Team USA has been named Olympic team event gold medalists nearly two years after it left the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 without the medals the athletes earned on the ice.
The nine members of the U.S. team – Nathan Chen, Vincent Zhou, Karen Chen, Alexa Knierim, Brandon Frazier, Madison Chock, Evan Bates, Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue – learned late Monday night that they were elevated to Olympic champions after a 271-day process involving proceedings around the positive drug test of ROC athlete Kamila Valieva before the 2022 Games.
On Tuesday, the International Skating Union announced its reorder of the medals, based on the Court of Arbitration for Sport’s decision to ban Valieva, then 15, for four years dating back to Dec. 25, 2021. The reorder, affected by the loss of Valieva’s points in the team event, is now: Gold, United States; Silver, Japan; Bronze, ROC, which dropped from first to third.
In a joint press conference Tuesday with U.S. Figure Skating and the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee, Olympic team co-captains and ice dance partners Bates and Chock said they were pleased with the decision.
“This is a landmark case,” Bates said to more than 50 media outlets. “This is an unprecedented event where  clean athletes left the Olympic Games without a medal that they won. I think in large part the finding by CAS brought some justice to the clean sport movement and I think that clean athletes around the world will hopefully find some joy and some solace in knowing that clean sport matters and the fight against doping is ongoing.”
The two-year court process featured many twists and turns, including appeals and clandestine meetings before the announcement of the medals’ reordering.
“Before today, I wasn’t really holding my breath for what I feel was the right decision to be made,” Hubbell told TIME. “I’m pleasantly surprised that there was no special consideration just because of [Valieva’s] age and that she was held to the same standard of every other athlete. I feel like some of my faith in the system has been restored.”
With the gold medal assured, Chock was able to take a deep breath.
“It just feels like almost a weight has been lifted and we feel so happy to be able to share this with our families and our friends,” Chock said. “We've just been flooded with loving messages from all of our family and friends, and it almost feels like we're celebrating our Olympic experience all over again, which is really lovely.”
With a gold medal assured for Team USA, the next question on many people’s mind is how and where will the medalists be celebrated?
“We [the team] would love to have a true Olympic medal ceremony. So, for us, that would be a medal ceremony at the Paris Games this summer,” Chock said. “That would be the dream scenario -- to be able to stand atop a podium at an Olympic event and be there with our families. To celebrate and be surrounded by the Olympic spirit and the Olympic movement would be our dream scenario.”
“I think that being on an actual Olympic podium is necessary,” Donohue told TIME. “The amount of people in any country that start skating and then make it to the Olympics, much less medal, is so small that it would be belittling to host it somewhere else. It wouldn’t be the same thing.”
Chen, who became the first figure skater to win two gold medals (men’s and team event) at the same Olympic Games, told CNN that he was proud of his eight teammates.
“I’m just so excited for this team,” Chen said. “This team has shown so much dedication throughout their entire career and I don’t know any group of people that deserves this more. They’ve all held themselves incredibly well during this time of indecision and represented themselves as well.”
Speaking at the press conference, CEO Tracy Marek complimented each team member for the way they have conducted themselves since leaving Beijing.
“This U.S. Figure Skating team, they've always been champions, we know that,” Marek said. “But now this group of nine are recognized across the globe as Olympic gold medalists with the first team event Olympic gold medal in U.S. Figure Skating history.
“We could not be more proud.”