Female Russian skaters take gold, silver medals


Associated Press

GANGNEUNG, South Korea

A few years back, Alina Zagitova nearly was sent home from training for not working hard enough.

Now, she heads home with Olympic gold, the first for the Russians at the Pyeongchang Olympics.

A grateful nation — upset that their flag, anthem and dozens of athletes were banned from the games because of a doping scandal — can thank the 15-year-old who beat the 18-year-old who had inspired her to become a figure skater, Evgenia Medvedeva. And thank their coach, Eteri Tutberidze, who gave the less-than-diligent Zagitova one more chance to prove herself when she wanted to quit.

“My hands were shaking, but my body was doing everything I’d trained to do,” Zagitova said Friday after a rare tie in the free skate earned her the top spot because she beat Medvedeva in the short program two days earlier, when both women broke the previous world record score.

“I can’t believe I am the champion.”

Kaetlyn Osmond, who had considered quitting the sport, won bronze to give Canada four overall medals in figure skating.

“I felt strong and in the best shape that I’ve ever been in my entire life, she said. “I can’t believe that I ever thought about retiring.”

Zagitova’s victory in one of the games’ spotlight events ended the gold drought for the Russians and added another chapter to her battle with her friend and training partner. It could become a skating rivalry for the ages.

“I’ve got a big life in sports ahead of me and I want to keep going for many years,” Medvedeva said.

“I can do more in this sport,” Zagitova added. “There are a lot of titles to win and the Olympics is the biggest.”

Medvedeva seemed well on her way to Olympic gold as she went unbeaten for two seasons. But she battled a cracked bone in her right foot this season and Zagitova emerged, eventually surpassing Medvedeva.

Medvedeva had set a world mark in the short program, and a few minutes later her countrywoman beat it. The difference in the short program wound up being the exact margin — 1.31 points— between gold and silver.

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