SOCHI, Russia – Julia Lipnitskaia's coach blamed the Russian media's intense coverage of the teen figure skating star for her subpar performance in the Sochi Olympics figure skating competition.
Eteri Tutberidze said reporters bugged the locker room at Lipnitskaia's practice rink in Moscow with listening devices after the 15-year-old left the Winter Games to train for the ladies individual competition. The coach also accused the media of stalking Lipnitskaia's family in her hometown of Nizhny Bardym, a village in the Ural Mountains with a population of just 300.
Tutberidze said the media coverage got so bad that Lipnitskaia had to be evacuated from the practice rink every night to escape reporters. Also, Lipnitskaia had to be booked on numerous flights in order to keep her travel itinerary a secret from the press.
The coach spoke out against the media circus on Thursday after Lipnitskaia fell twice in her long program and finished in fifth place.
"We thought we had a chance here to go back to Moscow to practice at our pace," Tutberidze said. "But journalists just didn't give us a chance to be left alone.
"It was laughable because we had to evacuate this child from the practice rink," she added. "Listening devices and bugs were found installed in the locker room. And these weren't done by fans."
Lipnitskaia attracted the Olympic spotlight early in the Games after helping Russia win gold in the team competition. That success only increased the Russian press' obsession with Lipnitskaia, who prepared for Sochi by winning the European Championships.
Lipnitskaia admitted after her free skate that the mounting pressure and nonstop attention finally caught up with her. She made it clear that she was "not talking about all journalists."
"[They were] in Ekaterinburg with my relatives, in Moscow with me … I wish I could complain to someone about them," Lipnitskaia said.
Lipnitskaia said the media's coverage wasn't the main reason for her disappointing performance in ladies singles.
"I fought and fought but couldn't take it to the end," she said. "I had enough physical strength left, but at the end I lost control of my jumps. Nervousness, fatigue – everything came into play and hit me over the head."
Tutberidze also lashed out at the Russian press for "more negative than positive" coverage.
"You are all looking for a reason to criticize," Tutberidze added. "Why don't you just tell her 'good job'?"
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- Eteri Tutberidze