POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Feb 21, 2014
LAST UPDATED: 1:47 a.m. HST, Feb 21, 2014
SOCHI, Russia >> In the whirlwind stirred up by Yulia Lipnitskaya, it was easy for the other Russian to get lost in the dust.
Now the other Russian, Adelina Sotnikova, is her country's first women's Olympic singles champion, thanks to a judges' decision that might go down as among the most questionable in figure skating's checkered history.
A year after finishing just ninth in the World Championships, she dusted Lipnitskaya and beat other more acclaimed rivals, including defending champion Yuna Kim of South Korea and Carolina Kostner of Italy, in Thursday's free skate to become the gold-medal winner.
"This is the happiest day in my life," Sotnikova said. "I simply stepped on the ice today and realized how much I like what I'm doing and skated really good."
Kim had won the short program, when Sotnikova and Kostner were within a point of her lead. The 17-year-old Sotnikova wound up with a final margin of 5.48 over Kim, whose exquisite performance to a tango did not get the enormous edge over the Russian in component scores that it deserved.
Sotnikova finished with 224.59 points to 219.11 for Kim. Kostner, who did a strong performance to "Bolero," was third at 216.73.
American Gracie Gold was fourth at 205.53, with teammate Ashley Wagner seventh at 193.20.
Lipnitskaya, 15, who fell in both the free skate and short program, wound up fifth.
Sotnikova's free skate showed much more refinement than her helter-skelter short program, even if she hammed it up at the end by turning an open hand into a wave at the judges. They acknowledged that wave with the second highest free skate score in history.
She made one mistake, a two-footed landing on the third jump of a combination, which got a negative grade of execution. But Sotnikova's combination of big jumps, speed and power made her case for a big lead in the technical marks, and it led the judges to get more than a little carried away with her component scores.
That Kim did not have a triple loop jump in her free skate cost her five or more points than had she executed it cleanly, which would have been the difference.