Controversial Figure Skater Kamila Valieva Finishes 4th in Free Skate - Rolling Stone
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Controversial Figure Skater Kamila Valieva Breaks Down in Tears After Disastrous Skate

15-year-old Russian figure skater, the favorite to win the event despite a doping scandal, finishes off the podium after falling several times during routine

BEIJING, CHINA - FEBRUARY 17: Kamila Valieva of Team ROC falls during the Women Single Skating Free Skating on day thirteen of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games at Capital Indoor Stadium on February 17, 2022 in Beijing, China. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)BEIJING, CHINA - FEBRUARY 17: Kamila Valieva of Team ROC falls during the Women Single Skating Free Skating on day thirteen of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games at Capital Indoor Stadium on February 17, 2022 in Beijing, China. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Kamila Valieva of Team ROC falls during the Women Single Skating Free Skating on day thirteen of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games at Capital Indoor Stadium on February 17, 2022 in Beijing, China.

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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.

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.”

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.” 

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