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Olympics – Figureskating-Skaters seek to shut out noise as world watches Valieva

Randy Mancini 2 Feb 12
FILE PHOTO: Figure Skating - Training
2022 Beijing Olympics - Figure Skating - Training Rink Capital Indoor Stadium, Beijing, China - February 12, 2022. Kamila Valieva of the Russian Olympic Committee during training with the Russian Olympic Committee coach Eteri Tutberidze REUTERS/Aleksandra Szmigiel

February 12, 2022

By Chang-Ran Kim

BEIJING (Reuters) – With all eyes fixed on Russian Kamila Valieva and her uncertain future at the Beijing Games, figure skaters – including the 15-year-old prodigy herself – sought to block out the noise as they showed up to practise at the Olympics training rink on Saturday.

For the third day in a row, Valieva braved media scrutiny including rows of cameras to take to the ice, practising her jumps and running through her short programme, set to Kirill Richter’s In Memoriam.

Valieva tested positive for a banned heart drug but it then took more than six weeks for the result to be made public.

Her future at the Games and the gold medal for the Russian Olympic Committee in the team event that she dominated on Monday now hangs in the balance amid a global outcry over Moscow’s doping history.

Out on the ice at the same time as Russian rival Anna Shcherbakova, Valieva fell a few times and struggled with her triple Axel jumps, sometimes appearing upset during her 35-minute session.

American Mariah Bell, who will skate in the singles event that starts on Tuesday and which Valieva is favoured to win if she competes, said it was a shame that the incident had taken centre stage.

“It’s unfortunate that it’s an issue at all that’s being talked about at the Olympics,” she said. “I’m really just focusing on my skating right now.”

Other skaters echoed that sentiment.

Canadian pairs skater Vanessa James said it was “not an easy situation” for all athletes to have the distraction.

“We’re really focused on our own skating and putting on a good performance and hopefully everyone else will (be) too,” she said.

While U.S. pairs skater Timothy Leduc called Valieva a “really remarkable athlete”, he said he trusted the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee and all governing bodies to “do their part” to ensure a fair outcome.

German pairs skater Nolan Seegert shared that view, saying there was a reason the Russian athletes had been stripped of their national flag in the past several Olympics.

“In the end there are rules in place and they are here for a reason. I think you can’t (make) an exception,” he said.

“In the end, I just feel sorry for her because she doesn’t deserve it. She is actually an amazing skater and she fully deserves to skate here.”

Wrapping her arms around her coach Eteri Tutberidze in a long embrace after finishing per practice, Valieva left the rink smiling, holding a big stuffed animal and accompanied by team representatives as some Russian reporters cheered and clapped.

(Reporting by Chang-Ran Kim; Editing by Hugh Lawson)