I have enjoyed following figure skating for a while (despite having no skating talent myself), so when I realized I would be in Moscow during the Rostelecom Cup this year, I decided to purchase tickets. The Rostelecom Cup is one of six events in the Grand Prix of Figure Skating, in which skaters can compete for points to qualify for the Grand Prix Final in December. The Final is an exclusive and highly competitive event, with only six spots for each discipline, and qualification through these other events can be challenging for many skaters.
While I was looking forward to seeing many skaters at the event, there were two major headliners: Yuzuru Hanyu and Alina Zagitova. Hanyu is the 2018 men's Olympic champion (he also won gold in 2014), and Zagitova is the women's champion. Hanyu is considered by many to be the greatest male skater of all time, and huge crowds of Japanese fans follow him all over the world to see him skate. Zagitova is still a young teenager, but is hugely popular in Russia and renowned for her jumping ability.
So, I went to the Megasport Arena in mid-November to see these amazing skaters, and I was not disappointed. The energy in the stadium was palpable, as fans from all over the world had come to see their favorite skaters. It was also a great chance to get some Russian practice, as all the announcements were in Russian and English, and the Russian fans rewarded strong performances with chants of "молодцы." They also made frequent use of Russian nicknames for their favorite skaters, often displayed on huge signs. The crowd was overall very supportive of all the skaters, especially those who had rough skates.
The short programs began on Friday. Hanyu and Zagitova both blew the competition away with incredible skates, and afterwards the ice was covered in gifts for them. Hanyu's good-luck symbol is Winnie-the-Pooh, and dozens of stuffed bears fell to the ice after his skate. Young children are sent onto the ice to collect the objects, and it took many of them several minutes to finish clearing the ice. Russian pairs also dominated the pairs and ice dance events. During the free programs on Saturday, Hanyu and Zagitova both struggled in their skates, but won the overall competition, and Russian pairs won both of the other events.
It was truly a weekend unique to Moscow: seeing two Olympic champions succeed while improving my Russian abilities, and I won't forget this experience any time soon.