SOCHI, February 21 (R-Sport) – Day 13 of the Sochi Olympics saw a potentially tectonic shift in women’s figure skating as 17-year-old Adelina Sotnikova stunned reigning champion Kim Yuna to snatch Russia’s first-ever gold medal in the event.
Elsewhere, Canada was the big winner as its women’s hockey and curling team claimed precious gold medals.
At the Iceberg Skating Palace, Sotnikova had trailed Kim, universally recognized as figure skating’s queen after gold in Vancouver four years ago, by less than a point after a dazzling short program on Wednesday. But the Russian and overtook the 23-year-old two-time world champion on Thursday to win with a total score of 224.59 points.
"I won. It's my gold medal. I can't believe it," Sotnikova said. "Two years ago, all of my competitions were very bad. I didn't know if I had what it takes to be successful. Now I know that I do. I'm surprised. My coach was surprised. Thank you to my public. Thank you to my fans."
It is a first women's singles gold medal ever for Russia and a third figure skating gold for the host nation in Sochi after it won the team event and the pairs title went to Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov. It also shifts the focus from Evgeny Plushenko's controversial injury withdrawal from the men's individual competition.
Kim put in a superb free skate but fell short, having to settle for silver with 219.11. The bronze went to Carolina Kostner of Italy, who posted 216.73.
With the surprise victory, Sotnikova dramatically stole the show from her 15-year-old compatriot Julia Liptinitskaia, who had dominated the build-up to the individual event after crushing allcomers in the team event earlier in the Games.
Lipnitskaia fell in Wednesday's short program and again on Thursday to disappear as a medal challenger, eventually finishing fifth with 200.57.
Further drama unfolded barely an hour later at the adjacent Bolshoy Ice Dome, where Marie-Philip Poulin scored the overtime game-winner as Canada beat the United States 3-2 and earned a fourth consecutive women’s hockey gold.
The Canadians were 2-0 down with 3:26 remaining of regulation before goals from Brianne Jenner and Poulin tied up the game.
In four-on-four overtime, Poulin completed a famous victory with a power-play goal that keeps intact Canada’s record of not having lost at the Olympics since defeat to the U.S. in the Nagano 1998 final.
Switzerland won the bronze earlier in the day with a similarly dramatic 4-3 win over Sweden.
At the Ice Cube Curling center earlier, the Canadian women’s curling team ended a 16-year wait for an Olympic gold medal, beating Sweden 6-3 in the final at the Sochi Olympics.
Since their last victory at the Nagano final, Canada’s women had won five world titles and Olympic silver on home ice in Vancouver, but the sport’s biggest prize eluded them until skip Jennifer Jones masterminded Thursday’s victory.
"It's just crazy. It's a dream come true," said Jones, 39, whose previous career high was world championship gold in 2008. "It's just amazing. We just had the best week of our lives.”
Another first came in the mountains, where U.S. freeskier Maddie Bowman span to the maiden gold medal in women’s ski halfpipe.
Bowman scored 89 points at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park to take first place ahead of France’s Marie Martinod on 85.40, with the bronze going to Ayana Onozuka of Japan on 83.20.
X-Games champion Rosalind Grounewood could only manage seventh for Canada after crashing on her first run and posting a below-par second run score of 74.20.
At the same venue earlier in the day, Jean-Frederic Chapuis led a French podium sweep in the men’s skicross.
Reigning world champion Chapuis, 24, overtook teammate Arnaud Bovolenta half way down the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park course to lock down gold and silver, while Jonathan Midol, another Frenchman, tumbled across the line to take the bronze.
"With the two other French guys it's like a dream," Chapuis said. "Yesterday, I was joking with the guys saying that all three on the podium would be good and it happened. It's perfect."
Bovolenta said he had no envy, only joy, for Chapuis and the sweep.
"At the beginning of the run I was first, then I saw Jean-Frederic's skies passing ahead of me. I was glad to follow his path until the end of the run," he said.
The only non-French skier in the final was Canada’s 2010 X-Games bronze medalist Brady Leman, but he lost his balance over the bumps and crashed out.
The day ended with Norway still top of the medal table on 10 golds, with Germany and the United States next on eight golds and Russia up to fourth with seven golds.
Friday at the Games sees medals up for grabs in men’s curling, women’s skicross, women’s Alpine skiing, and short track speedskating.