Following the team competition at Sochi's 2014 Olympics, the gold medal in the ladies' free skate seemed a lock. After all, 15-year-old Russian skater Yulia Lipnitskaya had helped propel the Russia to team gold following an astonishingly mature short program and free skate. But after an uncharacteristic fall landed her in fifth place following the individual short program, Lipnitskaya continued to let the competition's nerves get to her, tumbling once again during her individual free skate, paving the way for fellow Russian Adelina Sotnikova to pick up the gold medal. And, rising to the occasion, Sotnikova did.
The skater snagged the win with a total 224.59 points, finishing above Russia's Yuna Kim, who won silver, and Carolina Kostner, who, with a bronze medal, is the first Italian woman to medal in the sport. And though Sotnikova did pull in a solid free skate, her victory is an upset — Kim, who won gold in Vancouver's 2010 Olympics and was ranked first after the short program, appeared to solidify the gold with a strong long program.
As for the U.S. skaters, Gracie Gold was in medal position following her short program, but struggled to stay there during the free skate. Not only did Adelina Sotnikova and Carolina Kostner live up to their short programs — hardly paving the way for Gold to eke in — but Gold couldn't quite live up to her name, suffering a fall during her long program that all but extinguished her hopes for a medal of any color. Still, the young skater snagged a personal best score during the free skate, placing fourth, and proving her talent during her first Olympics. Ashley Wagner, on the other hand, appeared to bounce back from a sixth place short program finish with a nearly flawless free skate. It's a finish that's no doubt disappointing for the skater, but Wagner maintained her composure — unlike after her previous performances — mouthing a "that's not bad" to the camera after placing seventh. Is it time to start wondering whether or not Wagner was robbed?
Yep, seems like it's time.
So the United States can count 2014 as a rebuilding year for skating (Polina Edmunds finished ninth), and look to a hopefully brighter (and more gold) future in four years' time. But will the skaters be so lucky to take advantage of a Lipnitskaya screw-up come the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics?
What do you have to say about Lipnitskaya's signature spin, Ashley Wagner?
We agree. So, to answer that first question, doubtful. See you in 2018, Yulia.