A Russian Star Falls and Another Rises in a Blur of Jumps, Tumbles and Tears
at stake 成败难料；得失都可能；有风险 that can be won or lost, depending on the success of a particular action ◆The prize at stake is a place in the final. 这次如果获胜，便能进入决赛。
poignant /’pɒɪnjənt/令人痛苦的；辛酸的；惨痛的；Something that is poignant affects you deeply and makes you feel sadness or regret.
oblique /ə’bliːk/ 不直截了当的;拐弯抹角的；If you describe a statement as oblique, you mean that is not expressed directly or openly, making it difficult to understand. ◆ an oblique reference/approach/comment 隐约提及；间接途径；婉转的评论
entourage /’ɒntʊrɑːʒ/ 随从;随行人员；A famous or important person’s entourage is the group of assistants, servants, or other people who travel with them.
BEIJING — Kamila Valieva, the Russian figure skating star at the center of a doping scandal, showed up at the Olympic rink on Thursday night facing a single, heavy expectation, especially heavy for a 15-year-old who has soared to the top of her sport in a quick four months, only to fall from it while the world was watching.
Her job was to win, for Russia. Continuing the country’s streak of two consecutive Olympic gold medals in the women’s event was at stake.
In a mostly black costume with flame-red gloves that glowed at the end of her long arms, she set out, determined, as Maurice Ravel’s “Bolero” began to play. But jump by jump, as her routine crumbled after uncharacteristic falls and stumbles, she knew a victory that everyone had once expected her to deliver was not to be.
Instead of ending the night in first place to perhaps salvage an Olympics gone bad after she was found to have tested positive weeks ago for a banned heart medicine, she finished it by skating off the ice in tears. Her coach, Eteri Tutberidze, greeted her not with a hug, but with a stern look.
“Why did you let it go?” Tutberidze asked in Russian in a scene broadcast on live television. “Why did you stop fighting? Explain it to me, why? You let it go after that axel.”
Valieva did not reply.
The Russians were expected to sweep the medals, with Valieva finishing first and living up to her reputation as one of the best skaters in history. But a Russian teammate, Anna Shcherbakova, won gold. Yet another Russian teenager, Alexandra Trusova, won the silver. Valieva, who just 11 days ago was deemed unbeatable because of her difficult jumps, textbook technique and prima ballerina’s artistry, was fourth.
Shcherbakova, the reigning world champion, won the gold with a smooth and poignant performance that included two quadruple jumps, scoring 255.95 points. Trusova won silver with 251.73 points. Kaori Sakamoto of Japan took the bronze with 233.13 points, saying she was both surprised and ecstatic about winning the medal.
Valieva finished with a score of 224.09 after winning the short program, which had given her the lead going into the decisive free skate.
An air of awkwardness loomed over the victory ceremony on Thursday night, as Shcherbakova, 17, sprung onto the top step of the podium to accept her stuffed mascot panda, a fuzzy reminder of her win until she receives her gold medal on Friday.
“I was feeling a lot of pleasure because I happened to be in the right time and the right place and did the right things,” Shcherbakova said. But she quickly added, obliquely referring to Valieva’s situation, “On the other hand, I feel this emptiness inside.”
Trusova, 17, was less thrilled about the finishing order. With five quadruple jumps, including three clean ones, she had climbed to second place after finishing fourth in the short program. She had been sure that her icy, rocker’s performance to the “Cruella” soundtrack was good enough to win.
After the results were finalized, cameras captured her weeping and screaming in anger, as she hesitated to return to the ice for the award ceremony.
“I hate it!” Trusova, who had been swept up in the week of controversy along with Valieva and her teammates, said while on camera near Valieva at the side of the rink. “I don’t want to do anything in figure skating ever in my life! Everyone has a gold medal, and I don’t!”
Later, she told reporters, with her eyes rimmed with red from crying, “I am not happy with the result. There is no happiness.” She said she had been alone at the Olympics and had cried because she missed her mother and her dogs.
With Valieva off the podium, the awards ceremony was held after all. If she had finished in the top three, Olympics officials had said that there would be no medals awarded until her doping case’s resolution, which could take months.
The awarding of medals for the team event remains on hold. Powered by Valieva’s remarkable performance that included the first quadruple jump by a woman in the Olympics, the Russian team won gold and the Americans and the Japanese wait for silver and bronze.
At the center of this chaos is Valieva’s positive test weeks before the Olympics for a banned drug called trimetazidine. The test was made public last week, and according to documents from an urgent hearing with arbitrators in Beijing, it was found that Valieva had two other drugs in her system. They were not banned substances, but antidoping officials say the combination of the three drugs seems to be used by athletes in an attempt to increase endurance.
Hours after the competition had ended on Thursday, the panel released a report that said the arbitrators chose to allow Valieva to continue at the Olympics because they felt a suspension would risk “irreparable harm” to her.
“None of this is the fault of the athlete, and it has put her in a remarkably difficult position where she faces a lifetime of work being taken from her within days of the biggest event of her short career,” the panel wrote in a 41-page judgment.
Valieva’s entourage, including her coaches and team officials, are under investigation by doping officials. That includes Tutberidze, who ended the day with another success for her program run out of a rink in Moscow. With Shcherbakova and Trusova finishing one-two, it is the second straight Olympics that Tutberidze’s skaters have won the gold and silver.
But in Beijing, Valieva was expected to be her star student, and the Games did start out that way.
In the team event, Valieva dazzled with her exquisite artistry and jumps so good that she could teach a master class in body positioning and speed. But on Thursday, when Russia expected her to win convincingly, Valieva, often so elegant, made mistakes. Again and again and again. Her cold determination melted into despair. The crowd gasped in unison.
After finishing their programs, Shcherbakova and Trusova both gave jubilant fist pumps. At the end of hers, Valieva slapped the air in frustration. For a prolonged moment, she skated around the ice with a look of disbelief as if trying to figure out what had just happened. She had come into the Olympics as the favorite to win — by far — and she had failed. Some fans began chanting, “Ka-mi-la!”
Once the final standings were decided, Shcherbakova celebrated in her sparkly burgundy dress and posed for photos with the Russian Olympic Committee flag behind her (Russia’s national flag and anthem are not allowed at the Games because of a sweeping doping scandal).
Valieva was nowhere to be found. It has been a rough week and a half.
In an interview after being cleared to compete in the individual event, Valieva told Russia’s Channel One, the state-run TV station, that she had not slept at all on Sunday night after spending seven hours in a hearing with arbitrators who were considering her participation.
“I’m happy but emotionally I’m tired, so this is tears of happiness, I think, mixed with a bit of sorrow,” she told Channel One. “But I’m surely happy to be at the Olympic Games and to try to represent our country, and I hope I will fully focus and demonstrate my results.”
With her doping case looming, focusing had proved impossible. It took years for her to get to this point, on the cusp of her life’s goal.
Winning an Olympic gold medal had been her aim since she was just a young girl growing up in Kazan, a city about 450 miles east of Moscow. In those early years of skating, she rose quickly in the sport, pegged as a natural.
Years ago, a tiny Valieva dressed in a tiny white costume straight out of “Swan Lake” glided across the rink doing her tiny jumps and moving her body with a dancer’s soft arm positions and elastic legs. Even at that age, she moved so gracefully to the music that the notes seemed programmed into her DNA.
But on Thursday, she was a different Kamila Valieva, one whose name will forever be synonymous with one of the biggest doping controversies in Olympic history — the exact opposite of a little girl’s dream.
Clutching her trusty worn stuffed toy rabbit in the area where skaters wait for their scores, the reality of her finish continued to sink in. She sat, and sat some more, frozen, as her coaches flanked her.
After several minutes, she rose and disappeared behind a curtain to an area beneath the stands, with one coach — not Tutberidze — draping an arm over her shoulder. With her head down, Valieva walked past reporters waiting to speak with her.
Tutberidze’s other Olympians, like comets, have all faded away before a second Games, most gone after burning brightly, if fleetingly, in their success.
If history is a guide, other young skaters in the Russian sports machine are primed to take their place.
“Respected sports officials, you have destroyed the most talented figure skater in the world,” Andrei Zhurankov, a Russian commentator, said on television there.