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.
Fourth place for Kamila Valieva. A tear-filled stumble of a performance. The pressure crushed her. Coaches failed her.
— Dan Wetzel (@DanWetzel) February 17, 2022
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.
I think it’s possible to acknowledge three things: that Kamila Valieva is a spectacular skater, that she should not be taking the blame for doping, and that she should also absolutely not be competing
— andi zeisler (@andizeisler) February 16, 2022
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.
Stunning: Valieva is fourth. They can have a flower and medal ceremony after all. pic.twitter.com/GmdiaY1SWm
— Christine Brennan (@cbrennansports) February 17, 2022
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.
My heart breaks for this young woman. She's 15. She has not been treated right by the adults in her life. For whatever you might think of Kamila Valieva being permitted to compete (she definitely should not have been permitted), remember that she's 15. She's a child.
— Charlotte Clymer 🏳️🌈 (@cmclymer) February 17, 2022
Women's figure skating just wrapped up and Kamila Valieva's free was hard to watch. Struggled. No matter what you think about the ROC and that drug test from December, this is still a 15-year old teenager. Finishes 4th.
— Simon Bennett (@SportsVoiceGuy) February 17, 2022
That was a tough skate from Kamila Valieva in Beijing.
And that was more "irreparable harm" done to her than if you didn't let her compete in the first place.
— Inside Skating (@insideskating) February 17, 2022
Kamila Valieva’s pressure-packed free skate was a mess. I don’t know how anyone could take joy in that, though. Russia doors a 15 year old and put her in the international crosshairs. Sad for all involved, her competitors included.
— Pat Forde (@ByPatForde) February 17, 2022
Very traumatizing Olympic experience for Kamila Valieva. She should not have been allowed to compete, it’s devastating that she was put in this situation, on all levels.
— Polina Edmunds (@PolinaEdmunds) February 17, 2022
I think Kamila Valieva competing here might be more "irreparable harm" than if they had just suspended her. This is hard to watch.
— marie hates eteri tutberidze (@annarodionovas) February 17, 2022
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.
What happened to Kamila Valieva today was HORRIFYING and her not making the podium CANNOT mean that we sweep everything under the rug now and save face.
IOC and ISU need to do something about the horrible abuse and corruption in this sport.
— Fran (@Fran_klymydear) February 17, 2022
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