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2022 Olympic Winter Games

by Klaus-Reinhold Kany




Valieva Scores First in Short Program While Under Cloud of Suspicion

(16 Feb. 2022) The women’s short program at the Olympic Games in Beijing had a mixed level, and took place under the shadow of the doping controversy of Kamila Valieva. In the days leading up to the Short Program, there has been a lot of discussion in the skating world if European champion Kamila Valieva from Russia should be allowed to compete after having been tested positive for the forbidden substance of Trimetazidine at Russian Nationals in December.

 Trimetazidine is a medication for elderly people to assist their heart in case of angina. Why should a teenager like Valieva need this kind of medication? It is said to have some bad side effects (Headache, Vomiting, Dizziness, Weakness, Constipation, Nausea) which are anything but helpful for skaters who do triple and quad jumps and spins.

No Russian laboratory is allowed to examine doping tests after the manipulations which happened at the Olympic Games in Sochi in 2014. Therefore all tests from Russian Nationals had to be sent to the Swedish capital of Stockholm. It took six weeks for this Swedish laboratory to publish the results of the tests. Therefore Valieva could compete and win Europeans and was tested there negative again. Secondly she could compete and help Russia to win the team event in Beijing before the publication of the positive doping test. Russia said that the laboratory explained the long process as due to Covid 19-cases in the laboratory which prevented an earlier test and publication of the test result. But the laboratory denied that there was this problem because the results of Europeans from mid-January were published earlier. They said Russia had not told them the priority of these test results. How deeply must they have slept for weeks not knowing the importance of the test results?

The Russian doping agency suspended alieva from taking part in the individual competition, but the suspension was appealed and this ban was lifted the next day. They said that Valiva is under 16 years old and therefore, according to IOC rules, she cannot be blamed herself for positive test results. The IOC and the ISU did not agree with this and appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), the highest court of arbitration for sport in Switzerland. The the Ad hoc Division of CAS organized a hearing in Beijing with all involved sides which lasted seven hours until 3 a.m. It was held with three specialized judges for this matter, among them U.S. judge Jeffrey Benz, a former ice dancer who had competed with his sister and had already served as a judge in the meldonium doping case of Russian tennis player Maria Sharapova. Valieva said she had followed the whole hearing from the Olympic village via livestream.

Kamila Valieva’s legal team claimed that her positive doping test may have resulted from a contaminated glass of water that contained traces of her grandfather’s heart medication. They said that her grandfather used this medication. He lives only 25 miles from her home and sometimes drives her to practice. Many observers, however, did not believe this strange argument, and health professionals have been reported elsewhere to say a positive was extraordinarily unlikely in such a way. But IOC speaker and member Denis Oswald did not exclude the possibility of it. The day before the short program, CAS cleared Valieva to compete in the women’s event, but did not rule on the doping violation itself. Not allowing her to compete may cause severe harm if it turns out later that she is innocent, because by then the competition is over.

The IOC and the ISU accepted this judgment, but said if Valieva wins a medal there will be no ceremony afterwards, which is a childish and a discrimination for the two other medalists. The medal ceremony for the team event, which had been postponed after the end of the competition when Valieva‘s positive test result from Russian Nationals in December was published, was postponed again until the end of the whole process when it can be determined if Valieva is innocent or guilty. This may take weeks or months. Therefore the U.S. skaters will not get their silver medal yet, which they won in the team competition. If the whole Russian team is banned at the end, the USA will win gold, Japan silver and Canada bronze.

One provisional rule change made sense: The ISU on request of the IOC decided that exceptionally 25 women and not 24 as usual will reach the free program. So in case Valieva is guilty and will be banned at a later date, there are still 24 skaters in the final and Valieva did not prevent any skater from reaching the final. The Finnish skater Jenna Saarinen took profit from this rule change and reached the final although she was only 25th.

Kamila Valieva won the Short Program with 82.16 points, but you could see that she was more nervous and did not skate exactly as commandingly as usually, and was far from the 90 points from the team event a week before. Even if she is only 15 years old, the whole story which lasted already a week influenced her mentally. She had the courage to risk the triple Axel, but stepped out of it. It was landed backwards, therefore she got GOEs of mainly -3. The six other elements were excellent, including a combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop, an outstanding triple flip and stellar spins and steps with many GOEs of +5. She skated to “In Memoriam“ by Kirill Richter in her usual elegant way. Her components were around 9.4, but this time she had no 10.0. After her progrm she began to cry a bit and fell into the arms of her coaches. She did not want to comment her program.

Reigning World Champion Anna Shcherbakova, also from Russia, sits second with 80.20 points, closer to Valieva than usual. Two days before the competition she had to change her boots, but she said it did not affect her performance at all. She has no triple Axel, but performed in a relaxed way seven excellent other elements, including a combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop, a triple flip, outstanding spins with some GOEs of +5 and components of around 9.3. She interpreted two music pieces by Inon Zur: “Dangerous Affairs“ and “Total View“. She commented, “To my surprise, I was not nervous at all today. This is very important for me because from the very first accent of the music I was in control of each move, each gesture, each jump and spin. I knew I am skating at the Olympic Games and I wanted to show the best of my abilities and I am glad that I managed to do that today.“

Kaori Sakamoto from Japan finished on third position, earning 79.84 points. Skating to the soundtrack of “Gladiator,“ she opened her short with an outstanding double Axel whch was awarded with five GOEs of +5, an excellent triple Lutz, a stellar combination of triple flip and triple toe loop, four more excellent level 4 elements and components of around 9.2. Alexandra Trusova, the third Russian skater from the Tutberidze school, came fourth with 74.60 after falling on an under-rotated triple Axel, but performing five very good other elements, only her triple flip got a small warning for an unclear edge (!).

Wakabe Higuchi placed fifth with 73.51 points. She performed the only good triple Axel of the competition (with seven GOEs of +2), but two other triple jumps were not really clean. South Korean skater Young You finished sixth with 70.34 points after performing a downgraded triple Axel. Loena Hendrickx from Belgium is seventh with 70.09 points. She touched down on the double Axel and her triple jumps were not very impressive, but her spins excellent.

Alysa Liu of Colorado Springs was the best American skater on eighth place with 69.50 points after presenting a good double Axel. But her triple flip had a small edge warning and her triple toe loop after the triple Lutz was near an under-rotation. Two spins were good, the layback spin outstanding (nine GOEs of +4) and the components of her new main coach Viktor Pfeifer around 8.2. Mariah Bell of Irvine, California, came 11th with 65.38 points after falling on the under-rotated triple toe loop after the triple flip of her combination. Her triple Lutz had a small edge warning, the five other elements were very good. Karen Chen of Colorado Springs finished on 13th place after beginning with a combination of triple Lutz and triple toe loop which got a q for nearly under-rotated. She fell on the triple loop which was downgraded.