Sotnikova, 23, propelled herself to national sweetheart status by becoming Russia’s first ever ladies’ singles figure skating gold medalist at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi.
But while that victory made Sotnikova a houshold name in her homeland, it failed to inspire further success as the Moscow-born star faced problems on and off the ice in the ensuing years.
Sotnikova officially announced her retirement from professional skating in March of this year, although she hadn’t competed internationally since 2015 due to persistent injury, restricting her appearances to gala shows.
In March she announced that she was due to undergo spinal surgery, revealing that her injury pain had become so severe that she was even struggling to “sleep or sit” properly.
After the surgery Sotnikova later revealed the scars of the operation, declaring that she would “not hide what decorates me.”
But as she continues to recover – including sharing lockdown fitness sessions on her social media pages – Sotnikova says she still fears a return to the ice due to her operation.
“At the moment I have fear connected with the operation I had recently. I’ve got a whole construction standing back there [in my spine],” Sotnikova said in an Instagram Live chat.
“The fear, heaven forbid, is from what could happen to this construction when I go onto the ice. I haven’t stood on the ice for three months.
“And when it starts all over again, it seems to me I’ll start to slow down – that applies to performances even at exhibition shows, because I’m really afraid.
“Psychologically, I probably won’t be able to do triple [jumps]. I need to re-engage with a psychologist to get rid of this fear again.”
While Sotnikova was replaced by a younger generation of Russian skating stars such as Evgenia Medvedeva and Alina Zagitova, she remains a popular figure in her homeland though appearances on TV and in gala shows.
However, she has suffered ill-fortune away from the ice, reportedly being defrauded out of $32,000 by fake fortune tellers who promised to help her with her boyfriend troubles.
The fraudsters were later arrested by police, according to reports in Russia.