“At 12 O’clock, last December 31st, the light in our flat was suddenly turned off, and we had
no more electricity,” Shcherbakova recalled. “We couldn’t have a carillon ring to carry us
through the New Year. So when the time had come, my parents marked the 12 knocks by
singing ‘bom bom bom’. It was fun!” The Shcherbakov family holds the tradition of
celebrating New Year’s Eve, the most important day of the holiday season, together.
One thing is sure: just like you don’t need electricity to celebrate New Year’s Eve,
Shcherbakova doesn’t need any either to rotate the most difficult jumps of the field, quad Lutz
and quad flip. She is tiny, she doesn’t jump very high, and yet she rotates faster than anyone
else, thus defying both the law of kinetic momentum and the human eye.
Shcherbakova could well have left this season as the new skating queen, had she not missed
the second quad Lutz of her free program. She won the free program, but Alena Kostornaia’s
triple Axel and superlative GOEs made the difference. Kostornaia won both the ISU
Grand-Prix Final and the European Championship. Third was the quad pioneer, Alexandra
Trusova has been known as the "quad czar" and Kostornaia, as the "artistic queen". Where
does Shcherbakova stand in this winning trio? Is she just “the middle one”? True,
Shcherbakova delivered the most technically demanding package at the European
Championships in Graz, and she proved to have a powerful artistic feel as well. But is that
only what she is? She is far more, for her fans and coaches.
“She is the smartest. She is the most intelligent of the three, and you can see this even when
she skates,” a noted Russian journalist offered as the common view in Russia. “She integrates
the whole. That’s what makes her unique.”
Sergei Dudakov, who coaches Shcherbakova alongside Eteri Tutberidze, has a similar
opinion: “There is a lot of contrast between the three. Anna is the most musical. She has deep
feeling inside her and she is very intelligent.”
The feel for music and intelligence do come together, and they create a powerful weapon in
skating: emotions. When she skates, Shcherbakova projects her emotions so easily.
When she talks, she doesn’t put light on what she does as Trusova, or on what she is as
Kostornaia: she talks of what she feels – precisely of her emotions.
It’s true with her short program, which was set to the soundtrack of the movie “The Perfume:
The Story of a Murderer” this season. The movie depicts the incredible story of a boy from
the 18th century, who had a unique smell that allowed him to create innovative and successful
fragrances. He wanted so badly to capture ladies smell that he killed a number of them to
create it. “It gives me lots of emotions,” Shcherbakova offered. “I love the music, the story
behind and I love skating to it. My coaches helped me to get into my program and bring it
across.” Through her program, you can see Shcherbakova play with her music, but also with
silences, especially at the start of her routine. Emotions seem to flow directly from her heart –
although she always controls them.
It’s true also with her free program this season. She started to skate to the quietness and
intemporality of French composer Eric Satie’s first Gnossienne, and all of a sudden turned to
Igor Stravinsky’s “Firebird”. “The first part is quiet and calm,” Shcherbakova explained, “and
then the choreography changes, just in line with my costume change. Then there are more
emotions, more fire into it. That’s the emotions I want to transfer to the audience and judges. I
am the Firebird. I like it, because it’s bright, and it makes me feel happy while I skate to it.
And I like to be happy, of course!” She added with a big smile.
When you watch her outside the ice, Shcherbakova looks like a quiet and gentle young girl,
like “the girl next door” – or, rather, “the princess next door”, as she is a class in herself. “I
devote my spare time to study,” she admitted. “I have to study, because we miss a lot at
school.” Other than that, she spends her time with her family and with her pets.
Shcherbakova is however learning fast into the world. “Usually skaters are tense during an
off-ice photo shoot,” Flavio Valle, a renowned Italian skating photographer, explained. “Anna
is not so. On the contrary, she is very much in control. When she saw the spot I was proposing
to her, she was quick to suggest another one: ‘Here will be better,’ she told me right away,
‘look at the light, and also the scenery is nicer.’ She felt completely free during the shoot. ‘It’s
my fourth one, so I know!’ she said.”
As kind, polite and well-behaved as she looks, Shcherbakova appears as a fierce competitor
as soon as she steps on the ice, even in practice. In Graz, she came back crying after falling on
the second quad Lutz of her free program. “I was surprised by the upset,” she offered at the
end of her program. “The beginning was so good, the first jumps were so good but then the
emotions went down because I was not raising the program, so it was not what I was looking
for.” Emotions, again.
Already twice a Russian Senior National Champion (in 2018 and 2019), Shcherbakova just
celebrated her 16th birthday – although confined with her family and pets. She may have a
tough time as she grows up. “I’m quite into it,” she offered in Graz. “I became a bit taller, but
it’s coming by stages. I don’t grow suddenly, so there are no coordination problems.” For the
time being, she manages to bring her emotions across to the audiences worldwide. That
certainly makes for what figure skating fans love most!