BEIJING (Reuters) – Russian sports officials have sent a 15-year-old female figure skater to each of the last three Winter Olympics.
The three skaters share coach Eteri Tutberidze, known for raising a generation of young skaters with phenomenal but ephemeral careers.
Here are the three 15-year-old Russian figure skaters who put on exceptional performances at the 2014 Sochi Games, the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics and the 2022 Beijing Games:
YULIA LIPNITSKAYA, SOCHI 2014
Yulia Lipnitskaya dazzled with a flawless free skate at the 2014 Sochi Olympics to help Russia clinch gold in the team event.
Skating to Schindler’s List in a bright red coat, Lipnitskaya became the immediate star of Russia’s Olympics, her performance earning a standing ovation from the home crowd.
Her career quickly unravelled after the Games. Injuries forced her to withdraw from several competitions and her skating became increasingly inconsistent.
Lipnitskaya announced her retirement in 2017 at the age of 19, citing a long struggle with anorexia.
ALINA ZAGITOVA, PYEONGCHANG 2018
Alina Zagitova edged compatriot Evgenia Medvedeva, a two-time world champion, with a stunning free skate at the Pyeongchang Olympics to give the Olympic Athletes from Russia their first gold medal of those Games.
Zagitova, who also won silver in the team event, went on to win the world championships in 2019.
She took a hiatus after the 2019 Grand Prix Final and has not returned to competitive skating since.
Now 19, Zagitova is in Beijing to cheer on athletes representing the Russian Olympic Committee.
KAMILA VALIEVA, BEIJING 2022
Kamila Valieva finds herself embroiled in scandal after testing positive at her national championships for trimetazidine, a banned angina drug, on Dec. 25. The result of her test was not revealed until Feb. 8, after she had already competed at the Beijing Games in the team event.
Valieva, the first woman to land quadruple jumps at the Olympics, finished first in the short programme of the women’s singles and is scheduled to perform her free skate on Thursday.
Valieva — who holds the world records for the short programme, the free skate and total score — was cleared to compete by sport’s highest court. She will not face a hearing for her doping charge until well after the end of the Games.
No medals will be awarded at the Beijing Games for the women’s event if Valieva finishes in the top three.
(Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)