As Kamila Valieva Left the Ice, Coach Demanded Explanation

And more on the Russian skater's shocking free skate
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 18, 2022 12:03 AM CST
Updated Feb 18, 2022 6:18 AM CST
Kamila Valieva's Coach: 'Why Did You Stop Fighting?'
Kamila Valieva, of the Russian Olympic Committee, reacts after the women's free skate program during the figure skating competition at the 2022 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022, in Beijing.   (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

The first thing Kamila Valieva's coach said to her after the 15-year-old's disastrous free skate Thursday, which cost her a medal: "Why did you let it go?" Eteri Tutberidze could be heard asking Valieva during the live broadcast, as the teen stepped off the ice. "Why did you stop fighting? Explain it to me—why? You let it go after that axel. Why?" Valieva did not respond and sobbed as her scores were announced, Yahoo News reports. More coverage of the event and the doping scandal that preceded it:

  • "The destruction of a young person." That's what Johnny Weir, one of NBC's figure skating commentators, had to say about Valieva's skate, the Huffington Post reports. He and fellow commentator Tara Lipinski were not exactly their usual chirpy selves during Valieva's time on the ice, restricting their comments to simple announcements of the jumps she was attempting, People reports. They did much the same during Valieva's short program Tuesday, making clear that in their opinions Valieva should not have been allowed to skate after a banned drug was found in her test. Lipinski, however, is sympathetic to the teen: "I can't imagine how tough this has been on Kamila and it makes me angry that the adults around her weren't able to make better decisions," she said.

  • Controversial coach: Tutberidze has long been criticized for her treatment of the skaters who train with her; the so-called "Eteri expiration date" is age 17, when most of her skaters are forced to retire due to either injuries or simply a declining competitive edge. She's never trained a two-time Olympian. It is Tutberidze who will be investigated as a result of Valieva's failed drug test, the AP reports. Alexandra Trusova of Russia, who won silver, has had an up-and-down relationship with Tutberidze, even leaving for a different coach for a time, and her song choice of "Cruella" may have been meant as a message, per the AP. Slate has an in-depth piece on figure skating's "culture of child abuse" that includes a rundown of Tutberidze's practices.
  • "Chilling." International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach had this to say after Valieva's reception by her coach: "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."
  • Dismay from medalists: Russia took silver and gold, with Anna Shcherbakova in the top spot. Trusova was unhappy that despite her history-making five quadruple jumps, judges gave Shcherbakova enough artistry points for her to nab gold. "I hate this sport. I won't go onto the ice again," she could be heard shouting. As for Shcherbakova, she said, "I still don’t comprehend what has happened. On the one hand I feel happy, on the other I feel this emptiness inside."
  • "The result broke the child." The Washington Post has an impactful piece on Valieva's devastating day. "This was torture on ice. Consider it happened to a teenager—one experiencing vilification for a possible doping plot that she couldn’t have devised on her own—and her agonizing four-minute free skate stands as perhaps the most abusive moment in sports history," writes Jerry Brewer.
  • What lies ahead: When Valieva's doping case is eventually resolved, Russia could potentially lose its team gold in the women's figure skating event. But on Thursday, Russian Olympic Committee president Stanislav Pozdnyakov said he would not give up the team event gold medal “under any circumstances, regardless of the results of the disciplinary investigation into the athlete.”
(More Kamila Valieva stories.)

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