Olympics chief Thomas Bach has criticised Kamila Valieva’s adult entourage after the young Russian skater crumbled under pressure during her event.
The 15-year-old had been leading the women’s figure skating event after the short programme but she stumbled during her free skate on Thursday night, falling to fourth place.
She left the ice hiding tears behind her hands before sobbing in the “kiss and cry” area as her coach Eteri Tutberidze badgered her with: “Why did you let it go? Why did you stop fighting completely? Somewhere after the axel, you let it go.”
Speaking afterwards, Mr Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee, said: “When I afterwards saw how she was received by her closest entourage, with such, what appeared to be a tremendous coldness, it was chilling to see this.
“Rather than giving her comfort, rather than to try to help her, you could feel this chilling atmosphere, this distance.
“And if you were interpreting the body language of them, it got even worse because this was even some kind of dismissive gestures.
“All of this does not give me much confidence in Kamila’s closest entourage.”
Mr Bach said that the pressure on the teenager “is beyond my imagination”, adding: “To see her there struggling on the ice, seeing her how she tried to compose herself again, how then she tries to finish her program and you could in every movement, in the body language, you could feel that this is immense mental stress and that, maybe, she would have preferred just to leave the ice and try to leave this story behind her.”
Valieva has dominated sports headlines in recent days after she failed a doping test at her national championships in December – the result was revealed on 8 February after she had helped her team win their event.
The Russian Anti-Doping Agency lifted a provisional ban on her and the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) on Monday rejected an appeal by the IOC, the International Skating Union (ISU) and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) to reinstate the suspension, allowing her to compete on Tuesday and Thursday.