Russia makes history with figure skating gold

SOCHI, Russia (USA TODAY) -- No one will ever question Adelina Sotnikova again. Not with that Olympic gold medal hanging around her neck.

Sotnikova got the ultimate satisfaction after being written off by pretty much her entire country, upsetting defending champion Yuna Kim and giving Russia its first Olympic gold medal in women's figure skating Thursday night.

And it wasn't even close, with Sotnikova's jumps carrying her to the title. She finished with 224.59 points, more than five points ahead of Kim (219.11). Carolina Kostner of Italy was third with 216.73 points.

Gracie Gold finished fourth, her medal hopes ending with a fall on her triple flip. Ashley Wagner was seventh and 15-year-old Polina Edmunds ninth – in her first senior international competition. But the U.S. is still going home empty-handed in the individual events, failing to win a medal in either men's or women's for the first time since 1936.

There are sure to be howls of protest over Sotnikova's victory, especially after Kim skated a program looking cleaner and more polished. This is figure skating, after all, and it wouldn't be the first time a skater benefited from home cooking.

But skating is now a numbers game, and Sotnikova played it better.

Kim beat the Russian – barely – on the component marks, 74.50 to 74.41. But Sotnikova's program was more difficult, packed with jumps and high-value technical elements. She did seven triple jumps, five in combination, to six for Kim, only of which were in combination.

Sotnikova also got the maximum level 4s for all of her spins and footwork while Kim had Level 3s on one spin and one footwork sequence. Put it all together, and it was the difference between silver (a 69.69 technical score for Kim) and gold (75.54 for Sotnikova).

The Iceberg Skating Palace erupted when the marks for Kim, the final skater, were announced. The video board flashed to backstage, where Sotnikova was seen sprinting down a hallway and into the arms of her coaches.

MEDAL TRACKER: Where the USA stands

It was only the fourth women's figure skating medal for Russia or its predecessor, the Soviet Union, and first gold medal. It was Russia's third gold medal in skating at the Sochi Games, following victories in the team and pairs competition.

Sotnikova was considered Russia's great hope for Sochi when she won the junior world title in 2011. But she was all but forgotten amid inconsistent performances over the past two seasons and the rise of 15-year-old phenom Julia Lipnitskaia.

She was even passed over for the team competition, where Lipnitskaia charmed the nation as she helped the Russians win gold. (President Vladimir Putin patted the tiny teenager on the head in the victory celebration.)

But Sotnikova reminded everyone why there had been so much hype for her once upon a time. Her jumps were done with such ease she appeared to be flying, and she attacked every element in her program, as if to tell all of her doubters, "Take that."

She had clearly won over the crowd, which clapped in time to her music and was roaring before the final notes trailed off.

RECAP: Relive women's figure skating

The women's event caps an eventful two weeks of figure skating at the Sochi Games. It began with the debut of the Olympic team competition. Russia won in commanding fashion, with Canada taking the silver and United States winning bronze.

Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov added a gold in pairs, becoming the first skaters to win two Olympic titles in one games and reviving Russia's grand tradition in the discipline. Russia had won a pairs gold at every games from 1964 to 2006, but left Vancouver without a pairs medal of any color.

The men's final was, quite frankly, a mess. But Yuzuru Hanyu rallied after two early falls and that, plus his mesmerizing short program, was enough to win the gold and give Japan its first Olympic title in men's skating. There was another first in ice dancing, as Meryl Davis and Charlie White became the first American team to win the Olympic title. Not bad for a country that didn't even have afterthought status a decade ago.


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