Russia regain figure skating domination in Sochi

Sochi, Feb 21: Though North American and Asian skaters were firm challengers in figure skating, hosts Russia regained their domination in the discipline at the Winter Olympics, winning three golds, a silver and a bronze to top the final rankings.

Suffering a major setback at the 2010 Vancouver Games, Russians made a strong comeback at home. After they skated to victory in the inaugural Olympic figure skating team event, Tatiana Volosozhar-Maxim Trankov picked up the gold in the pairs while Ksenia Stolbova-Fedor Klimov added a silver, reports Xinhua.

Adelina Sotnikova made history when she earned the first Olympic gold in women’s figure skating for Russia, beating defending champion Kim Yuna of South Korea. Young Elena Llinykh-Nikita Katsalapov took a bronze in ice dancing.

Powerhouse Russia had sent figure skating prodigies onto the top step of the podium at every Olympics since 1960 before they only pocketed a silver through Evgeni Plushenko and a bronze from Oksana Domnina-Maxim Shabalin in Vancouver.

The North Americans also showed their depth as Canada clinched three silvers in ice dance, men’s and the team event and the United States beat neighbours Canada to claim the ice dance gold.

However, Asian performance was not as good as Vancouver. Except Kim’s silver in the ladies, Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan became the first Japanese to win the gold in men’s figure skating and Denis Ten of Kazakhstan picked up the bronze.

Russia gave themselves their first gold here when they triumphed in the team event with strong performances in every phase of the competition led by 2006 Olympic champion Plushenko. Canada took the silver and the United States earned bronze.

“We feel like it’s very drama-filled from start to finish. It’s a great first Olympic team event and something that will go down in history,” ice dance champion Charlie White of the United States said.

Volosozhar-Trankov brought pairs skating gold back to Russia as the pair made 236.86 points overall. Compatriots Tolbova-Klimov put out the cleanest performance moving up from third in the short programme to second with a total of 218.68 points. Aliona Savchenko-Robin Szolkowy of Germany had to settle for the bronze, like they did in 2010.

“Today was a big day for all of Russia. We already have gold in the team event but this is the realisation of the goal and the dream of our lives,” Trankov said.

In men’s competition, 19-year-old Hanyu was the second youngest Olympic men’s champion. Dick Button of the United States was the youngest when he won the title aged 18 at 1948 St. Moritz Games.

Plushenko withdrew during the short programme because of back injury.

“He has been to four Olympics and has won four Olympic medals and that speaks volumes about his career. He’s still a king in his country,” said two-time Olympian Jeremy Abbott of the United States.

Sotnikova brought a perfect end for Russia and also crushed the 23-year-old Kim’s dream of becoming the first woman to win back-to-back Olympic figure skating titles in 26 years. Three-time Olympian Carolina Kostner of Italy also announced her retirement after bringing her country a bronze with a personal best free skating Thursday.

IANS