Moscow's ballerinas of the ice skate to Olympic stardom

Elliott Almond, The Mercury News on

Published in Olympics

GANGNEUNG, South Korea -- One dark-haired Russian teenager chose Cervantes' whimsical character Don Quixote to find her path to Olympic greatness.

The other dark-haired teen from the same Moscow training rink turned to Leo Tolstoy's tragic tale of Anna Karenina.

Alina Zagitova, 15, and Evgenia Medvedeva, 18, skated to wildly different characters Friday with the same intention: become the Pyeongchang Games' first gold medalist for Olympic Athletes of Russia.

"I knew I had no right to make a mistake," said Zagitova, whose majesty led to a 1.31-point victory over the two-time reigning world champion.

Both were well ahead of Canada's Kaetlyn Osmond, who won the bronze medal after finishing second to Medvedeva at the 2017 World Championships.

It was a day of Russian ice supremacy and American infamy. The U.S. women had their worst showing since the 1948 Winter Olympics with all three skaters unable to perform cleanly at the Gangneung Ice Arena Their frustrating day followed disastrous short routines that knocked them out of medal contention 48 hours earlier.

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U.S. champion Bradie Tennell was ninth, Mirai Nagasu 10th and Fremont's Karen Chen 11th.

It's going to take a special skater to rise from an American rink to equal the Russians. A day before the final Zagitova put together a jumping clinic in case anyone doubted her preeminence. According to those watching, the Russian teen landed five triple jumps -- in combination.

Zagitova, who became the second-youngest gold-medal winner behind Tara Lipinski, knows how to play an ice princess worthy of a sparkly crown. Later she acknowledged how much she felt the Olympic pressure.

"My hands were shaking, but my body remembered what I've been doing many times in practice," she said through an interpreter.


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