GANGNEUNG, South Korea (Reuters) – Russian teenager Alina Zagitova edged compatriot Evgenia Medvedeva with a stunning free skate on Friday that earned the Olympic Athletes from Russia a first gold at the Pyeongchang Games.
The 15-year-old, who lead Medvedeva by just over one point after a record-setting short program on Wednesday, effortlessly executed every element of her jump-packed free skate, earning 156.65 points for the performance and 239.57 points overall.
Skating to Don Quixote by composer Leon Minkus in a flashy red tutu, Zagitova held on for her opening jump, a triple Lutz, and went on to land another six triple jumps.
Medvedeva, who trains with Zagitova under the same coaches, won silver with a spectacular skate that put her 1.31 points behind Zagitova in the overall score.
Their performances in Pyeongchang reasserted the dominance of Russian women figure skaters on the international stage with third-placed Canadian Kaetlyn Osmond more than seven points behind Medvedeva on 231.02.
The Russian Olympic delegation in Pyeongchang last week said they were unhappy that Olympic gold had eluded Russian competitors in the first half of the Games, stressing it expected one of its female figure skaters to end the drought.
Russians in Pyeongchang are competing as neutrals, a penalty imposed over allegations that the nation had systematically manipulated anti-doping testing at the 2014 Sochi Games.
Some of Russia’s top athletes were not cleared to compete by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
With Friday’s figure skating medals, the OAR now have one gold, five silver and eight bronze medals and are currently 15th in the medals table with two days of competition remaining.
A few months ago, it seemed that Medvedeva would easily clinch Olympic gold as she repeatedly extended her winning streak.
But the 18-year-old suffered a foot fracture that sidelined her from the Grand Prix Final in December and gave Zagitova, competing in her first senior season, a chance to fill the void left by her absence.
Zagitova last month spoiled Medvedeva’s injury comeback at the European championships in Moscow, handing her a first defeat since November 2015 and establishing herself as a Pyeongchang gold medal favorite.
Osmond, who was third after the short program, stepped out of her opening triple Lutz but recovered to cleanly complete her free skate.
Italy’s Carolina Kostner, who was competing in her fourth and final Olympics and was sixth after the short program, stepped out of her triple flip and put her hand down, finishing fifth overall.