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Sofia Prosvirnova (RUS) ESTSSC 2019©International Skating Union (ISU) 1081816462

Sofia Prosvirnova (RUS) at the European Short Track Speed Skating Championships 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)

For Sofia Prosvirnova (RUS) the 2019 ISU European Short Track Championships summed up all that makes her sport one of the most thrilling rides out there. Dominant displays were jumbled up with dramatic falls, crucial refereeing decisions and healthy slices of luck, all of which resulted in favorites winning, returning warriors surprising themselves and young guns coming to the fore.

Crucially, of course, the Russian was one of those who ended up on the top step of the podium.

“One thing I love is that you never know who is going to win,” Prosvirnova said.

Sofia Prosvirnova (RUS) WSTSSC 2018©International Skating Union (ISU) 932947246

Sofia Prosvirnova (RUS) at the World Short Track Speed Skating Championships 2018©International Skating Union (ISU)

And in Dordrecht, this extended even to the 21-year-old herself who went into the first major Championships of the season suffering from a back injury which had thrown her place on the start line into doubt.

“I didn’t expect to win any medals at all,” Prosvirnova laughed after leaving the Netherlands with a gold, two silvers and a bronze. “I missed a week of training, I hadn’t done gym training for three weeks and I felt so weak.”

 
 
 
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Смело могу сказать, что это был самый непростой старт в моей карьере. Бежать с травмой не из приятных и я не могу представить, чтобы всё это стало возможным без моей команды!🇷🇺 Поэтому, хочу поблагодарить всех, кто был рядом со мной в этот тяжёлый период! Спасибо всем, кто писал и поддерживал. Тем, кто болел перед экранами и с трибун🎉 Вы супер! @tanya_mo видео просто 🔥🥰 Special thanks to my mental coaches😂💞 @vasily_klyuev @luca.loeffler @jannasimak @eminamalagich @marigniskic

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But once on the ice Prosvirnova’s physical fears and mental blocks washed away as her deeply ingrained racing instincts and love of simply going fast took over.

“It was difficult to race but I just took the risk and enjoyed it,” she said. “I learned no matter what happens you just have to try or you will regret it.”

First up, the 2018 World Championship 1000m silver medal winner found herself powering through to the 1500m final. Once there, she hung on bravely behind home favorite Suzanne Schulting (NED) –undoubtedly the most powerful athlete on show – and grabbed an opening bronze medal.

Sofia Prosvirnova (RUS), Suzanne Schulting (NED) and Elise Christie (GBR) ESTSSC 2019©International Skating Union (ISU) 1081858572

Sofia Prosvirnova (RUS), Suzanne Schulting (NED) and Elise Christie (GBR) European Short Track Speed Skating Championships 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)

Great Britain’s Elise Christie, who just pipped Prosvirnova to the silver medal, was as surprised as the Russian, having arrived in Dordrecht “out of shape” and with no expectations. The pair’s success was confirmation that you’d better be prepared for everything.

Imbued by the bronze, Prosvirnova went on to win gold in the 1000m, silver in the 3000m Relay and finish second overall. Not bad for an athlete just delighted to be off the physio’s bed.

Tifany Huot Marchand (FRA), Sofia Prosvirnova (RUS) and Elise Christie (GBR) ESTSSC 2019©International Skating Union (ISU) 1081816448 1081858190

Tifany Huot Marchand (FRA), Sofia Prosvirnova (RUS) and Elise Christie (GBR) at the European Short Track Speed Skating Championships 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)

The joy Prosvirnova took from not only winning silverware but, more intriguingly, performing somewhere near her best in front of a highly engaged and vociferous crowd more than confirmed that she made the right choice when ditching Figure Skating for Short Track as a 12-year-old.

“I didn’t have great results in Figure Skating, I can’t say I really enjoyed it,” Prosvirnova said. “When I first tried Short Track I didn’t like it. But at the first competition, I felt the speed and then I got some good results and it all came together. I liked the crowd, the music, the show.

Sofia Prosvirnova (RUS) ESTSSC 2019©International Skating Union (ISU) 1081310654

Sofia Prosvirnova (RUS) at the European Short Track Speed Skating Championships 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)

“For some of the athletes it’s really distracting but I really enjoy the noise, the lights, the loud music. It’s fun.”

Despite her slight figure and a touch of self-consciousness, Prosvirnova is a natural show-stopper on the ice. It’s no surprise therefore that it is thoughts of the biggest stage of all that often dominate her thinking.

“All professional athletes dream about the Olympic Games and I am looking forward to competing in another one,” said the skater who so far has a best of two fifth-place finishes (500m and 3000m Relay at PyeongChang 2018) and a fourth (3000m Relay at Sochi 2014) to show from two Olympic Games.

“It was really great in Sochi and PyeongChang. I was really close to the podium and I just hope I can get there one day.”

The Moscow resident is prepared to try anything to ensure that she does break into the top three at Beijing 2022. Starting, naturally, with her starting position.

Sofia Prosvirnova (RUS) Yara Van Kerkhof (NED) Jinyu Li (CHN) Anna Seidel (GER) WOG 2018©Getty Images  921200046

Sofia Prosvirnova (RUS) Yara Van Kerkhof (NED) Jinyu Li (CHN) Anna Seidel (GER) at the Winter Olympic Games 2018©Getty Images

“I think it can help but I am not yet really good at it,” Prosvirnova said of her efforts to gain an advantage on the field by adopting a technique (see video) more commonly seen in inline skating and once perfected by Italy’s 2018 Olympic champion Arianna Fontana.

Sofia Prosvirnova (RUS) ESTSSC 2019©International Skating Union (ISU) 1081816448

Sofia Prosvirnova (RUS) at the European Short Track Speed Skating Championships 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)

“I am learning, trying it. I hope I can improve it more. I think there are some benefits from this position but it’s really not that easy. You can go a step forward with this position. Fontana did this and she was really good at it. I keep looking at (footage of) her and trying to do the same.

“It may be a big risk but we have time. I wanted to try something new and if it doesn’t work I can always go back to my regular position.”

Sofia Prosvirnova (RUS) WCSTSS CAN 2018©International Skating Union (ISU) 1063986792

Sofia Prosvirnova (RUS) at the World Cup Short Track Speed Skating in Calgary (CAN) 2019©International Skating Union (ISU)

Given this change, her injured back and a self-confessed general lack of form this season, 2018-19 is going pretty well so far for the young Russian. A fact that should worry her rivals and will certainly excite Short Track fans everywhere.

Sofia Prosvirnova and Emina Malagich (RUS)WCSTSS CAN 2018©International Skating Union (ISU)  1063986834

Sofia Prosvirnova and Emina Malagich (RUS)at the World Cup STSS CAN 2018©International Skating Union (ISU)

“So far, so good. I really hope to keep it that way,” Prosvirnova said. “I don’t think I am in great form, I don’t think I am in the best shape. I can be better.”

Follow Sofia Prosvirnova's progress by keeping track on FacebookTwitterInstagram and YouTube and don't miss the next ISU Short Track Speed Skating race at the ISU World Cup Short Track Speed Skating in Dresden (GER) from February 1 - 3