Teenage sensation Alina Zagitova ended the Olympic Athletes from Russia’s (OAR) wait for a gold medal at Pyeongchang 2018 as she upstaged compatriot Evgenia Medvedeva to clinch the women’s singles figure skating title with a dazzling display.
The 15-year-old from Izhevsk and Medvedeva both scored 156.65 points in the free skating program but Zagitova had the edge from the short program and it proved crucial as she finished with an overall 239.57.
Medvedeva, the two-time world champion, ended narrowly behind her teammate on a total of 238.26.
Canada’s Kaetlyn Osmond also impressed with a superb free skating routine and took the bronze medal on 231.02 points.
The triumph for Zagitova, the reigning European champion after she beat Medvedeva to the singles crown in Moscow last month, handed the OAR team their first gold medal of the Games.
“There was a lot of pressure on me and Evgenia,” said Zagitova.
“All fans were waiting for us athletes from Russia to be on top.”
At 15 years and 281 days old, Zagitova is the second-youngest Olympic ladies gold medalist, after Tara Lipinski from the United States.
She was 15 years and 255 days old when she won at Nagano 1998.
The formidable pairing, set to dominate the sport for years to come, are the most recognizable names on the list of the 168 Russian athletes cleared to compete here by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
Zagitova’s victory marked a rare moment of celebration for the country at these Olympics after they were forced to participate as neutrals as part of an IOC sanction for the nation’s “systematic manipulation” of the anti-doping system at Sochi 2014.
She received her gold medal at a ceremony tonight where Russian flags and the national anthem were both absent.
IOC member Tsunekazu Takeda of Japan presented the medals.
Zagitova and Medvedeva could yet march under their country’s flag at the Closing Ceremony as the IOC are due to decide whether the suspension on Russia will be lifted tomorrow.
The Russian duo, who train together and share the same coach, were clear favorites for the top two positions on the podium and it seemed to be merely a question of who would finish where.
Zagitova was the first of the Russian skaters to take to the ice and she made full use of the scoring system, packing all of her jumps into the second half to earn a 10 per cent bonus.
Skating to Don Quixote by composer Leon Minkus, she produced a flawless, effortless and mesmeric routine to surge to the summit of the standings with just two skaters left to perform.
After Osmond was unable to leapfrog Zagitova, the first OAR gold medal was confirmed as Medvedeva was the last to compete.
The 18-year-old, long been considered the overwhelming favorite before an injury hampered her preparations late last year, knew what she had to do to snatch the title from her compatriot.
Medvedeva, who traveled to Lausanne to plead Russia’s case to the IOC Executive Board in December, recovered from the slightest of errors early to complete another enchanting routine but she knew it would not be enough as she left the ice in floods of tears.
The confirmation then came from the judges as her score flashed up on screen, leaving her to settle for the silver medal in the latest installment of what promises to be a fascinating rivalry between the Russian stars.
“As I said many times, no matter what the circumstances are, people know where we are from and the spectators proved that,” said Medvedeva.
By Liam Morgan
Republished with permission from insidethegames.biz.