Anna Shcherbakova in Cosmopolitan Russia

Anna Shcherbakova (Photo by Yana Star)

Three-time Russian national champion Anna Shcherbakova will be competing in her first World Figure Skating Championships on the senior level next week. Before she heads out to Stockholm, Sweden as one of the top favorites, the 16-year-old figure skater – who will celebrate her seventeenth birthday on the final day of the competition – spoke to the Russian edition of the Cosmopolitan magazine about her preparation, about the atmosphere in Eteri Tutberidze’s group, and a bit about her personal life.

Translation of interview from Russian to English; questions in interview by journalist Elizaveta Shkurat:

In the comments section on YouTube under the video of your performance at the Russian Championships, people write that they cannot stop watching it. Do you yourself watch recordings of your performances? How do you feel at such moments? Are you making any conclusions?
I sometimes review my performances. Not only from recent competitions but even childhood performances. However, I watched the performance from the last Russian Championships only in the evening after going out on the ice, in order to see it from the side. That day I experienced incredible emotions, both on the ice and the whole evening after. But the very next morning I felt some kind of devastation, and after a couple of days, to be honest, I didn’t even want to hear about my performance. I don’t want to dwell on what has already been done.

Now that the first emotions have subsided, can you say what has changed for you after your third victory at the Russian Championships?

Of course, I am very pleased with this competition. I didn’t expect it to turn out so emotional, as I perceived them as a selection for the World Championships. I think that they will remain special for me even after a long time. Namely now, it seems to me, nothing has changed. I need to move on.

What are your goals for the future? Do you have a big sports dream?

I see my future in the world of figure skating. I would not like to think about it but there is a desire to skate for a long time. I understand that it is impossible to go a long way smoothly, there will be ups and downs. But I think my love for figure skating will help me overcome all difficulties and enjoy the good things that will come along the way.

What did you talk about with Sasha Trusova and Kamila Valieva after your performances at the Russian Championships? Does it happen that one of you is offended or upset when you bypass each other in a tournament?

I will only talk about myself. Of course, I am offended when I lose or do not take the place that I would like. This is not an insult to an opponent but to oneself. This means that something was not enough for the desired result, I should have done more. And we communicate on completely different topics, not only about figure skating.

The fact that you decided to perform in spite of your illness caused great respect. But this season there were other difficulties as well. Do you think the general quarantine has somehow affected your fitness?

Two months without ice, of course, made itself felt. I always go through the recovery period for a long time. Despite the fact that I did a lot at home, the training camp in Novogorsk turned out to be very difficult. 
How did you spend your self-isolation period and how does your day usually go, apart from the lockdown? 
During the period of self-isolation, I managed to spend much more time than usual with my family. But still, most of the day was spent on what I always do: training and studying. The difference is that in addition to this, I had free hours and I tried to spend them productively. I figured out how to diversify or improve my home workouts, filmed them, edited them, and posted them on Instagram. It took a long time, but I am very glad that I was not afraid to create what came to my head.

How difficult is it for you to combine studying and professional sports? Have you already started preparing for your final exams?
It’s harder and harder to combine every year. Often there is not enough time or even energy after training. I am very grateful to the teachers at school for the fact that they meet halfway, give assignments, explain when difficulties arise. I understand that this is very important, I try to allocate time correctly in order to have time to complete assignments in all subjects. Preparation for the exams has already begun.
What are your favorite subjects at school? 

Of course, I like humanitarian subjects more: Russian language, literature.

How do your classmates feel about your sporting success?

Unfortunately, I have no way to communicate with my classmates. Most of the study takes place remotely.

Are you friends with other pupils of Eteri Tutberidze? You have joint photos on Instagram with Alena Kostornaia, Alexandra Trusova, and Alina Zagitova. Is there something that unites you besides sports?
Figure skating still unites us. Thanks to it, we met. I met Alina about six years ago. With Alena and Sasha, we are almost the same age, so we constantly went to competitions together. We have many common interests but we are all different.

You probably have friends who are not related to figure skating. Do you often see each other? How important is it for you to keep in touch with them?
It so happened that most of my friends are somehow connected with figure skating. Everyone has a pretty tight schedule, it is not always possible to see each other but thanks to the internet we stay in touch.

How do you usually rest? What TV shows do you watch? Do you have any favorite films and books that you would recommend everyone to read? 
I rarely watch movies. I love TV shows more. Favorite TV series – Sherlock. I watched it many times in Russian, now I watch it in English. So to speak, I combine business with pleasure. During school hours I read only textbooks and school literature. But during the holidays I am happy to discover something new for myself. Of the last books I liked – Roadside Picnic by the Strugatskys.

Your family has several pets. Do you agree that animals help people show their best qualities? Do you have a need to take care of who is weaker or more vulnerable?

Agree. I don’t just love animals, I like helping them. We have all animals with character. It is especially valuable when you see their trust, feel their love, affection. They are so sincere, sometimes you understand them better than people without words.

You have a lot of photos on your profile with your family, especially your sisters. Are you getting along well? Your mom goes with you to all the competitions, and your sisters support you?

Yes, my mother not only travels with me to all competitions but is also present at almost all trainings, so I’m more accustomed and calmer. Previously, she could not even distinguish jumps but over time she began to understand. Now she understands a lot about figure skating but she doesn’t try to coach me, she just supports me. I am very grateful to her for that. My dad and sisters watch my performances like fans. They also always support me, they worry when I am at the competitions. They are the first ones to call, congratulate, or calm down.

If not for figure skating, in what area would you be able to realize yourself, what do you think? Do you have a profession that you would like to master? Explain your choice.

I am rather a creative person. I like to try come up with something new. But apart from sports, I have not yet found what I would like to do as much. So far, I have figure skating and enough time to figure out what else is interesting to me.

You travel often, on social networks you can find photos from Japan and China. Did you like Asia? How close is the culture of the East to you?
From the side of an athlete, the performances in Japan and China turned out to be bright and memorable. In Japan, figure skating is one of the most popular sports, so there is a special attitude towards skaters, and performances are always a great pleasure. I was in China once last year at the Grand Prix stage. And there I felt just incredible support from the audience, and that is always very important and pleasant. After the end of the performance, dozens of identical bears and one huge one flew onto the ice: now I have a whole collection at home that reminds me of the competitions in the Celestial Empire.

Unfortunately, trips to competitions do not allow you to learn as much about the country as you would like. If I have a free day, I try to immerse myself in the atmosphere of the city. Not only local attractions are interesting but also everyday life. Asia has a different mentality. You can feel it even if you are just walking down the street, entering shops and cafes. I would like to go there not only for shows or competitions but to spend a few days or weeks as a tourist.

What other countries would you like to visit and why?

I would like to visit Niagara Falls in Canada, see Machu Picchu in Peru, walk along the Great Wall of China and see many, many other interesting places. I like to travel, feel the greatness of nature and ancient history.

What are your expectations from the upcoming World Championships? Recently it became known that it will be held without spectators. How important is audience support during your performances to you?

Expected solution. I think this time the atmosphere will be more restrained, less festive. This season I have already competed without spectators. The support of the fans and the connection with the stands is very important. 

Who do you consider your main rivals at the upcoming World Championships?

A lot of strong skaters will take part in this competition. Due to the lack of international tournaments this season, it is difficult to assess who is in what form. Everyone will try, first of all, to surpass themselves, cope with their problems, and show their maximum.

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