Amid controversy, Adelina Sotnikova only focused on winning ‘new golds’

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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.

VIDEO: Compare routines of Adelina Sotnikova and Yuna Kim

“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.”

MORE: Petition to investigate judging exceeds 1 million signatures

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.

VIDEO: Watch Sotnikova’s routine

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.”

Japanese pair edges Americans for historic Grand Prix Final figure skating title

Riku Miura, Ryuichi Kihara
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Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara won the biggest title ever for a Japanese figure skating pair, taking the Grand Prix Final and consolidating their status as the world’s top active team.

Miura and Kihara, last season’s world silver medalists, barely outscored world champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier in Turin, Italy, in both Thursday’s short program and Friday’s free skate to win the six-pair event that is a preview of March’s worlds.

The Japanese totaled 214.58 points, distancing the Americans by a mere 1.3 points after Frazier erred on both of their side-by-side jumping passes in the free skate. Italians Sara Conti and Niccolo Macii took bronze.

“We had a very late start to our season than initially planned, so as we have been performing at each event, I see us getting stronger, improving things,” said Frazier, who with Knierim had their best short program and free skate scores of the autumn.

Knierim and Frazier didn’t decide to continue competing together this season until July.

“I feel a little personally disappointed tonight just for myself for my jumps,” Frazier continued. “I was a little all over the place and, normally, I can execute better, so I feel a little bad, but I’m very proud of us overall. We’ve done a great job of improving each competition and looking forward to the second half of the season where we can start tapping into our best skating.”

GRAND PRIX FINAL: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Miura and Kihara, who partnered in June 2019 and train in Ontario, both waited with trepidation for their final score to be posted, worried that each’s separate mistake on jumps might cost them the title. When they learned they won, both burst into tears.

“This was the first time in eight years that I made a mistake with a Salchow, so I thought we might not get a good score, and it would be my fault,” Kihara said.

Miura and Kihara entered the competition ranked No. 1 in the world by best scores this season ahead of Knierim and Frazier, who in March became the first U.S. pair to win a world title since 1979.

Last season, Miura and Kihara became the second Japanese pair to make a Grand Prix podium and to earn a world championships medal. Their ascension helped Japan win its first Olympic figure skating team event medal in February (a bronze that could be upgraded to gold pending the Kamila Valiyeva case).

In Grand Prix Final history, Japan had won 11 gold medals and 40 total medals, all in singles, before this breakthrough.

Knierim and Frazier, already the first U.S. pair to compete in the Grand Prix Final since 2015, became the first U.S. pair to win a Grand Prix Final medal. The Final has been held annually since 1996, though it was canceled the last two seasons due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Miura and Kihara and Knierim and Frazier ascended to the top of the sport while the top five teams from the Olympics from Russia and China have not competed internationally since the Winter Games.

All Russian skaters are ineligible for international competition due to the war in Ukraine. China’s pairs, including Olympic champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, didn’t enter last March’s worlds and did not compete in the fall Grand Prix Series.

Later Friday, world champion Kaori Sakamoto of Japan led the women’s short program with 75.86 points, 1.28 ahead of countrywoman Mai Mihara. American Isabeau Levito, the 15-year-old world junior champion, was fifth of six skaters in her Grand Prix Final debut.

Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier topped the rhythm dance with 85.93 points, edging Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates by .44. Both couples are bidding for the biggest international title of their careers. None of the Olympic medalists competed internationally this fall.

The Grand Prix Final ends Saturday with the men’s and women’s free skates and free dance, all live on Peacock.

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A Winter Olympic medal still being decided, 10 months later

Fanny Smith, Daniela Maier
It's still unknown whether Fanny Smith (green) or Daniela Maier (blue) is the Olympic ski cross bronze medalist. (Getty)
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There is a second Winter Olympic medal result still in question, 10 months after the Games.

While the figure skating team event results are still unknown due to the Kamila Valiyeva case, the bronze medal in women’s ski cross is also in dispute.

Originally, Swiss Fanny Smith crossed the finish line in third place in the four-woman final at the Winter Games in February. Upon review by the International Ski Federation (FIS) jury, she was minutes later demoted to fourth place after making contact with German Daniela Maier near the end of the course. Maier, who originally was fourth, was upgraded to bronze.

“I tried to be OK with the fourth place. I was very disappointed, I have to say, [then] the jury was like this,” Maier said then. “I am really sorry for Fanny that it’s like this right now. … The jury decided like this, so accept it and be happy with the medal.”

Smith and the Swiss ski federation appealed. FIS reinstated Smith as the bronze medalist nine days after the race and six days after the Closing Ceremony. A FIS appeals commission met four times and reviewed video and written documentation for several hours before deciding that “the close proximity of the racers at that moment resulted in action that was neither intentional or avoidable.”

But that wasn’t the end. The case ended up reportedly going to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), whose rulings are usually accepted as final. The CAS process is ongoing, European media reported this week.

CAS has not responded to a request for comment. A FIS contact said Friday, “There is currently no update to provide in regards to the bronze medal in ski cross. Should there be any update, we will inform you.”

Smith said there should be news soon regarding the case, according to Blick.

Maier still has the bronze medal at her home and enjoys looking at it, according to German media, which also reported that the German ski federation expects Maier to win the case and keep the medal. Smith and Maier spoke extensively about it in recent training sessions and cleared things up. Maier said the best outcome would be bronze medals for both of them, according to the report.

For now, FIS lists Smith as the bronze medalist. The IOC lists Maier as the bronze medalist.

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