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Russia's Sotnikova had the golden formula

Posted by Matt Pepin, Boston.com Staff  February 20, 2014 04:52 PM

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Ice is slippery. Figure skating is hard. Olympic pressure is massive. Only the strong survive, and the toughest will win.

Adelina Sotnikova is figure skatingís new ice queen because she competed like a street fighter.

The 17-year-old Russian skated like she could taste the gold medal. From the determined look in her eyes at the start, right through to her triumphant finish, Sotnikova threw caution to the wind and said, ďbeat that.Ē More than any other competitor, she was going for gold with a vengeance and an attitude.

To the wild cheers of the Russian audience, Sotnikova did not let up or break down. It wasnít flawless, and it didnít have to be because Kim Yu Na couldnít match it.

300yuna.jpgKim was the final skater, and she found herself in a place sheís rarely ever been Ė a tight race. The reigning Olympic champion would need to be close to perfect. She needed to skate with the strength and confidence she is known for.

Instead Kim was tight. Her usual fluidity was not there. Aside from turning the back end of a triple-triple into a double, there were no obvious mistakes. There was also no passion.

The best Olympic gold medal performances I have ever seen have one thing in common. Electricity. Dorothy Hamill, Kristi Yamaguchi, Sara Hughes, and Tara Lipinski all had it. By the final minute of their programs, they were on fire. They could feel it and so did the audience.

Kim did not throw sparks this time. I felt she was slow, tight and cautious. And for anyone counting, she did one fewer triple than Sotnikova and lost some precious points there. Kim would settle for silver.

Italyís Carolina Kostner took home the bronze with a nice free skate, although it was nowhere near the caliber of her short program. I like how Bolero worked for Torvill and Dean, but not so much for Kostner.

Kostnerís jumps were high and crisp, and the smile never left her face. With four skaters still to go, I thought her score was too high. And I definitely thought Gracie Gold could beat her.

Gold was the next to skate after Sotnikova, which was no easy task with crowd going wild. Her program began beautifully. With many of her toughest elements out of the way, Gold lost focus on a triple flip and hit the ice.

300gold.jpgThere would be no Ďfist pumpí after the final double axel this time. Gold has come a long way in a very short time. She is only 18. Coach Frank Carroll has been great for Goldís confidence.

More than anything else, I think Gracie Gold has everything it takes to be the best female skater in the world. She should be very proud of her 4th place finish, and it will be fun to watch her grow as a skater and a personality over the next four years.

Ashley Wagner was a much better Delilah than a Juliet. The music change was a good move. I liked how she attacked both her short and free skate at these Olympics. A couple of two-foot landings took away too many points, and Wagner would finish 7th.

Out of the running was Russiaís golden girl, Julia Lipnitskaia. After leading her country to the gold medal in the team event, Lipnitskaia crumbled on her own. It was too much weight to put on the shoulders of a 15-year-old. Lipnitskaia settled for 5th.

The 15-year-old from California had no such pressure.

Once again, Polina Edmunds proved she can play with the big girls. A top ten finish in her first Olympics is a terrific accomplishment. Edmundís overall consistency is amazing. She is more of a jumper than an artist at this point, although that will change as her skating matures.

The warrior award goes to Japanís Mao Asada. This skater was a serious medal contender before her disastrous short program. Asada was the only woman in this competition to attempt a triple axle. Itís her make-or-break jump, and she missed it badly in the short.

Buried in 16th place, Asada, skated in an early group and laid down the best skate of the night. She nailed the triple axel along with everything else.

Asada skated with heart and guts. Her performance in the free skate will be one my favorite Olympic moments.

Russia wanted gold in menís hockey and didnít come close. The toughest Russian on ice in Sochi was Adelina Sotnikova.

And to think just a few days ago nobody knew her name.

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