When Kamila Valieva fell multiple times during Thursday’s free skating program at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, many of the figure skating fans in attendance felt for the 15-year-old.
Under the immense weight of a massive doping scandal, Valieva finished fourth in the women’s individual event, while her Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) teammate Anna Shcherbakova took gold.
Valieva – who was clearly the favorite to finish in first place after coming to the top of Tuesday’s short schedule – burst into tears as she left the ice as the emotion of the past few days seemed to catch up with her.
Loud chants of “Kamila, Kamila, Kamila” rang out from the stands as a tearful Valieva was comforted by coach Eteri Tutberidze as she made her way from the rink.
Former US Olympic figure skater Polina Edmunds offered her support to Valieva on Twitter†
“Very traumatic Olympic experience for Kamila Valieva. She should not have participated, it is devastating that she ended up in this situation, on all levels.”
Shcherbakova, the skater who competed in the final just before Valieva, said she was “nervous” when she saw her teammate skating.
“I looked at Kamila, but probably didn’t understand what I was going through,” said the 17-year-old. “Of course I was very nervous for her while skating, because from the very first jump it was clear that the skate is going very fast and I understand perfectly what an athlete feels in those moments.”
Why was Valieva allowed to participate at all? The doping controversy was the main topic of conversation as she struggled to sustain her run and wrote the next chapter in a story that is sure to reverberate far beyond the Beijing Games.
The Russian figure skater was at the heart of a doping scandal dating back to December 2021, when the 15-year-old tested positive for the banned heart drug trimetazidine, which experts say may improve endurance.
Valieva has tried to blame the positive test on contamination from medication her grandfather had taken, said an IOC official familiar with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) hearing, which released Valieva for the remainder of the year. the Games, said Tuesday.
However, the test was not analyzed and reported to the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) until February, resulting in Valieva’s suspension on February 8.
The suspension came a day after Valieva helped the ROC win a gold medal in the figure skating team.
Valieva was reinstated after an appeal, and the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) allowed her to participate in the Olympics. CAS said in a statement that it had decided that Valieva would be allowed to participate due to “exceptional circumstances”, including specific provisions related to her status as a “protected person” – because she is a minor – under the World Anti-Doping Code.