Tuesday, July 7, 2009

An unexpected break-through

Russian figure skating plummeted into depression with the retirement of the stars from 2006. However, while ice dancers and pairs still made the podium at Worlds and Europeans, and some men medaled in the Grand Prix, the future of the ladies seemed bleak.

A top ten-finish at Europeans was suddenly considered to be somewhat of a success, while in the decade before, Russian ladies dominated the event. In just one season, however, Alena Leonova managed a surprising turn-around and put Russia back into business in the single division for ladies.

The cheerful girl from St. Petersburg first drew attention when she skated well in her two Grand Prix events this season, finishing seventh at the Cup of China and fifth at the Cup of Russia. Leonova performed better and better as the season progressed, and placed fourth in her debut at Europeans. She also won the Junior World title —the first Russian lady in eight years— and had a strong debut at Worlds where she placed seventh.

The 2008-09 season ended with good performances and a respectable sixth place at the World Team Trophy.

"I couldn't even hope after being injured at the beginning of the season that it would turn out to be so successful," the 18-year-old said. "I didn't give up after the disappointing performances at Russian Nationals, and I was rewarded for that. Probably I had some luck too, but overall, everything I achieved was thanks to hard work and commitment. This was an extraordinary season, but my best season is yet to come, of course!"

Russian Nationals last December were indeed the low point of the year for Leonova. She skated rather poorly in the free skate and finished only fifth overall.

Full article.

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