The Kremlin on Friday came to the defense of a coach who harangued 15-year-old Olympic figure skater Kamila Valieva after a humiliating competition at the Beijing Winter Olympics.
“A coach’s toughness in top sport is essential for his athletes to achieve victories,” Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, told reporters.
Valieva fell twice in the free skate on Friday, dropping from first to fourth place in the individual competition. The failed performance happened after a week when it was revealed that she had tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug.
As Valieva left the rink in tears, coach Eteri Tutberidze berated her for her mistakes: “Why did you let it happen? Why did you drop out? Why did you stop fighting? To explain!”
The dressing up of the young athlete, who was likely supplied with the banned drug by the adults around her, was seen on television around the world as it unfolded.
International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, who watched what happened on television in Beijing, said he found Tutberidze’s behavior and the reaction of others around Valieva “disturbing”.
“When I then saw how she [Valieva] was received by her closest entourage…it was chilling to see that,” Bach added.
“Rather than comforting her, rather than trying to help her, you could feel this chilling atmosphere, this distance,” he recalls. “If you interpreted their body language, it was even worse because it was even kind of a dismissive gesture.”
Bach said the pressure put on Valieva was “beyond my imagination”.
Peskov later noted in a conference call with reporters that Bach “is a very authoritative person in the sports world. Of course, we respect his opinion, but we don’t necessarily agree with him.
He “doesn’t like the toughness of our coaches, but everyone knows that a coach’s toughness in top sport is essential for his athletes to achieve victories,” Peskov said.
Valieva’s situation sparks a debate at the Olympics over a minimum age so nations don’t burn – and abuse – young athletes and then move on to the next teenager.
The Huffington Gt