Home Court Advantage – that is all you can say.
During the final day of figure skating, South Korean “Queen” Yuna Kim entered the free skate competition with the lead and then put on a spectacular, passionate, immaculate, effortless, and artistic performance.
The gold medal was surely hers. The NBC announcers in Sochi were screaming out of excitement before she even finished her regal routine. And then? And then? Kim received a low score of 144.19 and was beaten by Adelina Sotnikova of Russia who notched a personal best of 149.95 — 18 points higher than her own personal record, but 0.11 points short of Kim’s world record from the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
While Sotnikova did put on a fantastic free skate show, she had a little stumble in the middle, dipped her body a bit before every jump, and appeared to bend over ever so slightly with each landing.
Sotnikova, a national champ, showed prowess, but not the elegance of Kim or America’s Gracie Gold.
With Kim’s final score delivered, a television camera captured “The Queen” quietly wiping away her tears. Sotnikova, surprised at the result herself, started running down the hall towards the ice, hugging everyone she bumped into along the way. And with a gold medal, an upset was etched in the books.
The win, diplomatically speaking, is mind-blowing – and will be debated by skate, sport and Yuna Kim fans for a long, long time.
Talk will certainly center on whether Sotnikova deserved the win for seven triple jumps over Kim’s six — which still doesn’t explain why the Russian scored five points higher than Japan’s Mao Asada, who landed eight perfect triple jumps during her free skate.
In the end this past Friday will go down in history as one of the most amazing ladies free skate competitions. Mao Asada; 15-year-old darling Lipnitskaia; America’s Gold-en girl; and Italy’s Carolina Kostner didn’t back down from an Olympic challenge. They took it to the ice and put on a show.
The Japanese skater laid down her personal best, scoring 142.71 (beating her last personal best of 136.33) in the free style, her last competition before retiring. Her skating was so beautiful the audience starting clapping along to Rachmaninov’s piano concerto as they watched her land eight magnificent triple jumps during this program. (Mao’s athletic spirit was admirable — acing her performance knowing she had no shot to stand on the podium, coming into the free style in 16th place after a disappointing short program (55.51) where she fell on her first triple axel.)
You could tell the teen was tight from the beginning but the crowd was still spellbound and praying for her until she finally fell around the 3-minute mark. Despite that Lipnitskaia still scored 135.34 (a bit high for someone that fell on her bum I must say – home ground advantage here, too?) and with her 65.23 from the short program received a total score of 200.57 (compared to 214.41 in the team program).
The Italian powerhouse put on a graceful show after two disastrous Olympic performances – one of those in her hometown Turin, Italy, the other one falling three times during a single performance. Scoring 142.61, her personal best, this was true redemption in front of every skating fan who has seen her fall over and over again during the most crucial moments. (While I’m personally not a big fan of her little chicken wing leg lift spins, she takes back to Italy a well-deserved Bronze.)
Gold, America’s favorite, scored 136.90, a personal best somehow, even though she fell once. She didn’t fall during the same program in the team competition but her score was a little lower then. Did I say the scoring was totally off today?
Fans now want to know whether this the loss is going to prompt Kim – an ultimate competitor – to go again for the gold on her home turf in 2018. She will be 27 by then, and possibly compete against a 19-year-old Lipnitskaia and a 22-year-old Gracie Gold. Forget about Sotnikova, she got lucky and bets are she won’t be in competing form.
Whether you’re were in Sochi or in your living room, the Olympic competition between the world’s top female figure skaters was transfixing.
Before the two-day event many were wondering if “The Queen” would reign again or if a Russian-American battle was going to unfold between Lipnitskaia and Gold.
During Thursday’s short performance, the face-off seemed squarely between Kim and Lipnitskaia, but the contest ended abruptly with Lipnitskaia unexpectedly falling on the ice.
It seems the younger skater, who’s now placed a far fifth that day, was rattled after finally seeing Kim in the flesh. Leading up to to the competition, the Russian’s coach kept her sequestered to remain focused. That strategy didn’t pay off.
After Thursday’s short program, a Kim win was a good bet, but it wasn’t a sure thing. As Gracie Gold — who fumbled in the event — once said: “It’s not always about who the best skater is; it’s about who skates the best in that competition.”
During the short program, Kim performed before her competitors and shimmered — even though she didn’t look too happy with her score of 74.92 (lower than the short program world record of 78.50 she racked up in Vancouver four years ago).
Already on her leathered heels were Sotnikova and Carolina Kostner (who were slightly behind by 0.28 and 0.80 points, respectively.)
If Kim held on Friday she would have been the first figure skater to win a back-to-back gold since Germany’s Katarina Witt, who topped the boards in 1984 and 1988.
The feat was certainly possible. During the last Olympics in Vancouver, Kim broke the world record with a combined score of 228.56 beating then silver medalist Mao Asada by a whopping 23.06-point margin.
Olympic gold was Kim’s to lose — and it looks as if it was yanked from her hands.
We understand you can’t count out some other talented contenders — whether it’s a skater named Gold or a teenage Russian phenom and her gorgeous never-ending spin. This is a competition after all.
The question remains: Did Yuna lose a Sochi gold medal inside or outside the rink?
We’ll be asking that one for a while.