Kamila Valieva, the 15-year-old Russian figure skater who was controversially allowed to participate in the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics amid a doping scandal, failed to medal in the women’s free skate program despite being the heavy favorite in the event.
The usually rock-solid Valieva — who was atop the leaderboard following the short program Wednesday — fell or stumbled at least four times during her free skate routine, leaving the Russian with a score of 141.93, which ultimately put her in fourth place in the event.
As per the International Olympic Committee’s previous ruling that allowed Valieva to compete, had the figure skater finished on the podium, there would have been no medal ceremony. However, with Valieva in fourth, the medal ceremony took place, with teammates Anna Shcherbakova and Alexandra Trusova taking gold and silver respectively and Japan’s Kaori Sakamoto winning bronze.
Kamila Valieva, the Russian skater at the center of doping questions, uncharacteristically faltered in her free skate routine at #Beijing2022. The 15-year-old stumbled or fell at least four times as she skated to “Bolero.”
— The New York Times (@nytimes) February 17, 2022
According to the Associated Press, Valieva was “sobbing” as her scores were read, a rare show of emotion from the figure skater who has remained quiet and seemingly unfazed by the controversy surrounding her over the past week: Valieva first took the ice at the 2022 Winter Olympics during the Russian Olympic Committee’s gold medal-winning team event, but the medal ceremony itself was delayed as the Olympics Committee dealt with a sudden “legal issue”; it was soon revealed that Valieva had tested positive for metabolic modulator trimetazidine, a performance-enhancing drug banned by global anti-doping officials, six weeks earlier, although the Russian team said they only learned of the positive test last week.
Despite the failed drug test, the IOC still allowed Valieva to compete, a decision that caused an uproar among the skating community, including from NBC commentators Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir.
“Seeing her on the Olympic ice right now with everything we discovered over the last week, I didn’t think it was going to happen,” Lipinski said during Valieva’s short program warmup. “And again I don’t think it should be happening.”
After the routine itself, Weir simply noted, “All I feel like I can say is that was the short program of Kamila Valieva at the Olympics… We are so sorry it is overshadowing your Olympics.”
“I feel so uncomfortable as a skater and a skating fan having to commentate her performance simply because she should not be able to compete,” Weir continued, while Lipinski added, “We should not have seen this skate.”
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In an interview Wednesday with Rolling Stone, U.S. figure skater Adam Rippon also slammed the Russian Olympic Committee — which is competing under that name after Team Russia was previously punished in a doping scandal — as “dirty fucking cheaters.”
“It’s just such a dark cloud hanging over the whole competition,” Rippon, a bronze winner in 2018, told Rolling Stone. “You don’t dope in competitions, and if you do get caught with a positive test, you shouldn’t be allowed to compete. That’s a rule that everyone knows: When you come to the Olympics, you’re supposed to play fair, and if you can’t play fair, you shouldn’t play at all.”