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Thursday, February 20, 2014

Adelina Sotnikova Deserved Gold:

Adelina Sotnikova won gold in ladies figure skating, and she deserved it.  Her skate was more technically challenging in all fields -- her spins were grade 4 as opposed to Kim's grade 3 spins -- her double-triple combo was an axle as opposed to an easier toe.  She had an entire extra triple jump in the program.  She had greater air and greater length to the triples she did put down compared to Kim's equivalent jumps.  She was simply the better athlete today and the score reflected that difference.  A little stumble on one jump, when she has an entire extra jump to spare, is not enough to bridge that gap.  So far this is objective truth that anyone can see and no one can possibly disagree with as it's just math.

The second aspect of the judge's scoring is the artistic component.  The two were virtually identical in score, though Kim did win by .09 points or something.  Here's the problem.  Let's suppose Kim should have won by two points, or four points, or even five points -- she still would have gotten the silver today.  That's how far behind her technical score was, and the technical portion is absolutely crystal clear and undebatable.  We have a frame by frame record of their skates and the judges showed exactly why they scored Adelina higher in each frame for their technical aspects.  Is anyone arguing Kim Yu-na should have been given ten points more in her artistic portion?  That's just outlandish.

Kim Yu-na was beautiful and precise in all her motions.  She was perfect.  No one disputes that.  But was she really the better artist out there on the ice?  The performance I saw doesn't say that.  Kim Yu-na didn't do a single move that hasn't been done before.  Yes, she did them all with flawless grace and beauty.  But she never once wowed the audience or the judges with something uniquely her.  In fact, she showed little to no personality on the ice whatsoever, compared to an Adelina who started waving to the crowd midway through the performance she was so ecstatic.

Adelina Sotnikova did a spin with her foot over her head in an impossible position that should have broken multiple bones -- Kim Yu-na didn't.  Adelina Sotnikova did a spin holding her skate over her head with just one arm, the first ever to try that particular spin.  Kim Yu-na didn't.  Adelina Sotnikova did a three dimensional spin where she would dip her head almost all the way to the ice and then back up again and then back down again all on one leg in a motion that out dazzles any spin one could ever do with just a leg or an arm.  Kim Yu-na didn't.  To say that Adelina's skating lacked artistry is absurd.  The more innovative, aggressive, joyous, catchy, and spectacular artistic performance was Sotnikova's.  Kim Yu-na was more beautiful, graceful, controlled, however you like to describe it -- but to say she was strictly superior to Adelina's skating is absurd.  The elements in Adelina's artistry were completely lacking in Kim Yu-na's.  Which means it's entirely subjective who should have won that match, depending entirely on what you value more in a performance -- passion or mastery -- creativity or control -- etc or etc.  It's no wonder, then, that the two artistic performances were a dead heat.  But I don't even have to make that argument -- I'll gladly cede the artistic performance to Kim Yu-na.  I'll even say she was a better artist by five points.  But she wasn't a better artist by six points, and no one who is watching those two skates side by side could have found six points to subtract from Adelina's beautiful skating from start to finish.  The idea that Adelina's artistic performance was six points behind when there wasn't a single second she wasn't perfectly tuned to the music, to the crowd, and to the routine she had practiced all her life for is absurd.

The deductions just aren't there to be found.  The only thing people can say is "I wanted Kim to win."  But if Kim had wanted to win, she could have done an extra triple jump like Sotnikova did.  She didn't.  Sotnikova wanted the gold more, and that's really all it comes down to at the end of the day.

By the way, if Lipnitskaya had landed all her jumps yesterday and today, like she did the team competition, I think she should have won gold, like she did in the team competition.  But skating is never a sure thing.  No matter how many jumps you land in practice, at the Olympics it's pretty common for people to choke.  The wheel of fortune turns, and this time Yulia was at the bottom of that endless revolution.  I truly hope she comes back for Pyeongchang 2018 and shows the world what she's really capable of next time.  As good as Sotnikova was today, the soulful beauty and unearthly spins of Yulia still take the cake when the rest of her performance is on target.

By the way, the Italian skater, Carolina Kostner, really was splendid from start to finish.  Her bronze was better than a lot of older champion's gold medal skates.  She just had the bad luck of competing against the deepest field of talent women's figure skating has ever had.  I hope she can find solace in the bronze because I'm deeply grateful for having the opportunity to see that performance, third place or not.

Between those three girls, and Yulia's flashes of brilliance between her spills, and even the Russian-American skater who was also 15 years old, I've never seen a better day of figure skating in my life.  All hail Sochi 2014.  Russia must be jubilant over their first gold in ladies figure skating ever, and I for one am happy for them.

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