Young Russian Kamila Valeeva shocked the figure skating world by finishing fourth in the women’s singles event on Thursday following her doping controversy, ensuring the medal ceremony continues at the Beijing Olympics.
And her compatriot Anna Shcherbakova won the gold medal with a total of 255.95, ahead of Russian Alexandra Trusova, who scored 251.73 points. Japan’s Kaori Sakamoto came in third with 233.13 points.
Valeeva finished with a total score of 224.09, her hand hiding her face after one smile forced the judges at last as she skated toward the exit with her supporters chanting “Molodets!” “Molodets!” (Bravo, Bravo).
The 15-year-old, who was wearing a shiny black and red dress as well as bright red gloves, maintained her composure for 30 seconds.
Valeeva landed first but faltered after Axel’s triple, the first of a number of uncharacteristic stumbles in Maurice Ravel’s “Bolero” free skating routine.
She threw her right hand forward in frustration after finishing a four-minute, 15-second routine that wasn’t anywhere near her usual high standards – a whopping 48.62 short of her world record.
In the stands, loud cheers and applause greeted her arrival on the ice. Fans chanted her name after she faltered as the camera shutters began to speed up.
Valieva hoped to rule out the doping scandal and legal arguments for the lifetime performance of Ravel “Bolero”, which gave her a new lease on life.
It looked as if her blade brush on the ice would silence critics as teenage Salcho landed a quartet 30 seconds into her show.
But what followed was far from perfect.
Her hand touched the ice after Axel’s triple landed and it was the first of many mistakes that left her crying in the “kiss and cry” area after a disappointing performance.
“Poor kid,” former US figure skater Ashley Wagner wrote on Twitter, “This is a moment when you really should have said — that poor kid. She should never have been put in this position.”
“She shouldn’t have been on this ice, she shouldn’t have been put in a position to have a bigger problem than her.”
In a high-octane routine, Valieva’s teammate Trusova, the 2021 World Championship bronze medalist, attempted to enter five quads for the soundtrack to “Cruella” and “I Wanna Be Your Dog” for the season’s best score of 177.13.
Fellow 17-year-old Shcherbakova’s free skating wasn’t nearly as strong, but the world champion skated accurately when she landed a couple of drops early in her program.
Shcherbakova, Trusova, and Sakamoto returned for the coronation ceremony, remaining on the ice for several minutes to absorb a moment they thought would not happen.
Valieva tested positive for a banned heart drug after the national championship on December 25, but the result was not revealed until February 8, the day after helping the Russian Olympic Committee win the team competition.
Valieva was only given clearance to compete in the women’s singles event by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) on Monday.
She entered skating on Thursday as the hot favorite and the medal ceremony was expected to not continue due to the unresolved doping issue.
Valeeva is one of the youngest athletes to have tested positive at the Olympics, raising questions about the role of adults around her and the ongoing scourge of Russian doping in international sport.
It also sparked controversy over raising the minimum age for figure skating.