Alina Zagitova is Olympic Athletes from Russia’s first gold medalist of PyeongChang

15-year-old Alina Zagitova won the first gold medal for the Olympic Athletes from Russia on Thursday night in the la...

Posted: Feb. 23, 2018 7:12 AM
Updated: Feb. 23, 2018 7:12 AM

15-year-old Alina Zagitova won the first gold medal for the Olympic Athletes from Russia on Thursday night in the ladies’ free skate in PyeongChang.

“I won,” the new gold medalist said. “Honestly, my hands are shaking, because I haven't understood yet that I am an Olympic champion.

Yevgenia Medvedeva, her training partner and the two-time world champion, earned silver by a margin of 1.31 points. Both Russians scored 156.65 in the free skate; the tie was broken by component scores, where Medvedeva outscored Zagitova. Medvedeva won the free skate phase, but Zagitova’s short program lead was enough to secure her the gold.

“This was my mindset going out – not to leave anything on the table,” Medvedeva said, adding that she really felt like she embodied the character Anna Karenina in her performance. “I didn't think about errors, not about a clean skate. Honestly, I skated like in a fog, for the first time. It is because I realise that I am enjoying the process, these four minutes are historical and they only belong to me and the whole world is watching only me for those four minutes.

“My soul thrives on that feeling, the body and the brain did their job.

“This will remain forever in my memory, because I gave it my all.”

This marks the first time two women from the same country have shared the ladies’ figure skating podium with gold and silver since Tara Lipinski and Michelle Kwan in 1998. Speaking of Lipinski – Zagitova is 26 days older than Lipinski was when she won gold in Nagano, and Zagitova is now the second-youngest individual ladies’ Olympic champion in history.  

“I was very nervous today,” Zagitova added. “I was more calm in the short prograe, because I understood I had no room for error and I have to skate clean. There was a lot of pressure on me and Zhenya [Medvedeva’s nickname]. All fans were waiting for us athletes from Russia to be on top.”

Other records set by Zagitova by winning the coveted gold:

  • She is one of two Olympic athletes to win two medals before the age of 15. South Korea’s Ko Gi-Hyun won gold and silver at Salt Lake City in 2002 in short track speed skating.
  • Zagitova is the first Olympic medalist born after the 2002 Winter Games.
  • Zagitova is the first Olympic ladies’ gold medalist to win as the reigning European champion since Katarina Witt in 1988.
  • PyeongChang is only the second Olympic Games in history that the men’s and ladies’ gold and silver medalists come from two countries. Zagitova and Medvedeva are Olympic Athletes from Russia while Yuzuru Hanyu and Shoma Uno, who won gold and silver respectively, represent Japan.

Kaetlyn Osmond earned bronze – Canada’s first Olympic medal in ladies’ figure skating since 2010, when Joannie Rochette earned a bronze on home ice. It’s the fourth ladies’ medal for Canada, but just the second won outside of the country. Karen Magnussen took silver at Sapporo 1972 but Elizabeth Manley earned silver in Calgary ’88.  

“I was so excited, I was so ready for this program,” Osmond said of Canada’s record-breaking 27th medal. “All day I was terrified, I was so nervous, but it is a programme I feel super comfortable with in practice and I was so ready to show it in competition, that's exactly what I felt.”

Satoko Miyahara of Japan finished fourth and said: “It was beyond imagination. I fully enjoyed my performance, and being able to reflect myself. It was a priceless moment.”

2014 Olympic bronze medalist Carolina Kostner of Italy finished fifth in her fourth appearance at the Games.

“I am really, really proud that I pushed through,” Kostner said. “I hope that this can be help and (be an) inspiration for others that struggle, that look for some inspiration. For me it was totally worth it and I am so happy.

“I go away with a huge smile and a heart full of warmth, love and kindness.”

As for the skaters on Team USA, Bradie Tennell, the reigning U.S. national champion, finished in ninth place. She made uncharacteristic mistakes in her free skate, including a fall. Tennell scored 128.34 points for a 192.35 total score.

Tennell already won a bronze medal at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics for her part in skating the short program for the U.S. contingent in the team event.

Mirai Nagasu also already won a team bronze medal in PyeongChang, contributing her free skate, where she became the first U.S. woman to land a triple Axel on Olympic ice. She struggled with it during her individual short program, but in her free skate on Thursday, she popped her triple Axel attempt (invalidating the element) and scored 119.61 points. Her overall score totaled 186.54 points for 10th place.

“I thought of today as my ‘Dancing with the Stars’ audition, that's what [fellow bronze medalist] Adam [Rippon] told me to do,” Nagasu said. “So I tried to smile as much as I could even though I popped the triple Axel.”

Karen Chen waited nearly two weeks to make her Olympic debut after walking in the Opening Ceremony. The 2017 national champion skated first of the three Americans. She made a few mistakes, scored 119.75 points in the free skate and 185.65 overall for 11th place.  

More to come. For more in-depth coverage of the ladies’ free skate, check out Olympic Ice featuring analysts Kristi Yamaguchi, Charlie White and Ben Agosto.

The medal ceremony will take begin at 5 a.m. ET and can be streamed below:

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