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Figure skating: Olympic champ Zagitova takes time off from competition

Russian Olympic figure skating champion Alina Zagitova holds an Akita puppy she received from a group preserving the Japanese dog breed, at a ceremony in Moscow on May 26, 2018. (Kyodo)

MOSCOW (Kyodo) -- Reigning Olympic and world champion Alina Zagitova said Friday she has decided to take time off from figure skating competition.

The 17-year-old Russian said she will continue training and appearing in ice shows but will not compete at major events, including this month's national championships, which is a requirement for participating at the world championships next March.

"I have won both the Olympics and world championship already. I have achieved everything in life," she said in a Russian TV program.

She indicated that the rise of other young Russian skaters had influenced her decision, while revealing she has started studying to enter university and will likely become a coach in the future.

Zagitova won the women's event at the Pyeongchang Olympics last year at the age of 15, beating countrywoman and two-time world champion Evgenia Medvedeva for the gold. Zagitova claimed her maiden world championships in Japan in March.

However, she has struggled this season as Russian skaters with quadruple jumps and triple axels in their repertoire made their debuts on the senior international circuit.

Zagitova finished bottom of the six-woman field at the recent Grand Prix Final, won by her 16-year-old compatriot Alena Kostornaia earlier this month.

Zagitova has become a household name in Japan, gaining popularity after she was gifted an Akita puppy by a group preserving the dog breed following her triumph at the Olympics. She named the dog "Masaru," meaning victory in Japanese.

Japanese skaters who competed alongside Zagitova were stunned to hear of her decision on Saturday.

Seventeen-year-old Rika Kihira, who finished ahead of Zagitova at the Grand Prix Final last year, said, "Honestly, I'm very surprised. We've competed against each other so there's a part of me that will really miss her."

Satoko Miyahara, who finished fourth at the Pyeongchang Games, said she sympathized with Zagitova's decision.

"We've competed at same tournaments so I will miss her, but I think each athlete can make their own choices," she said.

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