Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva made a successful return to competition following her dramatic fall from grace at the Winter Olympics by taking first place in the Russian-only Channel One Cup in Saransk.
The 15-year-old had slipped out of contention for a medal in Beijing in the women’s singles event, having been cleared to compete despite confirmation of a positive test for a banned heart medication following on from the Russian Olympic Committee having won the team event.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport had upheld the Russian Anti-Doping Agency’s decision to lift her automatic suspension, effectively on the grounds of welfare concerns due to her age.
Valieva – whose team have blamed accidental contamination from her grandfather’s heart medication – fell multiple times during her free skate at the Capital Indoor Arena.
The teenager surrendered the first place she held after a near-flawless short programme, and eventually finished fourth.
Following her disappointment under the media spotlight in Beijing, Valieva returned to Russia, where she continued to train with controversial coach Eteri Tutberidze.
The 15-year-old was given a standing ovation by the home crowd in Saransk on Saturday at the event which was contrived to clash with the World Championships in Montpellier – from which all Russian skaters are banned due to sanctions imposed following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Competing in the women’s singles short programme, Valieva’s clean routine included a two-turn jump as well as a triple flip and a triple Lutz-triple toe loop, scoring 83.63 points.
Olympic champion Anna Shcherbakova took second place with a score of 82.90 points, with Evgenia Tarasova, who won pairs silver in China, third on 81.63 points.
Reports have intimated that the RUSADA intends to use all of its allotted six-month timeframe from the date of the notification of Valieva’s alleged offence to reach a decision over a prospective sanction – meaning the ruling will be delayed until August at the earliest.
In Montpellier, French Olympic champions Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron broke their own record ice dance score to claim a fifth world title, which is just one off the most for a couple.