Russia's Kamila Valieva reacts after competing in the women's single free skating during the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games on February 17 (Photo by Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP)
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Olympic chief hits out at ‘chilling’ reaction of Valieva coach

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Thomas Bach said Friday it was “chilling” to see how Kamila Valieva’s coach treated the Russian teenager after a doping scandal engulfing the skater culminated in an error-strewn performance at the Beijing Olympics.

The International Olympic Committee president said he was “very disturbed” to see the 15-year-old fall several times and sob in Thursday’s women’s figure skating final.The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is looking into Valieva’s entourage after the doping controversy tarnished the second week of the Games in the Chinese capital and thrust the young skater into the glare of the global spotlight.”I was very disturbed when I watched it on TV,” Bach said, adding Valieva was treated with “a tremendous coldness” by her coaches after the calamitous free skate routine, which saw her finish fourth and miss out on a medal.

The pre-Games favourite for gold was distraught afterwards, but Russian coach Eteri Tutberidze was seen demanding to know what had gone wrong as Valieva came off the ice, her head bowed and looking pale.

“Why did you let it go? Why did you let it go? Tell me,” Tutberidze can be heard saying.

Bach told a news conference: “When I afterwards saw how she was received by her closest entourage with what appeared to be such a tremendous coldness, it was chilling to see this.”

The doping affair will rumble on long after the Games have ended, and Valieva could yet be punished.

The teenager was controversially cleared to carry on at the Games despite failing a test in December for trimetazidine, a drug used to treat angina but banned for athletes by WADA because it can boost endurance.

Bach said that seeing Valieva’s Russian teammate Alexandra Trusova also highly agitated after her silver medal-winning routine confirmed his concerns about the team around the teenage skaters.

“I was pondering about whether you can be really so cold, but when I saw and read today how Alexandra Trusova was being treated, I am afraid that this impression I had last night was not the wrong one,” said Bach.

“All of this does not give me much confidence in this close entourage of Kamila.”

Minimum age proposal 

Valieva’s predicament has also focused attention once more on Russian athletes at Olympic Games and the IOC’s decision to allow Russians supposedly deemed clean of doping to participate.

They are taking part in Beijing under the banner of the Russian Olympic Committee because Russia as a country is serving a two-year ban as punishment for a state-sponsored doping programme.

Bach said that Valieva had “a drug in her body which obviously should not be in her body.

“The ones who have administered this drug in her body, these are the ones who are guilty,” he said while also defending the IOC’s actions.

Russia’s sports minister was unimpressed by Bach’s intervention.

“It’s debatable, to say the least, to determine and judge the behaviour of a coach and judge the relationship with an athlete from TV,” Oleg Matytsin told TASS news agency.

Figure skating’s governing body, the ISU, said in an email to AFP that it will vote later this year on a proposal to raise the minimum age at which figure skaters can take part in senior competitions.

Another gold for Gu 

Californian-born Chinese freeskier Eileen Gu won her second gold medal of the Olympics and third medal overall.

The 18-year-old’s scintillating victory in the halfpipe confirmed her as the face of the Olympics and was the antidote the Games were crying out for after Valieva’s distress.

Gu, who switched allegiance from the United States to China in 2019, won halfpipe gold with another commanding performance.

She had the title wrapped up before she even started her third and final run, and celebrated with her coaches at the top of the halfpipe before making her way down with a joyous victory lap.

“It has been two straight weeks of the most intense highs and lows I’ve ever experienced in my life,” Gu said of her Games.

“It has changed my life forever.”

Finland charged into the final of the men’s ice hockey for the first time in 16 years with a 2-0 win over Slovakia.

The Finns will play the winner of Friday’s later semi-final between defending champions the Russian Olympic Committee and Sweden.

Meanwhile, Bach said the IOC had held a meeting with Chinese organisers to remind them to keep politics out of the Olympics, after a local spokeswoman hit back at “lies” about Xinjiang, where China is accused of widespread rights abuses.

“Both organisations, BOCOG and the IOC, have restated the unequivocal commitment to remain politically neutral, as it is required by the Olympic Charter,” Bach said. (AFP)