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Saturday sports: Standouts and scandals at the Winter Olympics


And now it's time for sports.


SIMON: Winter Olympics come to a close with another doping scandal and questions about the treatment of young athletes. We're joined now from Beijing by NPR's Tom Goldman. Tom, thanks so much for being with us.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Scott.

SIMON: And we have some breaking news - a decision, right?

GOLDMAN: Well, yes. If you remember this whole saga with Kamila Valieva, the 15-year-old Russian figure skater - she helped Russia win the gold medal in the team competition, and it was after that that her positive test for a banned drug was revealed. Now, the International Olympic Committee then said it would delay awarding medals until the Valieva case was resolved, possibly months away.

Tonight, the U.S. figure skaters who won silver in that competition went to a sports tribunal here in Beijing to ask that the IOC hold the medal ceremony and award medals here and now before tomorrow's closing ceremony. Now, the panel held a hearing for two and a half hours and then rejected the request. So it looks like a medal ceremony will happen perhaps months from now, which is a real disappointment since the athletes really value being recognized at the Games when they do well and not later when it's like an afterthought.

SIMON: Yeah. While we're speaking of ice skating, which obviously held a lot of attention this week...


SIMON: ...We shouldn't forget, of course, the allegation of doping against Kamila Valieva, although questions about those surrounding her will be raised. But also, it - I don't know a nice way to say it. It was painful to see the way she was treated by Russian coaches when she came off the ice after falling all those times.

GOLDMAN: It sure was. You know, she was under so much pressure and negativity surrounding this whole scandal, and as you say, she crumbled on the ice. And then, as the International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach noted publicly, how disturbing it was, like you said. He used the word chilling to see her coaches berating her and not offering her comfort after her performance. Now, Russia answered back. The Kremlin spokesman said about Thomas Bach, quote, "he doesn't like the harshness of our coaches, but everybody knows that the harshness of a coach in high-level sports is key for their athletes to achieve victories." And, Scott, I'm assuming there are coaches elsewhere in the world just as dedicated to winning who would strongly disagree with that.

SIMON: And it must be noted some of those coaches might come under scrutiny themselves as the investigation into doping goes ahead, right?

GOLDMAN: Yeah. Yeah, you're right. Resolution, you know, may be months away. We will have - they will have a hearing to determine if Valieva actually is guilty of a doping violation - as you say, an inquiry into the coaches to see what, if any, involvement they had. There's lots of suspicion that if Valieva doped, it was the adults around her who made it happen. And then they also want to get to the bottom of why it took about a month and a half for testing and anti-doping agencies to reveal her positive test right smack in the middle of the Olympics, potentially ruining this 15-year-old's budding career.

SIMON: We have about 50 seconds left to talk about - there were sports there, too - right? - that occurred.

GOLDMAN: Yeah. I want to bring up a quote from a Chinese figure skater. Sui Wenjing is the female member of the pairs team that has skated masterfully here at these games. And, spoiler alert, they won the gold medal tonight. But she had this wonderful quote, and she said this. "We feel like when we show our best selves to the world, the world belongs to us. Only during these several minutes, perhaps billions of people around the world are looking at us. This is the most honorable moment of our life."

What I loved about it, Scott, it captures so well the feeling of athletes who succeed at the Olympics, whether they win a medal or not. They have trained for years out of the limelight. And then comes their several minutes - or more in the longer events - when the world watches and cares. And to do well is really an incredible triumph.

SIMON: It sure is. NPR's Tom Goldman, enjoy one last throat swab and then come home. Thanks very much, Tom.

GOLDMAN: (Laughter) Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tom Goldman is NPR's sports correspondent. His reports can be heard throughout NPR's news programming, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and on NPR.org.

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