An investigation into Katia Alexandrovskaya's heartbreaking death by The Australian & The Daily Telegraph

Sylvia

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Can people read the entire article by The Daily Telegraph's Jessica Halloran and Julian Linden titled The short life and heartbreaking death of Australian Winter Olympian Katia Alexandrovskaya by clicking on the bitly link in this tweet?
Family, friends and colleagues interviewed for this joint investigation by The Australian and The Saturday and Sunday Telegraphs say her death has exposed serious weaknesses of accountability, funding and welfare in sport, including the management of concussion in the harshest and most decorative of pursuits: figure skating.

An article that summarizes the investigation:
https://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/e...e/news-story/97d44d86102cfd61f25da231dd4b8a8c
Excerpts:
However, a bombshell investigation by The Australian and The Daily Telegraph [full article is behind a paywall] has now revealed the “heartbreaking” spiral started for Alexandrovskaya before she even arrived in Australia as a 16-year-old.
Alexandrovskaya, who became an Australian citizen in 2016, was forced to quit the sport after being diagnosed with epilepsy earlier this year. It is just the tip of the iceberg.
...
She spent two weeks in a Russian hospital after the epilepsy diagnosis in January and was told she would never skate again.
It has now been identified in the report her funding from the Australian Olympic Committee was also cut in May, 2019.
She arrived in Australia in January 2016 without any friends or family, without being able to speak any English and just months after the death of her father.
She had a drinking problem within the year.
She drank to cope with the death of her father and her separation from everything she had previously known — and it consumed her.
The difficulty of living with epilepsy was nothing compared to her personal hell.
Despite not being diagnosed until this year, the report has identified that Alexandrovskaya’s epilepsy condition was spotted as early as 2017 when she is reported to have had a seizure at the ice rink inside the Macquarie Centre shopping mall in northern Sydney.
After collapsing at the centre, Alexandrovskaya waved away paramedics and medical help.

A related article by Jessica Halloran and Julian Linden (the 2 journalists involved in the investigation):
https://www.theaustralian.com.au/sp...m/news-story/ab3acca6ee3ef8c3beb3336a2c5c577b
Excerpts:
Australian Olympic Committee president John Coates says Alexandrovskaya’s tragic death raised uncomfortable questions about who was ultimately responsible for her wellbeing when she returned to Russia, though no one can agree on who that was.
Ice Skating Australia president Peter Lynch says the Russian health authorities who diagnosed Alexandrovskaya’s epilepsy left her “without a future” when they released her from hospital and told her to quit the sport.
“Perhaps if that had been treated in Australia it might not have been a door closed for her and we could have come up with other ways for her to still compete and manage the situation,” Lynch says in an interview for this joint investigation between The Australian and the Saturday and Sunday Telegraphs.
“Unfortunately, they closed the door on her and then she could no longer compete, and that alone is the most heartbreaking thing.”
:( :( :(
Coates says in an interview he was assured Alexandrovskaya had been offered a coaching job in Australia after she retired as well as full healthcare, but she chose to return to Russia.
“When we put our name to someone changing nationality to compete for us, we’ve got to think about what happens afterwards,” Coates says. “We shouldn’t think ‘here’s a chance for us to qualify a figure skating pair and get a good result’. We’ve got to look at what if it doesn’t work out and if they go back home, are they going to be looked after?”

ETA another excerpt from The Australian:
Coates, Lynch and International Skating Union president Jan Dijkema all reject the characterisation of “human trafficking”.
“Every person is entitled to their own opinion and the age that Katia came to Australia was, off the top of my head I think she was 16, and it’s my view that at 16, yes, of course you’re not technically an adult, but your ability to make an informed decision rests very much with the athlete,” Lynch says.
“I think to call it human trafficking is obviously a very strong view on it and he’s [Sebastian Coe] entitled to his view but it’s certainly not our view.”
The International Skating Union doesn’t have age limits for transfers of allegiance, and Dijkema says the practice was bound by national immigration laws.
“A sports federation has limited powers to intervene in this area,” he says. “Furthermore, often, the change of residence of a young skater is connected to the moving of the parents and not focused on the skating career of a child. Finally, the change of residence and related change of ISU membership is also often facilitated by a dual citizenship of a skater, which is something out of the ISU’s control. It is therefore difficult to distinguish cases of ‘trading’ skaters and legitimate changes of residence.”
 
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AxelAnnie

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This just gets sadder and sadder. I wish Katia could have returned to Australia and brought her mum... away from the hard lockdown in Moscow she would probably have done better.
😢
The situation is horrible and tragic. But Bombshell?
 

mjb52

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I'm not sure how I feel about this. There are a lot of issues with Russia and the Russian skating system but at the same time, she was an Australian skater and it feels a little like the Australian system is trying to put the blame on Russia for this tragedy and sort of elide any role/responsibility they might have had themselves. Am I reading too much into it? Of course I like Russian skaters but I recognize there are many issues with the country; there are just a few things in the article that slightly bug me. Why was her funding cut in May 2019? And what made her go back to Russia instead of seeking treatment in Australia? Was it just more familiar to her? I guess I don't understand why Russian officials had this role in the first place. I don't at all mean to be accusatory toward Australia, and maybe the issue is with how the article is written, it just does read in a slightly strange way.

The part about Coe and his view of nation-switching as a "human trafficking" issue is incredibly interesting. I had never at all thought of it that way before but once it's brought up, you can understand the concern, especially in track/athletics where you have athletes from small, poor countries going to compete for larger, richer ones. I do wonder with skating about the practical issues, where for pairs/dance skaters sometimes need to find a partner from another country in order to compete at all. Some of the conversation around the Kolesnik/Nguyen partnership break-up did bring up some of the issues that can arise with that though.

eta: this is all in response to the Daily Telegraph article btw, I haven't read the other one yet
 
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misskarne

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Winter sports are much less funded than Summer Olympic sports, and most of our Winter Olympic funding goes to the snowboarders and skiiers. There's very little in the pot for skating at all.

It may also be partly an issue of criteria. Remember, Katia and Harley missed both 4CC and Worlds in 2019 because of his ankle. Without a 4CC and World result, the AOC may have cut funding. We know that those results are critical for funding.

This is so typical of Murdoch muck-rakers. They don't give a shit about the sport outside the Olympics, unless there's something mucky they can drag up.
 

Colonel Green

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And what made her go back to Russia instead of seeking treatment in Australia? Was it just more familiar to her?
I would imagine that was what it was (and, on paper, there would have seemed to be more opportunities for a retired competitive figure skater in Russia than Australia, though sadly it didn't work out that way).
 

mjb52

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That makes sense re: the funding; it would have been helpful if they had contextualized it better, although that's obviously not the goal of at least the first article! The whole situation is just really sad. There is no way that anyone even in February could really have anticipated the kind of circumstances that would face her living in Moscow later in the spring I don't think.
 

misskarne

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And what made her go back to Russia instead of seeking treatment in Australia? Was it just more familiar to her?

My understanding was that Katia and Harley were actually training in Russia at the time. So it wasn't that she "went back" to Russia. She just didn't come back to Australia with Harley.

I don't know a lot about epilepsy but is there a possibility that she might not have been medically cleared to fly to Australia anyway?
 

mjb52

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My understanding was that Katia and Harley were actually training in Russia at the time. So it wasn't that she "went back" to Russia. She just didn't come back to Australia with Harley.

Oh, of course. It's really mainly the way the article is written then. I wonder if even though it frames the issues in a sensationalized way it can still remind us that maybe there is something to consider with the idea of young skaters moving countries and whether there should be more guidelines around that.
 

TAHbKA

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The part about Coe and his view of nation-switching as a "human trafficking" issue is incredibly interesting. I had never at all thought of it that way before but once it's brought up, you can understand the concern, especially in track/athletics where you have athletes from small, poor countries going to compete for larger, richer ones.
All these poor americans and russians switching to tye wealthy Azerbaijan....
 

Sylvia

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I was able to read the entire article (behind the paywall) by clicking on the link in this tweet (just edited into my post #1): https://twitter.com/telegraph_sport/status/1296764151289667585

These quotes by Merriman really struck me:
Australian skating champion Greg Merriman, another mentor and friend who raised $12,500 for Alexandrovskaya’s funeral, says: “Everybody could have done more. It starts at the top.”

He says team officials “should have given more of a shit about the person than what they were trying to get out of her”.

“It’s the culture of silence in sport,” he says. “People sit silently, because if you do something you might stop that person from achieving something.”
Merriman’s assessment of her legacy is blunt. “A lot of people are like; ‘Katia achieved a lot in her time’. I am like, ‘Yeah, but she also threw herself out a window’.

“You know what would have been better than a [world] junior gold medal and going to an Olympics? Living past 20 and being happy.”
 
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twizzletoes76

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Katia Alexandrovskaya’s story is indeed heartbreaking. But I don’t know if it has been mentioned on this forum yet but there is actually a link between suicide rates and epilepsy. According to this source, that cites info from the CDC, people with epilepsy are 22% times more likely to commit suicide than those in the general population.


And, this meta-analysis says essentially the same thing: that rates of suicide are more frequent in people with epilepsy than the general population, with the exception of some subsets.


I, thus, can’t help wondering if Katia Alexandrovskaya and her family were even aware of this link. Maybe if her neurologists had made clear that there was an increased risk for suicide in those with epilepsy and had encouraged her to seek ongoing mental health supports, she’d still be around?

But, then again, I don’t know—as mental health resources can only do so much.
 

Frau Muller

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I'm not sure how I feel about this. There are a lot of issues with Russia and the Russian skating system but at the same time, she was an Australian skater and it feels a little like the Australian system is trying to put the blame on Russia for this tragedy and sort of elide any role/responsibility they might have had themselves. Am I reading too much into it? Of course I like Russian skaters but I recognize there are many issues with the country; there are just a few things in the article that slightly bug me. Why was her funding cut in May 2019? And what made her go back to Russia instead of seeking treatment in Australia? Was it just more familiar to her? I guess I don't understand why Russian officials had this role in the first place. I don't at all mean to be accusatory toward Australia, and maybe the issue is with how the article is written, it just does read in a slightly strange way.

The part about Coe and his view of nation-switching as a "human trafficking" issue is incredibly interesting. I had never at all thought of it that way before but once it's brought up, you can understand the concern, especially in track/athletics where you have athletes from small, poor countries going to compete for larger, richer ones. I do wonder with skating about the practical issues, where for pairs/dance skaters sometimes need to find a partner from another country in order to compete at all. Some of the conversation around the Kolesnik/Nguyen partnership break-up did bring up some of the issues that can arise with that though.

eta: this is all in response to the Daily Telegraph article btw, I haven't read the other one yet

Well, well... I had never thought about this sort of partner “purchasing” as human trafficking. Remember the “rent-a-Russian” movement in US ice dance in the late 1990s/early 00s? Usually the wealthy parents of young female dancers looking for male partners -usually poor - from Eastern Europe. This always smacked of something ugly, even if at first it seemed like a fine opportunity out of poverty for the talented men. Rent-a-Russian. Yuk. And weren’t certain coaches in New Jersey wheeling and dealing in this sort of thing? I’m sure that there were others but one comes to mind. Maybe someone can begin a thread on looking back at Rent-a-Russian’s possible ties to human trafficking, since we should focus this one on Alexandrovskaya’s own story.

p.s. Rent-a-Russian (male partner figure skater) also happened in Japan, if memory serves. Or maybe the middlemen did it out of the kindness of their hearts, for the good of sport (no money exchanged)?
 
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Coco

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If you are moving so far from home, whether Moscow to Australia or Maine to Southern California, there should probably be a plan for when funding dries up or disappears. It's too big of a move to not have a backup.

How much funding did they lose? Enough so that they couldn't pay rent?
 

mjb52

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All these poor americans and russians switching to tye wealthy Azerbaijan....

not sure you read my post carefully, as that part of it referred to "track/athletics" although I suppose Russians may start to switch to Azerbaijan in athletics with the way things are going there.
 

Perky Shae Lynn

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They are basically blaming Katia herself and Russia. If Australia couldn't offer her proper support, that's fine. It was a tough situation all around. But no need to further exploit and sensationalize a horrible tragedy.
 
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Lemonade20

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They are basically blaming Katia herself and Russia. If Australia couldn't offer her the proper support, that's fine. It was a tough situation all around. But no need to further exploit and sensationalize a horrible tragedy.

So agree with all of this. It was a very sad tragedy and we can go back and forth all day on what could’ve been done but the outcome is the same. She lost her life before it really began, and that’s really sad. Let her Rest In Peace.
 

mjb52

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There's a link at the very top to a tweet that you can click through to get to the longer more in-depth article - my criticism was of the shorter "summary" article but the long article is really good. There's two other articles connected to that, one about the Coe argument about transfer of younger athletes as a trafficking issue and another that looks like it's about the specifics of the set-up that brought Alexandrovskaya to Australia - I wasn't able to read either of those because they are paywalled. Was anyone else? It's so hard because these issues are important and need to be talked about but at the same time, it's her private life that is being laid out in them and that makes me a little sad. There's really not a good answer.
 

skatfan

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I’m kinda stunned that no one is mentioning that she was an alcoholic perhaps to the point of blackouts! That is very dangerous, and there’s no mention of getting to any kind of treatment for it. I’m guessing based on the article she wasn’t coping with her father’s death was one underlying cause. Add epilepsy on top and this girl needed an intervention and treatment long before she left Australia. ☹️
 

mackiecat

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This part should have been a red flag before any of this started. She was 15 at the time. Where the people in Australia watching her aware of this? Copied from article
“Her head was still aching from having drunk herself into a blackout with vodka the day before, a day she would later confide to a friend was the worst of her life. The vodka was meant to be a gift for her figure-skating coach, but, as Alexandrovskaya would explain years later, grief-stricken, she drank most of it to mark the first anniversary of her father’s death.“
 

mjb52

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How often do under-age athletes switch countries? Kolesnik is the only other example that jumps immediately to mind. And I guess Kurakova maybe? Not sure how old she is/was when she made the switch to Poland.
 

skatingguy

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How often do under-age athletes switch countries? Kolesnik is the only other example that jumps immediately to mind. And I guess Kurakova maybe? Not sure how old she is/was when she made the switch to Poland.
I think it happens more often than we realize, particularly in dance & pairs, but they go under the radar because of difficult it can be to find and develop a good partnership.
 

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