Valieva in 1st place after short program

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Kamila Valieva of the Russian Olympic Committee looks emotional after her short program in Beijing on Tuesday.

Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva finished first in the women’s short program with a score of 82.16 points at the Beijing Games on Tuesday.

The 15-year-old skater is a major contender for the gold medal but has been embroiled in a doping scandal. Tears welled up in Valieva’s eyes Tuesday as she was embraced by her coach after her routine.

Valieva performed in the last group of skaters on Tuesday, appearing as the 26th competitor overall. She landed unevenly on her initial jump, a triple axel, but skated exceptionally after that.

She landed a triple flip and a triple lutz-triple toe loop combination, and earned Level 4 marks, the highest rank, for her spins and steps.

Even if Valieva wins, however, there will be no flower ceremony or medal ceremony during the Games.

Normally, the top 24 competitors in the short program move on to the free skate, but this time 25 advanced. This unusual decision by the International Olympic Committee was based on the possibility that Valieva could be punished for doping in the future and have her scores nullified.

After the match, Valieva walked silently through the interview area amid a crowd of media. She didn’t participate in the press conference that the top three athletes were supposed to attend, “at the wish of the ROC.”

Valieva was expected to be one of the faces of the Beijing Games, thanks to her world records for the women’s short, free skate and combined total. The eyes of the world are still on her, but now they are filled with suspicion.