The haunting strains of Ravel's Bolero rang out across Capital Indoor Stadium, but for once Kamila Valieva was unable to weave her spell.
The 15-year-old Russian is widely recognised as the greatest figure skater in history but, with Olympic glory on the line, the trials and tumult of the past week caught up with her over the longest four minutes and 20 seconds of her life.
The initial signs were not encouraging as she under-rotated on her first element, a quad salchow. But having then landed a triple axel, Valieva’s routine suddenly fell apart with two heavy falls – first on a quad toe loop and triple toe loop combination, and then again on another quad toe loop combination.
The crowd clapped and tried to rally her. And rally she did. But the damage had been done. And despite leading after Tuesday’s short programme, Valieva’s performance in Thursday’s free programme dropped her down to fourth with an overall score of 224.09.
For minutes afterwards she sat in the kiss and cry booth, unable to comprehend what had happened. She was not the only one.
It was an extraordinary conclusion to a remarkable competition, which was won by Valieva's teammate Anna Shcherbakova of the Russian Olympic Committee, with another Russian, Alexandra Trusova, taking second and the Japanese skater Kaori Sakamoto finishing third.
The result was controversial as Trusova, who performed five quadruple jumps, felt she deserved victory. “I hate everyone! I hate!” she said. “I don’t want to do anything else in a figure, never in my life! Never, I hate this sport! I hate her, I hate it all!
“I will never go out on the ice again! Never! I hate! It’s impossible, it’s impossible! You cannot do it this way.”
Later, having calmed down, Trusova admitted that she was frustrated with the judging. “I am not happy with the result. There is no happiness. Everything was enough for me. I did everything. And after, it is out of my hands.”
For Valieva there is also intense frustration but also months of limbo while her positive test for trimetazidine, a drug typically described for patients suffering from angina, is resolved in the courts.
However she might still get a team medal. Hours before the astonishing finale of the single skating competition, the president of the Russian Olympic Committee promised to fight any efforts to take his country’s gold medal in the team competition, even if Valieva was eventually disqualified for doping.
Stanislav Pozdnyakov insisted that the anti-doping rules were written in such a way that a review of results in a team event would only take place if the alleged anti-doping violation had been committed during the Olympic Games.
The ROC president said: “We will defend this position consistently in any possible proceedings, including in the court of arbitration for sport if required.” - Guardian