Bing Dwen Dwen stuffed pandas are already in the hands of the top three finishers in the women’s figure skating competition at the Beijing Olympics. The medals are coming Friday.
Heavily favored Russian teen Kamila Valieva fell twice and had two other big mistakes in her free skate on Thursday, dropping to fourth place and allowing the International Olympic Committee to avoid what could have been one of the most awkward moments in the history of the Games.
Valieva was permitted to skate despite failing a doping test weeks before the Beijing Games. She was the leader after the short program but faltered badly in the free skate and teammate Anna Shcherbakova won the gold medal after a near-flawless program. Russian teammate Alexandra Trusova won the silver and Kaori Sakamoto of Japan took the bronze.
Valieva looked dejected and put her face in her hands after her program. She sobbed in the kiss-and-cry area.
Minutes later, the three medalists received stuffed pandas — the Beijing Games mascot — in the flower ceremony. The medals ceremony will be held Friday night. The IOC indicated that because Valieva is at the center of a doping scandal that is still under investigation, neither ceremony would have been held if she finished in the top three.
The 15-year-old Valieva put a jolt into the Beijing Games when she landed the first quadruple jumps by a woman at the Olympics and helped the Russians win the gold medal in the team event last week.
There was no such magic Thursday. She stumbled on her opening quad, fell on two other quads and spun out on another jump.
Valieva tested positive for a banned heart medication at the Russian championships in December. The result wasn’t announced until last week, shortly after the team event.
She was cleared to compete earlier this week by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which ruled among other things that she had protected status as a minor and would suffer “irreparable harm” if she was not allowed to perform. The court did not rule on the full scope of the case, leaving that to a more comprehensive investigation later.
IOC President Thomas Bach skipped the free skate competition. He has offered Olympic torches to the U.S. figure skaters who won team silver medals as a holdover gift while they await the resolution of the doping case, The Associated Press learned late Wednesday.
—Bernie Wilson, The Associated Press