Ivan Sekretarev/Associated Press
She’s the surprise Olympic gold medalist, in an upset over "The Queen," South Korea's Yuna Kim, who looked in good shape to win her second-straight Olympic gold after a flawless short program.
Instead, it was Sotnikova who wound up golden, with a more technically difficult program featuring seven triples, five in combination, compared to Kim's six triples (three in combination). In the first week of the Sochi Olympics, Sotnikova had to have felt like an afterthought.
Everyone was buzzing about countrywoman Julia Lipnitskaia, who at 15 years old and with a history-making European Championship on her resume, had captured the hearts of Russian figure skating fans with a breakout team skating performance that helped Russia to early gold.
Then, when the ladies’ competition loomed, talk was all about Yuna Kim and how she could make history, becoming just the third woman to repeat.
But Sotnikova was lurking. Her technical score in the short program was actually slightly higher than Kim’s. She was skating the best she ever had, and before a home crowd that had never seen a Russian ladies' figure skating champion at the Olympics.
Sotnikova used her relative dark-horse status to skate freely and brilliantly, and when it was over, she put her hand to her mouth as if she couldn’t believe it herself.
Kim wound up winning silver and Carolina Kostner took bronze, Italy’s first Olympic medal in ladies' figure skating.
U.S. skaters performed admirably with Gracie Gold in fourth, Ashley Wagner finishing seventh and Polina Edmunds ninth.