Headlines during the 2022 Winter Olympics were overtaken by an issue that occurred off the ice: Kamila Valieva’s positive drug test from Dec. 25 that came to light on Feb. 8 after she had competed in the team event.
Figure skating was then marred by debate surrounding whether Valieva should compete in the women’s singles event, and the matter of awarding the team event medals, but there was still plenty to celebrate on the ice.
The gold medals for each of the four disciplines went to skaters from four different nations, though the figure skating medal table was dominated by the Russian Olympic Committee.
As results stand now, the ROC earned six medals – two more than any other nation – and, when including the team event, is the only one with two wins. Eteri Tutberidze, coach of Moscow's Sambo 70 club, has students responsible for four of those.
No country has claimed that many figure skating medals at a single Games since Great Britain had great success at its poorly attended London 1908 Games.
ROC secured medals in four of five events, while Japan's four medals and the United States' three each spanned three events. Led by Nathan Chen's gold medal, the U.S. earned its most figure skating medals in 20 years.
Team Event Sees Records, Has A New Medalist
The figure skating team event joined the Olympic program in 2014 and at both the Sochi 2014 and PyeongChang 2018 Games, it was Canada, Russia (or Olympic Athletes from Russia) and the U.S. on the medal stand. That changed this time around as Japan made its debut on an Olympic team event podium. The ROC won with 74 total points, followed by the U.S. with 65 and Japan close behind at 63. Defending champion Canada was fourth this time with 53 points and China fifth at 50. Georgia, Italy, Czech Republic, Germany and Ukraine did not advance to the free skate/dance portion. Among the history made, China's Sui Wenjing and Han Cong set a new world record pairs short program score of 82.83 points and ROC's Kamila Valieva became the first woman to land a quadruple jump at the Olympics -- and within the same program was first to land two. Also of note, the American ice dance teams of Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue (rhythm dance) and Madison Chock and Evan Bates (free dance) both outscored Russian reigning world champions Viktoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov. The winners of each segment were Nathan Chen (men's short program), Hubbell/Donohue (rhythm dance), Sui/Han (pairs short program), Valieva (women's short program), Japan's Yuma Kagiyama (men's free skate), ROC's Anastasia Mishina/Aleksandr Galliamov (pairs free skate), Chock/Bates (free dance) and Valieva (women's free skate).
1. Russian Olympic Committee (Valieva, Mark Kondratyuk, Mishina/Galliamov, Sinitsina/Katsalapov), 74
2. United States (Karen Chen, Nathan Chen, Vincent Zhou, Alexa Knierim/Brandon Frazier, Chock/Bates, Hubbell/Donohue), 65
3. Japan (Wakaba Higuchi, Kaori Sakamoto, Kagiyama, Shoma Uno, Riku Miura/Ryuichi Kihara, Misato Komatsubara/Tim Koleto), 63
*due to Valieva's ongoing case, medals were not awarded for the team event during the Games
Nathan Chen The Clear Men's Champion
In what was expected to be an intense battle between three-time reigning world champion Nathan Chen and two-time defending Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu, Hanyu instead finished nearly 50 points back of Chen in fourth. It was his Japanese teammates who gave Chen his toughest competition. Still, they were no match, and Chen won with his "La Boheme" and Elton John/"Rocketman" medley programs, setting a short program world record score of 113.97, raising the mark by over two points. No longer haunted by the demons of his 17th-place short program from four years prior, Chen had learned to enjoy the Olympic experience and not worry as much. It paid off with the first gold medal by a U.S. singles skater in 12 years. Along with his 2018 team bronze and (likely) 2022 team silver, Chen joins retired ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White as the most decorated U.S. Olympic figure skaters. Eighteen-year-old Yuma Kagiyama took silver, and bronze went to Shoma Uno -- the 2018 Olympic silver medalist.
🥇 Nathan Chen (USA), 332.60
🥈 Yuma Kagiyama (JPN), 310.05
🥉 Shoma Uno (JPN), 293.00
France Dances To Gold
For the past four years, it was a forgone conclusion that the French ice dance team of Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron would win the Olympic title. That became less clear when the pandemic caused Papadakis and Cizeron to go a year and a half without competing and three years between their last world championships and the Olympics. None of that showed when they took to the ice and set world record marks in both the rhythm dance (90.83 points) and total score (226.98). Papadakis and Cizeron's victory was France's first figure skating gold in 20 years. The 2021 world champions and only team to defeat Papadakis/Cizeron in the last four years, ROC's Viktoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov were the silver medalists, while Americans Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue earned bronze after finishing fourth at the PyeongChang 2018 Games. Their U.S. teammates and Montreal training mates, Madison Chock and Evan Bates, were fourth.
🥇 Gabriella Papadakis/Guillaume Cizeron (FRA), 226.98
🥈 Viktoria Sinitsina/Nikita Katsalapov (ROC), 220.51
🥉 Madison Hubbell/Zachary Donohue (USA), 218.02
ROC Unleashes The Quads In Women's Singles
Kamila Valieva was favored to win the gold before the Games and again after her historic performances in the team event. The 15-year-old even excelled in the women's singles short program and held a lead of almost two points. That all changed in the free skate when the pressure and stress of having been scrutinized all week across social media, television and more seemed to finally impact Valieva's performance. She fell physically multiple times, cleanly landing none of her three attempted quad jumps, and then fell in the standings to fourth. Instead, it was 17-year-old training mates Anna Shcherbakova and Aleksandra Trusova who represented the ROC's quad squad, all three coached by Eteri Tutberidze. World champion Shcherbakova added Olympic gold to her resume with two quads in her free skate, while world bronze medalist Trusova performed five en route to the silver. With no quads or triple axels to show, Japan's Kaori Sakamoto still took the bronze with clean, classic skating. This is the third Games in a row where Russia (or OAR/ROC) won figure skating gold.
🥇 Anna Shcherbakova (ROC), 255.95
🥈 Aleksandra Trusova (ROC), 251.73
🥉 Kaori Sakamoto (JPN), 233.13
Sui/Han Make China Proud
The fifth and final figure skating competition, pairs was the most dramatic. Both the short program and free skate were master classes in the discipline, and the storylines did not disappoint. Two-time world champions and Beijing-based Sui Wenjing and Han Cong were going for a home gold after missing out on the gold four years ago by less than a half point. On the other hand, ROC's Anastasia Mishina and Aleksandr Galliamov, who beat Sui/Han for the world title last year, and Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov, who were fourth at both the 2018 Games and 2021 World Championships, were gunning for the same top spot. Sui and Han broke their own world record in the short program with a score of 84.41, but led Tarasova and Morozov by a negligible 0.16 points. Both teams brought their best again in the free skate but Sui and Han won gold -- China's second ever in the sport -- to a grateful audience, widening its margin of victory to an unbelievable 0.63 points and setting a new world record in the total.
🥇 Sui Wenjing/Han Cong (CHN), 239.88
🥈 Yevgenia Tarasova/Vladimir Morozov (ROC), 239.25
🥉 Anastasia Mishina/Aleksandr Galliamov (ROC), 237.71