On a day the U.S. struggled, Russia’s 15-year-old figure skater Kamila Valieva soared. (Watch the videos below.)
The prodigy on Sunday became just the fourth woman to land a triple axel at the Winter Olympics, notching the top short-program score to lead the Russian team into first place in Beijing. The U.S. dropped to second place after a fall by Karen Chen in the short program and a faltering performance by Vincent Zhou in the free skate. A gold for the Americans appears highly unlikely heading into the third and final day of the team competition.
It was Valieva (spelled Valiyeva by some outlets) who commanded the competition.
She earned a 90.18 score. Her best is 90.45, a world record. She also holds the record in the free skate and total score, Reuters noted.
“All the best qualities of a figure skater come together in this fragile girl,” Russian ice dancer Nikita Katsalapov told the news agency. “She motivates the whole team. … It’s just a pleasure to watch her performances. She improves from one competition to the next.”
The teenager was asked if anybody could beat her, and she shrugged while declining to answer.
This time around, she let her skating do the talking.