The women's individual figure skating competition — specifically the Russian skaters — stole the Beijing Olympics, and not in an entirely good way. "The gold medalist said she felt empty," The Associated Press recaps. "The silver medalist pledged never to skate again. The favorite left in tears without saying a word."
Russian skaters Anna Shcherbakova and Alexandra Trusova won the gold and silver, respectively, but the botched free skate of fourth-placing teammate Kamila Valieva — performing under the cloud of a doping inquiry — overshadowed their wins. Bronze medalist Kaori Sakamoto of Japan seemed to be the only one enjoying the moment.
"I hate this sport," Trusova shouted when the scores were set, evidently believing her record five quadruple jumps should have won her gold. "I won't go onto the ice again." Shcherbakova seemed unsure how to react to her victory. "On the one hand I feel happy, on the other I feel this emptiness inside," she said. Valieva, 15, cried after her bungled performance, but the Russian coach, Eteri Tutberidze, immediately lit into her. "Why did you let it go?" she demanded. "Explain it to me, why? Why did you stop fighting completely? Somewhere after the axel you let it go."
That drew an uncharacteristically strong rebuke from International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach 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," Bach said, not naming Tutberidze but clearly referring to her. "Rather than giving her comfort, rather than to try to help her, you could feel this chilling atmosphere, this distance." He added: "All of this does not give me much confidence in Kamila's closest entourage."
"The adults in the room" abandoned Valieva, NBC Olympics host Mike Tirico agreed Friday. "Portrayed by some this week as the villain, by others as the victim, she is in fact the victim of the villains. The coaches and national Olympic committee surrounding Kamila Valieva" clearly "failed to protect her," whatever else they might have done.
The World Anti-Doping Agency is looking into how Valieva came to have a banned drug in a Dec. 25 blood sample and what to do about it, and Tutberidze and Russian figure skating team doctor Filipp Shvetsky — previously suspended for doping athletes — will be central to the investigation.