By Martin Rogers
FOX Sports activities Columnist
Welcome to determine skating, the place the saddest gold medal of those Winter Olympics will likely be competed for within the early hours of Thursday however received’t truly be introduced to the champion* — not but, at the very least.
The place essentially the most talked about athlete of the Video games is predicted to ship essentially the most detailed and achieved technical efficiency within the historical past of her sport, however the commentators, if kind holds, will utter barely a phrase about it.
The place everybody who tunes in to the ladies’s lengthy program will likely be doing so to see one athlete, Kamila Valieva, however the place the overwhelming majority of them will likely be hoping she loses, which in itself is monumentally unlikely as a result of difficult judging system.
The place Valieva, a Russian 15-year-old, will compete not for Russia however for the Russian Olympic Committee, a careless workaround that purports to punish that nation for its prior, state-sponsored doping transgressions. However doesn’t, actually.
And the place that very same teenager finds herself on the middle of a brand new doping scandal that turns the abdomen, the place every kind of elaborate excuses are being put ahead to attempt to make us not consider what now appears horribly probably: that somebody gave a child geriatric coronary heart drugs to assist her practice higher, or longer, or one thing.
Thursday’s show will likely be a efficiency wherein even when Valieva wins, she doesn’t. Ever because the outcomes of her constructive doping take a look at had been revealed over the weekend, this has been a information story that performs out internationally as extra proof of Russia’s maniacal pursuit of success and whole disregard for the principles.
It performs out in Russia as Western jealousy and overreaction, all aimed to disclaim a younger athlete a triumph she deserves.
Determine skating is not any stranger to outrageous storylines. It is a unusual sport that has a large world attain few others can match — however solely as soon as each 4 years at Olympic time.
When the extraordinary Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan furor exploded three a long time in the past, it produced one of many highest-rated broadcasts in American tv historical past. You possibly can work out why. We’re human, and controversy is like catnip.
Valieva truly examined constructive earlier than the Olympics, from a pattern given on the Russian nationwide championships. But for some mystifying cause, the consequence got here to mild solely within the wake of the Olympic group competitors final week. The medals for that occasion — Russia received gold simply, with the US a distant second — nonetheless haven’t been given out.
The reason being apparent. If, after an investigation is full, Valieva and her group are disqualified, the Individuals will likely be upgraded to gold, Japan to silver and Canada to bronze. The Worldwide Olympic Committee needs to keep away from the visible of a drug cheat carrying a gold medal that’s later eliminated. Photographs dwell endlessly.
That’s why there will likely be no ceremony after the ladies’s occasion and why a twenty fifth skater was added to this system when the free skate usually permits solely 24.
But if Valieva failed a take a look at, and the IOC is already bracing itself for her disqualification, why is she competing in any respect? That’s the query confounding those that observe the game carefully, and it ought to puzzle the remainder of us, too.
“It was a exceptional few hours at these Olympic Video games,” Christine Brennan wrote in USA TODAY. “What a devastatingly terrible message that is to the Russians: Preserve doping, particularly your minor athletes. You’ll get away with it on a technicality each time. The Olympic Video games misplaced right now. Clear sport misplaced. Dishonest received. Russia’s state-sponsored doping system received. The dangerous guys received.”
When Valieva competed within the quick program Tuesday, NBC’s commentary group of Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir stayed largely silent and gave solely temporary technical notes. On the finish, Weir confirmed precisely what he considered Valieva being allowed to carry out.
“All I really feel like I can say is that was the quick program of Kamila Valieva on the Olympics,” Weir mentioned.
“She had a constructive take a look at,” Lipinski added. “We must always not have seen this skate.”
Regardless of stumbling on her opening soar, Valieva positioned first within the quick program, with a rating of 82.16. She is a large favourite going into the free skate. The character of determine skating judging rewards the routines with the very best degree of issue. Add in a quad soar that just a few skaters can do, and it is practically unimaginable to be caught.
The quad is an extremely troublesome transfer, and Valieva is without doubt one of the first feminine athletes to have the ability to do it with regularity. All of the athletes to drag one off in competitors have been of their teenagers.
Valieva’s coach, Eteri Tutberidze, has a particular methodology. The athletes she takes on are pushed to the restrict at a younger age, introduced quickly to the highest with a sequence of high-impact, body-contorting, showpiece strikes, then changed with a brand new crop as the subsequent Olympic cycle begins
There’s a desperately heart-aching ingredient to all. Valieva is 15. It’s a heck of a stretch to assume that if she doped to enhance her efficiency, she was the mastermind behind it.
“She’s just about the product of the adults round her,” Alexia Paganini, competing for Switzerland, informed reporters.
Valieva is an excellent athlete and the product of a system, able to skating at a degree nobody earlier than her has ever managed. However at what value?
Who is aware of what long-term results coronary heart meds have when given to a 15-year-old who doesn’t want them?
Valieva turned some of the well-known athletes on the planet this previous week, however not in a means anybody would have chosen. She’s embroiled in an issue that has overshadowed the remainder of the Olympics.
She’ll need to take to the ice below a cloud of suspicion and a whirlwind of conjecture, performing for a medal she would possibly by no means see. Aiming for a victory that, it doesn’t matter what occurs now, will include an asterisk.
Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports activities and the creator of the FOX Sports activities Insider E-newsletter. You possibly can subscribe to the publication right here.
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