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As Kamila Valieva crashed several times in Thursday’s free skating program at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, many 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 won gold.
Valieva – who was the clear favorite to finish in first place after coming out on top in Tuesday’s short program – burst into tears as she walked off the ice as the emotion of the past few days seemed to catch up with her.
Loud chants of “Kamila, Kamila, Kamila” came from the stands as a tearful Valieva was consoled by coach Eteri Tutberidze as she left 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 been allowed to compete, it’s devastating that she was put in this situation, at all levels.”
Shcherbakova, who was the skater who competed directly before Valieva in the final, said she felt “nervous” watching her teammate skate.
“I looked at Kamila but probably didn’t understand what I was going through,” the 17-year-old said. “Of course I was very nervous for her during the skate because from the first jump it was clear that the skate was going really hard and I totally understand how an athlete feels at those times.”
Why was Valieva even allowed to compete? The doping controversy was the main talking point as she struggled to maintain her run and wrote the next chapter in a story that is sure to rumble far beyond the Beijing Games.
The Russian figure skater has been at the heart of a doping scandal that dates back to December 2021, when the 15-year-old tested positive for the banned heart drug trimetazidine, which experts say can improve endurance .
Valieva sought to blame the positive test on contamination from medication taken by her grandfather, an IOC official familiar with the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) hearing that cleared Valieva for the rest of the Games said on Tuesday.
However, the test was not analyzed and reported to the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) until February, leading to Valieva’s suspension on February 8.
The suspension came a day after Valieva helped the ROC win gold in the figure skating team event.
Valieva was reinstated after an appeal and the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) allowed her to compete in the Olympics. CAS said in a statement that it had decided that Valieva should be allowed to compete due to “exceptional circumstances”, including specific provisions related to her status as a “protected person” – because she is a minor – in under the World Anti-Doping Code.