On Friday, the day after her final routine, figure skater Kamila Valieva had already left the Olympics and arrived back in Moscow—but Russian media is still not finished discussing the tragedy that it witnessed on Thursday in Beijing. Although Russians won gold and silver medals in the Olympic women’s figure skating competition, there has been no feeling of celebration.
As many Russians, I also watched the competition live. I felt immense pain each time Valieva fell, despite her seeming untouchable status and being expected to win the title. It was even more heartbreaking when the judges announced that Valieva would be dropping out of first place and instead go to fourth. Commentators on Russia 1 Channel, which is broadcasting the Games nationwide, were crying and blaming the World Anti-Doping Agency and International Olympic Committee for putting a 15-year-old under colossal pressure because of the doping scandal. “They broke her. That’s what they wanted, and they achieved it,” Irina Slutskaya, a Russian former figure skater, and two-time Olympic medalist. Her colleague, well-known figure skating TV commentator Andrei Zhurankov AdditionalThat “sports officials destroyed the most talented figure skater in the world.”
All attention was on Valieva—the commentators focused on how much she is a true hero despite all her mistakes even when her compatriots, gold medalist Anna Shcherbakova and silver medalist Alexandra Trusova, were receiving their awards at the flower ceremony. Shcherbakova was seven years old and performed flawlessly. She also did two quadruple jumps. (Before Valieva, Trusova and Shcherbakova there had never been quadruple jumps at Olympics). However, Shcherbakova was the gold medalist. admittedLater, Valieva revealed that she had once failed and that she would become champion. “was not ready to celebrate.”
“I was not upset or embarrassed to celebrate. I just lost all the emotions,” Shcherbakova said.
The 17-year-old Trusova was a different Russian medalist and was full of emotions. The athlete, who is also known as the “Russian rocket” by fans and media, was outraged that after making history as the first woman to land five quadruple jumps in a routine at the Olympics, she got only second place, not first. “Everyone has a gold medal, everyone, but not me. I hate skating. I hate this sport. I will never skate again. Never,”Trusova screamed and pushed Eteri Tutberidze away, who tried comforting her. Video of Trusova’s screams “silver tantrum”It was widely shared on social media. It reminded of the scene in I, Tonya, where Tonya Harding, the controversial U.S. figure-skating competitor, looks back on the 1994 Winter Olympics, when she placed eighth and Nancy Kerrigan, her U.S. counterpart, won a Silver medal. “When they put that medal around her neck, she looked like she stepped in poo,”The fictional Harding still remembers. Russian press QuoteFormer American figure skater Adam Rippon shamed Trusova’s outburst. Many Russians on social media disagree with him, and many are calling the emotions expressed by the Russian Rocket understandable. “I feel sorry for her. Valieva has gold in the team event, Shcherbakova in the individual tournament. Trusova rotated five quads and has nothing. I would have been devastated too,” SubmittedOne of the Twitter users. “She invested herself completely, gave judges everything she had to offer, but still lost. It is like experiencing five one-sided loves at the age of 17 years,” SubmittedAnastasia Panina is a sports journalist in her column for Match TV.
Many Make sure to mentionTrusova, who is a child, said on Twitter that Trusova should not be expected or expected to control her emotions. Trusova also spoke out about excessive media attention, when she was asked about her outburst at Match TV on Thursday. “It`s not my fault the cameras are following me. I asked to let me go,” ExplainedTrusova stated that she was satisfied with her performance but not the medal. Some blame Eteri Tutberidze’s mental breakdown on Trusova. “Trusova`s tantrum is an address to Tutberidze,” Panina wroteThis implies that the coach should treat Trusova and Shcherbakova better. Championat.com is also available. IndictedTutberidze failed to build a healthy partnership with her students “You can’t make everybody a champion, but you can create a non-toxic environment for healthy competition, and coaches [of the Olympics trio] haven’t achieved this goal.”Russia’s Tutberidze is well-known for placing her students under extreme psychological and physical pressure. Some call her abusive, but all call her successful. Her loyalty is also a hallmark of the athletes. Trusova, a four-time Olympic medalist, left Tutberidze in 2020 to find another coach, Evgeni Plushenko. However, last year she returned to Eteri to explain that she was more comfortable training with her. Trusova stated that she had not changed her mind about Tutberidze after the outburst.
But figure skating fans started to question Tutberidze’s attitude in the context of the current Olympics before the dramatic finale on Thursday. They accused her of not providing Kamila Valieva with enough support amid the doping scandal’s pressure. “Throwing a minor to the journalists is nasty. You should have taken the hit instead of hiding behind backs,”One of the Twitter users Addressed to the team’s coaches on Feb. 11. The hashtag was used to follow the post. #позорТутберидзе—“shame on you, Tutberidze,” which has been trending on Twitter since then. Fans shared under the hashtag past stories of alleged Tutberidze abuse.
Tutberidze also came under fire after cameras caught her criticizing Valieva after the free program. When the crying teenager got off the ice, the coach lectured her: “Why did you stop fighting? Explain it to me—why?” Another video shows a crying Valieva being comforted not by Eteri, but by a journalist from state-owned TV station Channel One, Olga Chernosvitova, who was reassuring her: “This is not your defeat. The whole world was against you.” I thought the chaos surrounding Tutberidze’s team after the free program went well reflected in another Russian’s comment on Twitter: “Kamila is crying on a shoulder of the random woman, Alexandra is lashing like an animal at a bay, Anna got left alone and doesn`t know what to do. Glorious! Congratulations on medals!”
IOC president Thomas Bach said Friday that he was “very disturbed” by the “tremendous coldness” of Tutberidze. Several in Russian state media, commentators, and sports officials, though, rejected concerns about Tutberidze’s methods and Bach’s statement, and instead praised her work. Two-time Olympic medalist in ice dance Alexander Zhulin posted on his Instagram an open letter to the head of IOC, defending Tutberidze and asking Bach “not to teach an outstanding coach manners.” Eteri thanked Zhulin under the post, adding that “she has been confused” by Bach`s evaluation of her work. The Kremlin also supported the coach. “The harshness of a coach in high-level sport is key for their athletes to achieve victories,” stated Dmitry Peskov, a spokesperson for president Vladimir Putin.
Now the famous coach is under investigation. Last week Russia’s anti-doping agency RUSADA started investigating Valieva’s entourage. Tutberidze reacted by saying that the athlete “is innocent and clean.” State-owned Russian media declare that the U.S. and other Western countries are behind the doping scandal. The director of national channel TNT—no relation to the American cable network—Tina Kandelaki wrote an opinion piece in which she compared Valieva to a loyal “Russian soldier, fighting for her country,” who has become a target of the U.S.
But those who don’t believe in conspiracy theories and still remember the country’s past doping scandals, the reason why Russia can’t perform under its national flag at the Olympics, are trying to find a logical explanation for why Valieva might have taken trimetazidine. The most popular version, supported in Russian media by doctors and sports lawyers, is that the athlete could have consumed the prohibited substance by accident. Kommersant quotes lawyer Valeriy Fedoreev, who assumes that trimetazidine could have gotten into Valieva`s system with another medicine, like a vitamin that was contaminated at the production site, unpremeditatedly. WADA and other anti-doping experts say the drug can boost endurance and stamina, and might help athletes with recovery. But opinions on its effects are not unanimous. Russian experts emphasize that while this drug can potentially help a sportsman to perform for a longer time, it is useless in figure skating, since it doesn’t allow the skaters to improve their jumps. Moreover, some doctors in Russia note that trimetazidine is rarely even prescribed to heart patients, since its efficacy is questionable.
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However, social media users and doctors are not convinced by Valieva’s argument that contamination might have happened after she drank from the glass of her grandfather, who takes trimetazidine. Cardiologists explained that this medicine dissolves only in the bowel. “Why is Valieva lying? Does she chew the food after her grandfather? I am sure she didn’t take doping on her own, she doesn`t need it. But her coaches and entourage are in charge. She was trying to shield them,” says one of the posts on Facebook. Other commentators also imply that the grandfather excuse was made up by athlete`s coaching team. “Two months after the test, Valieva remembered that her grandfather shared doping with her … It is disgusting, that they [Valieva’s team] are not only feeding [the athletes] garbage but teach them how to lie since they are babies,” wrote another Facebook user.
While the Olympics figure skating drama is over, the doping scandal is yet to unfold. However, a silver lining might be that it appears that the traumas exposed in Beijing have made many in Russia start a discussion over mental health of young athletes. This is a big step, given that last year Russian media widely criticized American gymnast Simone Biles after she withdrew from the Tokyo Olympics to focus on her mental health. As much as Russians love champions, we can also hope that this saga will mean that the girls might soon start to be treated with more compassion and care, at last.