SOCHI, Russia — Russia got its first Olympic gold medal in women's figure skating.
Figure skating got more questions.
Adelina Sotnikova was the surprise champion Thursday night, beating defending gold medalist Yuna Kim. And it wasn't even close, with the Russian winning by more than five points, 224.59 to Kim's 219.11.
The Iceberg Skating Palace erupted when the marks for Kim, the final skater, were announced, and the video board flashed to backstage, where Sotnikova was seen sprinting down a hallway and into the arms of her coaches.
It was only the fourth women's figure skating medal for Russia or its predecessor, the Soviet Union, and first gold medal. It was Russia's third gold medal in skating at the Sochi Games, following victories in the team and pairs competition.
Kim's program may have looked cleaner and more polished, a complete performance rather than tricks strung together. And she did beat the Russian – barely – on the component marks, 74.50 to 74.41. But it was the technical mark that made the difference, and Sotnikova had the edge.
Sotnikova's program was more difficult, packed with jumps and high-value technical elements. She did seven triple jumps, five in combination. Kim did six triples, only three in combination. Sotnikova also got the maximum level 4s for all of her spins and footwork while Kim had Level 3s on one spin and one footwork sequence.
Sotnikova finished with a 75.54 technical mark, compared with 69.69 for Kim.
Italy's Carolina Kostner, ending a series of Olympic disappointments, took bronze. American Gracie Gold was fourth. All three Americans finished in the top 10, with Ashley Wagner seventh and 15-year-old Polina Edmunds ninth in what was her very first senior international event.
Sotnikova was considered Russia's great hope for Sochi when she won the junior world title in 2011. But she was all but forgotten amid inconsistent performances over the past two seasons and the rise of 15-year-old phenom Julia Lipnitskaia. She was even passed over for the team competition, where Lipnitskaia charmed the nation as she helped the Russians win gold. (President Vladimir Putin patted the tiny teenager on the head in the victory celebration.)
But Sotnikova reminded everyone why there had been so much hype for her once upon a time.
Sotnikova's program is packed with difficulty, including a triple lutz-triple toe and double axel-triple toe combinations, and most of her jumps were done with such ease she appeared to be flying. Her only flaws were a swingy landing on her triple flip, and a slight stumble on the landing of the last jump in her triple flip-double toe-double loop combo.
She attacked every element in her program, as if to tell all of her doubters, "Take that." But she had clearly won over the crowd, which clapped in time to her music and was roaring before the final notes trailed off.
When Sotnikova finished, she covered her face with her hands and bent over, overcome. She looked nervous as she waited for her marks, as if trying not to hope too much, and her jaw dropped and she bounced up and down when she saw her score: a 224.59 that put her into first place.
The women's event caps an eventful two weeks of figure skating at the Sochi Games. It began with the debut of the Olympic team competition. Russia won in commanding fashion, with Canada taking the silver and United States winning bronze.
Tatiana Volosozhar and Maxim Trankov added a gold in pairs, becoming the first skaters to win two Olympic titles in one games and reviving Russia's grand tradition in the discipline. Russia had won a pairs gold at every games from 1964 to 2006, but left Vancouver without a pairs medal of any color.
The men's final was, quite frankly, a mess. But Yuzuru Hanyu rallied after two early falls and that, plus his mesmerizing short program, was enough to win the gold and give Japan its first Olympic title in men's skating. There was another first in ice dancing, as Meryl Davis and Charlie White became the first American team to win the Olympic title. Not bad for a country that didn't even have afterthought status a decade ago.