Figure skating: Russians lead gold rush as teenagers rule the Iceberg
Teenagers Julia Lipnitskaia and Adelina Sotnikova lit up the Iceberg Skating Palace, as Team Russia won three out of five golds on offer, including the inaugural team event. Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu became the youngest men’s champion in over half a century, while Charlie White and Meryl Davis blazed the ice dance trail for the USA.
6 February 2014: Plushenko, Volosozhar and Trankov shine for Russia
Fine showings from Evgeni Plushenko, second in the men’s short programme, and the duo of Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov, saw Russia claim a halfway lead in the new Olympic figure skating team event at the Iceberg Skating Palace.
18-year-old Japanese prodigy Yuzuru Hanyu put in an outstanding performance in the men’s short programme, falling just two points short of his best-ever score of 99.84, the current world record, to propel his team into an early lead. Meanwhile, home favourite Plushenko, 31, delivered a faultless display, managing a quad-triple combination jump that had the other competitors applauding along with the Iceberg crowd. “I’m so happy,” said the three-time Olympic medallist. “It can be difficult to skate in my homeland, but sometimes it helps.” Three-time world champion Patrick Chan (CAN) finished third in the men’s section of the competition. Later in the day, reigning pairs world champions Tatiana Volosozar and Maxim Trankov (RUS) were in stunning form, enthralling the fans with a brilliant short programme, ahead of Megan Duhamel/Eric Radford (CAN) and Peng Cheng/Zhang Hao (CHN).
8 February 2014: Sensational Lipnitskaia wins hearts and points
The ice dance short programme was dominated by Vancouver 2010 silver medallists Meryl David and Charlie White (USA), who scored 75.98 points, three points ahead of reigning Olympic ice dance champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada (72.98), while Ekaterina Bobrova and Dmitri Soloviev (70.27), helped Russia maintain their overall lead by claiming third place.
It was then the turn of the women to round off the short programmes. The star of the show was Russian teenager Julia Lipnitskaia, who scored a total of 72.90 points. The 15-year-old was too strong for 2010 individual silver medallist and two-time world champion Mao Asada (JPN), who fell while trying to execute a triple axel, pushing her back into third place on 64.07 points. France was dislodged from the top five by the Italians, who climbed the rankings thanks to a wonderful performance from 2012 world champion, Carolina Kostner (70.84 points) which was enough to move her into second. The five teams with the best scores from the short programmes progressed to the final stage of the competition, which featured free programmes in men’s, women’s, pairs and ice dance. With 37 points out of a possible 40 after all of the short programmes, Russia were joined by Canada (32 points), USA (27 points), Japan (24 points) and Italy (23 points). The free programmes kicked off with the pairs later that day. Stolbova and Klimov extended Russia’s lead, top scoring with 135.09 to earn the maximum 10 points, followed by Kirsten Moore-Towers/Dylan Moscovitch (CAN) and Stefania Berton/Ondrej Hotarek (ITA).
9 February 2014: Veteran and prodigy combine to help Russia claim team gold
Plushenko and Lipnitskaia helped seal gold for Russia in the first ever Olympic team figure skating event. It was a fourth Olympic medal for the 31-year-old Plushenko, but his achievement was almost overshadowed by that of Lipnitskaia, who, at less than half his age, produced a performance that left a packed Iceberg Skating Palace mesmerised. Having won five of the eight sections of the team event, Russia racked up an impressive 75 points of a possible 80. Canada took silver with 65 points, while the USA won bronze with 60 points.
In the final round - the ice dance free programme – Russian pair Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov placed third behind Davis/White (USA) and Virtue/Moir (CAN). But by that stage Plushenko and Lipnitskaia had already put Russia out of reach. Plushenko scored 168.20 for his free skate, ahead of USA’s Kevin Reynold (167.92) and Japan's Tatsuki Machida (165.85). For her part, the 15-year old Lipnitskaia skated sublimely to score a personal best of 141.51, finishing ahead of Gracie Gold (USA) and Valentina Marchei (ITA).
“I was a little bit nervous after Evgeni got first because I didn't want to let the team down,” admitted Lipnitskaia, who put those nerves aside to help propel her and her team-mates to the top of the podium. Plushenko joined Gillis Grafstroem (SWE) as the only skater in Olympic history to win four figure skating medals. “I'm 31 years and this means everything to me. It's so much history,” said 2006 Olympic men’s individual champion.
11 February 2014: Volosozhar and Trankov waltz to new world record
World champions Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov set a new world record score for the pairs short programme to get their bid for a second Olympic figure skating gold.
Trankov, resplendent in a military-themed outfit, and Volosozhar, in a ballroom-style dress, performed flawlessly to "Masquerade Waltz" by Aram Khachaturian to score 84.17 points. That bettered the 83.98 they set on their way to a third European title in January 2014. Germany's Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy, four-time world champions and Olympic bronze medallists at Vancouver 2010, produced a new season's best of 79.64 for their error-free routine, performed to the soundtrack from “The Pink Panther’. The other Russian couple, Ksenia Stolbova and Fedor Klimov scored 75.21 for their Flamenco routine to sit third going into the following day’s free skate.
12 February 2014: Volosozhar and Trankov strike gold again
Volosozhar and Trankov claimed a second gold for themselves and Russia as they led a Russian one-two in the pairs figure skating. Already team gold medallists, Volosozhar and Trankov led all the way to seal the title ahead of team-mates Stolbova and Klimov, with Germany's Savchenko and Szolkowy taking their second Olympic bronze. Trankov, 30, fell to his knees with his fists clinched above his head after their performance to the rock opera "Jesus Christ Superstar", while Volosozhar, 27, buried her face in her hands with tears in her eyes. In front of a packed crowd that included 1964 Olympic champions Ludmila Belousova and Oleg Protopopov, the Russian pair delivered a sparkling performance that earned a standing ovation.
“Today was a big day for all of Russia," said Trankov, after he and Volosozhar became the first skaters to win two figure skating golds at the same Games. “Two of our couples have skated very well and I think everyone in our big country is pleased. It was the hardest job of our lives.” The pair scored 152.69 for the free skate and 236.86 overall, finishing 18.18 points ahead of fellow team gold medallists Stolbova and Klimov, who brought the house down with their entertaining "The Addams Family" routine to move from bronze to silver position after the short programme. “We did everything exactly the way we were planning,” said Klimov. “It was very important for us to perform well at the Olympics that are in Russia. It's a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
Four-time world champions Savchenko and Szolkowy, who had been second after the short programme, scored 215.78 overall to earn bronze after a slip during their free skate to Tchaikovsky’s "The Nutcracker".
13 February 2014: Hanyu sets new world record in short programme as Plushenko bows out
Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu gave a virtuoso display to set a new world record score of 101.45 for the short programme in the men’s figure skating.
The 19-year old served up a quad toeloop, triple axel and triple lutz-triple toeloop combination, in a routine that left him 3.93 points ahead of three-time world champion Patrick Chan (CAN). There was disappointment for Evgeni Plushenko (RUS), who was forced to withdraw after the warm-up due to back problems. “This is not the finish that I wanted. But I leave with a gold medal, that is also great," the 31-year-old, who had helped Russia claim the team title several days earlier. In Plushenko’s absence, the main focus was on Hanyu and Chan. The Japanese youngster coped with the spotlight brilliantly, bettering his own previous world record, set on his way to victory over Chan in the Grand Prix final, by 1.61 points. “I wasn't trying to clear 100 points. I was just trying to turn in the best performance I possibly could -- and I did," said Hanyu. “I was very, very surprised by the score.”
Chan meanwhile scored 97.52 after he under rotated his triple axel jump in his performance to Rachmaninov's “Elegie in E Flat”. He also paid a heartfelt tribute to Plushenko: “I was disappointed not to see him in first place when I took the ice,” admitted the Japanese star. “I took up skating because of him. I respect him and admire him dearly. It's just sad. I'm really glad I had the opportunity to skate against him in the team event.” Chan said he was happy going into the following day’s free skating final in second place. “I like being in second. I like the chase," said the 23-year-old Canadian. “I can enjoy the Olympics during the free skate while Hanyu has a target on his back. At the Olympics, that target is bigger. “I’ve made up four points before in the long programme. I’ve done it before and I have a plan.” World bronze medallist Javier Fernandez of Spain was third on 86.98 points, after producing an entertaining routine to “Satan Takes a Holiday".
14 February 2014: Free spirit Hanyu turns on the style to claim men’s gold
Hanyu became the youngest skater in 66 years to win the Olympic men’s figure skating title. The 19-year-old shrugged off two slips during the free skate programme to take his first major title, ahead of three-time world champion and favourite Chan. Denis Ten, world silver medallist in 2013, moved up from ninth place after the short programme to take bronze, recording a score of 171.04 to total 255.10. In claiming the title, Hanyu became the first ever male Japanese skater to win figure skating gold. He also became the youngest Olympic champion in the event since Dick Button (USA) won gold at the 1948 Games at just 18. Hanyu’s score of 178.64, skating to Nino Rota’s “Romeo and Juliet” gave him a commanding total of 280.09 – building on the lead he had amassed in the short programme. Skating third from last, Chan seemed to have a clear shot at Hanyu’s score – but his performance to Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” and “Concerto Grosso” contained several errors and his score of 178.10 was not enough to challenge his rival. Hanyu could not contain his disbelief on learning he had taken gold, and had to compose himself before taking in the significance of his achievement. “It’s going to sink in soon. It’s a gift for my country,” he said. Ten’s clean free skate to “The Young Lady and The Hooligan” secured the bronze and signalled a superb return to form after a season hampered by injury and illness.
16 February 2014: Davis and White deliver inspired short programme to new world record
Two-time world champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White (USA) set a new world record score in the short dance programme, as they launched their bid for ice dancing gold.
The Vancouver 2010 silver medallists set a new benchmark of 78.89 points as they skated a foxtrot and quickstep to "My Fair Lady". That placed them 2.56 points ahead of reigning Olympic champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir (CAN), who scored 76.33 for their skate to "Dream a Little Dream", "Muskrat Ramble" and "Heaven". “Excellent is a word to describe it," said 27-year-old Davis. “I felt like I was in a dream. Everything is coming together.” Moir and Virtue were equally delighted with their short programme “That's the strongest we've skated this season,” said 26-year old Moir. Russia's Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov scored a personal best 73.04 for their skate to "Bei mir bist du schoen" and "Sixteen Tons", which put them in third place, ahead of France's Nathalie Pechalat and Fabian Bourzat (72.75). “It's great to skate at home,” said Ilinykh, who with Katsalapov had already won gold for Russia in the team figure skating. “You can feel the people watching you are giving you energy and that helps a lot.”
17 February 2014: Record-breakers Davis and White claim ice dance gold
Davis and White broke two world records as they claimed a first Olympic figure skating ice dancing gold for the USA. The couple clinched the title by 4.53 points following a free routine filled with difficult lifts and rapid footwork, that placed them ahead of defending Olympic champions Virtue and Moir. Russia's Ilinykh and Katsalapov won bronze. “We're so excited, we're in shock. I'm not sure what we're feeling,” said Davis, after she and White became the first ever Americans to win ice dance gold. “It kind of all came together for us and we're so pleased to be here. We're in disbelief.”
The Americans, who train with the Canadian silver medallists Moir and Virtue under Russian-born coach Marina Zoueva, scored 116.63 points for their free skate to "Scheherazade". That was more than two points higher than the previous world record, which they had set the previous week in the team event. Having already set a world record in the short dance, their combined total of 195.52 also represented a new benchmark, beating their previous best by over four points. “The crowd was really alive out there today for all the teams and we fed off the energy,” said White. “I felt like we had done everything we could from the beginning of this competition, in practice, in the team event, this event. And 17 years of hard work was justified. To come away with a gold medal is amazing.” The Moir and Virtue scored 114.66 points for their skate to "Petit Adagio, Waltz in Concerto No. 2" for an overall total of 190.99.
“That was another great skate for us,” said Moir. “We just wanted to go out and have a great skate for us and have our moment and we felt like we did that,” he added. Ilinykh and Katasalapov scored 110.44 for an emotionally charged performance to "Swan Lake", which earned a standing ovation, and helped them to an overall score of 183.48 and the bronze medal.
19 February 2014: Yuna Kim begins defence of Olympic crown
Defending Olympic champion Kim Yuna (KOR) completed the short programme of the women’s figure skating with a fractional 0.28 point lead over Russian teenager Adelina Sotnikova. Sotnikova’s compatriot Julia Lipnitskaia had been expected to provide the main challenge to Kim after impressing for Russia to the new team gold in the first week, but after the short programme the 15-year-old lay fifth. It was instead national champion Sotnikova, 17, who provided home fans with hopes of another Russian figure skating gold, completing an impressive routine to the music from “Carmen” which brought the 17,000 crowd at the Iceberg to their feet. Kim, 23, had earlier scored 74.92 points for her skate to "Send in the Clowns", which put her marginally ahead of Sotnikova, who scored 74.64. Italy's Carolina Kostner finished the short programme in third after scoring 74.12. “I was really nervous, my legs started trembling and shaking,” said Kim, who opened with a triple lutz-triple toe-loop combination and also included a triple flip and double axel. Japanese star Mao Asada's challenge for a medal was all but ended as the Vancouver 2010 silver medallist finished the short programme down in 16th place.
20 February 2014: Sotnikova glides to gold
Sotnikova became the first Russian woman to win an Olympic figure skating gold, edging defending champion Yuna Kim into second place. The teenager improved on her previous best free skate score by 18 points to clinch gold, as Kim took silver and Kostner won the bronze.
Kim had been bidding to become just the third woman in history to win back-to-back titles after Norway's Sonja Henie, a triple winner between 1928 and 1936, and Germany's Katarina Witt in 1984 and 1988. Instead it was four-time Russian national champion Sotnikova - a silver medallist at the inaugural Youth Olympic Games in 2012 - who made history and ensured a third figure skating gold for Russia at Sochi 2014, following the success of Volosozhar and Trankov in the pairs, and triumph in the inaugural team event.