Anna Shcherbakova: A Tribute To The New Olympic Champion

Anna Shcherbakova Free Program 2022 Winter Olympics Beijing NBC
NBC / YouTube Screenshot
On one of figure skating’s most dramatic days, the Olympics crowned a new women’s champion last week. Russia’s Anna Shcherbakova rose to the top with her magnetic artistry and refined technique of incredibly difficult elements. Shcherbakova glided onto the ice after training mate Alexandra Trusova went for five quads. Two were deemed 100% clean, while one received an edge call, and the other three received negative grades of execution.

Considering that Anna Shcherbakova is figure skating’s most dynamic singles competitor, it was clear viewers were about to witness something incredible, and they did. A determined Shcherbakova soared through her theatrically daring program. With an ease that suggested effortless ability, Shcherbakova landed two quads and a triple Lutz-triple loop, among other magnificent jumping passes. Her star could not have shined brighter and at a higher pressure event.

The week was consumed in non-stop headlines that tormented her training mate. In the shadows, Anna Shcherbakova readied for her Olympic moment. Shcherbakova is one of the fiercest competitors to ever hit the ice. She has nerves of steel, the spirit of a warrior, and the heart of an undisputed champion. At the Olympics, she proved why that is not an opinion. It is a full-blown fact.  

Anna Shcherbakova is no stranger to delivering at high-pressure events. She is the reigning 2022 World Champion, ranked #1 in the world by the ISU, a three-time Russian National Champion, and the winner of multiple Grand Prix events, among many other accomplishments. Those triumphs have not been without adversity. Yet, Shcherbakova has stared it in the eye without flinching.

When figure skating Twitter wished her ill will at the 2022 European Championships, following a fourth-place finish in the short program, Anna Shcherbakova rallied. Those on Twitter hoped Shcherbakova would fail to medal so Elizaveta Tuktamysheva could take Shcherbakova’s spot on the national team. They would be disappointed. Shcherbakova rose like a phoenix from fourth place to claim silver.

Anna Shcherbakova 2022 European Championships NBC
NBC / YouTube Screenshot

Anna Shcherbakova has overcome obstacles to achieve the seemingly impossible throughout her figure skating career. In 2017, she broke her leg. The break was so awful, Shcherbakova was uncertain she would ever skate again. She fought back. In 2021, Shcherbakova became ill with COVID-19 and developed pneumonia ahead of the Russian National Championships. She fought again.

Despite a fever, Anna Shcherbakova competed and won her third national title with a courageous free program in one of the sport’s most inspiring moments. The road to her 2022 Olympic victory was steep well before she arrived in Beijing, and it got no less trying when she settled in to compete at the Winter Olympics.

As Jackie Wong reported in Beijing, Shcherbakova suffered an incredibly rough practice in the days leading up to the individual event. She also had to compete in a new pair of boots. Nevertheless, what Anna Shcherbakova overcame to get to the gold was unimaginably brutal. So much so only an elite few can fathom it.

It is a shame that in light of what is one of an athlete’s greatest accomplishments, Shcherbakova found herself by herself in the aftermath of her win. Never one to reach for the spotlight, even the glowing golden light of an Olympic victory saw itself obfuscated by her teammate’s outburst over placing second. After all, Anna Shcherbakova had earned the gold.

As Anna Shcherbakova skated her Olympic free program (the one for “all the money”), my mind could not help but remember her days as a criminally underrated firecracker of a figure skater on the Junior Grand Prix circuit. To see that kid turned young woman skate the lights out under the world’s harshest spotlight was as emotional as a particular Olympic performance in 2018.

Anna Shcherbakova’s connection to the audience remains unparalleled. The power and grace of her skating has only improved with time. Shcherbakova is a skilled technician and remarkable artist, the unsung legend of Russia. She is the first woman to land the most difficult quad - the quad Lutz - in a senior competition and a raging dynamo that never backs down from a fight on the ice. 

Congratulations, Anna Shcherbakova! You have earned your Olympic gold and so many more victories to come. Keep fighting!