Click photo to enlarge
Adelina Sotnikova of Russia, centre, Yuna Kim of South Korea, left, and Carolina Kostner of Italy stand on the podium during the flower ceremony for the women's free skate figure skating final competes in the women's free skate figure skating finals at the Iceberg Skating Palace during the 2014 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. Sotnikova placed first, followed by Kim and Kostner.

SOCHI, Russia -- Adios, Queen.

In an upset for the ages, unheralded Russian Adelina Sotnikova stunned the figure skating world Thursday night at the Iceberg Palace on a day the Americans were shut out again.

Sotnikova, 17, overcame reigning Olympic champion Kim Yu-na of South Korea, called simply, "the Queen," to win Russia's first gold medal in women's individual skating and only the fourth of any color.

Sotnikova, who was overlooked in the team competition last week, was technically superior Thursday, landing seven triple jumps to Kim's six. The Russian leapfrogged the favorite in the four-minute free skate, winning with a score of 224.59 points. She had 5.48 points more than Kim, the silver medalist, who ended a spellbinding career skating to Astor Piazzolla's "Adios Nonino."

Adelina Sotnikova of Russia, centre, her coach Elena Buianova, right, and choreographer Irina Tagaeva react in the results area after she completed her
Adelina Sotnikova of Russia, centre, her coach Elena Buianova, right, and choreographer Irina Tagaeva react in the results area after she completed her routine in the women's free skate figure skating finals at the Iceberg Skating Palace during the 2014 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. ((AP Photo/Bernat Armangue))

Kim, 23, exits as one of history's most graceful skaters. But she failed to become the third woman to win consecutive gold medals in individual figure skating. Kim couldn't match Sonja Henie of Norway (1928, 1932 and 1936) and Katarina Witt of the former East Germany (1984 and 1988) as the only women to defend Olympic titles.

In a comeback story, Italy's Carolina Kostner, 27, held on to win the bronze after suffering through two disappointing Olympics.

Kostner might have lost the medal had U.S. champion Gracie Gold of Chicago not fallen on a triple flip jump midway through her routine. She still scored a season-best 136.90 points for a 205.53 total to finish fourth.

"When I went down, I thought, 'Dang it,' " Gold said.


Advertisement

American skating officials probably held similar sentiments.

But overall, the Sochi Games underscored the resurgence in American skating with teenagers Polina Edmunds of San Jose (ninth) and Gold looking strong. Veteran Ashley Wagner, 23, was happy to survive her first Olympics after finishing fourth at last month's national championships.

The two-time U.S. champion stopped as the music finished and punched the air emphatically. Wagner finished in seventh place, just two positions ahead of Edmunds, 15.

Adelina Sotnikova of Russia competes in the women’s free skate figure skating finals at the Iceberg Skating Palace during the 2014 Winter Olympics,
Adelina Sotnikova of Russia competes in the women's free skate figure skating finals at the Iceberg Skating Palace during the 2014 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. ((AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda))

"I can't complain, and it makes me look forward" to the World Championships in late March in Japan, Wagner said.

Edmunds, an Archbishop Mitty High sophomore who completed homework while in Sochi, also is headed to Japan as her burgeoning international career launched beautifully. She fell on a triple flip but otherwise had an eye-catching performance that was well received by judges in her senior-level international debut.

Are the judges sold?

"Completely, without question," said David Glynn, Edmunds' coach since she was 4.

The U.S. women have been shut out in consecutive Olympics after winning gold medals in 1998 and 2002. It was the first time since 1948 the United States has missed the podium in back-to-back games.

But skating officials can see fortunes turning with each beautiful rotation from Edmunds' sharp triple jumps.

For the foreseeable future, however, the center of women's figure skating has landed in Russia.

Sotnikova was an afterthought on the Russian team, receiving scant international attention behind Yulia Lipnitskaya, the 15-year-old European champion.

But while Lipnitskaya fell in both the short and long programs, the four-time Russian champion Sotnikova was spectacular.

The woman who won her first national title at age 12 did not hold back about the disappointment of being left out of the new team competition.

Lipnitskaya won both the short and long programs as Russia easily won the gold medal.

"I felt offended," Sotnikova said of the snub. "I felt cheated in a way."

It made her so mad she won a gold medal of her own -- a year after finishing only ninth at the World Championships.

Because no one skates with as much grace as Kim, some wondered about the scoring in the host country.

Such questions spoil the beauty of the sport. But with a confounding judging system and anonymous panelists, it can be difficult to understand some of the scores.

Kim, for her part, would not criticize anyone.

"I'm not in the right position to comment," she said when asked if the scoring was fair.

Few could question Sotnikova's mastery of the technical side of skating. She completed seven triple jumps, including four in combinations. Kim's program was not nearly as ambitious.

Kim said a lack of an obvious goal might have factored into her performance that was not nearly as inspiring as it was in Vancouver four years ago.

"At the time, I could die for a gold medal," Kim said of the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Not this time.

Not with Sotnikova feeling extra motivated while skating to "Introduction et Rondo Capriccioso" by Camille Saint-Saens.

"It's my gold, I can't believe it," the teenager said.

Few others could, either.

  • Full standings, PAGE 4