BEIJING (AP) — One of the marquee events of the Beijing Olympics could end with one of the most awkward moments in the history of the Games if Russian teenage sensation Kamila Valieva finishes in the top three in women’s figure skating.
Valieva is the overwhelming favorite to win the competition at Capital Indoor Stadium on Thursday night. Because Valieva is at the center of a doping scandal, the International Olympic Committee has decided there will be no flower or medal ceremony if she places among the top three skaters. The IOC fears she could someday be stripped of her medal.
Valieva will skate last in the field of 25 based on her top score of 82.16 in the short program on Tuesday night.
And then … nothing if she finishes in a podium position. No Bing Dwen Dwen, the stuffed panda mascot that all medalists receive, and no medals.
Earlier Thursday, U.S. superstar Mikaela Shiffrin skied out for the third time in five races, guaranteeing that she will leave Beijing without any individual medals. She was fifth after the first leg of the Alpine combined, the downhill, but then missed a gate just seconds into the slalom run and landed on her hip.
Valieva, 15, 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.
Her free skate was expected to be even more impressive, with three attempts at the four-revolution jumps. She picked “Bolero” as her music and a blazing red and black dress.
Valieva tested positive for a banned heart medication at the Russian championships in December. But 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.
“There will be an asterisk against the results, because they will be preliminary obviously pending the investigation,” IOC spokesman Mark Adams said. “Would we prefer not to have all this going on? Absolutely.”
IOC President Thomas Bach was expected to skip 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.
Mikaela Shiffrin arrived in the mountains above Beijing heavily favored to add to her career haul of two gold medals and one silver. After entering all the individual events, she was a startling 0 for 5 with three DNFs — Did Not Finish. Among the races she skied out of were her two best events, the giant slalom and the slalom. The two times she made it all the way down the course, she finished ninth in the super-G and 18th in the downhill.
She had a promising run in the downhill leg of the combined, but then she missed a gate and fell just seconds into the slalom run.
Shiffrin sat for a few moments in the snow alongside the course. When she eventually got up, she shook her head, then looked up at the hill.
“I’m certainly questioning a lot,” Shiffrin said. “I’m really disappointed. And I’m really frustrated.”
Shiffrin has said she plans to appear in a sixth race on Saturday, a team event that was added to the Olympics four years ago.
Michelle Gisin defended her gold medal, making Switzerland the first country to win five Alpine golds at one Olympics.
CANADA REGAINS HOCKEY GOLD
With “Captain Clutch” Marie-Philip Poulin scoring twice, Canada regained its place atop the women’s hockey world by beating the rival United States 3-2 in the gold-medal game.
Poulin scored her third Olympic gold-medal clinching goal. She won golds in her first two Olympics, at Vancouver and Sochi, before Canada lost to the United States at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games.
“I just got shivers,” she said.
The Americans settled for their fourth silver medal, with all losses coming against Canada.
Miho Takagi of Japan won the women’s 1,000 meters for her fourth speedskating medal of the Beijing Games and the first individual gold of her career. Jutta Leerdam of the Netherlands won the silver while Brittany Bowe of the United States claimed the bronze for her first individual career medal.
World champion Sandra Naeslund of Sweden ended Canada’s reign in the women’s skicross when she held off Marielle Thompson. Third-place finisher Fanny Smith of Switzerland was moved to last place and Daniela Maier of Germany was awarded the bronze after a review showed that Smith impeded Maier.
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