The ROC, led by Kamila Valieva, win gold in the team figure skating event
In figure skating at the Beijing Games, Russia is just getting started. At least that’s what the Russian skaters said on Monday after winning the team figure skating competition behind the performance of 15-year-old phenom Kamila Valieva. And that’s probably true.
Valieva’s historic free skate on Monday included the first two quadruple jumps landed by a woman at the Olympics. She won both of her skates in the team event, nearly setting a world record for points in the women’s short program on Sunday and finishing more than 15 points clear of the next competitor, skating the equivalent of a mile .
When asked how it felt to win team gold and make history with her quads, Valieva noted that she also landed a triple axel, another uncommon jump and difficult in women’s skating.
“It’s a fantastic feeling,” she said in Russian, explaining that she was “handling” the pressure of the Olympics as best she could despite being young and competing against many adults.
Team USA won silver, their best result in the team event after winning bronze at the last two Olympics. Japan was third.
The stars of Team USA on Monday were ice dancers Madison Chock and Evan Bates, who won the free dance ahead of the Russian team of Nikita Katsalapov and Victoria Sinitsina, the defending world champions. That effort put the United States solidly in second place heading into the women’s free skate, the final event. But the Russian advance was too great for the Americans to catch up with.
“It was hard to be oblivious to what was going on with the scores, but ultimately when it came time for us to skate, we really focused on what we could do to contribute,” said said Bates. “We knew we could win the free dance, and we knew it would be a significant boost for our team.”
The Americans’ silver medal was bittersweet for another reason: their teammate Vincent Zhou, a two-time Olympian who performed in the free skate on Sunday, was not in the arena to celebrate with his teammates.
USA Figure Skating said it tested positive for coronavirus on Monday morning and is awaiting the results of a subsequent test. If he tests negative, he will be cleared to compete in the men’s short program on Tuesday.
“This is definitely disappointing and very sad news,” said Karen Chen, who competed in the short and long programs of the team event. “I train with Vincent. I see all the work he has done and it’s a shame he couldn’t share this moment with all of us.
Chen said she was relieved to complete her free skate after a disappointing short program that included a fall. Although her performance in the free skate was shaky, she remained on her feet. At the end of her program, she buried her face in her hands, trying to hold back the tears. She finished fourth out of five skaters.
“I was just honestly happy that I was able to redeem myself from yesterday,” she said.
The Russian team wasn’t perfect either. But his skaters have such a degree of difficulty in their programs that they can win even with mistakes and falls, because their baseline scores are so much higher.
Anastasia Mishina and Aleksandr Galliamov’s pairing team won their free program on Monday, even after collapsing on the ice in a dramatic fall while on a lift.
Even Valieva fell once during her free skate, on a third quadruple jump attempt. She later ignored the mistake, saying, “I’m going to work on it, trust me.”
In next week’s women’s event — and it’s hard to imagine — she plans to be even better.