Women’s Free Skate Yielded Mixed Results for Russia’s Trio of Elite Skaters
Figure skating at the Beijing Olympics has proven to be the most exciting — and stressful — sport of this year’s Games.
On Thursday night, Russian skater Anna Shcherbakova took home the gold medal in the women’s free skate after perfectly landing both of her impressive quad jumps. Right behind her taking silver was fellow Russian teammate Alexandra Trusova, who managed to land five quads of her own. Kaori Sakamoto of Japan took home the bronze.
While medaling in any capacity at the Olympics is ordinarily cause for major celebration, this year’s figure skating competition was marred by the ongoing scandal centering around another Russian skater, Kamila Valieva. After Valieva was found to have tested positive back in December for an illegal drug that was rumored to help her performance, she was suspended from competing; shortly after, officials reversed the decision and decided to allow the 15-year-old to proceed with the caveat that if she won, they’d be doing a deeper investigation.
With the pressure mounting, Valieva delivered a shaky performance that resulted in her failing out of several jumps. The teenager had been seen as heavily favored to top the podium and was seen crying when she didn’t eke out a spot in the top three. Her strict and controversial coach, Eteri Tutberidze, was reportedly seen chastising her when she got off the rink and is slated to be investigated when the Games are over.
International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach has since spoken out against how Tutberidze responded to Valieva’s performance and said at a news conference on Friday: "When I afterwards saw how she was received by her closest entourage, with such, what appeared to be a tremendous coldness, it was chilling to see this. Rather than giving her comfort, rather than to try to help her, you could feel this chilling atmosphere, this distance."
Outside of Tutberidze, Valieva didn’t talk to anyone — including reporters — after her performance.
Also upset was Trusova, who was massively displeased with her score due to the difficulty of her program. According to the Associated Press, she declared, “I hate this sport! I won’t go onto the ice again!” after discovering she only won the silver medal.
“I am not happy with the result,” she went on to say. “There is no happiness.”
Shcherbakova seemed to be the only Russian skater pleased with the events that unfolded and said she knew she “skated clean.” “I am so happy that I still haven’t realized the result,” she said after her win.