The Untold Truth Of Russian Figure Skater Kamila Valieva

Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva was already one of the main topics of conversation regarding the 2022 Winter Olympics before she won the gold with a record-setting performance on February 7, 2022. As reported by NBC News, Valieva, 15, already held several world records upon making her Olympic debut at the Capital Indoor Stadium in Beijing, China. She proceeded to add to her long list of accomplishments by becoming the first woman to land a quadruple jump during Olympic competition. 

Incredibly, Valieva landed not one quad during her free skate event, but two — a quad salchow as well as a quad toe that included an already challenging triple-toe combination. She fell during her third quad jump attempt, but her first-place scores on both the short and long programs helped propel the Russian Olympic Committee team to their gold-medal finish, with the United States taking the silver and Japan taking the bronze. 

Valieva started with gymnastics and ballet

Kamila Valieva was born April 26, 2006 in Kazan, Russia. Per International Figure Skating Magazine, she began by studying gymnastics and ballet as a very small child but found gymnastics painful and ballet boring. At the age of 6, Valieva and her mother, an accountant, moved to the city of Moscow where she began studying figure skating at the Sports School of the Olympic Reserve, commonly known as "Moskvich." 

In 2018, she switched to studying under Eteri Tutberidze, who has coached several winners of the World Junior Figure Skating Championships; Valieva told interviewers "It was my mom's and my idea. We decided if Eteri would take us, fine. If not, it is time to stop. Or to think about what to do." Valieva received worldwide attention for her short program; titled "Girl on the Ball," it was inspired by Pablo Picasso's painting of the same name and Valieva wore a costume inspired by the clothes worn by the painting's subject. Valieva won the 2019 Junior Russian Championship, beating her teammate Sofia Akateva by over 11 points.

She started setting records as soon as she started competing

Kamila Valieva made her international skating debut in 2019 at the International Skating Union's Junior Grand Prix competition in Courchevel, France. She placed first after coming in third with her "Girl on the Ball" short program and first in the free skate; she also became just the second female figure skater to ever land a quad toe loop in competition. 

As reported by International Figure Skating Magazine, one month later she attempted to include two quad toe loops in her routine at a Junior Grand Prix event in Chelyabinsk, Russia; she landed one. A foot injury kept her off the ice for several weeks, but she managed to come back to train for the Junior Grand Prix final to be held in Italy in December 2019. Valieva later remembered "The short program was the hardest because it was my first time to compete after a month. When I went back to training, the coaches said, 'Let's recover, and if everything goes well and you get the jumps back quickly, then we'll go to the Final.'"

To quad loop or not to quad loop...

Per International Figure Skating Magazine, Valieva couldn't get her famous quadruple toe loop back for the Junior Grand Prix final, but she won it anyway, thanks to her clean skate in the long-form program. This win was followed by additional victories in the Russian Junior nationals and the World Junior Champion nationals in March 2020, at which she earned two world-record scores. Her coach Daniil Gleikhengauz noted that Valieva had to come back from an error in her first quad toe combination: "That made us all nervous because then the athlete herself had to make the decision: whether she changed the program and goes for other jumps or takes a risk and does the second quad toe ... It was a risk that Kamila went for and she pulled herself together to do a quad toe combination, which allowed her to set a new World Junior record." 

After the Junior Grand Prix, Valieva's Russian fan club presented her with a Pomeranian puppy named Liova. The club reportedly wrote to Valieva's mother and asked her to suggest a gift. "He is funny. Always running around, constantly. When I leave he is whining and when I come back he is happy," said Valieva of her pet. "Maybe I'll take him with me to competitions in the future."

Shy Valieva puts up with all the attention

Kamila Valieva is notoriously shy and discussed her discomfort with attention with International Figure Skating Magazine in 2020: "I don't like that very much, but I know that it is there and I try to prepare for it." She also explained the extreme focus and self-possession necessary when competing at such high levels, noting "I enjoy competitions and to skate in front of people who are supporting me for each jump and each spin. That is nice. However, when you are skating your program, you are trying to stay more within yourself and sometimes you don't even hear the applause — you don't hear anything." 

In December 2020, Valieva made her senior Russian Championships debut where she was narrowly edged out of first place by defending champion Anna Shcherbakova. Valieva seemed relatively undaunted, telling reporters "I am very happy to have come to Chelyabinsk, because I competed here last year at the Junior Grand Prix. I go out on the ice and remember last year and I feel at home. Not everything worked out in the program. I lacked confidence going into the Axel," per Golden Skate. She went on to win the Finlandia Trophy 2021 at her international senior debut; she landed three quad jumps and set a record for 174.31 points earned for her free skate in addition to setting a new world record (249.24) for total points, as reported by the International Olympic Committee.

Add an Olympic gold medal to her list of achievements and records

In January 2022, Kamila Valieva secured her place on the ROC team by not only placing first at the European Figure Skating Championships in Tallinn, Estonia but setting yet another world record when she broke the 90-point barrier on her short program, per the International Olympic Committee. She landed a triple Axel for her first jumping element, receiving a high grade of execution score of 3.54 out of 5, followed by an impressive triple flip and a triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination, and performed exceedingly well on her spins and additional choreography. "I really feel at home here and when I went out on the ice, I remembered the junior world championships two years ago and it was like I never left, everything was so harmonious so maybe it helped me," said Valieva of her performance reminding everyone that she had won the Junior championship in the same arena in 2020. 

The training undertaken by Valieva and her Russian teammates that make them able to land quad jumps that are unthinkable to many talented athletes remains slightly mysterious. When Team USA skater Karen Chen told reporters "I'm not capable of doing what they are doing," regarding the Russian skaters, Valieva's response, per the New York Post, was simple: "I don't know how they train elsewhere. But the training we receive is enough to perform these difficult elements." When asked by another reporter if she was indeed unbeatable, Valieva silently shrugged and refused to answer.