Kamila Valieva, Russia’s figure skating prima ballerina, will compete for the gold medal on Thursday in the women’s individual event, a competition that will end with a winner and two other medalists yet is likely to have no true conclusion for months.
Valieva, 15, was cleared to compete in the women’s event by a panel of arbitrators this week even though she had a banned heart drug in her system during the Russian national championships in December. That positive test was made public last week. Now, if she finishes in the top three, there will be no medal ceremony in Beijing because her doping case is unresolved.
The medal ceremony for last week’s team event also was canceled because Valieva had helped her Russian team win. The United States won silver; Japan, the bronze.
As it stands now, with Valieva in the lead in the women’s event, it appears that the cancellation of the medal ceremony on Thursday is likely. The base values for her free skate are so high, and she can score so many points because of her unmatched skills, that it is possible for her to make mistakes and still win. She plans to do several quadruple jumps — jumps that she and her Russian teammates have made routine — and those high-value quads can be worth more than triples, even if performed poorly.
Valieva, with 82.16 points, leads her Russian teammate and training mate Anna Shcherbakova, the current world champion, who is in second with 80.20 points.
After a surprise finish in the short program on Tuesday, Japan’s Kaori Sakamoto is in third, with 79.84 points. She nailed a triple axel to kick off her phenomenal performance, becoming just the fifth woman to land that jump in the Olympics. The fourth woman was Valieva, who landed one in the team event.
Valieva also became the first woman to land a quad in the Olympics. During the team event, she landed one, and then, for good measure, did a second.
Without quad jumps, the three Americans in the event will not be in contention for a medal: Alysa Liu, 16, is in eighth place, with 69.50 points; Mariah Bell, 25, is 11th (65.38); and Karen Chen, 22, is 13th (64.11).