Adelina Sotnikova, Tsarina of the Sochi Ice Palace
At Sochi 2014, Adelina Sotnikova became the first-ever Russian to win an Olympic gold medal in ladies’ figure skating.
National champion at 12
Adelina Sotnikova began skating at the age of four in her home town of Moscow (RUS). Just eight years later in 2009, she was crowned Russian figure skating champion, but as a twelve-year-old she was unable to compete at the Vancouver Games. “I started dreaming about taking part in the Games after that victory,” she recalled. “And when I watched it on TV in 2010, I was desperate to qualify for the next one. I knew it wouldn’t be easy –there are so many talented young skaters here.”
Sotnikova intensified her efforts in training, determined to show what she could do on skating’s greatest stage and to use her success as a means of providing support for her younger sister Maria, who suffers from a rare genetic disorder. She won the ISU World Junior Figure Skating title in 2011 in Gangneung (KOR), and finished second behind compatriot Elizaveta Tuktamysheva at the inaugural Winter Youth Olympic Games in Innsbruck (GER) the following year. In December 2013, the gifted 17-year-old collected her fourth national title, prior to claiming a silver medal at the European Championships in Zagreb one month later, in a competition won by Yulia Lipnitskaya.
Initial setback in Sochi
Sotnikova did not enjoy the best of starts to the 2014 Olympic Games, as Lipnitskaya, 15, was chosen ahead of her to take part in the new team event, in which her rival performed marvellously as Russia captured gold. “I really wanted to take part because I knew that we would win a medal because our team was so strong,” said Sotnikova. “When I received the final ‘no’, I felt like something was stuck in my throat. But then I swallowed the disappointment and I was determined to show everyone what I could do in the individual event. It added to my determination as I wanted to get this gold.”
The Olympic ladies’ individual figure skating event began on 19 February 2014 in Sochi’s Iceberg Skating Palace with the short programme, at the culmination of which defending champion Yuna Kim (KOR), Sotnikova and Carolina Kostner (ITA) were separated by less than a point.
The next day, the Russian performed her free skate ahead of the Korean, producing a technically brilliant routine that featured seven triple jumps, including a triple lutz-triple toe loop combination, triple flip, triple loop, triple salchow and triple lutz, that enthralled the appreciative home crowd and earned her a remarkable score of 149.95, just 0.11 points short of the record total of 150.06 set by Kim at Vancouver 2010.
Kim’s response was a typically graceful and nimble routine, but her efforts proved insufficient to catch Sotnikova, who became the first Olympic women’s figure skating champion to hail from Russia, much to the delight of those in attendance and the millions watching at home.
Only the beginning?
“I’m so happy; it was my dream to win in Sochi. I’m very glad the Games were held in Russia because the fans gave me such great support. This was my gift to my country. I knew I could do it. I wanted the gold, and now it’s mine. But that’s not the end – I want to keep going, and win at the Worlds and the European Championships. I want to win every medal possible,” she said. Following her historic achievement, who would bet against her realising that ambition?