Valieva returns to hero’s welcome in Moscow (VIDEO)
Russian figure skating sensation Kamila Valieva walked through flanks of fans who offered words of support as she returned to Moscow from the Winter Olympic Games in Beijing.
The eyes of the world have been on the 15-year-old prodigy during a campaign that began in history-making fashion as part of a team gold medal and ended in despair following a stuttering individual performance amid an anti-doping saga that is set to rumble on while she awaits a definitive verdict.
About 100 fans are said to have gathered at Sheremetyevo airport, where Valieva carried flowers on the final leg of a homecoming the European champion is likely to be relieved by.
Valieva entered the Games as favorite to win gold and started in stunning style, becoming the first woman to land a quadruple jump at the Olympics on the way to winning the team title with the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC).
Камилу Валиеву тепло встретили в аэропорту после возвращения из Пекина pic.twitter.com/BeCQXXqDEh— РИА Новости Спорт (@rsportru) February 18, 2022
A day later, it was announced that Valieva had returned a positive result for a heart drug that is on the World Anti-Doping Agency's banned list in a test taken at the Russian championships on December 25.
The Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) lifted a provisional suspension given to Valieva over the test, which took more than six weeks to be returned from a laboratory accredited by WADA in Stockholm.
The minor, her team and the ROC faced an anxious wait and a barrage of criticism before a Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) hearing ruled that she could compete in the individual competition.
The case over the non-performance enhancing heart drug is ongoing, with WADA obliged to investigate coach Eteri Tutberidze and other members of Valieva's circle.
Among other chants reported by Tass, well-wishers are said to have shouted "Kamila, we are with you" ahead of the Olympians being greeted by a military band as they made their way out.
Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva was greeted by cheering fans when she arrived at the Moscow airport.Silver medal speedskater Konstantin Ivliev says the Russian team gave its support to the 15-year-old who fell multiple times in her final skate of #Beijing2022. pic.twitter.com/BQNd8zpJLf— AP Sports (@AP_Sports) February 19, 2022
Fans reportedly held up posters while screens showed supportive messages for the athlete, who emerged with her mother and interacted with her admirers following her fourth-placed finish at the Games.
Anna Shcherbakova took the title and Alexandra Trusova, who is also coached by Tutberidze, finished second in the individual event.
Short-track skaters Semion Elistratov and Konstantin Ivliev also returned to Moscow as part of the Russian party.
“I remember, first of all for me, the result of [Alexander] Bolshunov," said Elistratov, picking out the performances of triple gold medal-winning skier Bolshunov among his highlights of the Games. "[That was] outstanding, for sure – and the performance of Kamila Valieva.
“It seems to me that in the case of Valieva there was a frank harassment from the media. She psychologically failed, but she is 15 years old."
Elistratov said he had overcome the lack of home comforts to win 1500m bronze. “Dumplings, borscht, pickle, my beloved wife, son, the whole big family that is waiting for me in Ufa,” he said when asked what he had missed.
“You always want gold but a medal... is what we deserve now. There is no rest yet: the World Cup is coming soon.
"I will come home to Ufa and then in a couple of days I will start preparing for the tournament."
Freestyle skier Ilia Burov made headlines by embracing Ukrainian rival Oleksandr Abramenko after finishing directly behind the silver medalist.
"We were very warmly welcomed," he said. "Very pleasant – everything went very well.
"I missed the food most of all. There was variety, but I wanted a Russian [menu]."