Russian Olympic champion pays tribute to Shinzo Abe


Figure skater Alina Zagitova has expressed her condolences after former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was assassinated

Russian Olympic gold medalist Alina Zagitova, 20, has expressed her sorrow at the passing of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was assassinated by a lone gunman while making a political campaign speech in the city of Nara on Friday.

Abe is understood to have been struck twice by shots fired from an improvised firearm, and was pronounced dead some time later in hospital. The alleged perpetrator of the crime is understood to be in police custody.

Figure skater Zagitova, who is a popular personality in Japan, took to social media after Abe’s death was confirmed to express her condolences at the tragic passing of the 67-year-old.

We would like to express our deepest condolences,” wrote Zagitova on Telegram via translation, with the message originally appearing in Japanese.

During a 2018 state visit to Russia, Abe presented Zagitova – who was aged just 16 at the time – with a three-month old Akita puppy on behalf of a group whose aim is to preserve and promote the breed of dog which comes from ancient Japanese lineage.

Zagitova had previously spoken of falling in love with the breed while in Japan in preparation for the PyeongChang Olympics in South Korea in 2018.

She had famously asked her parents if they would buy her an Akita dog if she medaled at the Olympics – a gesture which Abe and his wife Akie were only too happy to fulfil on behalf of Zagitova’s family.

The dog was named ‘Masaru’ – a term which translates to “win” or “victory.

I have been looking forward to today. I am happy to be given such a wonderful present,” said Zagitova at the time.

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Alina Zagitova (L) presents a soft toy of her pet Masaru to Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (R) © AFP / JIJI PRESS
Puppy talk: Russian Olympic figure skating champ Zagitova chats pet dogs with Japan PM Abe

Zagitova has previously appeared alongside compatriot Evgenia Medvedeva in a Japanese television commercial promoting a mobile application – with Zagitova performing as the character ‘Madoka Kaname’ from the popular video game ‘Magia Record: Puella Magi Madoka Magica Gaiden.’

As well as winning Olympic gold in South Korea in 2018, Zagitova won the 2019 World Championship title in the Japanese city of Saitama.

Zagitova announced a career hiatus at the end of that year and has not competed officially since then, despite not formally retiring.

Instead, she has focused on her studies as well as TV work in Russia, also appearing in various exhibition shows.

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