Alina Zagitova dazzled yet again in the women’s figure skating short program, taking the top spot in the competition entering the free skate on Wednesday night. Zagitova did so despite her tender age, competing at just 15.
There are a number of ways in which Zagitova’s life is very different than her American counterparts. Like training partner and fellow Olympic medal favorite Evgenia Medvedeva, Zagitova’s entire life revolves around a skating rink. She moved away from her family at age 10 to train and hasn’t looked back since. That includes things like traditional schooling.
Yet there is another quirk of Zagitova’s bio that may be even more unique: The 15-year-old is named after the woman who is allegedly Russian President Vladimir Putin’s girlfriend: Legendary Russian rhythmic gymnast Alina Kabaeva.
“I was named in her honour. When I was born, they did not give me a name until I was one year old. Once my parents watched gymnastics. Alina Kabaeva was competing, they looked at each other and decided to call me this name – Alina.”
For her part, Zagitova says she idolizes Kavaeva because of the way she competed as an Olympian.
Of course, there’s nothing scandalous about being named in honor of Vladimir Putin’s girlfriend in Russia, where Putin is still idolized. In the rest of the world that has other connotations.
Still, as memorable as Kabaeva’s performances may have been in the past, a gold medal win by Zagitova before her 16th birthday might trump them all in Russian Olympic lore.