Russian ice princess ‘can’t believe’ fairytale Olympic gold
GANGNEUNG – Agence France-Presse
Teenage figure skating sensation Alina Zagitova expressed disbelief Feb. 23 after winning her duel with Evgenia Medvedeva to claim Russia’s first gold medal at the Pyeongchang Olympics.
The 15-year-old took the women’s title for the Olympic Athletes from Russia by a slender margin of just 1.31 points from her friend, compatriot, training partner and archrival.
Bronze went to Canada’s Kaetlyn Osmond.
“I can’t believe I’m the champion,” said Zagitova after a fairytale debut season on the senior ciruit. “It’ll take some time to sink in.”
She beat two-time world champion Medvedeva despite both scoring matching 156.65 points in the free-skating.
“I did not get the feeling I’m the Olympic champion, I haven’t got my medal yet! When I learned that I’d come first I felt very happy, but also very empty.”
That feeling of emptiness came from being unable to take in immediately the realization that the thing she had been striving for over the years, the fruit of all those 100s of hours of grueling training back in Moscow, had suddenly become fact.
“I am realizing that all the work I have put in on the way to this Olympic Games was not in vain.
“The empty feeling is hard to explain,” she added.
“For 10 years now I’ve been skating, with all the highs and lows I’ve gone through and now I’ve finally achieved a gold medal at the Olympics......”
Zagitova’s world record short program score of 82.92 just 48 hours earlier made the difference, giving her a combined total of 239.57.
Medvedeva, skating last, was unable to match her world record standard. She crumpled into the arms of her coach in tears after her routine to Anna Karenina gave her a combined score of 238.26.
“I felt like a bird who finally spread its wings when I started skating today,” said the 18-year-old.
“This is the first time I broke down like this, it’s never happened before, it was very strange, it was probably all the pressure being released.”
Medvedeva, who broke her foot and was sidelined for two months from October, was initially unable to finish a television interview she was so overcome.
An Olympic official followed her round with a box of tissues.
The two ice princesses were among the 168 athletes from Russia who passed rigorous testing to compete as neutrals under the OAR banner in South Korea after Russia were banned over state-sponsored doping.