Let’s not mince words. Russia’s Adelina Sotnikova owned the night. Seemingly out of nowhere, the Russian figure skater became a podium contender (not to mention EW’s Olympic Stud of the Day) on Wednesday. With Thursday’s finals, she proved she was worthy of the title once more.
As was only appropriate, Sotnikova’s path to victory started with some no-joke training methods:
Though Sotnikova didn’t smack — or at least wasn’t filmed smacking — the rink’s wall before her free skate like she did before the short program, the 17-year-old was nonetheless impressively intense as she landed doubles, triples, combos… you-name-its, with only one two-foot bobble in the long program. Even with that minor setback, Sotnikova was so confident in the latter half of her routine that she took out some time to pump up the crowd:
A huge part of Sotnikova’s Olympic narrative involved her 15-year-old teammate Yulia Lipnitskaia, whose age and freakish (in a good way) flexibility made her an instant star during the team competition. As the story goes, Sotnikova felt Lipnitskaia’s overnight notoriety had robbed Sotnikova of her chance to become the sport’s next big star from Russia. But the proof was in the skating. Scott Hamilton deemed Sotnikova “a momentum skater,” whose outstanding performance in the short program gave her the force to build up to Thursday’s gold-medal outcome. Witness: When the routine was done, anyone could see that both Sotnikova and the roaring crowd knew she’d nailed it —
At this point, the floor was absolutely swarmed with flower gatherers — at least 15 by my count. Tallies finalized, Sotnikova had her redemption: “She was heartbroken because she was left off the team and didn’t win the gold medal for Team Russia. But now she’s got one all to herself.”
Meanwhile, American skaters Gracie Gold (who landed in fourth), an intentionally smiley Ashley Wagner (seventh), and phenom-in-the-making Polina Edmunds (ninth) were captivating, but their skates couldn’t hold a candle to the achievement of Sotnikova, whose base difficulty — not to mention her delivery on those elements — was higher than anyone in the competition.
That includes South Korea’s Yuna Kim, who stood atop the podium in Vancouver. Kim hoped to keep her title and, in doing so, become the first woman since Katarina Witt to go back-to-back at the Olympics. She was in the lead after the short program, and her free skate was impeccable (“a performance for the ages,” according to commentator Sandra Bezic), but — as Hamilton noted — she needed her second highest score ever to take gold. And the degree of difficulty — technical, not artistic — would ultimately put the silver around her neck by a difference of 5.48 points.
Sotnikova’s Russian teammate Yulia Lipnitskaia — a self-declared podium contender — skated to a piece of music from Schindler’s List “that she chose herself. She wanted to portray the scroll.” And scrolls, they do spin:
(Correction: Apparently I had wax in my ears while recapping, and Bezic actually said Lipnitskaia “wanted to portray this role.” Sorry, sports fans!)
Though Yulia didn’t land all her jumps, her dreams of gold certainly aren’t finished. Onward to 2018, you gloriously whirling moppet. Onward!
Also in figure skating, some serious make-goods…
Carolina Kostner performed an emphatically artistic Torvill & Dean-inspired routine that finally netted her a much-deserved Olympic medal (bronze), which just so happened to be the first-ever singles medal for Kostner’s homeland of Italy:
Borrowing words from her choreographer, who asked directly after the routine: “Now do you believe in yourself? Now?!” Well, we at EW believe in you, Carolina. And that’s why you’re our Olympic Stud of the Day.
Also on Redemption Row was Japan’s Mao Asada, who had a lot of ground to make up after landing in 16th place after the short program. In short, she KILLED IT, jump after jump (not to mention with her jaggedly delicious costume), and landed in sixth place overall:
Figure Skating Bonus Round (a.k.a. Best Quotes from Sunday’s Kerrigan/Harding retrospective):
“Nobody in Hollywood would have ever bought that screenplay — even as a comedy, it was too preposterous.” –Phil Hersh, Chicago Tribune
“They weren’t very clever people.” –Evy Scotvold, Nancy Kerrigan’s coach, speaking about Gillooly & Co. (you don’t say!)
Over in Men’s Ski Cross…
“It is 75 seconds of all-out speed with a hint of controlled aggression.”
These were the ominous words uttered at the beginning of Thursday’s broadcast. And, based on the first quarter final, I tended to agree…
So long, farewell, to all those guys in red vests who were going to rule the school. I must admit, I know absolutely nothing about ski cross, but I have believed in Slovenian skier Filip Flisar as long as the sport has been on my radar (roughly two weeks). During the quarter finals, my mustachioed man gave me reason to have faith:
And then, I got that semifinal, semifinal sadness:
Just like that, three Frenchman and a Canadian were vying not to be the only medal-less loser in the final four. Unfortunately for Canuck Brady Leman, he tried a little too hard.
Ultimately, the French swept the competition, with Jean Frederic Chapuis gliding to gold followed by Arnaud Boloventa and penguin-sliding Jonathan Midol (pronounced Mee-dahl… but I still suspect he will relieve your menstrual symptoms).
Side note: Bless Jonny Moseley. I’ve watched him host at least one Challenge reunion, and I’ve supported his attempt to win Skating With the Stars (his imperfectly lovely “Cosmic Love” routine sticks with me me to this day), but I have to admit he seems most comfortable and natural talking about skiing. Stick to your day job, bro.
Now that was some hooey…
The amount of time allotted to covering the women’s hockey gold medal game was shocking (and I don’t even care about hockey, women’s or otherwise). Good job, Canada! You won for the fourth Games in row! Celebrate during this two-minutes package we tossed off because Team USA didn’t win! You’re welcome.
Over in Halfpipe…
Gold medal winner Maddie Bowman was giving me plenty of Katniss side pony as she nailed the moments before her run —
And also her 720s and 900s and other various and sundry multiples of her age (20, a.k.a. the youngest U.S. gold-medal winner in Sochi):
One of the most stressful moments (for Bowman and viewers) came when Bowman’s USA teammate Brita Sigourney wiped out after a 540 that appeared to have taken her down for the count (spoiler: it didn’t, and she finished the competition in a respectable sixth place):
While France’s “29-year-old mom” Marie Martinod and Japan’s Ayana Onozuka pulled out actual podium standings (silver and bronze, respectively), I feel it incumbent upon me to grant the gold medal to U.S. competitor Angeli Vanlaanen for her awesome name, which is pronounced precisely as hoity-toitily as you’d imagine. Nose bleed, Lyme disease, second-run 720 falter and all, you got spunk, girl. You also got 11th place. Ain’t no shame.
And today’s word I have never heard more but has never meant less to me:
Amplitude (granted, I struggled with high school physics, so what do I know?)
Day 15’s Life-Affirming Lesson: Turn tragedy into a celebration!
That’s what a tribute to late halfpipe pioneer Sarah Burke taught us. If you didn’t cry during this segment, I don’t know what to tell you or why you were watching the Olympics in the first place. That is all.