It’s not fair to say Olympic figure skating is still the same mess it was in the past. The new scoring system does add a bit of transparency. But judges are human, particularly in a sport in which the athletes are also artists trying to connect with a crowd. And that’s why Russia’s Adelina Sotnikova is a gold medalist ahead of defending champion Yuna Kim.
Sport: Figure skating
Event: Women’s free program
Medalists: Adelina Sotnikova (Russia), Yuna Kim (South Korea), Carolina Kostner (Italy)
SportsMyriad projections: Mao Asada (Japan), Yuna Kim (South Korea), Ashley Wagner (USA)
How U.S. fared: Polina Edmunds, who’s not yet old enough to drive, had a graceful skate with a few difficult elements. She hit the combinations but fell on a triple — Johnny Weir pointed out it was the same error she had in the national championships. Everything else was solid, and Edmunds had a personal best 122.21 and a total of 183.25, just behind Japan’s Akiko Suzuki in third place with the top six to come.
Gracie Gold skated very well. She just had one costly fall on a triple flip. She also followed Russia’s Sotnikova, and the lack of energy in the arena may have deflated some of her component scores. She beat the personal best she set in the team program with a score of 136.90 and a total of 205.53.
Ashley Wagner had dazzling spins, and she didn’t fall or land too awkwardly. She pumped her fists as she finished. But Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski noticed a couple of small errors, including one underrotation. That was enough to limit her score to 127.99, just shy of her personal best.
The USA is officially in a medal drought in this event, but finishing fourth (Gold), seventh (Wagner) and ninth (Edmunds) isn’t too bad. Maybe the Olympics could add a team event with three women per team?
What happened: Japanese favorite Mao Asada rebounded from her dreadful short program by landing everything in her demanding free skate, including the fateful triple axel. She was marked down on two jumps but not much else, getting a career-high 142.71 points. Her total of 198.22 wouldn’t contend for a medal. Would it?
France’s Mae Berenice Meite, who skated to the same Prince tune as Jason Brown in the short program, did her free skate to the sounds of someone tuning his guitar. It segued into some slow blues, then Queen’s We Will Rock You, then ZZ Top’s La Grange. Sounds like an iPod for old guys like me, but the segues were awfully jarring. So was a fall on the triple loop. Everything else was solid.
The other highlights of the second-to-last group were Edmunds and Japan’s Akiko Suzuki, who was just clean enough to edge past Edmunds. Asada was well in front.
Russia’s Julia Lipnitskaia led off the final group. She was the darling of the country after the team event but fell badly in the short program. She did it again here. She eked ahead of Asada but knew the score wouldn’t stand.
Italy’s Carolina Kostner had an entertaining program to Ravel’s Bolero, with just one shaky landing. Everything else was terrific. She beat her personal best by more than 10 points, putting Olympic disappointments in the past.
Then came Russia’s Adelina Sotnikova, who flew through the heavens, solved Fermat’s last theorem, inspired soldiers to lay down their arms … or something like that. We really have no idea what the judges saw. She was good, surely. But she did miss a landing (which was indeed downgraded), and her program was simply not as good as Kostner’s. The judges said it was more than seven points better.
Gold and Wagner had the misfortune of following that. So did South Korea’s Yuna Kim, the defending champion. Kim was flawless. Beautiful. If only she were Russian.
“Any other night, it would’ve been hers,” said Johnny Weir. And it should’ve been.
The medalists deserved it. Just not in that order. Kim, Kostner, Sotnikova would’ve been just fine. Lipnitskaia probably deserved seventh rather than fifth ahead of Asada and Wagner.