SOCHI, Russia — Russian teenager Adelina Sotnikova dethroned defending champion Kim Yu Na of South Korea Thursday night to become the first woman from her country to win the Olympic figure skating title.
The 17-year-old Sotnikova, who was in second place going into the free skate, fought off the wobbles to beat Kim by more than 5 points, with a score of 224.59 to 219.11.
Carolina Kostner, the first Italian female to make the podium, won the bronze ahead of US skater Gracie Gold.
Japan’s Mao Asada, the two-time world champion and Vancouver runner-up who was expected to challenge for the title, crashed out of contention in Wednesday’s short program. While she nailed her trademark triple axel as well as a triple flip-triple loop combination and five other triples, Asada could only pull herself up to fifth.
Sotnikova, who finished second to 15-year-old teammate Julia Lipnitskaia at the European Championships after winning her fourth national title, is only the third Russian woman to win an individual Olympic skating medal. Kira Ivanova (in 1984) and Irina Slutskaya (in 2006) both earned bronzes.
“I didn’t think I could skate like I did today,” Sotnikova said.
The flag-waving audience inside the Iceberg Skating Palace helped her soar, however.
“The atmosphere was wonderful,” she said. “I felt something amazing coming from the crowd. I could hear shouts and screams the whole time. I just couldn’t skate badly.”
Kim, who missed the Grand Prix season with bruised foot, was bidding to become the first female champion to repeat since East Germany’s Katarina Witt did it in Calgary in 1988. But her cautious long program wasn’t as demanding as Sotnikova’s or Asada’s and she barely finished ahead of Kostner in the total segment score.
This is the first time since 1948 that the American women have missed a medal in consecutive Games and the first time since 1936 that neither the US men nor women made the podium.
Gold, who also was fourth after the short program, fell on her triple flip after landing her opening triple lutz-triple toe combination.
“When I went down on it I thought, dang it,” she said. “That’s what [coach] Frank Carroll told me not to do.”
Ashley Wagner, seeking redemption after losing her US title to Gold in Boston last month, placed seventh, with 15-year-old Polina Edmunds ninth.
“I learned a lot about competing here and I learned a lot about putting things in perspective,” said Wagner. “I’m so proud of what I did at these Olympic Games.”