Kamila Valieva Falls,Takes Fourth: Figure Skating Results and Reactions – The New York Times

Juliet Macur

Feb. 17, 2022, 9:00 a.m. ET

Feb. 17, 2022, 9:00 a.m. ET

Image

Kamila Valieva of Russia after finishing fourth in the women’s individual event.
Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

Kamila Valieva, Russia’s figure skating star and the favorite to win the women’s individual event by far, stunningly faltered several times on the ice Thursday, handing a victory to a Russian teammate after days of controversy over a doping scandal.

Considered by many to be one of the greatest figure skaters in recent history, Valieva, 15, slipped or fell at least four times as she skated to “Bolero.” She wept as she left the ice and finished fourth, the result avoiding the question of whether the outcome of the doping investigation would deny her a medal had she finished in the top three.

Her teammate Anna Shcherbakova, with a nearly flawless performance, won with a score of 255.95. Another Russian, Alexandra Trusova, was second (251.73) and Kaori Sakamoto of Japan was third (233.13). Valieva’s score of 224.09 left her in fourth place.

It was a result as stunning as her previous performance in the Games and in international competitions.

Going into the event, Olympics officials took the extraordinary step of deciding that they would not award medals if she finished in the top three after Valieva was found to have had a banned drug in her system several weeks before the Olympics.

But at the end of the night, the flower ceremony — in this case, athletes are handed a toy panda that is the mascot of the Games — went off, a veneer of normalcy capping a week of turmoil in the sport.

Shcherbakova leapt into the air, arms aloft, as she accepted her souvenir. Trusova appeared dejected at first, was slow to join the ceremony and later looked stricken and rattled, her eyes wet, as she spoke softly to reporters in Russian. She took deep breaths and looked toward the floor as she walked away.

Image

Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

Shcherbakova, speaking to reporters, brushed aside the whirlwind of the week, saying sashe never thinks about “negative moments.” She went on: “I know that they are always around us, but that’s OK.” She added that she can “see everything,” but that the most important thing she can do is to skate. “I know what I can do,” she said.

Sakamoto exulted.

“To be honest, I was very surprised that I won bronze,’’ she told reporters. “I am simply quite happy for now.”

A medal ceremony will take place later.

The medal ceremony for the team event that Russia won on the strength of Valieva’s performance was postponed indefinitely after her positive test from a urine sample she gave in December was made public last week. The United States won silver; Japan, the bronze.

Valieva was cleared to compete in the women’s individual event just a day before it began with the short program on Tuesday. According to an interview on Russia’s Channel One, the state-run TV station, she said she hadn’t slept at all on Sunday night after spending seven hours in a hearing with a panel of arbitrators considering her participation in these Games. In the end, the panel decided that barring her from competition would cause her “irreparable harm.”

“I’m happy but emotionally I’m tired, so this is tears of happiness, I think, mixed with a bit of sorrow,” she told Channel One. “But I’m surely happy to be at the Olympic Games and to try to represent our country, and I hope I will fully focus and demonstrate my results.”

Valieva came into the free skate in the lead after scoring 82.16 points in the short program. Her teammate Shcherbakova, the current world champion, was second, with 80.20 points. In a surprise finish, Japan’s Kaori Sakamota was third, with 79.84 points.

Image

Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

In the team event, Valieva became the first woman to land a quadruple jump in the Olympics.

In the free skate, the Russian skaters came in with a huge advantage. The base values for their free skate performances were so high that they could make mistakes and separate themselves from most of the pack.

One particular skill that tallied lots of points was their quadruple jumps, which only a dozen women have landed in international competition. The quad is worth so much that it is hard for skaters without one to keep up.

But Valieva’s stumbles were enough to send her score below Sakamoto’s and keep her off the podium, even though Sakamoto did not have a quad in her repertoire.

Daniel Victor and Alan Blinder contributed reporting.

Daniel Victor

Feb. 17, 2022, 10:37 a.m. ET

Feb. 17, 2022, 10:37 a.m. ET

Daniel Victor

reporting from Beijing

Anna Shcherbakova, who won the gold, said she sympathized with her teammate Kamila Valieva, who came in fourth place: “I saw from her first jump how difficult it was, what a burden it was for her. And I understand what an athlete feels. It’s more than difficult to go on after a couple of things like that happen. And I will tell her what I think about this later, personally.”

Daniel Victor

Feb. 17, 2022, 10:33 a.m. ET

Feb. 17, 2022, 10:33 a.m. ET

Daniel Victor

reporting from Beijing

Anna Shcherbakova, the gold medalist, said she had mixed feelings about the outcome. “I was feeling a lot of pleasure because I happened to be in the right time and the right place and did the right things — that’s the important thing,” she said, but added: “On the other hand, I feel this emptiness inside.”

Alan Blinder

Feb. 17, 2022, 10:30 a.m. ET

Feb. 17, 2022, 10:30 a.m. ET

Alan Blinder

reporting from Beijing

Asked about the uncertainty over whether there would be a medal ceremony, Anna Shcherbakova said that it’s very important for every athlete to be able to stand on the podium after winning. “I think this moment, when you stand on the podium, it helps you to realize what work have you done.”

Alan Blinder

Feb. 17, 2022, 10:26 a.m. ET

Feb. 17, 2022, 10:26 a.m. ET

Alan Blinder

reporting from Beijing

Anna Shcherbakova, who won the gold medal, said she had always dreamed about this moment with every competition. “Today,” she continued, “I did it.”

Daniel Victor

Feb. 17, 2022, 10:24 a.m. ET

Feb. 17, 2022, 10:24 a.m. ET

Daniel Victor

reporting from Beijing

Alexandra Trusova, the silver medalist, says she is happy that there will be a medal ceremony. “Of course it will be extremely pleasant for me to receive my medal.”

Image

Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

Alan Blinder

Feb. 17, 2022, 10:21 a.m. ET

Feb. 17, 2022, 10:21 a.m. ET

Alan Blinder

reporting from Beijing

Anna Shcherbakova, the gold medalist, spoke briefly in English when she passed me: “After my performance, I felt like I did my maximum at the right time, the right place.” She added: “I think I need some time to understand what happened.”

Daniel Victor

Feb. 17, 2022, 10:13 a.m. ET

Feb. 17, 2022, 10:13 a.m. ET

Daniel Victor

reporting from Beijing

At a news conference following the competition, Kaori Sakamoto, of Japan, tells reporters: “To be honest, I was very surprised that I won bronze. I am simply quite happy for now.”

Image

Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

Alan Blinder

Feb. 17, 2022, 10:07 a.m. ET

Feb. 17, 2022, 10:07 a.m. ET

Alan Blinder

reporting from Beijing

I’m watching Kaori Sakamoto chat with a group of Japanese reporters, and I’m not certain I’ve ever seen an athlete — in any sport, at any place — so visibly ecstatic. Even with her mask, you can tell she’s beaming.

t logo 291 black

Feb. 17, 2022, 10:04 a.m. ET

Feb. 17, 2022, 10:04 a.m. ET

The New York Times

Alan Blinder

Feb. 17, 2022, 9:58 a.m. ET

Feb. 17, 2022, 9:58 a.m. ET

Alan Blinder

reporting from Beijing

An overjoyed Kaori Sakamoto approached a group of reporters and flashed the two-finger victory sign. Then the bronze medalist laughed, bending over with delight — and held up three fingers instead.

Alan Blinder

Feb. 17, 2022, 9:53 a.m. ET

Feb. 17, 2022, 9:53 a.m. ET

Alan Blinder

reporting from Beijing

Alexandra Trusova, the silver medalist, spoke softly to reporters in Russian. She appeared stricken and rattled, her eyes wet. She took deep breaths and looked toward the floor when she walked away.

Daniel Victor

Feb. 17, 2022, 9:15 a.m. ET

Feb. 17, 2022, 9:15 a.m. ET

Daniel Victor

reporting from Beijing

A victory ceremony — don’t call it a medals ceremony because for now they get just a stuffed animal — is happening now, with Anna Shcherbakova, Alexandra Trusova and Kaori Sakamoto taking their places on the familiar three-tier platform. Shcherbakova leapt into the air, arms aloft, as she accepted her souvenir.

Image

Credit…James Hill for The New York Times

Daniel Victor

Feb. 17, 2022, 9:14 a.m. ET

Feb. 17, 2022, 9:14 a.m. ET

Daniel Victor

reporting from Beijing

Instead of a coronation for a teenager who already is considered by many to be one of the greatest figure skaters in recent history, the event ended in a surreal scene captured by TV cameras, with the gold medalist, Valieva’s Russian teammate Anna Shcherbakova, seemingly unwilling — or unable — to celebrate; the silver medalist, Alexandra Trusova, appearing to initially refuse to take part in the victory ceremony; and the surprise bronze medalist, Kaori Sakamoto of Japan, crying tears of joy.

Daniel Victor

Feb. 17, 2022, 9:10 a.m. ET

Feb. 17, 2022, 9:10 a.m. ET

Daniel Victor

reporting from Beijing

Olympic athletes must walk through the room of journalists after they leave the ice. They’re not required to stop and chat, but by custom, most do. This week, Valieva has exercised her right to remain silent, repeatedly walking through such rooms while averting eye contact and declining to attend a news conference after her leading short program performance.

Daniel Victor

Feb. 17, 2022, 9:09 a.m. ET

Feb. 17, 2022, 9:09 a.m. ET

Daniel Victor

reporting from Beijing

Your final results: Anna Shcherbakova of Russia takes gold, Alexandra Trusova of Russia takes silver and Japan’s Kaori Sakamoto earns bronze. Kamila Valieva, considered the world’s best coming into the Olympics, finishes a disappointing fourth.

Image

Credit…James Hill for The New York Times

Alan Blinder

Feb. 17, 2022, 9:07 a.m. ET

Feb. 17, 2022, 9:07 a.m. ET

Alan Blinder

reporting from Beijing

Kamila Valieva trudged through a room of journalists in silence, her face hidden behind a mask. She did not seem to make eye contact with anyone.

Daniel Victor

Feb. 17, 2022, 9:02 a.m. ET

Feb. 17, 2022, 9:02 a.m. ET

Daniel Victor

reporting from Beijing

Kamila Valieva stepped on the ice wearing the same face she’s worn all week in Beijing: Nearly expressionless, doing her best to block out all of the outside distractions, or at least not acknowledge them. 

After the performance, she finally let out some emotion, burying her face in her hands and cracking a smile for a brief moment as the crowd erupted in its loudest applause of the night. But she quickly returned to her blank expression, as she stepped off the ice to be greeted by her coach, Eteri Tutberidze. They did not hug.

In the “kiss and cry,” Tutberidze held her arm around her shoulders, but the disappointment was clear on Valieva’s masked face.

Image

Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

Alan Blinder

Feb. 17, 2022, 8:58 a.m. ET

Feb. 17, 2022, 8:58 a.m. ET

Alan Blinder

reporting from Beijing

That puts her in fourth place.

Alan Blinder

Feb. 17, 2022, 8:58 a.m. ET

Feb. 17, 2022, 8:58 a.m. ET

Alan Blinder

reporting from Beijing

The free skate score for Kamila Valieva: 141.93.

Alan Blinder

Feb. 17, 2022, 8:56 a.m. ET

Feb. 17, 2022, 8:56 a.m. ET

Alan Blinder

reporting from Beijing

Valieva stumbled or fell at least four times.

Alan Blinder

Feb. 17, 2022, 8:55 a.m. ET

Feb. 17, 2022, 8:55 a.m. ET

Alan Blinder

reporting from Beijing

The gasps gave way to audible sighs as Kamila Valieva’s performance veered away from the extraordinary standard she had set over these Games.

Alan Blinder

Feb. 17, 2022, 8:53 a.m. ET

Feb. 17, 2022, 8:53 a.m. ET

Alan Blinder

reporting from Beijing

A chorus of gasps as Kamila Valieva falls twice.

Daniel Victor

Feb. 17, 2022, 8:51 a.m. ET

Feb. 17, 2022, 8:51 a.m. ET

Image

Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

And now, the moment the sporting world has been waiting for. The most scrutinized athlete of the Beijing Games, Kamila Valieva, is taking to the Capital Indoor Stadium ice once more. She’s looking for an Olympic title — one that may not ever be awarded.

She comes just after her teammate, Anna Shcherbakova, advanced to first place herself.

With a top-three performance, Valieva would guarantee a medal sweep for the Russians. If, you know, there are medals to award.

Alan Blinder

Feb. 17, 2022, 8:50 a.m. ET

Feb. 17, 2022, 8:50 a.m. ET

Alan Blinder

reporting from Beijing

The most scrutinized athlete of the Beijing Games, Kamila Valieva, is taking to the Capital Indoor Stadium ice once more. She’s looking for an Olympic title — one that may or may not ever be awarded.

Daniel Victor

Feb. 17, 2022, 8:45 a.m. ET

Feb. 17, 2022, 8:45 a.m. ET

Image

Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

Kaori Sakamoto, whose third-place finish in the short program was the surprise of the day on Tuesday, looked almost relieved to be over with her Thursday performance, a thrilling and exquisitely performed routine.

She was all smiles as she came off the ice, letting out a triumphant double-fist-pump, and later a shrug.

Still, it wasn’t enough to pass Trusova. She’s nearly 20 points behind in second place, and two more Russian skaters — Anna Shcherbakova and Kamila Valieva, two of the best in the world — remain.

Alan Blinder

Feb. 17, 2022, 8:36 a.m. ET

Feb. 17, 2022, 8:36 a.m. ET

Image

Credit…James Hill for The New York Times

Skating to “Cruella” and dressed in black, Russia’s Alexandra Trusova thrilled this stadium with a physics-challenging performance of spins and jumps that had many in the crowd clapping along with her free skate.

A cohort of Russian athletes greeted her performance with a standing ovation as they waved the flag of the Russian Olympic Committee, and Trusova pumped her fist in jubilation once she finished.

Trusova, 17, finished third at the world championship last year and fell early in her program on Tuesday. She also under-rotated a triple axel but still pulled off a routine that earned a 74.60, which was good enough for fourth place headed into the free skate.

On Thursday, she pulled off a 177.13, best of the night so far, and moved into first place, more than 37 points ahead of Wakaba Higuchi of Japan. There are three skaters remaining.

Daniel Victor

Feb. 17, 2022, 8:30 a.m. ET

Feb. 17, 2022, 8:30 a.m. ET

Image

Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

An electric moment here as Wakaba Higuchi of Japan nails a triple axel, the first of the day successfully landed. The crowd roared, but then let out a disappointed groan as she fell on a subsequent jump.

If points were awarded for great musical choices, and if New York Times journalists were judges (very bad idea), she would score highly for performing to a medley from “The Lion King.” Nothing like ending on “Circle of Life.”

There are four superb skaters ahead, but for now she’s in first place after scoring 140.93 for a combined score of 214.44.

t logo 291 black

Feb. 17, 2022, 8:26 a.m. ET

Feb. 17, 2022, 8:26 a.m. ET

For the first time, the quadruple jump could be essential for Olympic medals in women’s figure skating.

Before the questions about doping surrounded her, Kamila Valieva, was best known for her perfectly executed quadruple jumps. She and her Russian teammates — Anna Shcherbakova and Alexandra Trusova — are expected to attempt several of these four-revolution jumps in Thursday’s free skate, the only program in which they are allowed to perform quads.

Quads are worth many more points than other jumps. Landing them — even poorly — gives that skater a huge advantage over her competition.

Daniel Victor

Feb. 17, 2022, 8:23 a.m. ET

Feb. 17, 2022, 8:23 a.m. ET

Daniel Victor

reporting from Beijing

Another “Lion King” medley in the women’s competition confirms it is the greatest Disney movie of all time.

Daniel Victor

Feb. 17, 2022, 8:19 a.m. ET

Feb. 17, 2022, 8:19 a.m. ET

Image

Credit…James Hill for The New York Times

If there was any doubt that we are now in the top tier of competitors, You Young of Korea erased it. Performing to the familiar songs of “Les Misérables,” she led off the final group with a 142.75 for a combined score of 213.09, putting her comfortably in first place with five skaters remaining.

Alan Blinder

Feb. 17, 2022, 8:10 a.m. ET

Feb. 17, 2022, 8:10 a.m. ET

Image

Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

Karen Chen was candid: Her showing in Thursday’s free skate — with a stumble, a pop and a fall — was a letdown.

“Right from the get-go, it was rough,” she said after leaving the ice. “Like three seconds in, I already tripped and I didn’t even get to my first jumping pass yet. So it was definitely a struggle right from the beginning.”

She could not, she said, diagnose what had gone wrong.

“I do know that I never quite got my feet underneath me,” Chen said. “I just felt a little bit off, and I was just fighting to pull in on everything and stay upright, so it was a hard performance to get through.”

She earned a 115.82 with Thursday’s free skate, for a total event score of 179.93.

Image

Credit…James Hill for The New York Times

Whether she will appear again on the international stage remains an open question. She made no commitments on Thursday night, but she did not vow to pursue a return to a future Games.

“I know in 2018 I got off the ice and I was like, ‘Yes, I’m going to go for another four years,’ and I’m proud to say I made it here, so that’s such a great accomplishment,” she said. “But I also think that I have to take a second and just think about what’s realistic, especially in this sport where it’s more challenging as you get older. So I definitely need some time to just reflect.”

Juliet Macur

Feb. 17, 2022, 8:10 a.m. ET

Feb. 17, 2022, 8:10 a.m. ET

Image

Credit…Gabriela Bhaskar/The New York Times

Kamila Valieva of Russia is expected to win the women’s individual competition in under an hour from now. But if she succeeds, she will not receive a medal. Nor will any of her competitors.

Olympic officials, faced with perhaps the most fraught controversy at these Winter Games, said on Monday that they planned to withhold medals in any event in which Valieva, 15, places in the top three until after her doping case is resolved, perhaps months from now.

The International Olympic Committee said there would be no medal ceremony during the Games for the team event, which Valieva and her Russian teammates won, and none during the Games for the women’s individual event if Valieva finishes in the top three.

Her win would be recorded with asterisk in Olympic record books, Mark Adams, a spokesman for the committee, said.

“There will be an asterisk against the results, because they will be preliminary obviously pending the investigation,” he said Wednesday. “Would we prefer not to have all this going on? Absolutely.”

It appears that the I.O.C. is holding out the possibility that Valieva could be stripped of medals and her competitors elevated to higher awards. But the committee did not make clear why it would not award medals to rival competitors in the interim.

It said it would conduct “dignified medal ceremonies once the case of Ms. Valieva has been concluded,” a process that could take months.

If Valieva does not finish in the top three in the women’s competition, the medals will be awarded as normal. But given her talents, that would be a surprise.

Daniel Victor

Feb. 17, 2022, 8:05 a.m. ET

Feb. 17, 2022, 8:05 a.m. ET

Image

Credit…James Hill for The New York Times

A lot is made of the disappointments we witness at the Olympics, but each woman we’ve seen in this group has looked enormously pleased with herself. It may be hard for any of them to crack the top three, but it’s nice to see them enjoying the moment instead of being weighed down with regret.

Loena Hendrickx of Belgium largely kept the positivity going, though her expressions suggested that she was keenly aware of a misstep or two. She ranks second going into the final group.

Image

Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

Juliet Macur

Feb. 17, 2022, 7:59 a.m. ET

Feb. 17, 2022, 7:59 a.m. ET

Image

Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

Nobody seems to have had more fun in this Olympic women’s event than Alysa Liu of the United States. Nobody. She floated through her program, which she skated to Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D, and beamed with joy the entire time. She landed her triple axel but was downgraded by the judges, though she did land on one foot.

This is the way a 16-year-old should compete at the Olympics. Her score puts her in first place.

Daniel Victor

Feb. 17, 2022, 7:50 a.m. ET

Feb. 17, 2022, 7:50 a.m. ET

Image

Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

The intensity and the strength of performances we’re seeing has clearly ramped up. Kim Ye-lim pleased the contingent of fans from South Korea — one of the few countries to have even a small cheering section — with an impeccable routine, vaulting her into first place with a combined score of 202.63.

t logo 291 black

Feb. 17, 2022, 7:45 a.m. ET

Feb. 17, 2022, 7:45 a.m. ET

Image

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

It is almost certainly something that you should not try.

Even to skaters competing at the Olympic Games, the triple axel is often relegated to the realm of the aspirational: a jump, after a forward-facing takeoff, that involves three and a half rotations. (The axel is the only jump in which skaters leave the ice facing forward.)

It was only in 2018 that Mirai Nagasu became the first American woman to complete a triple axel at a Games; she was just the eighth woman to land one in competition, underscoring the rarity of the technique over the years.

But seven women penciled in tries for Tuesday’s short program, including Kamila Valieva and Alysa Liu, a 16-year-old American skater who is competing at her first Olympics.

Mana Kawabe missed her triple axel attempt earlier on Thursday, but four other women will try one, including Liu, who is about to skate.

Daniel Victor

Feb. 17, 2022, 7:42 a.m. ET

Feb. 17, 2022, 7:42 a.m. ET

Image

Credit…James Hill for The New York Times

You could feel the pride Anastasiia Gubanova of Georgia had in her performance. The tears started barely a second after she was done, and she got a long, sustained hug just off the ice. Her immediate instincts were right. She scored 135.58, a season’s best, and is now in second place behind Mariah Bell with a combined score of 200.98.

Daniel Victor

Feb. 17, 2022, 7:35 a.m. ET

Feb. 17, 2022, 7:35 a.m. ET

Image

Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

Mariah Bell had a wide smile before her skate, a sign that she was actually enjoying herself. And after her soulful routine to “Hallelujah,” she has even more reason to smile.

The 25-year-old Bell, the oldest American Olympian in the singles competition since 1928, got through her routine without falling, and the joy rarely left her face.

She looked thrilled with her performance, lifting her arms into the air and grinning ear to ear as she left the ice. In the “kiss and cry” area, she formed a heart with her fingers just before she learned her score: 136.92, the best mark of the day and good enough for first place with a combined score of 202.30.