Kamila Valieva fourth, women’s figure skating, Russia, victory over Anna Shcherbakova

Anna Shcherbakova won a stunning gold medal in women’s figure skating at the Beijing Games on Thursday night, relying on her experience to deliver a clean performance, while her Russian teammate Kamila Valieva tumbled medals in an eventful end mistakes at his controversial Olympics.

Shcherbakova performed a nearly flawless free skate to leap over 15-year-old Valieva, the leader after the short program, who threw up her arms in resignation and disgust after her program. Her Russian teammate Alexandra Trusova won the silver medal with her quadruple program while Japan’s Kaori Sakamoto retained the bronze medal.

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Valieva, at the center of Russia’s latest doping scandal, was left sobbing in the kissing and crying zone after her scores were read out. She was heavily favored to win the gold medal, but she returns home with nothing from the women’s program and is still under investigation for a positive drug test.

Moments after she left, workers began to hold a flower ceremony that the International Olympic Committee said would not take place if Valieva was in the top three. The medals will be presented Friday in a ceremony that would not have taken place in Beijing if Valieva had been on the podium.

Valieva tested positive for a banned heart medication at the Russian championships in December, but the result was only revealed last week, shortly after helping to win a team gold medal which is now also in doubt.

She was cleared to compete earlier this week by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which ruled she had protected status as a minor and would suffer ‘irreparable harm’ if she was not cleared. produce. The court did not rule on the full extent of the case, leaving that to doping investigators.

The court’s decision cast a polarizing shadow over one of the defining events of the Winter Games.

“Am I sorry for her? I don’t think so. I wouldn’t say that,” Sakamoto said after his short program. “Of course, there were times when I was like, ‘What’s going to happen? What’s going to happen?'”

Valieva claimed that the drug triggering her positive, trimetazidine, entered her system by accident. But the World Anti-Doping Agency has filed a brief saying that two other substances it admitted to taking, L-carnitine and Hypoxen – although both legal – undermine the argument that a banned substance could have been mistakenly ingested.

“You use all of that to increase performance,” said US Anti-Doping Agency CEO Travis Tygart.

Meanwhile, IOC President Thomas Bach has tried to appease angry U.S. skaters by offering Olympic torches to those who helped win their team’s silver medal, The Associated Press learned on Wednesday. evening. The torches are meant to serve as gifts while the world waits for Valieva’s doping case to be resolved.

“It’s unfortunate that we weren’t able to get our medals,” said Karen Chen, who competed in the team event for the United States and finished 16th in the women’s program on Thursday night. “I haven’t seen the torch yet, but once it is given to us, I think it will be such a special moment that we will cherish forever.”

As the doping case unfolded around her, Valieva tried to go about her business as usual, attending every workout on her schedule. And although she seemed calm and cool while performing her short program, the first cracks began to show when she skated off the ice and broke down in tears – even though she was leading the event.

The collapse came with the eyes of the world watching Thursday night.

Valieva was shaky on an opening quad salchow, then came out on a triple axel and fell all the way to a quad toe loop-triple toe loop combination. She fell on her other quadruple toe loop again, preventing her from completing a high-scoring combination, and spun on another jump late in the program – although by then her fate was sealed.

The calamitous program only improved Shcherbakova’s appearance just before.

With the fewest quads of the three Russian women, the 17-year-old world champion instead won the gold medal with back-to-back clear rounds. She was perfect in her short program and, starting with a quad flip-triple toe loop, unrivaled in her free skate, making her the third consecutive Russian to reach the Olympic podium.

Not the one everyone was expecting.

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