What you missed in PyeongChang last night: Zagitova, Medvedeva fight for gold
Figure skating is a sport known for its intense rivalries. The newest rivalry was on full display as Russians Alina Zagitova and Yevgenia Medvedeva faced off in a gold medal battle. 15-year-old Zagitova had the upper hand going into the night holding a slight lead (1.31 points) from the short program.
After two stunning performances, Zagitova and Medvedeva scored the same score in the free skate, a 156.65. Medvedeva broke the tie in the free skate, earning a higher component score. However, Zagitova had the 1.31 point lead from the short program and ended up with the higher overall score of 239.57.
This marks the first time two women from the same country have finished one-two in ladies’ figure skating since Tara Lipinski and Michelle Kwan did so in 1998. Zagitova became the second-youngest individual ladies’ Olympic champion behind Lipinkski. Lipinski was 26 days younger when she won gold in 1998. Zagitova is the first Olympic medalist born after the 2002 Winter Games. It was also the Olympic Athletes from Russia's first gold medal of the Games. More on their showdown in the figure skating section below.
Kaetlyn Osmond won the race for bronze. The Canadian was able to put together a strong free skate. Osmond is known for faltering in the free programs after strong short program skates.
The Americans were looking for redemption from their short skates. All three struggled with elements again. Karen Chen made a few mistakes and finished 11th overall. Bradie Tennell fell for the first time this competition season and ended up in ninth place. Mirai Nagasu was unable to land her triple Axel and had an up-and-down performance, finishing in tenth place overall.
Canada continued its dominance in the women’s ski cross. Kelsey Serwa won the gold, Canada’s third consecutive title. Countrywoman Brittany Phelan won silver while Fanny Smith claimed bronze.
A couple of short track races were featured in primetime. First, the men’s 500m. Wu Dajing looked untouchable in the race. He broke the world record twice in an hour (once in the final and once in qualifying).Wu becomes the first Chines man to win an Olympic short track gold medal. He’s only 23 and is expected to be a favorite in four years when the Olympics are held in Beijing. South Korea’s Hwang Dae-Heon and Lim Hyo-Jun finished second and third, respectively.
The Netherlands’ Suzanne Schulting won the women’s 1000m race. It was the Netherlands’ first short-track gold medal. Kim Boutin won her third medal of the Games, finishing second. Arianna Fontana’s bronze medal, her eight career medal, ties her with Viktor Ahn and Apolo Ohno as the most decorated short track skaters in Olympic history.
In the final short-track race, Hungary shocked everyone winning the men’s 5000m relay. Hungary only led the race for three total laps (the first lap and final two of the race). It was Hungary’s first Winter Olympic gold medal and the first medal of any color in 38 years. The relay team also set a new Olympic record. China and Canada finished second and third, respectively.
The United States won the B Final with a time of 6:52.71. It marked the first time since 2002 that the U.S. had not won a medal in the relay event.
All eyes turned to figure skating and the ladies’ free skate programs. It was a showdown between two Russian teenagers representing the Olympic Athletes from Russia. Alina Zagitova led by 1.31 points after the ladies short program. She had score the highest score ever recorded in the short program. Her teammate, Yevgenia Medvedeva was unbeatable from November 2015 to January 2018 (before Zagitova entered the scene).
Zagitova skated first, putting down a near-perfect performance. She changed her opening-jump combination but later added it back in. The 15-year-old received some criticism because she held all of her jumps until the second half of the program to receive the 10 percent bonus. Some argue that it takes away from the overall composition of the routine (and therefore should affect the component score). She earned a score of 156.65 and was left to watch her rival and off-ice friend.
Medvedeva skated last. She too, had a near-flawless routine. The difference between Medvedeva and Zagitova is Medvedeva’s ability to connect to the music and deliver a higher performance. Both competitors can land all their jumps and do so with their hands above their head adding to the difficulty.
It all came down to whether Medvedeva’s component score could outdo Zagitova’s technical score and whether Medvedeva could overcome the 1.31 deficit as well. In the end, Medvedeva scored a 156.65 in the free skate, the same as Zagitova. This meant Zagitova claimed gold as the overall score was a 239.57. Medvedeva walked away with a silver. The silver lining is that she won the free skate because her component score was higher.
Kaetlyn Osmond was able to win Canada’s first medal in the ladies’ individual event since 2002. She had a very strong short program and was able to execute her free program for an overall score of 231.02. She took home the bronze medal.
Satoko Miyahara had one of the surprise performances of the night. She skated flawlessly and earned a personal best score of 146.44 in the free skate, for 222.38 points overall to take fourth place.
The Americans ladies, like their male counterparts, were looking for strong free skate performances after shaky short programs. The ladies did not have as happy of an ending as the American men.
Karen Chen was the first to skate. The 2017 National Champion made a few mistakes scoring 119.75 points in the free skate and 185.65 for 11th overall.
Bradie Tennell had an uncharacteristic fall in her free skate. Tennell had not fallen in the competition season leading up to the Olympics. She finished in ninth place, earning a score of 128.34 points for a total score of 192.35. She will leave PyeongChang with a bronze medal, having skated the ladies’ short program in the team event.
Mirai Nagasu was the last of the American ladies to skate. She popped her triple Axel, only performing a half of a turn, and earned zero points for the element. She made another costly mistake in the second half of her program, turning a triple Lutz into a single Lutz.
Regardless of her free skate score of 119.61 points and overall score of 186.54 (good for 10th overall), Nagasu walked away with a smile. She told NBC that she was thinking of today as a ‘Dancing with the Stars’ audition. After not making the team for Sochi four years ago, Nagasu leaves PyeongChang with a medal after her strong performance (she successfully landed the triple Axel) in the team event helping the U.S. earn a bronze.
A Canadian dynasty?
Kelsey Serwa won the women’s ski cross, giving Canada its third consecutive title. Serwa was the 2014 Olympic silver medalist. Her teammate Brittany Phelan came from behind to finish second, giving Canada a silver medal.
Reigning gold medalist Marielle Thompson was attempting a comeback after needing surgery on both her ACL and MCL four months before the Olympics. Her day ended early after falling early in the 1/8 final race.
It came down to two Swiss teammates competing for bronze, both of them world champions in the event. Fanny Smith was the 2013 World Champion and Sandra Naeslund was the 2017 World Champion. Naeslaund has been dominating the women’s ski cross event this season. Smith just out-edged Naeslund to win the bronze.
Switzerland bounces Canada
For the first time since curling returned to the Olympics in 1998, Canada will leave the Winter Games without a medal. Switzerland beat Canada 7-5 to win the bronze in men’s curling. The bronze medal is Switzerland’s second of the Games in curling. The Swiss took home the silver medal in mixed doubles.
Skip Peter de Cruz outplayed Canada’s Kevin Koe. The Swiss won two of the first three ends, and never relinquished the lead.
The Olympic Athletes from Russia beat Czech Republic 3-0 in the semifinals to advance to the men’s hockey gold medal match. OAR will play the winner of the Canada vs. Germany semifinal game. The Czech Republic will play the loser for the bronze medal.
After a scoreless first period, OAR scored two even-strength goals 27 seconds apart in the second. The first goal was scored by Nikita Gusev, who leads his team with eight points in the tournament. OAR goalie Vasily Koshechkin stopped all 21 shots he faced for a shutout.
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