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Beijing Rewind, Feb. 17: Tears of joy, anger after shocking women's figure skating finish

The scene and emotion after the women's figure skating free skate is likely to outlive the memory of who actually won at the Beijing Winter Olympics.

In this history of the women's figure skating event at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games, people who watched are more likely to remember the emotion and chaos immediately after the competition than who actually won.

For the record, Russia's Anna Shcherbakova won the gold. Russian teammate Alexandra Trusova leaped to silver with her quad-packed program while Kaori Sakamoto of Japan held onto the bronze medal.

But their performances were ultimately overshadowed as all eyes were on Kamila Valieva. The 15-year-old, who was the favorite heading in but has been under a microscope over a failed doping test from December, fell twice in an error-filled free skate and tumbled to fourth place.

The first response by her coach? Criticism.

“Why did you let it go? Why did you stop fighting?” cameras caught Eteri Tutberidze — the notoriously strict coach who will be investigated over Valieva's failed drug test — telling the teen.

Valieva was in tears for several minutes after the skate and hearing her coach's comments.

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach said he was disturbed by the intense pressure on the young skaters, particularly Valieva, and criticized her coaches without naming Tutberidze.

“When I afterwards saw how she was received by her closest entourage, with such, what appeared to be a tremendous coldness, it was chilling to see this,” he said at a news conference Friday. “Rather than giving her comfort, rather than to try to help her, you could feel this chilling atmosphere, this distance.”

Trusova was also in tears, but they were from anger. She appeared to criticize the judging that landed her in second place despite making history with those five quads. No woman had ever done more than two in Olympic competition before Thursday.

Alysia Liu, who missed the U.S. championships due to COVID-19, was the top finisher for the United States in seventh place. U.S. Champion Mariah Bell finished 10th and team figure skating silver medalist Karen Chen was 16th.

American Eileen Gu makes Winter Olympics history for China

Eileen Gu captured gold in the women’s ski halfpipe final on a breezy and cold morning to become the first action-sports athlete to earn three medals at the same Winter Olympics.

Gu warmed up with a score of 93.25 on her first run, before going even higher and even bigger to post a 95.25 her second. For her third and final pass, and with the contest locked up, she took a nice leisurely stroll.

The standout American-born freestyle skier who represents China already possessed a gold from big air and a silver from slopestyle.

Defending Olympic champion Cassie Sharpe of Canada finished second and her teammate Rachael Karker earned the bronze. Teenager Hanna Faulhaber was the top American finisher in sixth place.

US flagbearer wins first individual Olympic medal

Brittany Bowe of the United States claimed the first individual medal of her career with a bronze in the women's 1,000 meters.

Bowe grabbed the bronze in 1:14.61, only 0.1 ahead Russian skater Angelina Golikova and a huge relief for the longtime star of the U.S. program.

Bowe's only medal over three Olympics had been a bronze in the team pursuit at the Pyeongchang Games.

Miho Takagi of Japan won gold in Olympic record time. The silver went to Jutta Leerdam of the Netherlands. 

Other notes

World champion Sandra Naeslund of Sweden won the women’s Olympic skicross competition in a race where the third-place finisher was disqualified.

Naeslund opened up a lead and held off Canada’s Marielle Thompson on a snowy day along the winding course filled with bumps and jumps. The third-place finisher was Fanny Smith of Switzerland, but after a delay the bronze was awarded to Daniela Maier of Germany. Smith moved her left ski directly into the line of Maier and Maier briefly lost her balance. Maier fell two body lengths behind and couldn’t catch up. Following the review, Smith’s place was listed as “RAL” -- ranked as last.

Naeslund’s win ends the reign of Canada, which had won every Olympic gold in the women’s version of the race since its debut at the 2010 Vancouver Games.

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