Russia wins gold in inaugural Olympic team figure skating; Canada takes silver, U.S. bronze


Julia Lipnitskaia of Russia clinched a gold medal for Russia with her long program and set herself up as a favorite in women’s singles. (EPA/BARBARA WALTON)

Getting first-place performances in both the women’s short dance and free skate from its 15-year-old shooting star, Julia Lipnitskaia, Russia amassed such an insurmountable lead that the event’s final discipline on Sunday, the dance free skate, amounted to a mathematically irrelevant, yet beautiful, spectacle.

Russia took its first gold medal of these Games with 75 points, having notched first-place finishes in five of the competition’s eight components: the women’s short program and free skate, pairs short program and free skate and men’s free skate.

Canada took silver with 65 points, despite failing to win a single event. And the United States took bronze with 60 points, carried by its world dance champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White, who won both their short and free skates.

Lipnitskaia brought spectators at Sochi’s Iceberg Skating Palace to their feet with a tremendous free skate that solidified her country’s hold on the team gold and established her as the competitor to beat when the women’s singles event is contested.

Performing a somber program to music from “Schindler’s List,” the 15-year-old Liptnitskaia, dressed in a long-sleeved red dress with black gloves, staged a technical tour de force, opening with a triple lutz-triple toe combination. She glided around the ice with a ballerina’s grace, pulling triple jumps out of her pocket with no apparent effort.

She earned a season’s best 141.51 points to finish first, adding 10 more points to Russia’s runaway score.

American Gracie Gold’s score was also a season best. The 18-year-old made a terrific effort in her impressive Olympic debut—one that was rewarded with a standing ovation by her U.S. teammates and her season’s best marks.

Tapped to perform her free skate on the third and final day of the competition, Gold opened with a difficult triple-lutz-triple toe loop combination and followed soon after with a double axel-triple toe that established her technical chops. Skating to “Sleeping Beauty,” Gold looked every bit the fairy-tale princess in her sparkly pastel dress, which melted from shades of ice blue at the jeweled neck to lavender at the skirt.

The competition began Saturday with pairs and continued Sunday, opening with men’s singles. American Jason Brown fell at the outset of a three-jump combination but bounced back up, in time with the insistent music to his Riverdance-styled program, to charm the Russian crowd that clapped along. He finished fourth among the five men competing.

“It was really special to be on the Olympic ice and to have your teammates in the booth cheering you on, it was so special, so surreal,” said Brown, 19, making his Olympic debut.

Asked about the fall he said: “It’s a really consistent jump. After I fell, it wasn’t something I put much thought into. Just keep going, keep performing, put it behind you. That’s what I did.”

Russia’s Evgeni Plushenko was first, wowing the crowd with his jumping ability at age 31. Canada’s Kevin Reynolds was second and Japan’s Tatsuki Machida third.

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