Russian Olympic boss backs Valieva coach
Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) president Stanislav Pozdnyakov has offered his support to figure skating coach Eteri Tutberidze, after she received criticism from IOC chief Thomas Bach in the wake of the drama surrounding Kamila Valieva in Beijing.
At a Friday press conference, Bach accused Tutberidze of creating a "chilling atmosphere" after the 15-year-old Valieva finished fourth in the women's individual event, falling several times as the pressure from her doping case appeared to take its toll.
But ROC president Pozdnyakov has joined the defense of Tutberidze as the Beijing Games came to a close on Sunday.
“It is difficult to imagine how much effort it takes Eteri Georgievna from year to year to cultivate such unique talents, to find strength, energy and motivation for outstanding work at such a high level with athletes of different character and style. It is worth a lot,” said Pozdnyakov in a message summing up the ROC team’s figure skating achievements.
“And I fully share those words of support that have been said in recent days by our skating community.”
Tutberidze has come under increased scrutiny after it was reported that gold medal favorite Valieva had tested positive for the banned heart medicine trimetazidine in a sample taken in December, but which was only confirmed after the teenager had helped the ROC to gold in the team event in Beijing.
The Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) and World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) have both said they will investigate Valieva’s entourage as part of the case.
Russian figure skating officials and Tutberidze have said they are convinced of Valieva’s innocence in the case, and have received widespread support in Russia.
The 47-year-old coach also trained Russian skaters Anna Shcherbakova and Alexandra Trusova, who won gold and silver respectively in the women’s individual event in Beijing.
“Anna Shcherbakova was amazing! A brilliant performance, a confident champion. And, of course, just out of this world from Sasha Trusova. It is a pity that two gold medals cannot be awarded. She, of course, had a unique, fiery ride. 5 quads is forever in history," added Pozdnyakov, who also drew attention to other ROC figure skating success in Beijing.
“Let’s get back to the emotions. They were very strong. In the team tournament, they performed brilliantly, were head and shoulders above all...
“We have great duets in the pairs skating and ice dancing. Very artistic and technically great. I am glad that three pairs won medals in individual tournaments in Beijing at once.”
The comments come after IOC boss Bach claimed Tutberidze had treated Valieva "coldly" after her Olympic disappointment. The coach had reportedly asked Valieva why she had faded so badly after falling, although Tutberidze was seen consoling the young skater as they waited for the scores to arrive.
"When I afterwards saw how she was received by her closest entourage with what appeared to be a tremendous coldness, it was chilling to see this," Bach claimed.
Since those comments, Tutberidze has also seen Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov come close to gold for a "beautiful" showing in the pairs event where they bagged silver.
Tutberidze herself responded to Bach’s comments in a reply to an Instagram post in her support.
“I’m very grateful for the words of support,” said Tutberidze after a message from fellow Russian trainer Alexander Zhulin.
“At this moment, I find myself at a loss over the assessment of our work by the esteemed Mr. Bach.”