BEIJING — The gold medalist said she felt empty. The silver medalist has pledged never to skate again. The favorite left in tears without saying a word.
After one of the most dramatic nights in their sport’s history, the Russian trio of teenage figure skating stars each step into an uncertain future.
With her Olympics and her life turned upside down by a doping scandal, world record holder Kamila Valieva faces a possible ban and a coach whose first response to her disastrous skating on Thursday was criticism.
“Why did you give up? Why did you stop fighting? cameras captured Eteri Tutberidze – the notoriously strict coach who will be investigated over Valieva’s failed drug test – telling the 15-year-old after she fell twice and dropped out of the medal chase.
International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach said he was troubled by the intense pressure on young skaters, especially Valieva, and criticized her coaches without naming Tutberidze.
“When I then saw how she was received by those closest to her, with such, what seemed to be enormous coldness, it was chilling to see that,” he said during the interview. a press conference on Friday. “Rather than comforting her, rather than trying to help her, you could feel this chilling atmosphere, this distance.”
Some skaters have lobbied to raise the minimum age to participate in the Olympics from 15 to 17 or 18.
As Valieva placed fourth and left in tears, she received a message of support from 2018 silver medalist Evgenia Medvedeva.
“I’m so happy this hell is over for you,” Medvedeva posted on Instagram. “I really appreciate and love you and I’m glad you can relax now, my dear. I congratulate you on the end of the Olympic Games and I hope you can live peacefully and breathe.”
Unfortunately for Valieva, she can’t relax yet. The failed drug test that turned his life upside down still hangs over his head.
Although she was allowed to continue skating in Beijing by the Court of Arbitration for Sport to avoid ‘irreparable harm’, the decision only stands until a full investigation into her December 25 test for the banned substance trimetazidine is resolved. The case could take months and still cost Valieva and her Russian teammates the gold medal they won in the team event last week.
Runner-up Alexandra Trusova was also desperate after her historic five quadruple jumps proved insufficient to beat teammate Anna Shcherbakova to the gold medal. “I hate this sport,” she shouted at the side of the rink. “I’m not going on the ice anymore.
Trusova said she was happy with the skate but not with the result, an apparent jab at judgment that gave Shcherbakova enough extra points for her artistry to keep her ahead.
You could hear Trusova crying that she was the only one without a gold medal. The Russians won the team event using Valieva twice instead of having Shcherbakova or Trusova skate one of the women’s programs. This victory could be canceled because of the Valieva doping case.
Trusova later said her comments about not skating had been ’emotional’, the result of the disappearance of her family and dogs, but did not commit to competing at next month’s world championships. .
Of the three teenagers, Trusova had the most troubled relationship with Tutberidze. She briefly changed coaches, returning to the Tutberidze camp in May last year. And his musical selection seemed to send a message. She danced her long program to “Cruella” from the film’s soundtrack.
Shcherbakova seemed unsure how to react to the drama unfolding around her and said she felt sorry for Valieva. “I still don’t understand what happened. On the one hand I feel happy, on the other I feel this emptiness inside.
Shcherbakova arrived in Beijing as the world champion from 2021, but Valieva’s record scores and Trusova’s all-or-nothing quads turned her into an underdog for her young teammates. Being called an Olympic champion was “unreal,” Shcherbakova said. “I don’t feel like it’s me they’re talking about.”
The careers of Russian skaters are usually so short that at the age of 17, Shcherbakova almost immediately had to wonder whether she would retire.
“I have a desire to skate and I can’t even imagine being without figure skating,” she said. The 2026 Olympics are a long way off, and no Tutberidze-educated woman has ever stayed in elite skating long enough to become a two-time Olympian. The last woman to retain gold was Katarina Witt of East Germany in 1988.
What happens next for Shcherbakova and her teammates-turned-rivals depends on many factors – the eventual doping verdict, any further punishments for Tutberidze and the rest of her entourage and the myriad of injuries that can afflict young skaters performing quads.
As she tries to recover from a failure on sport’s biggest stage, Valieva remains at the center of a confrontation between Russia and international institutions. About six hours before he took to the ice, Russian Olympic Committee President Stanislav Pozdnyakov said he would not give up the gold medal in the team event “under any circumstances, regardless of the results of the disciplinary investigation into the athlete”.
One of the many unresolved questions for the three young Russian skaters.