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Ex-champion ice skater Betina Popova has revealed her painful experiences as she shot to success on her skates, claiming that she was overwhelmed by the pressure to train, study and starve herself before retiring in February.

Popova won ice dancing gold with partner Sergey Mozgov at the Winter Universiade but retired less than a year later at the age of 23 after realizing she had lost “moments of happiness and many smiles” through the rigors of preparing to compete.

Her exacting schedule and efforts to lose tiny amounts of weight during her time off took their toll as the Moscow-based former junior medalist developed an eating disorder and feared she would never feel like a success in a life consumed by her sport.

“There was supposed to be a photograph from graduation but it is not there,” she explained on Instagram.

“Being a very responsible athlete, I could not even think about exchanging workouts for graduation.

Одна из самых любимых программ “50 shades of Grey”

A post shared by Betina Popova (@bet1nka) on Feb 27, 2020 at 11:44pm PST

Как же я скучаю @liza_tuktik 💕

A post shared by Betina Popova (@bet1nka) on Jun 6, 2020 at 1:59am PDT

“Only now I understand how many bright moments of my life were missed just like that.

“I was never afraid to miss the events that happen only once in my life and was mortally afraid to miss the workout that happened twice a day.

“How clouded my mind was and how perverted my priorities were.

“Today, looking back, I understand that to deny myself simple human joys was a crime. I stole my childhood dreams, moments of happiness and many smiles.”

Despite remaining very close to world and European figure skating champion Elizaveta Tuktamysheva, Popova said her only time off during her career was two days after each competition, adding that she was a “crazy fanatic” and knows no-one outside of the sport.

A post shared by Betina Popova (@bet1nka) on Feb 12, 2020 at 8:57am PST

A post shared by Betina Popova (@bet1nka) on Oct 11, 2019 at 12:48am PDT

“I had no time for friends entertainment or first love,” she revealed.

“All my thoughts were about training, studying and not eating. Coaches cultivated these thoughts and fears non-stop in my head.

“I could spend four free hours a day [exercising] just to lose an extra 100 grams.

“Later, thoughts began to appear in my head that with such a slavish approach imposed on me, no-one could have become successful.

“An empty person is of no interest to anyone, no matter how devoted they are to their work.”

Я безумно горжусь @liza_tuktik . Она сделала невероятное шоу, очень веселое, доброе, искреннее. Собрала крутой состав участников. Выложилась на все сто процентов. Выучила хореографию для всех совместных танцев, безупречно исполнила все свои номера, поддерживала постоянный живой диалог со зрителями( а для спортсмена это дело нелёгкое), абсолютно все держала под личным контролем. И сияла словно самая яркая звезда ⭐️ . Я благодарю каждого, кто пришёл на это шоу, а вас было много – Лиза собрала полный Юбилейный. Спасибо за этот маленький, но яркий праздник💥 #горячийлед2020

A post shared by Betina Popova (@bet1nka) on Mar 11, 2020 at 1:33am PDT

Popova had been training since the age of five and began competing as a 12-year-old, winning gold at a junior competition in the 2013–14 season.

Her favorite routines before her retirement included one based on the raunchy novel ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’.

“On the way to the rink and home, I learned lessons,” she recalled.

“At home, lying in bed, I went through the program in my head.

“All my life was divided into preparation for the competition and the competition itself.

“Athletes grow up quickly – they have no childhood, they have no youth. And very often they remain unbalanced individuals. Sport is not only the brilliance of medals and pedestals – it is thousands of broken children.”