Backing up a world record in the earlier short program, the first of two events to decide the women’s singles figure skating gold medal at PyeongChang 2018, the 15-year-old outperformed Evgenia Medvedeva (OAR), 18, who collected the silver medal with a season-best performance.
Winning the bronze medal was Kaetlyn Osmond (CAN), who also recorded a season-best performance.
Zagitova skated to Don Quixote and, unusually, performed all her showpiece jumps in the second half of her routine when they may be scored more highly. A series of near-flawless jumps including two triple Lutz, a triple flip into a double toe, and a triple flip into a double loop, convinced the judges to score 156.65, just two points shy of setting a second world record for these Games.
“I won. Honestly, my hands are shaking, because I haven't understood yet that I am an Olympic champion,” Zagitova said.
Victory came despite her first triple Lutz missing a planned progression into a triple loop. However, the teenager showed composure in performing the required loop on the back of a later Lutz, avoiding penalty marks from the judges.
“We discussed this with my coach, so in case the first combination doesn't work out, I will do the second Lutz with the loop. Honestly, I was in shock, because I was ready to (do) everything on the first try. But this can happen, each athlete has to deal with it and it is another experience that I went through." Zagitova becomes the second-youngest women’s skater to win Olympic gold - America's Tara Lipinski was also 15 when she topped the podium at Nagano 1998, but was about a month younger than Zagitova.
Medvedeva, who skated to the music of Anna Karenina, said she felt “like Anna Karenina in the movie”.
“I put everything out there that I had, I left everything on the ice. I have no regrets. This was my mindset going out - not to leave anything on the table. I didn't think about errors, not about a clean skate,” she said.
“Honestly, I skated like in a fog, for the first time. It is because I realise that I am enjoying the process, these four minutes are historical and they only belong to me and the whole world is watching only me for those four minutes.”
Osmond, who finished 13th in the same event four years ago in Sochi, was delighted to be on the podium. “Not long after the last Olympics, I didn't even know that I would be competing at this one. It means so much and to know that I fought so hard in the last four years. My main goal was to place higher than 13th, which I did, and I improved that by 10 placements,” she said.
“I felt strong and in the best shape I have ever been in my entire life. To be able to put out two clean programmes on Olympic ice - it means so much to me.”