BEIJING — (AP) — There was a moment during practice for the Olympic Figure Skating Gala on Sunday when U.S. gold medalist Nathan Chen and his good friend, Canadian Keegan Messing, skated on the ice and made a unison backflip.
Now, backflips are no longer allowed in competition. They are considered too dangerous. But they’re allowed in exhibits that are just for fun, and who didn’t need a bit of figure skating fun at the end of the Beijing Games?
After all, they will definitely be remembered for decidedly not fun things.
There was Kamila Valieva, the overwhelming favorite to win women’s gold, falling on the ice during her free skate. If the hopes nourished by the 15-year-old Russian, who spent her Olympics at the center of the latest doping scandal, were not dashed by her fourth place, they were when she was criticized by her coach, Eteri Tutberidze.
There was her teammate, Anna Shcherbakova, who said she felt an “emptiness inside” after winning gold, and fellow Russian skater, Alexandra Trusova, who cried out that she would not return. never again set foot on the ice after a silver medal that must have felt. even emptier than Shcherbakova’s gold.
“I’m not happy with the result,” Trusova said afterwards. “There is no happiness.”
There was also not much luck for the American and Japanese teams, who respectively won the silver and bronze medals behind the Russian team. The International Olympic Committee refused to hold a medal ceremony for the event for fear that the gold medal would eventually be stripped from the Russians following a full anti-doping investigation into Valieva and her entourage, resulting in the re-awarding of medals at some point in the future.
IOC President Thomas Bach presented the Americans and Japanese with an Olympic torch as a souvenir, but neither team liked it. The American skaters filed an emergency appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sport on Saturday to have the medal ceremony held in Beijing, but it was rejected without a reason, although one was promised later.
“They should have a ceremony for the clean athletes who delivered,” said American pair skater Alexa Knierim, who performed with Brandon Frazier on both of their routines in the team event. “They deserve this moment.”
There are ups and downs in every figure skating program at the Olympics. This is only natural given the very thin margin — in the pair test, it was 64 hundredths of a point — that often separates silver from gold. But the lows definitely outweighed the highs in Beijing, where the International Skating Union had to answer some serious questions.
Is it fair that a 15-year-old like Valieva, who is considered a minor by the Olympics but competes at the senior level, should be subject to the pressure and global scrutiny that comes with performances at the Winter Games ?
A convoluted scoring system that too often seems arbitrary and subjective, is it put in place after another scandal-ridden Olympic figure skating program in Salt Lake City in 2002, which is due for another overhaul massive?
And perhaps most importantly, the Russian team – known here as the ROC, which is short for the Russian Olympic Committee – which has continued to display Olympic drug testing protocols since the Sochi Games in 2014. should she participate in the competition?
The last one is a question for the IOC, not for figure skating, but it came to perch on the ice at Capital Indoor Stadium.
“On the one hand, my heart breaks for (Valieva) because of the acts of the adults in her life and the failures of the Russian and IOC-run systems that permanently cast a dark cloud over her performance,” Travis Tygart said. , the CEO. of the United States Anti-Doping Agency. “On the other hand, all of us who value clean sport are sick to our stomachs because of these catastrophic failures that have tragically robbed clean athletes of their sacrifice and their Olympic dreams.”
Despite all those head-shaking moments in the Beijing bubble, there were plenty of world records, broken barriers and soaring performances to stir up the emotions of figure skating fans who resisted the crud.
There was Chen, blasting off to “Rocket Man” about to end a redemptive four-year quest for gold. French ice dancers Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, who won a gold medal that also eluded them at the Pyeongchang Games. And the Chinese duos team Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, who gave the host country a gold medal on Saturday night.
When their scores were read, Sui and Han jumped up from their seats in celebration, and the carefully curated crowd of Chinese fans in the arena finally let out the kind of exultant roar that had been missing for weeks in Beijing.
“We did our best and enjoyed this whole process. We are happy with the score and the recognition from the spectators, and we set a world record,” Han said with a smile. “It is important that we seize the opportunity when we have had it.”
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