Though many Russians had predicted a Russian would win gold in women’s figure skating, the girl with the prized medal around her neck was not the Russian many had banked on.
It was Adelina Sotnikova, not fellow countrywoman Julia Lipnitskaia, who delivered for her motherland during Thursday’s free skate, becoming the first Russian to ever win gold in ladies’ figure skating. Though Lipnitskaia had been the Russian favorite after her two flawless performances in the team competition, Sotnikova outskated her counterpart in Wednesday’s short program and Thursday’s free skate.
Sotnikova also beat defending gold medalist Yuna Kim of South Korea, who experts regarded as the most likely winner of the competition. And though Kim delivered a “light as air, powerful as a dynamo” performance for her free skate, she only earned 144.19 points, The Washington Post reported. Sotnikova’s score of 149.95 pushed her to first place with a total of 224.59 points. Kim reached 219.11 with her combined scores and bronze medalist Carolina Kostner of Italy earned 216.73, CBS News reported.
"This is the happiest day in my life," Sotnikova said, according to CBS News. "I simply stepped on the ice today and realized how much I like what I'm doing and skated really good."
Sotnikova’s technical prowess along with the high level of difficulty of her jump combinations may just have been what helped launch her to gold, USA Today reported.
“She attacked every element in her program, as if to tell all of her doubters, ‘Take that,’” USA Today Sports reporter Nancy Armour wrote.
However, some have begun to criticize the judges’ assessments, a common reaction in all subjective sports that don’t have clear cut wins and losses to determine a champion, Yahoo Sports reporter Dan Wetzel said.
But critics say Russia’s ‘home team advantage’ extends far beyond performing in front of packed stands of shouting fans from one’s own country.
"I was surprised with the result," Joseph Inman, a top international judge who was on the women's panel at the 2002 Olympics, told USA Today.
In fact, one of the nine judges who determined the scores for the ladies’ skating competition was found to have fixed an event at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan. Another judge from Thursday’s competition is the wife of the president of the Russian figure skating federation, USA Today reported.
American competitor Ashley Wagner, who placed seventh in the competition, agreed with the judges’ critics saying, "people need to be accountable," Yahoo Sports reported.
"People do not want to watch a sport where they see
someone skate lights out and they can’t depend on that person to be the one who
pulls through," Wagner said. "This sport needs fans and needs people
who want to watch it."
Corrected on Feb. 21, 2014: A previous version of this article incorrectly identified Russian ice skater Julia Lipnitskaia.