The treatment of Russian figure-skater Kamila Valieva has been heavily criticised, with the teenager reduced to tears following her routine in the women’s event final, which saw her finish outside the medals.
Valieva was the heavy favourite to win gold in the event ahead of the Games but has been embroiled in a doping controversy after it was revealed she tested positive for the banned substance trimetazidine back in December.
The Russian was initially suspended last week, but had her ban revoked by the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA).
Despite an appeal by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) against RUSADA’s decision, the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruled that Valieva would be allowed to compete due to “exceptional circumstances.”
Valieva qualified for the final of the women’s event on Tuesday but was visibly overcome with emotion as she took to the ice today and looked nothing like herself.
The teenager appeared to lose her balance on at least three or four occasions, which sparked BBC commentator Kat Downes to state: “I’m slightly speechless… for all the wrong reasons.”
As Valieva reached the end of her routine, she appeared shell-shocked, devastated and fully aware that her medal chances were over.
The European champion was even reduced to tears at one stage, as were her fellow Russian compatriots, who seemingly found the routine difficult to watch.
The decision to allow someone as young and emotionally vulnerable as Valieva to compete, even with all this controversy surrounding her, has sparked widespread backlash on social media.
Tariq Panja, a reporter for the New York Times, wrote: “Possibly one of the worst sights in Olympic history today. A 15-year-old completely destroyed, a gold medallist looking glum as can be. Kamila Valieva stumbled into 4th and [was] reduced to tears in [the] women’s figure skating competition. There will be a podium. What a dreadful conclusion.”
Possibly one of the worst sights in Olympic history today. A 15-year-old completely destroyed, a gold medallist looking glum as can be. Kamila Valieva stumbled into 4th and reduced to tears in women's figure skating competition. There will be a podium. What a dreadful conclusion.— tariq panja (@tariqpanja) February 17, 2022
Similarly, Polina Edmunds, a 2014 US Olympian, stated: “Very traumatising Olympic experience for Kamila Valieva. She should not have been allowed to compete, it’s devastating that she was put in this situation, on all levels.”
The majority of those who voiced their opinion appeared to echo this same sentiment.
Very traumatizing Olympic experience for Kamila Valieva. She should not have been allowed to compete, it’s devastating that she was put in this situation, on all levels.— Polina Edmunds (@PolinaEdmunds) February 17, 2022
One Twitter user wrote: “Shame on all of the adults around Kamila. She should never, ever have been put in that position.”
Meanwhile, another said: “I think Kamila Valieva competing here might be more “irreparable harm” than if they had just suspended her. This is hard to watch.”
A third added: “My heart breaks for this young woman. She’s 15. She has not been treated right by the adults in her life. For whatever you might think of Kamila Valieva being permitted to compete (she definitely should not have been permitted), remember that she’s 15. She’s a child.”
"Whatever the circumstances, whatever the outcome, Kamila Valieva is a human being—and a very young one"— CBC Olympics (@CBCOlympics) February 17, 2022
ROC's Kamila Valieva has difficulty landing her jumps throughout her free skate and is overcome with emotion
Watch on the CBC Sports App or @cbcgem pic.twitter.com/XzFPHxoWE7
Valieva’s failure to finish in the medal positions means there will be a ceremony for the top three competitors.
Russia’s Anna Shcherbakova won gold, while teammate Alexandra Trusova took silver. Japan’s Sakamoto claimed bronze.