Kamila Valieva’s coach harshly criticized the 15-year-old skater right after she fell at the Olympics: ‘Why did you stop fighting?’
Rebecca Cohen and Meridith Cash – February 17, 2022
- Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva placed 4th in the women’s free skate at the Beijing Olympics.
- The gold-medal favorite fell twice during her routine and was visibly upset as she left the ice.
- The 15-year-old’s coach, Eteri Tutberidze, was caught harshly criticizing her on the broadcast.
Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva, the teen skating sensation embroiled in a doping scandal, left the ice in dispair after falling twice during her free skate program at the 2022 Beijing Olympics on Thursday.
But rather than offering the 15-year-old skating star some words of encouragement or comfort following her shocking flame-out, Valieva’s coach — Eteri Tutberidze — could only muster criticism.
“Why did you let it go?” Tutberidze was heard asking Valieva in Russian during the live broadcast of the women’s figure skating event.
“Why did you stop fighting? Explain it to me, why?” Tutberidze continued as the distraught teenager stepped off the ice. “You let it go after that axel. Why?”
A tearful Valieva — who finished in fourth place — did not respond to her coach. As her scores were announced, the star buried her head in her hands and sobbed.
Tutberidze laid her hand on Valieva’s back as the teen broke down and cried.
It was a stunning collapse for the highly-rated Valieva, whose eligibility to compete at the games came under question last week after news emerged that she’d failed a drug test in December. She tested positive for trimetazidine, a drug the World Anti-Doping Agency categorizes as a “hormone and metabolic modulator,” according to The Associated Press.
When taken without proper cause, the drug can bolster endurance and improve circulation. Both effects could give a high-level figure skater a competitive advantage.
Valieva was initially slapped with a provisional suspension from the Russian Anti-Doping Agency after the positive test surfaced. But following a swift appeal, the ban was overturned on February 9.
The International Olympic Committee then challenged that decision in the Court of Arbitration for Sport. On Monday, the court issued a ruling that lifted Valieva’s provisional suspension and paved the way for the teen to compete in the individual competition.
Many close to the sport slammed the decision to allow Valieva to compete, especially after multiple outlets reported on Tuesday that Valieva had tested positive for two additional heart drugs in the December 25 sample she provided.
Only trimetazidine has been banned from the Olympics, but the other two — hypoxen and L-Carnatine — have raised concerns from anti-doping officials and called into question Valieva’s excuse that she’d mixed up her medications
Valieva’s mother and coach insisted she was taking the drugs for “heart variations, but anti-doping officials have said that it is highly unlikely such a young, elite athlete would be taking this combination of drugs. The pair of “legal” medications found in Valieva’s system could also be used to boost endurance.
But major figures in the skating world haven’t placed blame for the scandal on Valieva’s shoulders. Retired Team USA skater Polina Edmunds argued that the entire situation was “very traumatizing” for the 15-year-old and that the adults in her life should have been responsible for protecting her.
“She should not have been allowed to compete,” Edmunds wrote on Twitter. “It’s devastating that she was put in this situation, on all levels.”
Tutberidze has been scrutinized for years over her training methods with young Russian skaters, Gabrielle Paluch previously reported for Insider. Prominent coaches have gone so far as to refer to Tutberidze’s athletes as “disposable” or “perishable goods.”
Some have referred to the “Eteri expiration date” — the time when, around age 17, her athletes are often forced to retire due to injury or diminishing results.
Critics have accused the 47-year-old of trading her athletes’ health for medals for their country.
For most of the last decade, Tutberidze’s rink in Moscow has churned out countless young female champions. Her athletes win by performing difficult jumps such as quads — which are worth roughly double the points of a triple, making skaters who land them nearly impossible to beat — but burn out dramatically as they go through puberty.
Valieva will be 19 years old by the time the next games roll around in 2026: past the “expiration date” fans have grown to lament.