2022 Olympic Ice

The 2022 Winter Olympics packed in the heat both on and off the ice, with history being made on the rink and a drugging scandal shocking the news. Olympic figure skating consists of five main events: ice dance, men’s singles, women’s singles, pairs skating, and the team event. 

After the U.S. Figure Skating National Championships in January, Team USA showed extreme promise with ice dance duos Madison Chock and Evan Bates, along with Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, and three-time world champion Nathan Chen gunning for the gold in the men’s singles category. Historically, Team USA has been one of the most successful countries in the figure skating category, falling just behind Russia for the number of most Olympic medals won for figure skating since the Olympic winter games began in 1924.

The Russian Olympic Committee was at the forefront of much controversy this year, as 15-year-old figure skater Kamila Valieva tested positive for use of the banned substance trimetazidine, a drug typically used to treat patients with heart issues, however, it is a performance-enhancing drug that increases one’s stamina. As Valieva is only fifteen, she cannot be held accountable for use of the substance, instead, her coach and legal guardians must take responsibility. Valieva, along with her teammates Anna Scherbakova and Alexandra Trusova, are coached by Eteri Tutberidza who is notoriously brutal in her training methods and renowned for sending several young skaters into early retirement. It is because of the doping scandal and Tutberidze’s ruthless training that none of the young Russian skaters (Valieva, Scherbakova, and Trusova) are expected to make an appearance at the 2026 Winter Olympics in Italy, despite the fact that the girls are all between the ages of 15-17. 

Valieva’s case went to The Court of Arbitration for Sport and was cleared to perform in the women’s singles free dance program, after leading with 82.16 points following the women’s short program, and pushing ROC into first place for the team event. In an official statement, the president of the Olympic Committee stated that the Committee was worried about the damage that would be done to Valieva’s mental health if she wasn’t able to perform. 

The Committee’s decision sparked a public backlash, notably from Sha’Carri Richardson, who tested positive for use of Marijuana after placing first in the U.S. women’s 100-meter final trial for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. Richardson was then suspended for a month and unable to compete in the women’s 100-meter event. Richardson claims she used the drug to help deal with the loss of her mother, not to enhance her athletic performance. When the news of Valieva being allowed to compete despite her positive drug test broke, Richardson took to social media to call out the Olympic Committee for racial prejudice and claim that the situation would be completely different if Valieva were a black woman.

While she was still able to compete in the free skate program after her positive drug test, a medal ceremony was not held for the team event, as Valieva helped The Russian Olympic Committee win the gold medal. This was disappointing news for the United States, as team USA managed to snag the silver medal after Madison Chock and Evan Bates’s free dance performance. However, Valieva failed to make it to the podium after a disastrous free skate program, in which she stumbled several times and fell on the ice 2 times, earning her two whole point deductions. In the end, Valieva came in fourth, however her teammates Anna Shchervakova and Alexandra Trusova managed to win the gold and silver medals respectively, leaving the bronze to Kaori Sakamoto from Japan.

 This placing upset Trusova, as she had a groundbreaking routine in which she became the first woman to ever land five quadruple jumps in one program, and while she had an astounding technical score, her routine lacked in the component score, an area in which Shcherbakova excelled in. Trusova was allegedly promised the gold medal by her coach, Tutberidze, and upon hearing of her silver medal placing, Trusova broke down and began to curse the Olympics and the sport of ice skating. As Valieva was also having a breakdown after her free skate program and after hearing she failed to make the podium, the ROC Olympic entourage left gold medalist Shcherbakova looking desolate and alone. 

However, the drama involving the women’s single skaters from the ROC did not take the spotlight off team USA’s skaters, with Nathan Chen beating Japan’s Yuma Kagiyama by a whopping 22.55 points for the gold medal spot. Chen racked up a record-breaking 113.97 in the short program, the highest score ever recorded in the program. Chen is known as the “Quad King,” as Chen became the first skater to ever perform six quad jumps in one performance at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics. True to form, Chen performed five quadruple jumps in his free skate program, skating to a medley of Elton John tunes including “Goodbye Yellowbrick Road,” “Bennie and the Jets,” and “Rocket Man,” all while racking up an impressive 332.60 points. Making Chen the first member of Team USA to earn a medal in the men’s singles skating category in twelve years. 

The ice dance category sealed Ice Academy of Montreal (I.AM) as the favorite training center for Olympic prodigies, as eleven of the twenty-three teams competing in the event trained at I.AM. Including American pairs, Madison Chock and Evan Bates, as well as Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, with the latter taking home the bronze medal at what will be the pairs’ final Olympic performance as the duo is retiring. While the French duo, Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron, were favorited for the gold from the beginning, and the ROC pair, Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov, expected to earn the silver, the fight for the bronze medal was between Team USA’s very own Chock and Bates and Hubbell and Donohue. 

Reigning U.S. champions Chock and Bates kicked things off skating to Billie Eilish for the rhythm dance program, earning 84.14 points, putting them in fourth place. However, it was the pairs’ dazzling free dance program that truly stole the spotlight, the duo skated to Daft Punk in an out-of-this-world routine, and earned 130.63 points with zero deductions, making for a total score of 214.77 points. From the start, it was a close race for the bronze medal between Chock and Bates, and Hubbell and Donohue. In the end, Chock and Bates fell just 3.25 points behind Hubbell and Donahue, barely missing the podium. However, this was still an astounding feat for Chock and Bates as this was the duo’s highest placement since they first made their Olympic debut at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, where they placed eighth, and certainly an improvement from 9th place which they earned at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic games. Chock and Bates have stated that this is not the end to their Olympic career, as they plan to make an appearance at the 2026 Winter Olympic, where they will once again be aiming for the podium. 

However, this is the end to Hubbell and Donohue’s Olympic career as the pair has announced that the 2022 Winter Olympics will be their last. Which made for an emotional performance during the pairs’ free dance, as it was their final time skating on Olympic Ice. The pair managed to go out with a bang, with their stunning performance earning them the bronze medal, which was the pairs’ first Olympic medal, the duo also assisted Team USA in winning silver in the team event.

The pair skating event proved to be the least momentous, specifically for Team USA, who failed to make the podium, with their highest placing being 6th with Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier. China’s Sui Wenjing and Han Cong managed to take home the gold medal, while the ROC took home silver and bronze medals with Vladimir Morozov and Evgeniya Tarasova, and Anastasia Mishina and Aleksandr Galiamov respectively.

Team USA came home with three medals in figure skating; Nathen Chen’s gold in the men’s singles, the silver medal won in the team event, and Maddison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue’s bronze in the ice dance. These medals contributed to the 24 medals won overall at the Olympic games, making this year the most successful year for Team USA since 2006. Team USA has already begun preparing for the 2026 Milano Cortina Winter Olympics, aiming to put the U.S. on the podium in all five-figure skating categories.