Thrills on Russian ice, Ukraine athlete leaves in protest

Thu Feb 20, 2014 4:07pm EST
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By Mike Collett-White

SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - The women's figure skaters provided a thrilling climax to Thursday's Winter Olympics action when Russian Adelina Sotnikova claimed gold, but a skier's decision to pull out of the Games in protest was a reminder of the crisis in neighboring Ukraine.

Seventeen-year-old Sotnikova was second going into the free skating program, and whipped the partisan crowd into a frenzy with an energy-sapping routine.

The result left many neutrals scratching their heads about what exactly the judges saw, or did not see, as the Russian was the only one of the top three athletes to have a snatched landing at the end of a combination jump.

In contrast, outgoing Olympic champion Kim Yuna of South Korea delivered a flawless display full of grace and beauty, but in the eyes of the judges she was no match for the Russian.

The first Russian to win the women's Olympic individual figure skating gold medal, Sotnikova landed 11 jumps, including seven triples, to the stirring backdrop of "Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso".

At the nearby Bolshoy Ice Dome there was yet more drama on the ice, as the Canadian women's hockey team came back from 2-0 down to win the final 3-2 in overtime against the United States.

The win capped an undefeated run in Sochi for a Canadian team that have won four of five gold medals since women's ice hockey made its debut at the 1998 Nagano Games.

Sotnikova's victory was the perfect tonic for a home crowd still smarting from Wednesday's bitter men's ice hockey defeat by Finland in the other most coveted Olympic title on the ice.   Continued...

Russia's Adelina Sotnikova celebrates holding her flag at the end of the Figure Skating Women's free skating Program at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, February 20, 2014. REUTERS/Issei Kato