Russia’s cupboard was so bare of world-class female figure skaters that the sport’s most dominant nation had to turn to the kids a few years ago.
Among those youngsters was Adelina Sotnikova, who won a national championship in 2009, when she was just 12.
She was too young to compete at the 2010 Olympics. When she finally got to the games this year, she was overshadowed by an even younger teammate. But on Thursday night, the 17-year-old Sotnikova looked comfortable and unburdened by the pressure of the host nation, becoming Russia’s first gold medalist in women’s Olympic figure skating.
In the signature moment of the games for Russians, Sotnikova defeated defending champion Yuna Kim of South Korea. Both women skated nearly flawless programs, but Sotnikova completed one more decisive triple jump.
“I first dreamed to be at the Olympics after the nationals in 2010,” Sotnikova said. “And when I watched the games in Vancouver, I really wanted to qualify for the next games. I knew it won’t be easy. There are so many new talented girls around.”
Sotnikova was considered a long shot against the likes of Kim, who announced her retirement after the free skate; Italy’s Carolina Kostner, who took bronze; Japan’s Mao Asada; and even Americans Gracie Gold and Ashley Wagner.
But she won it all, giving Russia or the Soviet Union 27 Olympic gold medals in the sport. They own five men’s golds, 13 in pairs, seven in ice dance, and took the first team event this year.
Gold finished fourth, Wagner seventh and San Jose 15-year-old American Polina Edmunds ninth.
“The judges haven’t really seen me skate for years like some of the other competitors,” Edmunds said. “I knew that the only thing I could do is skate a great program and show them what I could do for future competitions to come.”