Russian government defends 'harshness' from Kamila Valieva's coach

The Kremlin doesn't seem to share Thomas Bach's concerns over Eteri Tutberidze's treatment of Kamila Valieva. (Getty)
The Kremlin doesn't seem to share Thomas Bach's concerns over Eteri Tutberidze's treatment of Kamila Valieva. (Getty)

The Kremlin is coming to the defence of Eteri Tutberidze, the Russian figure skating coach who berated Kamila Valieva following a disappointing performance at the Beijing Games.

Dmitry Peskov, a spokesperson for Russian president Vladimir Putin, told reporters on Friday that “the harshness of a coach in high-level sport is key for their athletes to achieve victories.”

Valieva's treatment by her coaching staff prompted a rare condemnation from International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach, who said he was "very disturbed" by the "tremendous coldness" displayed especially by Tutberidze.

After the 15-year-old Valieva fell twice during her free-skate routine, sinking from first to fourth place and failing to take the podium, her coach was reportedly caught chastising the figure skater — who has entered the spotlight for all the wrong reasons after testing positive for a banned substance in the middle of the Games.

Valieva was allowed to keep competing in Beijing, but awaits a final decision on a very public doping case.

“Why did you let it go like that? Why did you let it go? Why did you stop fighting? Explain," Tutberidze asked Valieva in front of cameras after her heartbreaking four-minute routine.

The scene was met with much criticism, bringing the discussion of an Olympic age limit to the forefront.

Bach stated that Tutberidze’s behaviour — directed at a 15-year-old facing pressure "beyond imagination" — contributed to a “chilling atmosphere.”

“When I afterwards saw how she [Valieva] was received by her closest entourage ... it was chilling to see this,” Bach said.

“Rather than giving her comfort, rather than to try to help her, you could feel this chilling atmosphere, this distance. If you were interpreting the body language of them, it got even worse because this was even some kind of dismissive gestures.”

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Putin's spokesperson does not agree with Bach’s assessment of the situation, though he did state Russia's respect of his opinion and position in the sports world.

"[Bach] is a very authoritative person in the sports world," said Peskov. "Of course, we respect his opinion, but we do not necessarily agree with him. [He] doesn’t like the harshness of our coaches, but everybody knows that the harshness of a coach in high-level sport is key for their athletes to achieve victories.”

Despite Valieva's shortcomings, the Russian Olympic Committee took gold and silver in the women's figure-skating event. The ROC also took gold in the team event — a result that's pending a decision on the teen's doping case.

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