Asst. Arts & Entertainment Editor
I always considered ice skating as something romantic, passionate and whimsical. You see hardworking people display these breathtaking, almost hypnotic dance choreography into the rink. It was an inspiring delight seeing these ice dancers in action, sharing their talent to a global audience. After last Thursday’s disastrous women’s free skate program at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, I can’t ever look at ice skating, young athletes, or even sports the same way ever again.
Gold Medalist Kamila Valieva's Olympic debut was obscured with massive hullabaloo after it was revealed that she tested positive for an illegal heart medication. Whether it was contaminated with Kamila’s grandfather’s medicine is still up for debate. We all know that it’s against the rules to use enhanced drugs to get ahead of the game. It was idiotic of the higher ups allowing the girl to skate another time. A decision that would prove to have devastating results for the teenager at the center of the controversy.
To put it bluntly, Kamila Valieva had no business continuing to compete in the first place. From the moment the doping scandal began to brew, the adults should’ve been there to protect her. She was supposed to lay low until the results of her test were final and absolute. The smartest decision would have been to quit while you’re ahead. Regardless, Valieva was permitted to compete anyway, due to her young age making her, ironically, a “protected person.”
In that final figure skating event, a young woman’s long sought dream shattered, replaced with a traumatizing surreal nightmare as her heartbreaking fumble around the ice rink earned her a fourth place in the women's individual figure skating event.
However, that wasn’t the only part that unsettled me. It wasn’t the visibly painful performance of the skater that chilled my blood, but what happened soon after. Kamila’s coach, Eteri Tutberidze, didn’t have a single encouraging word for the girl. Instead, Eteri demanded answers from the 15-year-old in her native language.
Then the score results came in. That was the recipe for disaster. There was no sense of hope or silver lining in sight. Her teammates weren’t there to console Kamila. Alexandra Trusova was suffering a mental breakdown of her own after her silver medal finish. Anna Shcherbakova, who just won the gold medal from Beijing, sat by herself clutching a stuffed animal. There was no camaraderie. No comfort amongst rivals, just an ominous, bleak atmosphere that was in plain sight. On national live television.
Kamila had nobody, only callous adults who only grew frustrated at the numbers rather than their elite prodigy’s deteriorating mentality. The doping scandal and Thursday’s free skating even proved one crucial fact, one that we should’ve known for years. Children like Kamila Valieva have always been disposable. They are not protected people, but rather temporary tools for profit. These vile, evil adults must be held accountable for exploiting these children. They must be held accountable for how they handled such a delicate situation. Russian coaches, doctors and officials are the ones responsible for administering this event and for ultimately destroying the talent of youth. These young aspiring skaters were never seen as people, but horses to bet on and groomed. There is no glory or triumph, but a repulsive orgy of agonizing bitterness which decimated a once romantic illusion that came with ice skating.
The brutal treatment of this young girl is an unforgivable disgrace to a once loved and remarkable competition. In fact, this type of abuse is in no way different from how Olympic team doctor Larry Nassar horrifically abused multiple young women under his “medical care”. Kamila Valieva may not have been sexually assaulted, but she was still emotionally and mentally violated in front of millions of people to bear witness. That sort of severe damage to the psyche is something this poor child will have to live and suffer through for years and years to come.