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Olympics: What these games showed us about figure skating in Russia

Figure Skating

February 18, 2022
JEAN CATUFFE/GETTY IMAGES
JEAN CATUFFE/GETTY IMAGES

The GIST: As we continue to process the emotional scenes from yesterday’s women’s singles free skate, we’re still reflecting on the ongoing figure skating doping scandal.

On the ice: Overshadowed by the drama surrounding 15-year-old Kamila Valieva (the skater who tested positive for a banned medication) and her unexpected fourth-place finish, two of her ROC teammates — 17-year-olds Anna Shcherbakova and Alexandra Trusova — finished first and second, respectively.

  • Japan’s Kaori Sakamoto put down a beautiful skate to win bronze and brought some much-needed joy to the party. That’s what it’s all about.

The fallout: Rather than supporting Valieva after a disappointing skate (nevermind being embroiled in a doping scandal), her infamously strict coach Eteri Tutberidze said, “Why did you let it go? Why did you stop fighting?” Immediately no.

  • Meanwhile, silver medalist Trusova was heard saying, “I hate this sport,” after her skate, while top-finisher Shcherbakova said, “On the one hand I feel happy, on the other I feel this emptiness inside,” about the tension surrounding her. Sad.

The context: Tutberidze is known for grooming young figure skaters who typically go on to retire as teenagers, often suffering serious injuries along the way.

  • And due to skating’s complicated scoring system, their training emphasizes physically demanding jumps, earning the ROC trio the nickname of “Quad Squad,” named after the jump other women won’t even attempt.

What’s next: The Games may be winding down, but this story’s far from over. We’re still waiting for a decision on the ROC’s team gold, but bigger questions lie ahead.

  • How could this happen to a teenager? Should the minimum age in figure skating be raised? Will the adults be held accountable? We’ll be watching.