Intriguing stories come out of the 2022 Winter Olympics

Abbie Colone and Dyana Rice, Staff Writers

The 2022 Winter Olympics were held in Beijing, China from February 4-20. Athletes from 91 nations gathered to compete in a record 109 events. From figure skating to snowboarding, the athletes gave it their all and strived for the gold. Michigan local, Nick Baumgartner, was one of 42 Olympians with ties to Michigan. However, he was one of few to return to Michigan as an Olympic gold medalist.

On Feb. 12, Baumgartner, a 40 year-old concrete worker from Michigan, became the oldest snowboarder to win an Olympic medal. Baumgartner and snowboard cross legend Lindsey Jacobellis (36), competed in the event “mixed snowboard cross” securing the gold for Team USA. Jacobellis is recognized immensely within the snowboarding community, having won five world championship golds and eight X Games titles. Jacobellis has consistently competed in the Olympic Games since her debut in Torino in 2006, but had always fallen short of gold. Baumgartner has been a consistent competitor and has many Olympic medals under his belt. In the 2014 Olympics, Baumgartner competed in “mixed snowboard cross race” and won his first gold medal. Together this duo represented the United States well.

Baumgartner was born in Iron River, Michigan located in the Upper Peninsula. . He attended West Iron County High School, where aside from snowboarding, he became the 2000 Wrestling State Champion, a State Champion Hurdler, and an All-State football player. Straight out of high school, he continued his athletic career joining the USA Olympic snowboard team at just 18 years old. He competed in the 2010, 2014, 2018, and 2022 Olympics.

For Beijing 2022, the duo strived to prove that age is no more than a number. In an interview with ironmountaindailynews Baumgartner states, “You’re never too late to take what you want from life. You let yourself down if you quit too early, it doesn’t matter how old you are. Our success at our age is a perfect example of that.” The duo put in their all and proved to be worth the gold. In the same interview Baumgartner states, “Because the vibe is up at the top … when it’s a team race, we’re all smiling and we’re having fun and we’re enjoying each other’s company. We’re feeding off of each other. It brings the level of riding to a different level. You saw that today. It’s because we’re just a little less stressed and we’re having fun.” Together the duo competed hard and won gold for Team USA.

Another story line that interested many Americans was that of one of the youngest upcoming stars, Kamila Valieva, who skated her way up to the top. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get to perform a skating routine that one could only dream of, but this year, for the 15 year old, this dream has become a reality. No one expected the controversy that this young girl brought to Beijing, though.

Before entering the Winter Olympics, Valieva entered the 2022 European Championships in Tallinn, Estonia. She beat her own world record in the short program earning a score of 90.45. This made her the first woman ever in scoring a 90 and above, under the current scoring system. When she finally arrived in Beijing for the Winter Olympics, she immediately impressed everyone, landing two quadruple jumps, winning gold for the Russian Olympic Committee. According to the Washington Post, Valieva says, “I believe that I am coping with this pressure, and sometimes it even pushes me forward. It helps me.”

Hours later, that victory shortly vanished after the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) sent her drug test results out. Valieva tested positive for three heart medications, Hypoxen, L-Carnitine and Trimetazidine. Trimetazidine was banned by WADA because it helps increase endurance. The Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) suspended Valieva from competing in the Olympics. This brought a lot of controversy and confusion throughout the whole competition. Many people were angry that Valieva had to go through this, because of her age.

Many former Olympians came forward to defend the Russian skater, but placed blame on her coaches; Adam Rippon, an American figure skater that won bronze in the team event at the 2018 games said to Times magazine, “What this says is that the team around her are child abusers. The only thing they care about is performance, and not the health and well being of their athletes. They are a factory that pumps out children who can compete, up to a certain point. It doesn’t feel like the coaches involved in the ladies’ program are coaches at all, but dog trainers; they’re running a circus.” Scott Moir, a Canadian skater and two-time Olympic gold medalist in ice dance agreed. “I feel sick to my stomach. What I’m feeling is my whole dedication to my sport, to my community and to my country — I’m questioning it all.” Moir also adds, “I do feel for the 15-year-old, but at the end of the day if she did cheat, it’s very simple to me—she shouldn’t be competing. I do put the blame for that on people around her, and not so much on her. But this is a big hit to the Olympic movement.” Moir told Time Magazine.

Days after Valeiva’s suspension, the Division of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) decided to appeal her suspension and allow her to compete. Valieva had two negative tests since her last positive test. She continued to compete, but failed to obtain a medal, falling numerous times and earning a total score of 141.93. Even if Valieva placed in the top three, she wouldn’t have received a medal because of her doping scandal. It was a sad conclusion to what had originally been an incredible story.