Figure skating at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia has finally come to a close, with the host nation's Adelina Sotnikova claiming the top prize in the ladies' free skate.
As expected, the final day saw the best of the best hit the ice and put forth their best program to date in order to grab a slice of Olympic fame.
While there were stellar performances across the board, only three podium spots make it hard to give the spotlight to each skater. Many names deserve recognition for a strong finish, but a few rise above the rest.
Gracie Gold, U.S. and Julia Lipnitskaia, Russia
Gracie Gold was the only hope for America to medal on Feb. 20. The same supposedly applied to Russia and 15-year-old sensation Julia Lipnitskaia.
Gold did well for herself and finished in fourth place just 11.2 points out from a bronze medal. While she did fall once, Gold's ability to overcome such a big stage and put on an otherwise great program is worthy of praise. Juliet Macur of The New York Times concurs:
Gracie Gold might look like Barbie, but she's one tough athlete. She's exceeded expectations here, no matter where she finishes.— Juliet Macur (@JulietMacur) February 20, 2014
The same can be said for Lipnitskaia. At just 15 years of age, she was able to put together a performance that landed her in fifth place—hardly five points behind gold.
While Gold and Lipnitskaia did not take home medals, their strong showings are a telling sign of where the sport is headed down the road—and it is in good hands.
Carolina Kostner, Italy
It has been a long time coming for Italy's Carolina Kostner, who entered Sochi with nine European championships and five World Championship medals under her belt.
She finally has an Olympic medal, too.
Kostner was the highlight of the night, and controversy otherwise marred what was a great night for the Italian. Christine Brennan of USA Today has the scoop on the issues with the judging:
There is no way Sotnikova should be ahead of Kostner, but she is. This is ridiculous.— Christine Brennan (@cbrennansports) February 20, 2014
Regardless, the controversy should not take away from the fact that Kostner showed up big in her third trip to the Olympics and finally came away with a coveted medal. Her routine was difficult and pristine at the same time, which is what fans should expect at this level.
Yuna Kim, Korea
There is something to be said about the show Olympic legend Yuna Kim put on to help close the discipline at the 2014 Winter Games.
Kim sounded as if her heart was not in it, at least via quote obtained from Nick McCarvel of NBC:
#Yuna Kim: "It was different from 2010 b/c there was no obvious goal. Then I could die for Olympics but that strong wish wasnt present here"— Nick McCarvel (@NickMcCarvel) February 20, 2014
Despite this, Kim's performance was so dominant that she still landed in second place above Kostner and just behind Sotnikova, which sounds as if it is a controversial decision, anyway.
Adelina Sotnikova, Russia
After an outstanding performance, what most will remember about the night's proceedings is something that was completely out of her control.
Adelina Sotnikova was excellent tonight, but Yuna Kim was robbed— Alex Goldberger (@alexgoldberger) February 20, 2014
Regardless of the judging situation, Sotnikova had one of the best performances of the night, and there is something be said for her flawless performance under the ultimate pressure of doing well in front of her home crowd.
The Games opened with Lipnitskaia as the highlight and closed with Sotnikova on top, thanks to strong performances that will go down in Olympic history.