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Day 13 recap: Broken Russian teen Kamila Valieva fails to medal as teammate wins figure skating gold


Teenager Kamila Valieva finished fourth in the women’s figure skating at the Beijing Olympics on Thursday as a doping scandal engulfing the pre-Games favorite appeared to take its toll.

Her Russian team-mate Anna Shcherbakova took gold after the 15-year-old Valieva fell several times — to gasps and screams from the crowd — in a disastrous free program.

Another Russian, Alexandra Trusova, took silver, and Japan’s Kaori Sakamoto won bronze.

“The importance of this is so huge that I cannot fully understand it yet,” said Shcherbakova, herself only 17. “Now I feel really happy, I showed the best skating at the right moment and right place.”

Kaori Sakamoto celebrates with teammate Higuchi Wakaba after winning bronze in the women's figure skating competition on Thursday. | REUTERS
Kaori Sakamoto celebrates with teammate Higuchi Wakaba after winning bronze in the women’s figure skating competition on Thursday. | REUTERS

There were high emotions in the Russian camp, with an angry Trusova — also 17 — caught on camera saying: “I hate this sport, I hate this sport, I hate all of it. I won’t go to the medal ceremony … I don’t want to go.”

All eyes had been on Valieva, who was in pole position after topping the short program on Tuesday and had been expected to add the singles title to the team crown she led Russia to before the doping controversy erupted.

The International Olympic Committee had said that for the first time in Olympic history, no medals would be awarded if Valieva finished in the top three because she could yet be punished for taking a banned substance.

In the end that was not a factor as Valieva, dressed in black and red, fell several times in her routine. The distraught teenager had her head in her hands at the end and then broke down as she waited to hear her score.

Japan's Miho Takagi won gold in the women's 1,000-meter speed skating competition at the Beijing Olympics on Thursday, pocketing her fourth medal at the 2022 Games. | REUTERS
Japan’s Miho Takagi won gold in the women’s 1,000-meter speed skating competition at the Beijing Olympics on Thursday, pocketing her fourth medal at the 2022 Games. | REUTERS

It was the latest sad chapter in a doping saga which began when Valieva’s sample from Dec. 25 tested positive for trimetazidine, a drug used to treat angina but which is banned for athletes by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) because it can boost endurance.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruled during the Games that Valieva could continue to skate in the Olympics, but it did not absolve her of doping and the investigation looks set to rumble on well after the action ends in Beijing.

There will be no medal ceremony during these Games for the team event because of Valieva’s involvement.

The doping affair has focused attention once more on Russian athletes at Olympic Games.

They are taking part in Beijing under the banner of the Russian Olympic Committee because Russia as a country is serving a two-year ban as punishment for a state-sponsored doping program.

Michelle Gisin of Switzerland celebrates after winning gold in the alpine combined event at the Games on Thursday. | REUTERS
Michelle Gisin of Switzerland celebrates after winning gold in the alpine combined event at the Games on Thursday. | REUTERS

Valieva’s implosion was the climax of a colorful day at the Olympics featuring a judging controversy, a dramatic crash and more disappointment for U.S. ski ace Mikaela Shiffrin.

Shiffrin saw her last chance of winning an individual medal at these Olympics vanish.

The American crashed out of the alpine combined event, meaning she has failed to complete three races and finished out of the medals in two others — an almost unthinkable disappointment for one of the world’s best skiers.

Michelle Gisin of Switzerland went on to win the combined, retaining her title from four years ago.

The 26-year-old Shiffrin’s only chance of any kind of medal is now Saturday’s program-ending mixed team parallel.

“I didn’t make it to the finish again and that’s like 60% of my DNF (did not finish) rate from my entire career has happened at this Olympic Games,” she said, describing her performance as “mind-boggling.”

There was more U.S. disappointment in the women’s ice hockey, where Canada beat the Americans 3-2 to avenge a loss in the final four years ago.

The Canadian team celebrates after beating the United States 3-2 to win gold in the women's ice hockey competition Thursday to avenge a loss in the final four years ago. | REUTERS
The Canadian team celebrates after beating the United States 3-2 to win gold in the women’s ice hockey competition Thursday to avenge a loss in the final four years ago. | REUTERS

Canada raced out to a 3-0 lead in the second period and held on to collect the country”s fifth Olympic gold in the event.

“It’s just so good, it’s a great feeling,” said Marie-Philip Poulin, who scored twice. “It was one hell of an effort. This is redemption.”

In speed skating, Japan’s Miho Takagi finally snagged a gold after collecting three silver medals at Games when she won the women’s 1,000-meter event. Takagi’s seventh career Olympic medal gives her four more than any other Japanese athlete.

It was all happening, meanwhile, in freestyle skiing.

Finland’s Jon Sallinen had an unfortunate cameraman to thank after flying out of the halfpipe and colliding into him.

Jon Sallinen of Finland collides with a camera operator during his freeski halfpipe run at the Games on Thursday. | REUTERS
Jon Sallinen of Finland collides with a camera operator during his freeski halfpipe run at the Games on Thursday. | REUTERS

The 21-year-old Sallinen said he thought he had broken his collarbone but he was “lucky not to land on my head.”

“I maybe got a little cushion from the camera guy,” he said.

In the women’s ski cross final, Switzerland’s Fanny Smith lost out on a bronze medal when she was penalized for kicking a rival. Her coach said it was an accident.

With the Games wrapping up on Sunday, Norway top the medals table on 14 golds, Germany have 10 and the United States have eight.

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