As Kamila Valieva glided across the ice, a shower of camera shutters echoed through the Olympic figure skating arena. She was the skater to watch on the second day of the team event, and she delivered what many people came to see.
Wearing a purple, flowing dress that made her look like a Disney princess, Valieva, 15, landed each of her jumps softly, as if trying not to wake a sleeping baby, and floated through her program without showing even a pinch of effort.
Valieva is the gold medal favorite in the women’s individual competition next week. And her commanding performance on Sunday in the women’s short program also gave her a first-place finish, lifting her Russian team from second to first.
Her score of 90.18 was short of her season’s best of 90.45, but it blew past her nearest challenger, Wakaba Higuchi of Japan, who scored 74.73.
“I’m happy that I was able to bring the maximum score to my team,” Valieva said through a Russian translator. “I did everything I could have done today.”
Clutching a cuddly-looking stuffed rabbit, she added, “I felt very nervous, but also calm.”
Only five of 10 teams advanced to the next stage of the competition: the Russian Olympic Committee, the United States, Japan, Canada and China. The Russian team remained in the lead after men’s free skate finished, with a final day of competition scheduled for Monday.
The United States fell behind the Russians after disappointing performances from both Karen Chen in the women’s short program and Vincent Zhou in the men’s long program. Chen, who finished fourth at the 2021 world championships, fell on her triple loop and finished a disappointing fifth, with a score of 65.20.
Nerves played a part in her error on that triple jump, she said, but she was happy that she worked through her program to the end.
“I’m definitely disappointed about the loop because I should have hit it and I know I can hit it,” she said. “If I had a chance to go out there and do it again, I know I can.”
On Friday, the first day of the team competition, American skaters who competed in their short programs all logged personal bests.
Nathan Chen, the gold medal favorite in the men’s singles, won; so did the ice dancers Madison Hubbell and Zach Donohue. Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier finished third in pairs.