Kamila Valieva, the Russian star at the center of the doping scandal, knew right away that things had gone wrong.
Her show ended, her Olympics ended, Valieva broke her final pose with a wave of her right hand. Until then, she was trying to hold back her tears. Those things will soon come in earnest – the bitter, disappointing, emotional end of more than a week of whispers and insinuations after it was revealed she had tested positive for some kind of virus. banned drugs.
The women’s freestyle skating has promised to be one of the most watched events of the Olympics. But few would expect that it has a beautiful color.
For more than a week, 15-year-old Valieva has been buried under an avalanche of distractions: the integrity of her success and skills is under attack, as are the personalities of the adults around her. .
She stepped onto the ice with a face exactly the same as the one she wore all week in Beijing: Almost emotionless, doing her best to block out all outside distractions, or at least not superfluous. receive them. Now that her freestyle skating is over, she buries her face in her hands.
When the crowd responded with the loudest applause of the night, her blank expression returned. After a few waves, she walked down the field to be greeted by her coach, Eteri Tutberidze. They don’t hug.
“Why did you let it go?” Tutberidze asked in Russian during a scene broadcast on live television. “Why did you stop fighting? Explain to me, why? You let it go after that ax. ”
Valieva did not answer.
Moments later, waiting for Valieva’s score, Tutberidze put her arm around the teenager’s shoulder. Valieva was wearing a mask at the time, but it did nothing to shield her disappointment. The score claimed the worst: the best figure skater in the world, who finished the short program in first place, fell off the podium completely, her dream snuffed out in an instant. series of trips and falls are not the same. Another Russian skater, 17-year-old Anna Shcherbakova, will be the Olympic champion.
Several members of the Russian team were in tears at the time, including not only Valieva but also the silver medalist, Alexandra Trusova, as well. In a matter of seconds, the scene at the edge of the rink quickly turned into a tangle of emotions – overwhelming disappointment, raw disappointment, unfathomable pain – as the weight of a doping scandal and the pressures of many Five workouts flared up from some teenagers wearing masks at Once.
“I hate it!” Trusova is seen on camera saying that. “I don’t want to do anything in figure skating in my life! Everyone has a gold medal, I don’t! ”
Valieva’s two Russian teammates, Shcherbakova and Trusova, seemed to be struggling to process the news that they had won gold and silver medals, their individual moments of victory marred by the chaotic scene . Shcherbakova, 17, appeared unwilling – or unable – to celebrate with 15-year-old Valieva just meters away. Trusova, 17, suggested, at least initially, that she did not want to participate in the victory ceremony.
Nearby, bronze medalist, Kaori Sakamoto of Japan, was also crying, her achievement generating what could very well be another outpouring of emotion: joy.
All three will finally appear in the ceremony that few expected to take place. Called to the top, Shcherbakova leaped into the air, arms overhead as she accepted her stuffed animal souvenir, which many of the top finishers received as placeholders ahead of the official medal ceremony. theirs the next day.
“I feel very happy because I came to the right place at the right time and in the right place and did the right things,” Shcherbakova said. But she quickly added, “On the other hand, I feel an emptiness inside.”
On NBC, Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir called the scenes surrounding the finale of the contest “heartbreaking” and “devastating,” and made it clear, over and over, that they believed it was unfair – for Valieva, for other skaters, viewers all over the world – for the 15-year-old boy who was competing, and especially under the weight of notoriety and expectations and everything other.
Lipinski, the 1998 Olympic champion, said: “She should not have been allowed to skate in this Olympic event. She added that it angered her when the adults around Valieva didn’t “make better decisions.”
“It’s not fair,” Lipinski said as sobs played across the screen, for a 15-year-old who has had to deal with all this.
Her co-star Johnny Weir posted a video to his Instagram story shortly after the broadcast ended, calling the night “the weirdest and most heartbreaking event I’ve ever witnessed.” throughout his life”.
“I hope that never happens again,” Weir said.
Adam Rippon, America’s Mariah Bell Trainer, 10th Place, explicitly used on Twitter to describe the chaotic ending to the contest. And on Russian state television, commentator Andrei Zhuranko thundered, “Sports officials, you broke the most talented figure skater in the world.”
Ivan Nechepurenko, Ilya Gurevich and Ilaria Parogni contribution report.
https://www.nytimes.com/live/2022/02/17/sports/olympics-medals-winter 2022 Winter Olympics Live Update: Latest Figure Skating News