SOCHI, Russia – The day after a judging controversy swirled around figure skating, newly-crowned Olympic champion Adelina Sotkinova had her mind on one thing: more gold medals.
The 17-year-old registered the second-highest free skate score in Olympic history, besting 2010 Olympic champion Yuna Kim for the gold medal. Italy’s Carolina Kostner was third.
“This isn’t the end. There are new golds to win,” a smiling Sotnikova told a packed press room. “There are the World Championships – I want to win there. I only have a silver at the European Championships; I want to win gold there. I want all the gold that there is.”
Sotnikova’s win has been questioned by fans and insiders alike, but experts point to one important factor: the Russian completed one more triple jump than Kim. She also skated unharnessed in a free skate where Kim and Kostner were clean, yet safe and restrained in their performances, giving Sotnikova a higher component score.
“For me yesterday Adelina was the champion,” said Eteri Tutberidze, the coach of Yulia Lipnitskaya, Sotnikova’s teammate. “It all goes into a package. If you look at all of the components of the skating, she was the champion. Yuna Kim is a strong skater, a strong person. But for me, Adelina won the skating.”
Sotnikova’s coach, former world medalist Elena Buyanova, said the Russian coaches came together in 2010 after the figure skating team won just two medals, its lowest count since the 1976 Innsbruck Games.
“After Vancouver we had to sit down with all the coaches and analyze what was happening,” Buyanova said. “We could not imagine any better training conditions now; we have had the full support of the Russian sporting bodies.”
Sotnikova becomes the first Russian woman to win gold at the Olympics. Ladies had won a total of just three silvers and bronzes, most recently by Irina Slutskaya (silver in Salt Lake and bronze in Torino).
It was a disappointing end of the Games for the 15-year-old Lipnitskaya, who had won the ladies’ portion of the team event – in which Russia claimed gold – yet faltered to fifth place in the singles event.
“After the end I was very disappointed,” Lipnitskaya said. “I just couldn’t focus during it because I was so tired. I felt sad. It was just too much. Last night I cried and cried. But still, No. 5 in the world is not something very many people can do.”
Calls have been renewed for figure skating’s judges to be identified. A panel of nine judges is named, though just five of their scores are used after each skate. Those five judges are not identified.
“We play by the rules that this game is offering us,” said Peter Chernyshov, Sotnikova’s choreographer. “I don’t think we’re in the position to promote new ideas. At this point we’re focused at following the rules and doing our best.”
“It’s hard to find the ideal system that would work for everyone,” he continued. “It’s not track and field where you run faster than someone. It’s very subjective.”
Both Lipnitskaya and Sotnikova said they’re looking forward to the World Championships next month in Japan. It will be Lipnitskaya’s first, while Sotnikova was ninth there a year ago.
With her gold, she becomes the first Olympic champion not to have medaled at Worlds before her win.
The teenagers credit one another for pushing Russian skating to the next level.
“It’s good to have someone on the team that makes you go forward,” Sotnikova said of Lipnitskaya. “I have to say thanks to Yulia because she is my rival. It’s not over yet. This season took a lot of nerve, but there are still World Championships, and I want to win there.”