Russian teenager Kamila Valieva shocked the figure skating world by stumbling into fourth place in the women’s singles event on Thursday, ensuring the medal ceremony could go ahead at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing
Her compatriot Anna Shcherbakova took gold with a total score of 255.95. Fellow Russian Alexandra Trusova was second at 251.73, and Japan’s Kaori Sakamoto came third with 233.13. Valieva finished with a total of 224.09.
The 15-year-old, wearing a sparkling black and red dress complete with bright red gloves, landed her opening quad, but faltered after her triple Axel, the first of a number of stumbles in the free skate routine to Maurice Ravel’s “Bolero”.
She threw her right hand forward in frustration after her routine, ending a 4:15 routine that was nowhere near her usual high standards.
In the stands, loud cheers and applause greeted her arrival on the ice. Fans chanted her name after her stumble as the camera shutters went into overdrive.
Valieva was hoping to shut out the doping scandal and legal arguments to deliver the performance of a lifetime to Ravel’s “Bolero”, which she has given a new lease of life.
It seemed like the brush of her blade on the ice would silence the critics as the teenager landed a quadruple Salchow 30 seconds into her program.
But what followed was far from perfect.
Her hand touched the ice after she landed a triple Axel and it was the first of many mistakes that left her sobbing in the ‘kiss and cry’ area after her disappointing performance.
In a high-octane routine, her teammate Trusova, the 2021 world championships bronze medallist, attempted five quads to the soundtrack of “Cruella” and the Stooges’s “I Wanna Be Your Dog” for a season-best score of 177.13.
Fellow 17-year-old Shcherbakova’s free skate was not as powerful, but the world champion skated with accuracy as she landed two quads early in her program.
Coaches Eteri Tutberidze, Sergei Dudakov, and Daniil Gleikhengauz leaned in rinkside watching every move of their figure skaters.
Valieva tested positive for a banned heart drug after the national championships on Dec. 25 but the result was not revealed until Feb. 8, the day after she helped the ROC win the team competition.
Valieva was only cleared to compete in the women’s single event by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) on Monday.
She came into Thursday’s skate as the hot favorite and it was expected the medal ceremony would not go ahead because of the unresolved doping case.
She is one of the youngest athletes to have a positive test revealed at the Olympics, prompting questions about the role of the adults around her and the continuing scourge of Russian doping in international sport. It has also fueled a debate over raising the age limit for figure skating.
American Tara Lipinski remains the youngest individual gold medallist in Olympic figure skating.
She was more than a month younger than Valieva when she won the women’s event in 1998 in Nagano, Japan, becoming the first to land a triple loop-triple loop in the women’s competition.