Russia's Sotnikova beats Yuna Kim to win Olympic women's singles title
Adelina Sotnikova of Russia celebrates winning the women's free skate figure skating finals following the flower ceremony at the Iceberg Skating Palace during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia., Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014 (AP / Ivan Sekretarev)
The Canadian Press
Published Thursday, February 20, 2014 3:38PM EST
Last Updated Thursday, February 20, 2014 3:40PM EST
SOCHI, Russia -- Adelina Sotnikova turned her final spin, then burst into tears.
Sotnikova wasn't even Russia's top-ranked teenager in Sochi but the unheralded skater slayed a field full of veterans Thursday, to give Russia its first-ever Olympic gold medal in women's singles.
"This is the happiest day in my life," Sotnikova said. "I simply stepped on the ice today and realized how much I like what I'm doing and skated really good."
The 17-year-old from Moscow, who finished well back in ninth at the world championships last March and arrived in Sochi in the shadow of her adored teammate Julia Lipnitskaia, scored 244.59 points to capture the gold.
South Korean star Yuna Kim, the 2010 Olympic champion, scored 219.11 for the silver, while Carolina Kostner of Italy won the bronze with 216.73.
"It's the Olympics," said Sotnikova. "And it was a long way for me. To compete at the Olympic Games, I dreamed of any medal, but frankly speaking, I wanted a gold one."
Kaetlyn Osmond of Marystown, N.L., was the top Canadian in 13th while Gabrielle Daleman of Newmarket, Ont., was 17th.
The Russians won three figure skating gold medals at these Olympics: team, pairs and women's. Canada won three silver -- Patrick Chan in men's singles, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir in ice dance, and team.
Sotnikova was in the mixed zone speaking with reporters when she heard she'd won. She bolted, running with arms raised to find her coach, who grabbed her in a huge hug.
In a venue so loud and rowdy it seemed more fitted to a title fight, Sotnikova skated onto the ice to ear-splitting chants of "Ros-si-ya!" Her program wasn't perfect -- she two-footed the landing on a double loop -- but otherwise was the picture of grace under pressure, landing seven triple jumps, erupting into tears, hands over mouth, when the music stopped.
She had the pro-Russian crowd at the Iceberg Skating Palace in near hysterics when her total score was flashed on the giant screen.
"I won. It's my gold medal. I can't believe it," she said. "Two years ago, all of my competitions were very bad. I didn't know if I had what it takes to be successful. Now I know that I do. I'm surprised. My coach is surprised."
The 23-year-old Kim was aiming to become the first singles skater since Katarina Witt (1984, '88) to win consecutive Olympic titles.
In a women's event that was everything the men's wasn't earlier in the Games -- skaters laying down their finest programs in a tight fight to the finish -- Kin had carried the slimmest of leads into the free program.
Skating to Astor Piazzolla's tango "Adios Nonino," and looking elegant in a long-sleeved black and purple backless dress, Kim was virtually flawless, landing six triples.
The 27-year-old Kostner, world champion in 2012, also skated a clean program to "Bolero" and had the crowd clapping and stomping their feet over the final minute of the program.
Lipnitskaia, the 15-year-old phenom and top-ranked Russian who skated magnificently in leading her country to gold in the inaugural team event, crumbled under the pressure in the individual event. She fell in her short program Wednesday and then again in her long to finish sixth.
"I wanted to skate my best today but it didn't work," said the tiny Lipnitskaia, who could pass for a couple years younger than her age. "I've lost control over my jumps -- tiredness and emotions."
Osmond, who had a shaky short program, fared better in the long, scoring 168.98 points. In her wine-coloured dress, her lips painted to match, she played to the crowd with her program to "Cleopatre," falling once on her triple toe loop in an otherwise clean skate.
She bent over, hands on knees afterward.
"It is really warm, and it's been a really long few weeks," Osmond said. "By the time I finished I was just so relieved I managed to get through everything and I was relieved to skate such a good program."
A hamstring injury that forced the 18-year-old out of Skate Canada this season had also flared up again over the past few days.
"So I've been fighting with that," Osmond said. "I was happy to pull through a program like that and I think, being here so long, it just tired me out by the end of the program. I don't remember being that tired at the end of a program before."
Osmond is Newfoundland's first female Olympian and said she was thrilled with the response from her friends and fans when she logged onto her Twitter page after Wednesday's short program.
"People were mentioning how they shut down classes and work and people were running into convenience stores . . . 'OK, I need to find a TV somewhere' (to watch her skate)," Osmond said, with a grin.
The 16-year-old Daleman succumbed to nerves in her first senior international competition, popping one jump and putting her hands down on two others.
"I didn't give up the program, which I'm really happy about," Daleman said, fighting back tears. "I kept trying all the jumps, I didn't give up, I kept pushing."
Thursday's packed field also included Japan's two-time world champion Mao Asada, who was considered a favourite in Sochi before falling in a shaky short program to leave her 16th and well out of contention.
Her program prompted criticism from Yoshiro Mori, the head of Tokyo's 2020 Olympic organizing committee.
The former Japanese prime minister said Asada has a habit of "always falling at the most critical time" of a competition.
Asada had a sensational free skate Thursday, opening with her trademark triple Axel en route to finish sixth.