina Zagitova has revealed that her overwhelming popularity in Japan is phenomenal, with fans recognizing her more frequently than in her home country.

In an exclusive interview with RT the reigning Olympic champion opened up about her plans for the upcoming world championship and talked about her Japanese dog as well as her admiration for the land of the rising sun, which captivated her at first sight.

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Talking about medal contenders and main rivals for the world championship, which will be held in Japan in March, Zagitova stressed that her number one opponent will be herself.

My biggest rival is myself because every time entering a competition I’m overwhelmed with anxiety and excitement. And I need to battle these emotions to deliver clean skating. That’s why I am my biggest opponent,” Zagitova told RT.

The 16-year-old said that she admires the world championship host country’s hospitality and beauty, adding that she is grateful to the Japanese dog she was given by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe following her Olympic win.

When I first visited Japan I was charmed by a warm atmosphere and calmness. Plus I was presented with Akita-inu dog named Masaru. I really spend much time with my dog, we go for a walk together and she helps me to focus on something else apart from the training process. I don’t know how it exactly happened but I liked Japan,” Zagitova said.

I miss my dog when I go abroad to take part in international events, but my parents always send me pictures and videos of Masaru and my mood improves fast after watching them.”

She also added that along with commonly known dog commands “to sit” and “come” she also trained Masaru to execute axel and salchow, figure skating jumps which Zagitova includes in her programs.

One day I want to take it to Japan so that Masaru could visit its home soil,” Zagitova stressed.

The 2018 European champion noted that the level of her popularity in Japan is incomparable with any other country, including Russia, where she was born.

I’m getting recognized in Japan more than in Russia because Japanese fans are obsessed with figure skating. The sport is extremely popular there, more than in Russia, at least I think so.”

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When asked about Alexandra Trusova’s sensational win at the national junior championship, Zagitova said that the result was predictable taking into account how much time the skater spends on the ice to polish her risky elements.

Trusova’s victory didn’t come as a surprise to me,” Zagitova said. “Because we have been training in one group at the same skating rink, so I know what she is capable of. Of course I will congratulate her on her win when I see Trusova on the rink.”