SOCHI, Russia: Russia on Friday hailed Olympic gold medal-winning figure skater Adelina Sotnikova as a “super-sensation” who had saved the country’s pride after the disastrous performance of its ice hockey team at the Sochi Games.
Sotnikova, 17, won Russia’s first ever women’s Olympic figure skating gold on Thursday (Friday in Manila), edging defending champion Kim Yu-Na of South Korea into second place.
The Russian press praised Sotnikova for an almost flawless performance and refused to be drawn into any controversy over the judging on home ice, saying the victory was fully merited.
“In the final of the figure skating we saw a super sensation— the 17-year old debutante brilliantly executed her free program and won gold,” said the authoritative Sport Express daily.
“The 17-year-old Adelina Sotnikova managed to achieve the impossible,” said the Rossiiskaya Gazeta daily.
The Kommersant daily said: “Sotnikova achieved what Russian figure skaters have never achieved before. Her skating was almost faultless.”
The Russian press said an error by Sotnikova when she two-footed a double loop in her combination jump was more than compensated for by the complexity of her program.
Her victory was all the more important for Russia at its home Games a day after the country’s star-studded men’s ice hockey team were dumped out of tournament at the quarter final stage by Finland.
It also lifted spirits after the shock withdrawal of Yevgeny Plushenko from the men’s individual event earlier in the Games due to a back injury.
“She made up for the hockey!” said the Sovietsky Sport daily.
“In a battle with experienced rivals, Sotnikova showed how you should fight to the end,” the paper said in a dig at the ice hockey team.
“Sotnikova left her opponents with no chance,” said the state-run First Channel television.
“Women’s figure skating in Russia is going through a new boom.
And it seems that at the next Olympics there will be no fewer triumphs and emotions.”
Sotnikova was not even Russia’s favorite for gold going into the competition, with all the attention on Yulia Lipnitskaia, 15, who won gold for Russia in the team competition but fell during her individual program.
The Rossiiskiaya Gazeta rushed to Lipnitskaia’s defense, saying her program had perhaps been too complicated for a skater so young.
“She simply just does not have the strength for all the jumps, especially in the second half of the program.”
Sotnikova herself refused to be drawn into any debate over the marks, saying: “Any questions are for the judges, not for me. I did my job.”
Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko praised the gold medalist, saying he knew she was bitterly disappointed to have been passed over for the team competition.
“This medal was hard to predict. Adelina won amongst such harsh competition, simply brilliant!” he said.