In the aftermath of the soap opera that was the women’s figure skating competition at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, a few things became crystal clear.
Las Vegas Raiders owner, Mark Davis, just hired New England Patriots long time offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels as the Raiders’ new head coach. But if he ever wants someone in the bullpen, might I suggest Russian women’s skating coach, Ms. Eteri Tutberidze? She might not know Xs and Os, and jet sweeps, but just like Mark’s dad and Raiders’ icon, Al Davis, with Ms. Tutberidze, it’s “Just win, baby.”
Following 15-year-old Kamila Valieva’s uncharacteristic, but wholly understandable, error-littered long program, which dropped her from first after the short program to fourth place overall, rather than consoling her young charge, Coach Tutberidze lit into the kid as she came off the ice.
“Why did you stop fighting?” she was reported to have said.
You think Bill Belichick is hard? Find your comfort somewhere else, sweetheart. Suck it up. We’ve got medals to win here!
You learn a lot about people in stressful situations. You also learn a lot about the systems that help create them, as well.
All you had to do was look at the three Russian skaters’ reactions after Valieva reverted from icy icon to fragile 15-year-old, then compare them with the two American women who skated in the second last group.
The Russian teenagers finished gold, silver, and fourth after being expected to sweep the podium. The Americans, Alysa Liu and Mariah Bell, took seventh and tenth.
Gold medalist Anna Shcherbakova, already the reigning 2021 World Champion, stood backstage wearing a deer-in-the-headlights look, not sure what to do. Probably thinking, “this wasn’t how it was supposed to go. I wasn’t supposed to win. Somebody’s not going to be happy.” No smiles. No tears. Just blank. I mean, she must have been wondering what she had in her system, too, after Valieva was popped.
17-year-old quad queen, Alexandra Trusova, the silver medalist, was also backstage pacing like a prima donna engaged in a meltdown worthy of a Susan Lucci portrayal on the LIfetime network.
All the while, 15-year-old Valieva was understandably distraught in the Kiss and Cry zone after failing to deliver under the weight of her recently announced positive doping test from two months prior and the subsequent CAS ruling that allowed her to perform in the Olympic competition just the same.
At first, we thought Sasha Trusova was upset for her young teammate who had been the gold medal favorite. But later, after people translated, we discovered no; she wasn’t thinking of the kid at all! She was seriously pissed the judges did not award her the gold medal!
“I will never go on the ice again in my life! I hate this sport, I hate it! Everyone else has a gold medal but not me,” she was overheard to say, while threatening not to take the ice for the medal ceremony.
She thought the five quad jumps she attempted in the long program should’ve been enough to earn her the gold. But though she won the free skate over Shberkova, she had only placed fourth in the short program two days earlier. Her long program, though tops in that round, didn’t score enough to make up the gap.
17-year-old Shchberkova’s overall excellence in artistic presentation and athletic ability in both the short and long programs, finishing a close second in both, was enough to take her the top step of the Olympic podium instead.
All three teens were not only Olympic teammates, they were all coached by Ms. Tutberidze, and trained together. Yet there didn’t seem to be any solidarity among them at all. Each was in her own world, and not particularly happy at that. Must be a fun camp.
Yet the American champion, Mariah Bell – who had a clean free skate but without enough technical difficulty to challenge for a medal, finishing tenth – came up and warmly hugged her young teammate, Alysa Liu, right after Liu’s scores were announced placing her ahead of Bell in eventual seventh position.
The three values of Olympism are excellence, friendship, and respect. They constitute the foundation on which the Olympic Movement builds its activities to promote sport, culture, and education with a view to building a better world.
Hey, Coach Tutberidze, how’s that Olympic ideal working out for you guys so far?
BTW, here’s the Raiders’ contact info, in case you’re interested in future simpatico employment in a place that is also not always what it seems on the surface.