Russia's 17-year-old prodigy, Adelina Sotnikova, topped favorite Yuna Kim and won gold for the Olympic hosts in Thursday's marquee women's figure-skating competition, sending the crowd inside Sochi's Iceberg Skating Palace into a frenzy.
While Sotnikova's first-place finish was decisive in the eyes of the judges (over a five point margin of victory), her 224.59 final score left many shaking their heads. There was plenty of praise for the teenager's monumental achievement, but majority opinion seemed to favor other top competitors:
Stunning. Yuna Kim second. Gold for Russia. Aaaand roll the judging controversy. #bbcsochi— Ollie Williams (@OllieW) February 20, 2014
There is no way Sotnikova should be ahead of Kostner, but she is. This is ridiculous.— Christine Brennan (@cbrennansports) February 20, 2014
Wow. Headed to press. Obviously a lot of questions to be asked - few that skaters probably can answer #Sochi2014— Nick McCarvel (@NickMcCarvel) February 20, 2014
South Korea's Kim, the reigning gold medalist in the event, finished second to secure silver. Despite a dominant short program, the 23-year-old came up short in the free skate, finishing with a combined score of 219.11.
Italy's Carolina Kostner took home the bronze with a combined score of 216.73.
Fifteen-year-old Julia Lipnitskaia fell on her triple Salchow attempt, but was still able to earn a 135.34 for the free skate. The impressive score wasn't enough to propel the Russian phenom onto the podium, though, as she finished fifth.
Meanwhile, American hopefuls Gracie Gold, Ashley Wagner and Polina Edmunds each came up short, skating well but failing to wow the judges. Gold would finish fourth, just off the podium, while Wagner and Edmunds both finished inside the top 10.
Let's take a look at the final results and how the top-10 finishers stacked up.
|Place (Medal)||Name (Country)||Short Program||Free Program||Total Score|
|1 (Gold)||Adelina Sotnikova (Russia)||74.64||149.95||224.59|
|2 (Silver)||Yuna Kim (Korea)||74.92||144.19||219.11|
|3 (Bronze)||Carolina Kostner (Italy)||74.12||142.61||216.73|
|4||Gracie Gold (USA)||68.63||136.90||205.53|
|5||Julia Lipnitskaia (Russia)||65.23||135.34||200.57|
|6||Mao Asada (Japan)||55.51||142.71||198.22|
|7||Ashley Wagner (USA)||65.21||127.99||193.20|
|8||Akiko Suzuki (Japan)||60.97||125.35||186.32|
|9||Polina Edmunds (USA)||61.04||122.21||183.25|
|10||Mae Berenice Meite (France)||58.63||115.90||174.53|
*Click here to view complete results via Sochi2014.com.
Sotnikova spot atop the podium was obviously controversial, but it doesn't take away from an action-packed and well-executed routine that included seven triple jumps. After her upset win, the Russian talked about how not being selected to compete in the team competition fueled her individual performance (via Nancy Armour of USA Today):
"I really wanted to participate in the team competition because I understood that we would win a medal because our team is so strong," Sotnikova said. "When I found out I was not in the team, I felt so sorry and I felt offended. I felt so cheated in a way. Anyway, I still had my goal to show this skating, the one that I did today."
The defeat will certainly be tough to swallow for Kim, who was exceptional in both programs.
Following her lights-out performance in the ladies' short program on Wednesday, Kim had to remind everyone that she is, in fact, human, per The Guardian: "I am a human being. I get nervous all the time. It just doesn't show on my face."
The Korean star certainly didn't appear nervous on Thursday, executing her routine in near-flawless fashion. Had she taken home the gold, Kim would have joined Norway's Sonja Henie and Germany's Katarina Witt as only the third woman to win back-to-back Olympic golds in ladies' singles figure skating.
Gold, the favorite for Team USA, was forced to battle with crowd noise after following Sotnikova. The 18-year-old would fall on her triple flip attempt, but recovered nicely to record a score of 136.90—the fifth-best mark in the free skate.
The result wasn't what Gold was hoping for, but she can hold her head up high knowing she was among the four best in the world on Thursday, per The Guardian: "To be able to come up here and feel stiff and white as a ghost but stare fear in the face is what I’m all about now."
It's worth noting that there were no American judges on the panel for Thursday's free skate, per USA Today's Christine Brennan:
There is no USA judge for women's long program. Robbie Rosenbluth was on SP, but not LP. No USA judge in '92 when @kristiyamaguchi won.— Christine Brennan (@cbrennansports) February 20, 2014
Another medal hopeful, Japan's Mao Asada, turned in a spectacular routine on Thursday. Unfortunately, a score of 55.51 on Wednesday in the short program crushed the 2010 Olympic silver medalist's chances of finishing on the podium.
Lipnitskaia, who impressed during the team competition to start the Games, appeared to finally be swallowed up by the immense pressure of skating on home ice.
Lipnitskaya skated very emotionless. She looked like she was carrying an entire nation's burden on her shoulders. And she was.— Lisa Horne (@LisaHorne) February 20, 2014
With Sotnikova just 17, and Lipnitskaia only 15, Russia will be a force in women's skating for years to come—not to mention Thursday's triumph is likely to inspire an entire generation of Russians to pursue the sport, and ultimately, Olympic gold.
For Team USA, it's unfortunate none of its star skaters could secure any hardware in this individual event. However, the future is still bright after these promising performances, and each skater is sure to seek redemption in 2018.
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