15 Year Old Skating Prodigy Takes the World by Storm


Photo via Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

Veronika Owen, Staff Writer

Fifteen year old Kamila Valieva made history on Monday, February 5th by being the first woman to land a quadruple axel at the Olympics, rewarding the Russia Olympic Committee (ROC) with first place in the team skating events.  What’s even more shocking is how just a few days later, it came to light that she cheated.

Valieva performed in the long program on Monday where she performed a quad salchow: four complete rotations in the air.  She landed this flawlessly, becoming the first woman ever to successfully do such at the Olympics.  She went on to do a quad toe loop followed by a triple axel.  

It was only her third and last attempt at a quad where she fell short… and onto the ice.  At that point, she was already so far ahead that point deductions couldn’t deny her chances at gold.  She was over thirty points ahead of Kaori Sakamoto: the Japanese second place finisher.  Valieva also performed well in the short program just a few days earlier and earned 90.18 points, just less than a point shy of her European record.  “This is a fantastic feeling,” Valieva said when interviewed about her revolutionary performance.  She admitted there was quite a bit of pressure competing against so many adults.  When asked about her secret success in figure skating, she simply said, “We work a lot.”

Hard work wasn’t the only secret her coach gave her for success.  Just a few days after that gold-winning skate, Kamila Valieva failed the drug test, testing positive for trimetazidine:  a drug that helps cardiovascular endurance and performance.  

Because she is not yet sixteen, she is a “protected person” and protocol dictates that the case must be investigated before punishment.  After days of going back and forth, the International Testing Agency (ITA) revealed that Valieva had been cleared to keep skating by the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA).  The agency sent samples from the Russian athletes in December and sent them to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).  None of the test results were reported until the last day of team figure skating, according to CNN.  Because of these conditions, she can compete, but even if she secures a podium spot, she won’t receive a medal.

Former American figure skater Adam Rippon told CNN, Russians “have repeatedly shown that they don’t want to play by the rules… The message [of cheating] is not getting through.”

The Associated Press reported that Valieva’s coach, Eteri Tutberidze, has been confronted with this controversy.  She claims that “We are absolutely sure that Kamila is innocent and clean.”  Kamila isn’t her first teen prodigy.  Tutberidze has coached many successful Russian athletes since 2014 who are able to execute moves that no other athlete is able to do.  What’s concerning is that many of these teen athletes retire before they even reach their twenties.  Most of them are suffering mental or physical injuries from their time training with her.  Her actions and involvement in Valieva’s training was to be investigated considering that she’s an adult in Valieva’s circle and could be responsible for the doping.  So far, nothing has been traced back to her.

Her trainee Valieava has had her fair share of hardship these past few weeks.  Alongside her revolutionary Olympic debut, the doping scandal will scar a bright star like her will have to carry with her through the rest of her career… which one would only hope will be longer than her predecessors.