Kamila Valieva's heartbreaking final outing strikes emotional chord through sports world

Kamila Valieva's gut-wrenching performance struck an emotional chord with Olympic fans. (Getty)
Kamila Valieva's gut-wrenching performance struck an emotional chord with Olympic fans. (Getty)

It turns out there's only so much pressure a 15-year-old can endure on the world stage.

Amid a flurry of controversy, Kamila Valieva left the Beijing Games ice for the last time in tears, failing to medal in the women's free skate event on Thursday. Valieva struggled through her final performance in these Games, falling twice as she tried to execute her highly technical four-minute routine.

She finished outside of a podium spot in fourth place as the Russian Olympic Committee took gold and silver with Anna Shcherbakova and Alexandra Trusova, while Japan's Sakamoto Kaori earned bronze.

No one could blame her for a possibly frail mental state.

Valieva was provisionally reinstated and allowed to compete in the women's event after testing positive for a banned substance in December — a scandal that put the Russian youngster in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. The Court of Arbitration for Sport stated that not allowing Valieva to resume competing in China would cause her "irreparable harm." As a minor, the skater is a "protected person" under the World Anti-Doping Code.

The IOC later announced that the Games wouldn't hold a medal ceremony for the figure-skating team event, in which Valieva helped her team to gold, or any other ceremonies that had Valieva on the podium.

After a gut-wrenching performance that left little doubt as to how much Valieva was affected by the whole ordeal, some figure skating fans and pundits are questioning if clearing her for competition caused more harm than good.

It's fair to say that Valieva, at 15 years of age, was put in an impossible position.

Many questions remain, but the most pressing ones should be those around her mental health right now and moving forward — as well as how the sports world will provide accountability to the adults that failed her.

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