A 17-year-old Russian made history at the Sochi Games on Thursday, dethroning world and Olympic champion Kim Yu-na to deliver the first individual gold medal in women’s figure skating in the host nation’s history.
Adelina Sotnikova performed a tour de force free skate and immediately broke down in tears, Her score of 149.94 vaulted her into the overall lead, with 224.59 points.
But until the event’s final marks were posted, Sotnikova was in danger of being overtaken by Kim, who skated last and was seeking to become the third woman in Olympic history to win back-to-back individual figure skating gold medals. Italy’s Carolina Kostner took bronze.
American Gracie Gold finished fourth; Alexandria’s Ashley Wagner seventh.
Kim’s free skate was light as air, powerful as a dynamo and ultimately a beauty to behold. But she earned just 144.19 points, which brought her total to 219.11 – not enough to overtake the Russian.
The change to a beloved piece of music, “Samson and Delilah,” brought out the fighter in Ashley Wagner in the decisive free skate Thursday at the Sochi Olympics. In sixth after Wednesday’s short program, Wagner faced long odds of finishing atop the medal podium. But in a sparkling yellow gown, and competing a reworked program for the first time, Wagner hit all but her initial jump combination—stepping out of the second of her triple flip-triple toe—and poured herself into telling the tale of a temptress.
She pumped her fist the moment it was done. Her scores took a long time to come up, and she smiled when they did—a season’s best 127.99. But it wasn’t enough to change her standing, which remained sixth (193.20), with Kim yet to compete.
With the crowd still cheering Sotnikova’s tour de force, it couldn’t have been easy for Gracie Gold to take the ice. But the 18-year-old U.S. champion exuded confidence and charm as she skating out in an elegant blue gown and hit all of her difficult combinations early in her classic program to Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty.
But she took an ugly fall on a triple flip midway through the program. She finished with a flourish and huge smile, but it was a tough break in the program she considers her “bread and butter.”
Gold’s score—136.90—brought her score to 205.53, placing her third with only fellow American Ashley Wagner and front-runner Kim Yu-na remaining to compete.
Sotnikova, the Russian teen who had redeemed the country’s hope for its first Olympic women’s singles gold after Julia Lipnitskaia fell in her short program, took a commanding lead with a brilliant display of jumps in her free skate, earning a season-best 149.95. That brought her total to 224.59.
Skating 21st among the 24 competitors, she hit every difficult jump and combination early in the first half of her program, set to Rondo Capriccioso that got the crowd clapping along. She stepped out of one combination but performed even stronger afterward and broke down in tears, covering her face with her hands, when it was over. The 12,000-seat Iceberg erupted in chants of “RUSS—SHEE-YAH.”
Sotnikova has made the place wild! Flowers pelting the ice, chants, flags.— Sally Jenkins (@sallyjenx) February 20, 2014
Italy’s Carolina Kostner, who was third entering the final day of the competition, enchanted the crowd and gave judges little to quibble with in her performance to Ravel’s Bolero. Her score, 142.61, vaulted her into the lead, with 216.73.
Wow. Kostner beaming. She’s has laid down a very solid program that will make else everyone have to sake well.— Sally Jenkins (@sallyjenx) February 20, 2014
Lipnitskaia again has that look on her face of sorrowful disappointment. This child hard on herself.— Sally Jenkins (@sallyjenx) February 20, 2014
Once again Lipnitskaia seeming to tire badly – two stumbles in last two jumps at about 3 min mark.— Sally Jenkins (@sallyjenx) February 20, 2014
Polina Edmunds, the 15-year-old high school student who may well represent the future of U.S. Figure Skating, had one ungainly fall but otherwise acquitted herself well with an ambitious free skate at the Sochi Olympics on Thursday. The surprise silver medalist at U.S. Championships last month, Edmunds, who has been trained in part by her Russian-born mother since she was 20 months old, started impressively, nailing the difficult triple Lutz-triple toe that opens her program but stepped out of a single loop that was to have connected a triple flip and triple Salchow that followed.
And she fell on her triple flip. She received a season high 122.21 points, nonetheless, for the difficult performance set to Peer Gynt. Edmunds, who attends Archbishop Mitty High School in San Jose, has been juggling her training here at Sochi with “The Great Gatsby,” her pending English assignment.