Ice Network

Queen Tukt: Elizaveta enjoys season for the ages

Russian star dominated sport with eight gold medals, stellar triple axel
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Elizaveta Tuktamisheva's meteoric rise to the top of ladies skating was highlighted by her performance at the world championships, where the Russian became just the fourth skater in the history of the event to land a clean triple axel. -Getty Images

Icenetwork will announce its choice for 2014-15 Person of the Year on May 21. Here's one of the nominations for that honor by icenetwork contributor Vladislav Luchianov.

Appreciating all that Russia's Elizaveta Tuktamisheva accomplished this season is both a simple and difficult task to articulate. On one hand, the stunning statistics and results from her performances speak for themselves. On the other hand, even the big numbers don't tell the full story. Scores are just scores, and when it comes to athletes competing at such a high level, there is always more to the story.

At the beginning of the season, Tuktamisheva's coach, Alexei Mishin, said that the Russian skater would follow a tennis-like competitive schedule in order to adapt her to the heavy workloads and stresses of competitions in a more effective way.

After announcing this innovative approach, Tuktamisheva took part in 12 events, winning gold medals two-thirds of them, including the sport's most elite competitions. The loaded schedule and positive results were impressive, similar to a tennis player completing the Grand Slam in tennis.

Just last year, when Tuktamisheva failed to qualify for the Russian Olympic team, many thought that her time as a competitive skater was over. In Russia, where skating fans are very demanding, there was a lot of doubt as to whether she would be able to revive her career. Her injuries and the long period of transition that transpired added an additional dose of skepticism.

Even her most optimistic fans couldn't ignore the extremely competitive and talented pool of Russian ladies that Tuktamisheva would have to compete against.

"It is good that this past season is already history," Tuktamisheva told icenetwork in June 2014. "A new one will begin with a clean slate for me, so to speak. I hope that everything will be a bit different, especially psychologically. I will try to adjust myself psychologically so that my mindset is different than it was the last year."

Indeed, the new season was a completely different story for the 18-year-old, the best season of her career, which included an impressive run from December to March, when she won three major tournaments: the Grand Prix Final, European championships and World championships.

Equally impressive is the fasion in which Tuktamisheva won her major titles. By winning the 2015 Grand Prix Final in Barcelona, Spain, she became the first Russian lady to accomplish the feat since 2004, when Irina Slutskaya won the event in Beijing. At the 2015 European Championships in Stockholm, Sweden, she set a personal-best overall score of 210.40 points.

Her rivals didn't stand a chance at the 2015 World Championships in Shanghai, China, where the eyes of astonished fans from around the world saw Tuktamisheva land a clean triple axel. By doing so, Tuktamisheva became just the sixth lady to complete the extremely difficult jump in competition and the fourth to do so at the world championships. She also set the third-highest short program score (77.62) under the international judging system (IJS); only Korean star Yu-Na Kim and Japan's Mao Asada have scored higher.

"When I landed the triple axel, I got goosebumps and thought, 'Is this a dream, or did I really just do the triple axel at the world championships?'" Tuktamisheva said after her short program in Shanghai. "I had to pull myself together after this, and I was very focused for the triple lutz and the combination. It was the first time for me to do a clean short with the triple axel."

In April, she also performed a clean triple axel in her free skate at the 2015 World Team Trophy in Tokyo. Team Russia won the silver medal, in large part due to Tuktamisheva's performance.

Tuktamisheva first performed the jump four years ago during a training session. At the time, Mishin made sure to prioritize working on the stability of her programs, but the famous coach took note of the technical potential of his talented student.

He repeatedly hinted to the media throughout the year that the time to roll out the triple axel was imminent. They gave it a shot on one of the sport's biggest stages, where Tuktamisheva's triumph was greeted with a standing ovation from the crowded stands at the world championships.

"[My coaches] believed in me, even if I did not believe in myself anymore," she said after winning the world title. "I realized that I am very capable, and that this is not the end and that I just have to survive this moment. I am full with emotions now."

The quality of Tuktamisheva's jumping technique is also worth mentioning. Under-rotations, which plague even the best figure skaters, do not appear in her skating. Mishin is well known for his almost scientific approach to jumping technique. If his student performs a jump, it always corresponds to the most demanding requirements of today's skating rules.

Last year, Tuktamisheva made it clear that in order to be successful she was going to have to overcome mental hurdles that were holding her back. Clearly, she fully coped with these problems and was able to realize not only the potential of her technical arsenal but also significantly improve the artistic side of her performances.

For everything that she overcame and accomplished, Tuktamisheva is my choice for icenetwork Person of the Year.