Emotional Valieva takes lead in Olympic figure skating
BEIJING (AP) — Russian teen sensation Kamila Valieva put aside the emotional exhaustion of being at the center of a doping scandal and took the lead in the women’s figure skating competition after the short program at the Beijing Olympics.
Skating despite a positive drug test, Valieva started her pursuit of a second gold medal with a score of 82.16 points on Tuesday. She faltered on her opening triple axel and then made it through the rest of her program.
The 15-year-old Valieva tested positive for a banned heart medication from a sample given in December, a result that only emerged last week after she helped Russia win gold in the team event with a historic performance. It included her landing the first quadruple jumps by a woman at the Olympics.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled Monday that Valieva should be allowed to compete in part because she is a minor, known as a “protected person,” and is subject to different rules from an adult athlete. But the decision has been roundly criticized, including by others that performed before her on Tuesday.
Valieva is the overwhelming favorite for the gold and Russia is aiming for the first sweep by any nation of the women’s Olympic podium.
Reigning world champion Anna Shcherbakova was second with 80.20 points. Kaori Sakamoto of Japan had a score of 79.84 to prevent a 1-2-3 Russian finish in the short program. Alexandra Trusova, the other member of the Russian “Quad Squad,” was fourth with 74.60 points.
Whatever happens on the ice, Valieva will not get a medal ceremony moment in Beijing. Nor will any skater who finishes in the top three with her.
Valieva told Russian state broadcaster Channel One in comments shown Monday night that “these days have been very difficult for me. I’m happy but I’m tired emotionally.”
She broke into tears as she skated off the ice Tuesday night.
The free skate is Thursday.
Mikaela Shiffrin is 0 for 4 at the Beijing Olympics after finishing 18th in the downhill. It was hardly unexpected considering it was the first time she’s competed in that event in her Olympic career and her struggles in earlier races.
Shiffrin is planning to enter two more races: the Alpine combined on Thursday — she won a silver in that at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics — and the team event on Saturday. She owns two gold medals from past Olympics; no American Alpine skier ever has won three in a career.
Corinne Suter of Switzerland won the downhill gold and defending champion Sofia Goggia of Italy had an inspiring performance to take the silver less than a month after a bad crash and serious leg injury. Nadia Delago of Italy took the bronze.
SU JOINS GU
Teenager Su Yiming went spinning through the air in front of the cooling towers and smokestacks of an old steel mill to win China’s first Olympic snowboarding gold medal and elevate his celebrity status.
Su had such a big lead after two rounds that other competitors played it safe, just trying to earn a podium spot. He took the silver in slopestyle and would have had gold if judges had noticed Max Parrot missing a grab on his first jump. Parrot took bronze Tuesday.
It was China’s second gold medal at Big Air Shougang following Eileen Gu’s win in freestyle skiing.
Su, a 17-year-old aspiring actor who had a part in the 2014 action film “The Taking of Tiger Mountain,” led by 17.5 points entering the final round. He started the competition with consecutive 1800s — five spins — first completing the trick going forward, then backward.
Su went off casually on his last jump and then held his hands to his head during an ovation from the crowd.
Su hadn’t seen his parents in seven months while training in Europe and competing around the world. Shortly after getting on the podium, Su spotted them in the stands and began to cry. He later spoke to them through a fence separating those allowed inside Beijing’s Olympic bubble from the fans.
“I was thinking back to when I was 4 years old and my first time snowboarding,” he said in English. “I’m so appreciative. This moment is so special for my family.”
SILVER FOR GU
Eileen Gu won’t win three gold medals at the Beijing Games, but she can still become the first extreme sports athlete to win three medals at an Olympics.
The 18-year-old American-born freestyler who is competing for her mother’s home country of China narrowly missed out on the gold medal in slopestyle. She finished .33 points behind Mathilde Gremaud of Switzerland. Gremaud took the bronze in the big air event won by Gu.
Gremaud was the first to go in the second round and posted the score to beat. Gu vaulted from the back of the pack but couldn’t quite overtake Gremaud.
“I trust the judges. Sometimes they give it to you, sometimes they don’t,” Gu said. “And today, they didn’t. ... I did everything that I could that was in my control, and some things you just can’t control and you just have to accept it.”
Gu will compete in freeski halfpipe later this week.
Germany posted the first podium sweep by any nation in any Olympic bobsled race, led by Francesco Friedrich piloting the winning sled in the two-man event. Johannes Lochner drove the silver-medal sled and Christoph Hafer steered his bobsled to the bronze.
The United States won its second speedskating medal of the Beijing Olympics when it took the bronze in team pursuit. With 36-year-old Joey Mantia leading three American skaters through all eight laps, the U.S. denied Sven Kramer of the Netherlands his 10th career medal.
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