Russias Figure Skating Ban Will Reverberate For Years To Come | FiveThirtyEight

    One peculiarity of the figure skating competition calendar is that during an Olympic year, the world championships are held approximately one month after the games. this world championship often has the feel of an afterthought, coming on the heels of a mega world sporting event that takes place once every four years.

    The biggest names in figure skating tend to get left out. Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, the Chinese duo who won the pairs gold medal in 2022, are not scheduled to compete. Yuzuru Hanyu, the 2014 and 2018 Olympic champion from Japan who placed fourth in Beijing, will also miss the world championships due to a sprained ankle she sustained during practice in China. and Wednesday, 2022 men’s Olympic gold medalist Nathan Chen of the United States. he announced that he would withdraw from the event due to a “lingering injury”.

    Reading: Russian women’s figure skating

    but with the russian invasion of ukraine and the subsequent exclusion of russian athletes2 by most international sports federations at the behest of the international olympic committee, the most notable absences in montpellier will be russian figure skaters, making the course in france looks very different from the one he just competed in beijing. not only will sui, han, peng cheng and chin yang, the Olympic couples who finished in first and fifth place respectively, not compete, but neither will the Russian couples who finished in second, third and fourth place. With the top five finishers in Beijing out, the American pair of Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier, who placed sixth in Beijing, will enter the world championships as the top-ranked team.3 The ice dance field will lose to the Olympic medalists from silver and 6th – and 14th place finishers. the men’s field will be the least affected by the ban, as only the 8th, 15th and 19th place finishers at the olympics were from russia.

    But Russia’s absence will be felt more deeply in the women’s competition. Gone were defending World and Olympic champion Anna Shcherbakova, Beijing silver medalist (and defending World bronze medalist) Alexandra Trusova and fourth-place Olympic finalist Kamila Valieva, who entered the Olympics as the heavy favorite to win the medal. women’s gold before a positive doping test result in December derailed their competition. That set into motion one of the most devastating spectacles ever seen in the women’s event at the Olympics: 15-year-old Valieva sobbing after her failed long program and berating her coach, Eteri Tutberidze, who had been accused of use abusive training. tactic; Trusova, also sobbing, yelling angrily that she would not get on the podium; and Shcherbakova, the winner, sitting alone, practically catatonic, with an expression that seemed more “someone just died” than “I just won the Olympics”. Although Shcherbakova seemed happier with her victory a little later, it will be hard to forget the image of her sitting alone on the couch, hugging a teddy bear, looking utterly desolate at the moment of her greatest athletic triumph. It’s unlikely we’ll see the Olympics replay these incidents ad nauseam on the featured reels.

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    The absence of the Russians at these world championships could have an impact not only on this particular competition, but also on the next four years of figure skating. Although this event was historically a secondary event, the results will determine the number of slots allocated for the next World Championships and invitations for the next Grand Prix season. if Russian athletes are allowed to compete next year in international events, they will be limited to one participant per skating discipline, versus three in each of the four skating events. They will have to climb their way back to fill out the rosters by the time the Olympics come around. if Russian athletes are banned for more than this season, the challenge of showing up at the 2026 winter games with the maximum number of participants will be that much more difficult. and in the coming years, skaters from other countries will enjoy greater competitive opportunities and exposure.

    The impact of the ban extends beyond athlete assignments at major events. in june, the international skating union will host its congress,4 which will hear a proposal from the norwegian federation that would raise the minimum age for senior figure skaters from 15 to 17 years. this particular measure would have met fierce resistance from the Russians. In recent years, they have become known for sending very young skaters capable of extreme athletic feats to major competitions, including the World Championships and the Olympics, where they have dominated the podium. In recent years, young Russians have brought the quad jump to women’s figure skating, a technical breakthrough for the sport, but one that is not without significant drawbacks, including serious injuries that have forced skaters into early retirement. “Our main reason is to prevent athletes from retiring after a few years at the senior level and to make it possible for more skaters to continue skating longer,” Mona Adolfsen, president of the Norwegian federation, told journalist Philip Hersh in an email. electronic.

    valieva’s positive doping test put a new spotlight on the minimum age discussion. The world anti-doping agency has special rules for athletes under the age of 16, which means that an athlete who has been found guilty of a doping offense can only go out with a warning instead of a suspension. That would make the use of skaters under the age of 16 highly advantageous for a federation like Russia, which has a history of state-sponsored doping. and without the presence of the russians or their belorussian allies at the isu congress, the measure is likely to pass without much resistance.5 furthermore, if russia cannot be present at the june congress, it cannot present candidates for the isu posts, which should include the isu presidency. in this way, the consequences of banning Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials from international competition will last much longer than the bans themselves; its impact will be felt for years to come.

    Limited opportunities for Russian skaters will potentially translate into more opportunities for skaters from other countries. For starters, the top of the women’s podium, on which Russia has had virtual dominance since 2014, except for the post-Olympic World Cups in 2018, will look completely different. beijing bronze medalist kaori sakamoto looks like the favorite to win in montpellier. Her teammate Wakaba Higuchi, who landed a triple axel in her short and long programs at the Olympics, the first to achieve this feat since Mao Asada in 2014, is also in contention for a medal. skaters like young you and loena hendrickx could also be viable podium contenders. Even the Americans have an outside shot with 16-year-old Alysa Liu, who placed seventh in Beijing with clean performances, though the judges downgraded her triple axel attempt in the long program. the last time the us the women seemed to have such a good chance to win a medal in 2016.6 moreover, places for next year’s world championships, which would probably have been taken by Russian skaters, will now be allocated to others. This means that in the coming years, skaters from countries other than Russia will enjoy more competitive opportunities and exposure.

    See also: This is redemption: Canada beat USA to womens ice hockey gold | Winter Olympics Beijing 2022 | The Guardian

    some figure skating fans, particularly Russians, will see the results of a world championship without Russian athletes as illegitimate, in the same way that gymnastics fans tend to mentally insert an asterisk when discussing the women’s results of the 1984 olympic games in los angeles. , games that the ussr and most of its allies boycotted in response to the us-led boycott of the moscow olympic games in 1980. mary lou retton is in the history books for narrowly beating ecaterina szabo of romania, a One of the few communist countries that did not join the boycott of the Los Angeles Games, but it is difficult to consider the American gymnast the best in the world at the time given the strength of the Soviet and East German teams that did not participate.

    During the summer of 1984, the Soviets and their allies who joined the boycott gave the world a glimpse of what they were missing in Los Angeles by hosting an alternative Olympics called the Friendship Games. The gymnastics events were held in Olomouc, in what was then Czechoslovakia. Soviet gymnast Olga Mostepanova scored a perfect 40 in the all-around competition, a result that, even if attributed in part to score manipulation and inflation, lends credence to the idea that Retton likely would not have won the competition overall in a full competition. Olympic Games. (mostepanova’s performances in olomouc were simply sublime). of the 65 nations that boycotted the 1980 moscow olympics, the western gymnastics teams were relatively weak, particularly on the women’s side, so the results of those games would likely be the same even if the west had participated ( although the American women probably would have won a couple of individual medals).

    Similarly, Russians now organize national figure skating competitions with their stars, including Valieva, whose participation in the world championships in Montpellier was unlikely even before the general ban on Russian and Belarusian athletes in international competitions. The Channel One Cup dates have been changed to coincide with the 2022 World Championships. But it is doubtful that these national presentations will have the same impact on gymnastics fans as the Olomouc competition.

    However, for many figure skating fans, the exclusion of Russian athletes from world competition legitimizes, rather than delegitimizes, the event. The revelation that Valieva had tested positive for a banned substance validated doping rumors that had been swirling around the Russian figure skating program for years, as many believe that she was not the only one to have used a banned substance but rather she was simply the only one who had been caught. The 2022 world championships without the Russians, then, offer an opportunity for a “repeat” of the women’s event that many feel was tainted by the Beijing doping scandal. And the prospect of a podium topped by 21-year-old sakamoto, who skated powerfully and maturely to a piece of music explicitly about femininity, would seem like a fitting course correction for the sport.

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