Kamila Valieva has been one of the dominant stories of these 2022 Winter Olympics, and Thursday gives her another chance to prove herself as the dominant athlete of these Games.
The 15-year-old Russian figure skater holds a slim lead in women’s figure skating singles heading into the free skate. Action begins at 5 a.m. ET at the Capital Indoor Stadium in Beijing.
Valieva is at the center of a doping scandal after it came to light that she tested positive for a banned substance, trimetazidine, at Russian nationals on Dec. 25. She had already taken the ice twice as part of the Russian Olympic Committee contingent in the team event on her way to a gold medal. The medal ceremony for that event was postponed and medals have yet to be awarded. Valieva also listed two legal substances used to improve heart function on anti-doping control form for these Olympics.
While medals have not been awarded for the team competition, the Court of Arbitration for Sport determined that Valieva could still compete in the women’s singles event. Since she is 15, Valieva is considered a “protected person” under anti-doping rules.
Even though she is competing, Valieva’s doping case still had an impact on women’s singles. Instead of the usual 24 skaters advancing from the short program to compete in the free skate, an extra skater was added so that enough athletes were given a chance for gold in case Valieva is later disqualified.
Once on the ice, Valieva showcased her usual mastery, receiving an 82.16 score in Tuesday’s short program. ROC teammate Anna Shcherbakova had the second-best score with an 80.20 and Japan’s Kaori Sakamoto placed third with a 79.84. Just out of medal position are ROC’s Alexandra Trusova (74.60) in fourth and Japan’s Wakaba Higuchi (73.51) in fifth.
The ROC could sweep the podium on Thursday. At the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, competing as Olympic Athletes from Russia, Alina Zagitova and Yevgenia Medvedeva earned gold and silver, respectively.
Team USA’s three competitors in the event are a bit farther down on the leaderboard. Alysa Liu had the top short program score of any American with a 69.50, putting her in eighth place. Mariah Bell is in 11th place after posting a 65.38 score, while Karen Chen is in 13th with a 64.11.
The U.S. has not medaled in women’s singles since Sasha Cohen was awarded silver at the 2006 Turin Olympics.