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Tsurskaya hopes for 'worthy' return at JGP Russia

JGP Final champion discusses difficult, lengthy recovery from ankle injury
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Russia's Polina Tsurskaya will look to build on her impressive debut season at the junior level. -Getty Images

Russian figure skater Polina Tsurskaya might lament the ankle injury she suffered at the end of the 2015-16 season, which forced her to withdraw from the 2016 World Junior Championships, an event that saw her enter as one of the favorites.

In her first competitive international season, the 15-year-old won all of her junior competitions, including two Junior Grand Prix (JGP) events and the JGP Final. She also set a pair of world records: one for junior ladies free skate score (128.59 points) and the other for the junior ladies total score (195.28 points).

Despite the injury, the missed attempt at the world junior crown, the difficult recovery period and subsequent shorter preparation time for the new season, Tsurskaya has not lost her positive outlook ahead of the new season. The Russian junior champion is currently scheduled to compete this week at JGP Russia.

Icenetwork talked with Tsurskaya about last season, her complex recovery period, her new programs and aspirations for this year.

Icenetwork: Can you please tell us about your recovery and your training program for the upcoming season?

Tsurskaya: Certainly. My injury affected me very much this offseason. It turned out to be blurry. After the world junior championships, we treated my foot for a very long period of time. I was forbidden by doctors to work the leg -- no running or jumping for the three months, at all. I was not allowed to even walk the first few days.

I resumed my training in early June. This was hard. At first, I was very worried about the ankle and not hurting it again. We proceeded to the creation of my free skate, and this also was not easy: After such a long break, it was difficult to integrate all of the elements into the whole performance.

Probably because of fatigue, I again slightly sprained the same foot. It wasn't very serious, but still. As a result, I lost two more weeks of training and, because of that, I also missed the test skating performances of the Russian national team.

Icenetwork: Aside from the world junior championships, you won all of your junior competitions last season. How difficult was it for your season to end your season because of injury?

Tsurskaya: Of course, it was a pity to end the year that way. I had a good season, and in Budapest I was going to fight for the gold. But this is a sport, and anything can happen. An athlete should be ready for such situations and has to manage them somehow. However, overall, I have very good impressions about last season.

Icenetwork: Coach Eteri Tutberidze seemed very supportive during this difficult period.

Tsurskaya: Eteri and the entire coaching staff really helped and supported me. They did their best to help me recover. Also, our federation and ice rink management arranged all of the necessary medical examinations and provided the proper treatment. I want to thank them all for that!

Icenetwork: Would it be fair to say that one of your goals this season is make your collection of junior medals complete?

Tsurskaya: Of course I would like to do that, but now I need to focus on my first event of the new season and showing a worthy return to the ice. After that, there will be time to make big plans.

Icenetwork: Tell us about your new programs and the ideas behind them.

Tsurskaya: For my free skate, we made the selection quite quickly. I liked the musical piece "February" by Leonid Levashkevich for a long time, but earlier on in my career my coaches thought that I still had to grow to skate to this music. This program is about love.

My new short program is set to "Light of the Seven" from the Games of Thrones soundtrack. However, the story I'm portraying there has nothing to do with the TV show. My choreographer, Daniil Gleikhengauz, asked me to listen to the piece, and I liked it very much. When we began to work on this program, our team said that its image suits me very well.

For the short, I'm portraying an artist who does not like any of his creations. Then I sort of start to go crazy and paint on myself. At the end of the program, with the words "I have experienced the perfection," I kill my masterpiece.

Icenetwork: Are there any changes or additions to your technical elements this season?

Tsurskaya: I can say that we have the same set of jumping elements. There is only a change in one of the compulsory jumps in my short program.

Icenetwork: You set notable and impressive records last season. What should we expect from you this season?

Tsurskaya: I do not want to stop in my progress, of course. With such a high level of competition, you have to beat world records in order to win.