One of the highlight events of each Winter Olympics is women's figure staking, and the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing are no different. Fans have already gotten a glimpse of the competition with the team event, but those results will be wiped clean for the start of the women's individual competition, which begins on Tuesday, Feb. 15, with the short program. The free skate will take place on Thursday, Feb. 17.
The three skaters competing in Beijing for the United States are Karen Chen, Alysa Liu, and Mariah Bell. Chen has already skated in these games as part of the team event. She struggled with her performance, finishing fourth out of the five qualifiers, but Team USA wound up winning the silver medal. The Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) took the gold and its women skaters will likely be the primary competition for the Americans.
Kamila Valieva, who is just 15 years old, became the first woman to land a quadruple jump in the Olympics. She's the current world record-holder for the short program and will enter the women's competition as the favorite. Although not without controversy as her positive test for a banned substance taken from a sample in late December remains a hot topic.
After initially being suspended by her own country's anti-doping agency and then reinstated, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and others appealed the decision. An expedited hearing was overseen by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and early Monday, the body ruled that Vaileva, partially due to the fact that she qualifies as a minor as it relates to the anti-doping regulations, did not need to be provisionally suspended, making her eligible to skate in the women's competition. That clears the way for Vaileva and her ROC teammates, Anna Shcherbakova and Alexandra Trusova, to aim for the first-ever podium sweep of women's figure skating in the Olympics.
Following the ruling, the IOC announced that "in the interest of fairness to all athletes," there will be no medal ceremony held if Vaileva finishes in the top three, which she is expected to do. A more thorough investigation is expected to be conducted so it's entirely possible that Vaileva could end up being disqualified from both the women's individual competition, as well as the team event, which would mean the ROC would lose their gold medal. So not only will the controversy taint these Winter Olympics, but the situation also won't be completely resolved for several more months, if not longer.
Regardless, it's already been a successful Winter Games for the U.S. on the ice, with Nathan Chen winning the gold in the men's competition thanks to a world-record performance in his short program. He also was a part of the U.S. team that won silver in the team event. Now Karen Chen (no relation), Liu, or Bell will look to add to the medal haul.
Chen is 22 and is the first woman to compete in back-to-back Olympic Games in the women's singles figure skating event since 2006. Chen had a disappointing performance in 2018 in PyeongChang, finishing 11th. She has already earned a silver medal for the team event in Beijing. Chen has proven that she can be a student (she's enrolled at Cornell University) and an Olympian. She came in second (behind Bell) at the 2022 U.S. Championships, and she gives the U.S. team an experienced competitor to help lead them.
Liu is only 16 years old but is considered the top American skater. She is new to the senior level but excelled at the junior level. In 2021, Liu competed in the U.S. Championships and finished fourth. She had to miss the free skate in that event after testing positive for COVID-19. Liu has difficult elements in her routine, which will make it a challenge to land them all. Often young athletes struggle with their nerves, and it can affect their performance.
Many people will look at Bell's age and wonder why she is included with the group of Olympians. She is 25 years old, which for women's figure skating (think women's gymnastics) is old. Bell is the oldest U.S. Olympic women's figure skater in 94 years (since 1928!). She already has the title of the oldest women's national champion since that time as well. But as the current U.S. champion, Bell has earned her spot on this team, and viewers will see soon enough if she has what it takes to make it on the podium.
— Written by Sarah Lewis, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow her on Twitter @Sarah_Lewis32.