2022 Olympic Controversy Over Doping
The 2022 Olympics had one of the biggest controversies in a long time. Doping. A positive test for a banned substance by one 15-year-old female Russian figure skater led to some heartbreaking moments for the entire Women’s Figure Skating group. Across the world, outrage and sadness came when the Olympic Committee sparked the 2022 Olympic Controversy dealing with whether or not she should be allowed to compete and what would happen if she won any of the top three spots.
The Story Behind My Love for Ice-Skating
As a little girl, I lived just 5 minutes away from my grandparents. We spent quite a bit of time with them. Even after we moved (when I was 12 years old), I went back to stay with my grandparents for at least two weeks every summer (most of the time closer to a month). One of the things that my grandma and I both enjoy is watching figure skating competitions, Olympics or not. She encouraged that interest at a young age as she would have it on live, or replay a recorded performance. This week was no different. The Olympics were on TV during my visit to my grandma’s home.
I went to pick her up for a doctor’s appointment but got there a little early. We watched a couple of the skaters in the women’s competition but then it was time to go to the doctors. Of course, she already had it set up to record on the DVR. Just as soon as we got back from the doctors, we sat and watched the rest of the competition.
On February 18th, 2022, I sat on the couch with a mix of emotions.
The women’s figure skating event at the 2022 Winter Olympics was supposed to be a coronation, a significant occasion showcasing a trio of Russian skaters with a real chance of sweeping the Olympic podium for the first time in Olympic history.
Instead, while there were tears, they weren’t joyful tears. They were tears of sadness, anger, and devastation. Kamila Valieva, the teenage gold medal favorite, tested positive for a banned substance and was nevertheless permitted to compete. The young teen had intense pressure put on her by the controversy over that decision. On top of that pressure, she also had the pressure of the entire world, questioning her abilities. It took a toll on Valieva, causing her to fall on three of her seven jumping attempts and place fourth. If she had won any of the top three positions, the Olympic committee had made the decision that they would not hold the medal ceremony despite the other two winners. How would that even be fair to the two who worked their whole life to win an Olympic medal when they did nothing wrong?!
15-year-old, Kamila Valieva on the Ice
The 15-year-old skated what is undoubtedly the most error-filled program of her young career during her short performance. However, Valieva struggled to complete each component in the long program, stumbling out of her first jump, a triple Axel, and putting her hand down on the ice to steady herself just as she did in the short program. She then stepped out of her quadruple toe loop and plummeted after the triple toe loop in the next jumping combination, causing another fall. Valieva threw her hands up in despair after the performance, then returned to the kiss and cry to sob. Valieva was fifth in the free and first in the short program, resulting in her fourth-place finish overall.
Gold Medal Performance
After her companion, Anna Shcherbakova skated a clean and outstanding free program to win the gold, she did not appear like a newly minted Olympic champion as she stood alone on the side of the rink for several minutes while Russian skating officials concentrated on consoling Valieva. Valieva began crying in the kiss and cry after finding out her results and learning she was fourth in the rankings, far from earning a spot on the Olympic podium for which she was anticipated. Gold medalist, Anna Shcherbakova, stood with a somber look on her face, hugging a stuffed animal. As the announcer and former gold medalist, Tara Lipinski, said, she looked “lost”.
Alexandra Trusova, Valieva and Shcherbakova’s partner at the same Moscow institution, took silver. Trusova was visibly angry. Trusova broke down into tears, yelling over and over to her coaches, “I can’t watch this!”. Afterward, she sobbed, “I won’t go,” to the mascot ceremony at center ice until her coach Eteri Tutberidze finally persuaded her to skate out. I thought the reason for her outburst was because of the sadness that her teammate who was expected to win the gold did so terribly during her skating performance. That wasn’t the only reason. She later told that she was mad that she didn’t win the gold after pushing herself so hard to complete four of five planned quads in her long performance.
First Place – Loneliest Place
Here there were three skaters who were expected to be a dynamite team to win gold, silver, and bronze medals. It should have been a joyous occasion for these three young girls. Instead, it was a time of utter confusion, frustration, and disappointment. My heart went out to gold medalist, Anna Shcherbakova. This should have been a moment of pure excitement. She trained for this. She spent her life, to this point, going for the gold. Despite seeing the gold medal status next to her name on the jumbotron, she sat. She sat alone. No hugs, no “congrats”, no “I am so proud of you”, no acknowledgment from the coaches who spent all this time training her, no words from her teammates. She was alone for the biggest moment in her life.
My heart broke for her. My heart broke for silver medalist, Alexandra Trusova even if she had a negative attitude about not winning the gold. She couldn’t stand seeing her friend and teammate fall, figuratively and literally. The decisions that Valieva made affected EVERYONE, not just her. There is much controversy on the topic of it being the fault of the adults around her. While they may not have done their job, it ultimately was her decision. I do not know the details surrounding this situation, although I am sure it will be investigated, I can not say it was the adult’s fault. I can say, whatever happened, Valieve put something in her body that didn’t belong. She knew the rules and still broke them and it created a ripple effect for her team, her country, and all those watching the Olympics.
Reflecting on the 2022 Olympic Controversy
I had a long drive back home from my grandma’s house. Five hours, actually. I spent a good bit of the drive thinking about what happened in Beijing on February 18th, 2022. My heart kept breaking for the four girls. Yes, four. So who was the 4th? You know I am talking about the three Russian teammates but who is the 4th? That is the sad part. There was a fourth girl that is being forgotten about because the Russian team has been the main spotlight of this whole event. Her name is Sakamoto Kaori. She was the bronze medal winner of the 2022 Olympic Women’s Figuring Skating Competition. There has been very little talk of Kaori despite her unbelievable achievements of becoming the bronze medal winner.
Our decisions, good or bad, affect those around us. Doesn’t it always seem like the ones who do wrong get the most attention? Kamila Valieva made some horrible choices yet she received the most support from her team. While her coaching staff was consoling her, the one who did things right (Shcherbakova) was all alone. Shcherbakova deserved to be happy but instead, she was left alone without any celebrations. That sat heavily on my heart. I wanted to reach through the TV and hug her and encourage the excitement of what she had just done! SHE WON THE GOLD! How exciting is that? This right here is NOT the face of one who just won the gold medal. All because everyone was more worried about her other teammates. Yes, teammateS. While Valieva made poor decisions which resulted in a terrible performance (from all the pressure that came from those decisions), Trusova was also getting attention because of her outrageous response, leaving no one to celebrate Shcherbakova’s feat!
Attention for Wrong Actions
Seems like that happens quite often in life. I began thinking about how many times in my own life I saw that same situation play out. No, not when it came to the Olympics or even any competitions but just in everyday life. I see it in homes, even my own. Children who misbehave get the most attention while the children who are being respectful and obedient sit quietly lacking the quality time and affection from their parents. I struggle with this even in my own family. Sometimes the loneliest people are the ones who have done everything they are asked of. They are the ones who should be celebrated.
I also see this in schools. The students who cause the most commotion in the classroom have the undivided attention of the teacher while the obedient, straight-A students are not acknowledged the way they deserve.
Sometimes being “good” can leave you feeling lonely, which is sad. I can not begin to imagine the feeling of worthlessness that gold medalist, Shcherbakova felt after the biggest accomplishment of her life. Seeing the look on her face made me reflect on how I treat others. The “easy” kids are sometimes the most neglected in the family. That needs to change. How do you respond to the “easy” people in your life? Do you neglect them because you have to spend so much time and energy on the ones who are harder to handle? Maybe you, too, can take a little time to reflect on that. I leave you with the look of a lonely gold medalist. We would have had no clue how she felt if it wasn’t for her life being recorded. If you recorded the life of the ones around you, would there be some who have the same lonely expression on their faces?