The women’s single skating event final took place on February 17th and it was an evening full of excitement, emotions, and surprises. The top 25 skaters after the short program qualified for the free skate, and the order in which they competed at this event was determined by their position after the short program. The lower ranked athletes competed first in the free skate, with the highest scoring short program competitors being reserved for the final group of the free skate. Throughout the evening, some beautiful performances were given. Notably, Ekaterina Kurakova of Poland had an outstanding skate, finishing in 12th place overall, despite entering the free skate in 24th position after the short program.
The competition grew more intense as the event continued, with much anticipation surrounding the final six skaters. This group included gold medal favorite Kamila Valieva of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC), as well as her teammates Anna Shcherbakova and Alexandra Trusova. Going into the free skate, these three women were the ones expected to take the podium. However, there has been immense controversy surrounding this event due to Valieva testing positive for a banned substance earlier in the games. After a hearing, the IOC ruled that Valieva would be allowed to compete, but that if she finished in the top three there would be no medal ceremony held as the doping investigation is still ongoing. This decision has sparked enormous debate over the past week, with many past figure skaters and coaches weighing in on the situation. Many, such as American skaters Tara Lipinski and Adam Rippon, felt that it was unfair that other athletes would be stripped of their Olympic podium moment if Valieva earned a medal spot, and also were upset with her being allowed to skate at all given the positive test. The IOC’s decision largely came about due to Valieva’s age. Being only 15 years old, she is considered a “protected person” according to the World Anti-Doping Agency, therefore she was subjected to different rules and considerations than an adult would have been. Now, many are debating whether the Olympic committee should increase the minimum age for athletes in the future.
As the final skaters competed, with Valieva skating last, figure skating spectators were all waiting suspensefully to see what the conclusion of this controversy would be. ROC’s Trusova skated a wonderful routine packed with five quad jumps. The importance of this cannot be understated, as before this Beijing Olympics no woman had ever landed a quad jump at the Olympics, let alone five. Trusova was followed by Japan’s Kaori Sakamoto. The 21-year-old performed a beautiful program in both this event and the short program, with powerful jumps and elegant artistry. Shcherbakova of the ROC performed after Sakamoto, delivering a routine with two quads. Finally, Valieva took to the ice after her teammate. In an uncharacteristic performance, she fell twice and struggled to maintain the speed and flow necessary for her program. Usually a solid performer, it was unfortunate to witness Valieva have such difficulty in this routine. As a result, although she was expected to win gold, Valieva finished in 4th place. This means that the other athletes are able to have their medal ceremony. Sakamoto earned the bronze medal, with Trusova winning silver, and Shcherbakova becoming the Olympic champion.