Meet Anna Shcherbakova, Russia’s newest (and most relentless) Figure Skating World Champion (PHOTOS)

Joosep Martinson/International Skating Union/Getty Images
The Moscow figure skater broke her leg when she was 13 and fell ill with pneumonia a few months before the World Championships, but in March 2021 she won gold in Sweden.

"I went out on the ice, and the coach said to me: ’Let's try holding on to the sides’. My thoughts at that moment were, 'Why should I hold on to the sides, I can nail it’. But I immediately collapsed on the ice. I stood there thinking that I couldn't do it, but I tried again. <...> After the third fall I realized that it was not as easy as it seemed to me at first," that’s how Anna Shcherbakova, World Champion 2021 recalls her first time on the ice in an interview with Sport24.

Anna Shcherbakova of Russia prepares in the Junior Ladies Free Skating during the ISU Junior Grand Prix of Figure Skating at Ondrej Nepela Arena on August 25, 2018 in Bratislava, Slovakia

Anna was born in the family of a physicist and geochemist, and she took up figure skating from the age of 3.5 with her sister Inna. At the same time she went to drawing, music lessons, swimming and tennis, her parents Stanislav and Julia told Sport-Express. Soon, Inna stopped being interested in sports, while Anna, according to her father, became seriously interested in skating. 

Choreographer Daniil Gleikhengauz talks to Anna Shcherbakova of Russia before her junior ladies free skate during the 2018 Junior Grand Prix of Figure Skating on September 14, 2018 in Richmond, British Columbia, Canada

"I took my children to the ice rink to make them healthier. I had no idea where I was going. I began to realize something after Anna joined Eteri Georgievna's group (Eteri Tutberidze, the coach who trained Olympic champion Alina Zagitova, Yulia Lipnitskaya, two-time world champion Evgenia Medvedeva and other athletes - editor’s note), I slowly began to realize that figure skating could be more than just a sport for yourself," recalled Shcherbakova's mother, Yulia.

Fractured leg and pneumonia

At age 13, the future champion broke her leg while training before her first international season in 2017-18, and even her parents doubted that Anna could return to the sport.

Anna Shcherbakova of Russia warming up ahead of the Gala Exhibition during the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Final (Senior & Junior) at Palavela Arena on December 08, 2019 in Turin, Italy

"After six weeks in a full cast, the leg looked quite unusual - it was just a shapeless something that hardly bent at all. <...> We needed a great deal of faith in the power of nature to reassure ourselves that everything would straighten out, the leg would return to normal, and the child would be able to walk like everyone else without limping. <...> And returning to the rink - I took it as a great miracle, no less," said Anna's father Stanislav.

In the same year the girl finally recovered, and until 2019 she managed to win Russian and international junior competitions. Among her victories are gold at the Russian Championship and at the European Youth Olympic Festival in Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovina).

Anna Shcherbakova from Russia, during Ladies Practice at the ISU European Figure Skating Championships 2020 at Steiermarkhalle, on January 25 2020 in Graz, Austria

In 2019-2020, Anna began competing in the adult group, won several gold and silver medals and set world and personal records. At the Italian Challenger Series tournament, the Lombardia Trophy, the skater performed a clean quadruple lutz jump for the first time ever among adult athletes. 

Anna Shcherbakova participates in demonstration performances at the Russian Figure Skating Championships in Chelyabinsk. 2020

In the fall of 2020, Shcherbakova fell ill with pneumonia and was unable to participate in the Moscow stage of the Rostelecom Cup Grand Prix.

"I was sick without any symptoms, at the same time I was still training, and then I suddenly felt a deterioration. It was the first day, we immediately did a bunch of different examinations and tests. And it turned out that I had been sick for some time. I had to withdraw from the competition,"  Shcherbakova said.

Winning streak

Despite her illness, Anna won the Russian Figure Skating Championship in December 2020.  Her coach Eteri Tutberidze had suggested that the athlete withdraw from the competition, but Shcherbakova insisted.

"I cried after the performance because it was a surge of emotion. I thought what Anna did today was impossible. The preparation didn't work out. Sickness made huge adjustments: we couldn't train, she had a fever," Eteri said

After another three months of recovery from illness and extensive training, on March 26, 2021, two days before her birthday, Shcherbakova won gold for the first time at the World Championships in Stockholm.

Anna Shcherbakova of Russia poses ahead of the Gala Exhibition during day 5 of the ISU European Figure Skating Championships at on January 26, 2020 in Graz, Austria

"This is very unexpected and the best gift, I couldn't even dream of it. I really wanted that day not to be sad about my mistakes, but only be happy,” said Anna after her victory. 

US' Nathan Chen (R) gives a birthday cake to Russia's Anna Shcherbakova for her 17th birthday during the Gala Exhibition event of the ISU World Figure Skating Championships in Stockholm on March 28, 2021

Shcherbakova will perform at the world team championship in Japan in April 2021, which will be held from April 15-18 in Osaka. 

"It's been a tough emotional season, I want to let it go, and go there with pleasure, perform more calmly, have more fun, but that doesn't change the fact that I will give it my best,"  Shcherbakova shared her plans. 

Personal life and plans for the future

In her free time, Anna watches TV shows in English, her favorites being Sherlock, and takes care of her pets, Sandy the dog, Shiney the Maine Coon, and Shippa the street cat.  

"They are animals with character. It is especially valuable when you see their trust, feel their love, affection. They are so sincere, sometimes you understand them without words better than you do people," Anna says about her pets. 

The world champion has not yet thought about participating in the Olympics, but at the very least she intends to devote most of her life to the sport.

"I don't want to make any predictions, but I want 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 be happy with the good things that will come along the way," Shcherbakova reasoned

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