Yelizaveta Tuktamysheva on 2022 Winter Olympics: “This is all that’s left”


From two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu to reigning World champion Anna Shcherbakova, some of the biggest names in figure skating associate with a stuffed animal that fans might throw onto the ice in the aftermath of an epic performance.

Yelizaveta Tuktamysheva could have hoped crowns would be thrown to the self-styled “Empress” upon her arrival at the 2021 World Figure Skating Championships—her first appearance at the event since winning it in 2015. However, the absence of non-athlete spectators at the Ericsson Globe in Stockholm, Sweden, left Tuktamysheva to summon an inner strength, one that had already brought her back to the sport’s pinnacle after six years on the periphery, to ultimately earn a silver medal as part of a Russian sweep alongside Shcherbakova and Aleksandra Trusova.

“I had to believe it wasn’t the end,” she told by phone on Sunday. “I had to tell myself that I still have a future, that I should continue, and that adversity would only make me stronger. Every time I’ve had a bad situation in my life, I’ve told myself that. Bad things will happen, but I have to survive and move on.

“My career has been a lot like a mountain, something I climbed up and down before I could climb back up again.”

That climb back up has been fraught with peaks and valleys in the last Olympic quadrennium. Tuktamysheva was on course for a world team berth in 2019 after a bronze-medal finish at that season’s Grand Prix Final, only for pneumonia to force her out of the Russian national championships. She ultimately lost her spot to Olympic silver medalist Yevgenia Medvedeva in a skate-off at the Russian Cup Final.

“I was definitely upset when I knew I wouldn’t go to worlds, and [that] wasn’t an easy time for me in my career,” she said before chuckling, “I have had a lot of moments like that.”

This past season began in similar fashion; days after holding off Trusova and 2020 European champion Aliona Kostornaya at the Rostelecom Cup, Tuktamysheva tested positive for COVID-19 and was off the ice for two weeks.

“I didn’t have terrible COVID symptoms, just a fever for two days, and I remember feeling so tired. I’m happy I was only sick like that, and relieved that it was nothing worse.”

Unable to afford another withdrawal, the 24-year-old made the trip to nationals, a veritable thunderdome replete with quad-jumping teenagers, and finished fourth among worlds-eligible athletes to trigger another tiebreaker between herself and Kostornaya—who had withdrawn due to her own COVID diagnosis.

“I was glad to be able to show my programs at nationals because it was important just to be there and skate as well as I could,” Tuktamysheva said. “I was happy I didn’t fall on every jump and that it wasn’t so bad!

“After COVID, it took a while to skate my free program with good breath; I would get tired faster than before. By the Russia Cup Final, I understood I was back in shape and ready to compete.”

A near-perfect free skate in Moscow—one that included a triple lutz-triple toe combination in addition to her signature pair of triple axel jumps—assured her of a long-awaited worlds return, where she placed third in both portions of the competition to finish second overall.

“For me, international competitions have always been less pressure than the ones in Russia. Our national competitions have a good number of girls jumping quads, and so when I went to the world championships, I felt so much less pressure, and just… like I was able to enjoy the fact that I’m actually a really good skater.”

It is this kind of radical candor that has helped make Tuktamysheva a fan favorite and one of her sport’s premier personalities.

“I feel people understand me because of how open I am with them,” she explained. “I’m the same person on social media, in interviews, in real life, and I think that’s why people don’t just see me as an athlete, but like I’m their friend. Their love and support give me a lot of energy.”

A season full of national competitions allowed her the opportunity to draw unlikely support from rivals like Shcherbakova, with whom she led Russia to a maiden victory at the World Team Trophy earlier this month. in which Tuktamysheva was team captain.

“We’ve started to be more like friends,” Tuktamysheva said. “She’s a really cute and nice girl, and I feel comfortable with her. At competitions where her parents couldn’t be with her, I tried to keep her company.”

Seven years Shcherbakova’s senior, Tuktamysheva doesn’t envy the uniquely competitive atmosphere encouraged at the Sambo 70 club, led by coach Eteri Tutberidze and home to a bourgeoning next generation of Olympic-eligible talent like junior world gold and silver medalists Kamila Valiyeva and Daria Usacheva.

“I didn’t feel nearly the same amount of pressure at their age as I’m sure they feel now,” says Tuktamysheva. “It was a different time in figure skating; the level wasn’t as high, and so it was easier for me to feel confident about my place in the sport.

“At the same time, I was such a crazy girl growing up, and no one could stop me or tell me anything! I just led with my mind.”

Tuktamysheva’s triumphant finish to the 2020-2021 season puts her in unexpectedly good stead to at last compete in an Olympic Games, having fallen short of the team in both 2014 and 2018. Looking to set her programs with famed coach Aleksei Mishin before taking a short vacation in the Maldives, she aims to do all she can to earn the only crown still missing from her collection.

“I’ve had a lot of great moments, and I’ve had a long career,” she said. “An opportunity to finally make it to the Olympics would be the cherry on the cake. In my wildest dreams, I see myself winning bronze, silver, gold, standing on that Olympic podium. It’s going to be so hard getting there, and I don’t want it to be my main goal for next season, but it would mean so much to me and for my career to be able to make it to the Olympics.

“I’ve already done almost 100% of what I can do, and this is all that’s left.”

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2023 French Open men’s singles draw, scores

French Open Men's Draw
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The French Open men’s singles draw is missing injured 14-time champion Rafael Nadal for the first time since 2004, leaving the Coupe des Mousquetaires ripe for the taking.

The tournament airs live on NBC Sports, Peacock and Tennis Channel through championship points in Paris.

Novak Djokovic is not only bidding for a third crown at Roland Garros, but also to lift a 23rd Grand Slam singles trophy to break his tie with Nadal for the most in men’s history.

FRENCH OPEN: Broadcast Schedule | Women’s Draw

But the No. 1 seed is Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz, who won last year’s U.S. Open to become, at 19, the youngest man to win a major since Nadal’s first French Open title in 2005.

Now Alcaraz looks to become the second-youngest man to win at Roland Garros since 1989, after Nadal of course.

Alcaraz missed the Australian Open in January due to a right leg injury, but since went 30-3 with four titles. Notably, he has not faced Djokovic this year. They could meet in the semifinals.

Russian Daniil Medvedev, the No. 2 seed, was upset in the first round by 172nd-ranked Brazilian qualifier Thiago Seyboth Wild. It marked the first time a men’s top-two seed lost in the first round of any major since 2003 Wimbledon (Ivo Karlovic d. Lleyton Hewitt).

All of the American men lost before the fourth round. The last U.S. man to make the French Open quarterfinals was Andre Agassi in 2003.

MORE: All you need to know for 2023 French Open

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2023 French Open Men’s Singles Draw

French Open Men's Singles Draw French Open Men's Singles Draw French Open Men's Singles Draw French Open Men's Singles Draw

Coco Gauff, Iga Swiatek set French Open rematch

Coco Gauff French Open

Coco Gauff swept into the French Open quarterfinals, where she plays Iga Swiatek in a rematch of last year’s final.

Gauff, the sixth seed, beat 100th-ranked Slovakian Anna Karolina Schmiedlova 7-5, 6-2 in the fourth round. She next plays the top seed Swiatek, who later Monday advanced after 66th-ranked Ukrainian Lesia Tsurenko retired down 5-1 after taking a medical timeout due to illness.

Gauff earned a 37th consecutive win over a player ranked outside the top 50, dating to February 2022. She hasn’t faced a player in the world top 60 in four matches at Roland Garros, but the degree of difficulty ratchets up in Wednesday’s quarterfinals.

Swiatek won all 12 sets she’s played against Gauff, who at 19 is the only teenager in the top 49 in the world. Gauff said last week that there’s no point in revisiting last year’s final — a 6-1, 6-3 affair — but said Monday that she should rewatch that match because they haven’t met on clay since.

“I don’t want to make the final my biggest accomplishment,” she said. “Since last year I have been wanting to play her, especially at this tournament. I figured that it was going to happen, because I figured I was going to do well, and she was going to do well.

“The way my career has gone so far, if I see a level, and if I’m not quite there at that level, I know I have to improve, and I feel like you don’t really know what you have to improve on until you see that level.”

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Women | Men | Broadcast Schedule

Also Monday, No. 7 seed Ons Jabeur of Tunisia dispatched 36th-ranked American Bernarda Pera 6-3, 6-1, breaking all eight of Pera’s service games.

Jabeur, runner-up at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open last year, has now reached the quarterfinals of all four majors.

Jabeur next faces 14th-seeded Beatriz Haddad Maia, who won 6-7 (3), 6-3, 7-5 over Spaniard Sara Sorribes Tormo, who played on a protected ranking of 68. Haddad Maia became the second Brazilian woman to reach a Grand Slam quarterfinal in the Open Era (since 1968) after Maria Bueno, who won seven majors from 1959-1966.

Pera, a 28 year-old born in Croatia, was the oldest U.S. singles player to make the fourth round of a major for the first time since Jill Craybas at 2005 Wimbledon. Her defeat left Gauff as the lone American singles player remaining out of the 35 entered in the main draws.

The last American to win a major singles title was Sofia Kenin at the 2020 Australian Open. The 11-major drought matches the longest in history (since 1877) for American men and women combined.

In the men’s draw, 2022 French Open runner-up Casper Ruud reached the quarterfinals by beating 35th-ranked Chilean Nicolas Jarry 7-6 (3), 7-5, 7-5. He’ll next play sixth seed Holger Rune of Denmark, a 7-6 (3), 3-6, 6-4, 1-6, 7-6 (7) winner over 23rd seed Francisco Cerundolo of Argentina.

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