Kamila Valieva, the Russian figure-skating wunderkind whose positive test for a banned substance has become one of the biggest stories of the Beijing Olympics, stumbled badly in her final routine on Thursday, finishing a shocking fourth in the women’s figure-skating individual competition. Her teammate Anna Shcherbakova skated to first place, while another Russian, Alexandra Trusova, won silver, and Japan’s Kaori Sakamoto took bronze.
Valieva had been in first place after the event’s short program earlier this week and was heavily favored to maintain that rank. But she fell on numerous jumps she usually executes with ease, perhaps feeling the immense pressure of the moment. Valieva “threw up her arms in resignation and disgust after her program,” the AP reports.
If Valieva had won — or even finished in the top three — it would have created an awkward scene for the Olympics. After the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled that Valieva could still compete, despite having tested positive for the banned heart medication trimetazidine before the Games, the International Olympic Committee specified that no medal ceremony would be held if Valieva finished in the top three. Instead, the medal would have been awarded after her case was adjudicated. (For the same reason, there was no ceremony after Russia won the team figure-skating event last week, with Valieva’s help.)
Valieva’s subpar performance on Wednesday allows the medal ceremony to take place without her, giving the proceedings a veneer of normalcy. But there is still widespread outrage around the sport regarding the decision to let Valieva compete in the first place, with many arguing that doing so was a disservice to both the Olympics and Valieva herself.