by Klaus-Reinhold Kany
Alysa Liu (USA)
Kamila Valieva (ROC)
Anna Shcherbakova Wins Olympic Gold
(18 Feb. 2022) The women’s free program in Beijing was a big drama and ended with an outbreak of emotions from several sides. The result for the non-medal placements is provisional because it is possible that Kamila Valieva, who finished fourth, will be banned after the end of the examination of her doping case, which might take weeks or months. If she is banned, all skaters from fifth to 25th place will move up one spot.
As Valieva did not win a medal, the victory ceremony was planned in a normal way on the medal plaza the next evening. At Olympic Games, in the ice rink there is always only a small ceremony, where the skaters got the official stuffed animals. No Russian flag ia allowed to be raised and no Russian national anthem is allowed to be played because all Russian skaters were not allowed to compete for their country but for ROC (Russian Olympic Committee) because of the systematic doping by Russia during the Games of 2014 in Sochi. Instead, the beginning of Tchaikovsky’s first piano concerto is to be played for the winner.
Anna Shcherbakova from the Tutberidze school in Moscow, World Champion in Sweden in 2021, won the gold medal with 255.95 points although she had only the second best free program. But it was a faultless program and she merited the gold medal. Skating to “Ruska“ by Apocalyptica, to the soundtrack of “The Master and Margarita“ and to “Lacrimosa“ by Mozart in a new version by David Garrett, the Russian skater opened her program with a very good combination of quad flip and triple toe loop which got 18.66 points, followed by an outstanding second quad flip. Two excellent double Axel came next. In the second half she had a combination of triple Lutz and triple loop and another sequence of triple flip, Euler and triple Salchow. Her last jump was a triple Lutz. Everything was excellent, as well as her three spins and the two step sequences. Her components were around 9.4, but no 10.0, even if she would really have merited some 10.0 after interpreting the music excellently, skating in an elegant way to each beat of the music and with ease.
Later she said, “During the performance I was very concentrated, I took it one element after the other. I kept it in my head, I have to stay focused and can't let go. I am thrilled I got over the nerves and that at the right moment at the right time I showed my best. I was trying to realize what just had happened and that I can exhale. I still need a couple of days to realize it's over. I was working hard and think that the feeling I dreamed of was that I finished my performance and I did the best I can - that was what I dreamed about.”
Alexandra Trusova moved up from fourth place to the second position. She won the free program gaining two more points than Shcherbakova and skating to the soundtrack of “Cruella.“ But as she was more than six points behind in the short program after falling on the triple Axel and having lower components she only won the silver medal with 251.73 total points.
No woman has ever tried five quads in a program without falling, so this a record, but she had some smaller mistakes. Her quad flip got a small edge warning and therefore her GOEs were only around +2. Her quad Salchow was excellent, but she stepped out of the quad toe loop. Her combination of quad Lutz and triple toe loop was excellent, but the second quad Lutz got a q as an almost under-rotated jump. Her combination of double Axel and triple toe loop was not a hundred per cent clean and got some deductions. Her last jump element was a very good sequence of triple Lutz, Euler and triple Salchow. Her spins were excellent, but one had only a level 3. Her two step sequences were outstanding.
Her components were around 8.9, clearly lower than those of Shcherbakova. This is correct because her style is not as elegant as Shcherbakova’s and she had less difficult and elegant linking steps. But she did not understand why she had no gold medal, cried and refused at first to go to the victory ceremony. TV cameras filmed when she said: “Everybody has a gold medal, but not me. I never want to go on the ice again. I hate this sport,“ and so on. Her coaches had to calm her down and it was only only after some minutes that she agreed to go to the small ceremony in the rink.
Later she apologized for what she had said and admitted that it was just an emotional outburst. She said, “I am very happy that I did five quads. It took me a long time to get there and I am pleased with my performance. I wanted to be like Nathan Chen, I looked at him, looked up to him and I hope I am like him, After the Short Program they (coaches) suggested me to take out the (quad) Salchow and to go with four quads, but I wanted to do five like Chen and I am very pleased that I did them at the Olympic Games.”
The Japanese champion Kaori Sakamoto has no triple Axel and no quad in her repertoire, but she won the bronze medal with 233.13 points. Performing to “No More Fight Left In Me“ by Armand Amar and to “Tris“ by Elliot Goulding, she had an elegant program with excellent linking steps, which French choreographer Benoit Richaud had worked on with her in the summer. The first triple Lutz got a small edge warning, but all six other triple jumps were excellent, the spins and steps as well and her components reached an average of 9.3, with one 10.0 for performance from the Austrian judge. Sakamoto said, “I am more than surprised. I saw the score and at first I didn’t even realize that I was in third place. When I realized it, I was just surprised and happy. My coach (Sonoko Nakano) told me that the Gods were watching over me. I hugged her more than ever. In the past four years I have made many frustrating experiences. You can say that this success is the highlight. I am thrilled that my hard work has paid off now this way.”
Kamila Valieva competed under big pressure and dropped from first place after the short program to fourth position with the fifth best free program, winning 224.09 total points. The whole doping story with the huge worldwide media interest seemed to be too much for her and she faltered. She skated to the famous Bolero by Maurice Ravel. The landing of her opening quad Salchow was a bit shaky, but on one foot. Then she stepped out of the under-rotated triple Axel. Instead of doing next her planned combination of quad toe loop and triple toe loop, after a bad landing of the quad she tried to add an Euler and a triple Salchow, but fell on the Salchow. The triple loop was very good, but then she went down on the second quad toe loop. The combination of triple flip and triple toe loop was good, but in the combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop she stepped out of the toe loop.
Because of the mistakes and her bad sleep for several nights, her presentation was no longer as sovereign. Therefore her components were around 8.9 instead of more than 9.5. at Europeans. After her performance her coach Eteri Tutberidze did not hug her but on the TV microphones it could be heard that she told her (in Russian), “Why did you give up after the Axel?“ And other negative things about not fighting hard enough in the program.
Wakaba Higuchi from Japan took fifth place with 214.44 points. Skating to the soundtrack of “Lion King“, she opened her program with a good triple Axel, but then went down on the under-rotated triple toe loop in her combination with the triple Lutz. Three more triple jumps were good, but two not clean. Young You from South Korea came sixth, earning 213.09 points. Performing to the French musical soundtrack of “Les Miserables,“ her first element was an under-rotated triple Axel, followed by seven other triple jumps, five of them clean.
Alysa Liu of Colorado Springs was the best of the three Americans and finished on seventh position with 208.95 points. Skating to a violin concerto by Tchaikovsky, she had the courage to begin with a triple Axel, but she landed it forward and the jump therefore was downgraded. Six other triple jumps were good, but the second flip got a small edge warning. Mariah Bell of Irvine, California came tenth with 202.30 points after performing to “Hallelujah“ by K.D. Lang, a music which she had already used two years ago. The sequence of triple flip and double Axel was excellent, three triple jumps good, but three other jumps a bit shaky. Karen Chen finished 17th after making several mistakes.
In between the Americans, Loena Hendrickx from Belgium placed eighth with 206.79 points and Yelim Kim from South Korea ninth with 202.63 points. Jenni Saarinen from Finland kept her 25th place after being allowed to reach the final in 25th position after the short program because of the Valieva case.