- Figure Skating
The 14 most memorable figure skating moments at the Sochi Olympics
SOCHI, Russia – There was almost two times the amount of figure skating at the Sochi Games than any Olympics before it with the inaugural team event. From Yevgeny Plushenko’s memorable opening night to a controversial finish to the ladies’ competition and everything in between, a look back at 14 big moments from the 2014 Olympics.
Yevgeny Plushenko makes a comeback – mostly
At 31, the three-time Olympic medalist’s try for another Games struck many as laughable, but the 2006 gold medalist had the last laugh as he helped the Russians to a top podium finish in the first-ever figure skating team event. Plushenko first rocked an opening-night short program, and then, in vintage Yevgeny style, won the men’s free skate with massive jumping and a rink full of showmanship.
Embedded owg_slideshow: Yevgeny Plushenko withdraws from Sochi Olympics due to injury
But it wasn’t a fairytale ending for Plushenko, who caused a national uproar by pulling out of the men’s singles event as he skated out for his short program, later criticized by former Olympic champ Alexei Yagudin. Not quite done making headlines, Plushenko announced later that he’ll try for the 2018 Olympics – at 35 years old.
Embedded owg_slideshow: Through the years: Olympic figure skater Yevgeny Plushenko
Less than half the age of Plushenko, the world was taken by storm by a feisty 15-year-old named Yulia Lipnitskaya, whose speed and on-ice savvy were the talk of the Games in the ladies’ portion of the team event. Lipnitskaya won both the short program and the free skate, the latter in which she skated to “Schindler’s List” in a haunting red dress and gloves that made her look mature beyond her teenage years.
Embedded video_content_type: Yulia Lipnitskaya mesmerizes in figure skating team event
Like Plushenko, however, there would be letdown: She fell in both the short and long programs in the individual event, eventually placing fifth overall.
Embedded video_content_type: 15-year old Lipnitskaya finishes fifth
A bronze for the red, white and blue
It wasn’t the team gold that Americans thought they could win before the Games, but the U.S. left the team event with bronze and a list of Olympic medals for a slew of American athletes: Jeremy Abbott, Ashley Wagner, Jason Brown, Gracie Gold, Marissa Castelli, Simon Shnapir, Meryl Davis and Charlie White. Davis/White – unsurprisingly – won the ice dance portion of the event going away, thanks to faltering programs from rival training partners Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. For the other six members of the team, it would be their only Sochi medals.
Embedded owg_slideshow: Photos: Olympic figure skating team event medal ceremony
‘Pink Panther’ descends on Sochi
What’s the figure skating-equivalent of a Hail Mary pass? That’d be a “Pink Panther” short program, brought to life by German pairs skaters Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy, who made a last-ditch effort to thwart a Russian sweep of the podium in pairs.
Embedded owg_slideshow: Aliona Savchenko unveils 'Pink Panther' costume for Olympic figure skating short program
Savchenko/Szolkowy re-purposed a program they had used last year to try and gain a leg up on rivals Tatyana Volosozhar and Maksim Trankov of Russia. And while it didn’t work – Savchenko/Szolkowy eventually ended up third – the fluorescent pink cat suit that Aliona sported became a global phenomenon.
Embedded owg_slideshow: Sochi Olympics figure skating pairs rivalry: Volosozhar/Trankov vs. Savchenko/Szolkowy
A return to dominance for Russia
After being left off the podium completely in 2010, Russia returned to dominance in the pairs competition in Sochi, led by the veteran charge of Volosozhar/Trankov, who had joined forces in 2011. The pair put out two iconic performances with their “Masquerade Waltz” short program and “Jesus Christ Superstar” free skate, winning the first individual gold for Russia in figure skating since 2006.
Embedded video_content_type: Medal Ceremony: Tatyana Volosozhar and Maksim Trankov win figure skating gold
Russia’s No. 2 team may have made the biggest impression in the pairs, however, Ksenia Stolbova and Fyodor Klimov skating to the “Addams Family” in their long program and earning silver over the Germans Savchenko/Szolkowy, meaning Russia took 1-2 in the event for the first time since 1998.
Embedded video_content_type: Russian pairs Volosozhar and Trankov skate 'to perfection'
Jeremy Abbott goes down – hard
After flopping in his team event short program, American veteran Jeremy Abbott had one of the hardest falls of the entire Games, crashing on his opening quadruple jump in the men’s singles short program, laying still against the ice’s wall as his music played.
Embedded video_content_type: Johnny Weir on Jeremy Abbott's fall in men's short program
But as the 27-year-old got up, the Russian crowd roared its support and Abbott skated on, finishing with his head held high.
Embedded owg_slideshow: U.S. figure skater Jeremy Abbott takes a tumble during the men's short skate competition
“I was kind of waiting for them to stop the music and trying to decide if I should go to the referee,” Abbott told NBCOlympics.com after the fall. “But the second I stood up, the audience started screaming. They adopted me tonight; it was because of them that I finished.” Abbott was 15th after the short program, then ended up 12th after a clean free skate.
Embedded owg_slideshow: Olympic figure skating falls
Yuzuru Hanyu sets a new world record
The men’s event was seen as a battle of the quads, and in the short program it belonged to Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu, the 19-year-old. Skating to “Parisian Walkways,” Hanyu delivered a clean and spell-binding performance, registering a world record 101.45, marking the first time any skater had ever climbed over the 100-point mark.
Embedded video_content_type: Yuzuru Hanyu explodes with short program world record
Embedded video_content_type: Yuzuru Hanyu wins Japan's first skating gold
As historic as Hanyu’s short program was, the men’s free skate was a series of mishaps on a night when few of the world’s best could stay on their feet. Hanyu fell twice, but short program runner-up Patrick Chan stumbled after hitting his opening quad-triple combination, handing the gold to his Japanese competitor.
Embedded video_content_type: Patrick Chan fights through free skate for silver medal
Jason Brown, Daisuke Takahashi, Javier Fernandez and Peter Liebers all delivered error-ridden free skates, allowing Kazakhstan’s Denis Ten to jump from ninth to the bronze medal. It was a first-ever figure skating medal for Kazakhstan, while Hanyu gave Japan its first-ever men’s gold at the Olympics.
Embedded owg_slideshow: Getting to know Olympic figure skater Patrick Chan
Dancing does rivalry – and controversy?
No one does rivalry like … ice dance? Not at these Olympic Games, where reigning gold medalists Virtue/Moir were going head-to-head with rivals and training partners, Davis/White. The two teams also share a coach – Marina Zoueva – adding to the intrigue of their showdown. But the Games started out with further drama: A report was released in a French newspaper claiming a U.S. judge had made a deal with a Russian judge to help the American ice dance duo win gold.
Embedded video_content_type: Medal Ceremony: Figure skating ice dance free skate
Meryl and Charlie’s golden night
Whispers of controversy only grew louder after the short dance, where Canada’s Virtue/Moir were placed second behind Davis/White after what many thought to be a seamless performance. But Davis/White capitalized on their lead in the free dance, scoring a world record high and taking the gold medal from Virtue/Moir four years after they lost to them.
Embedded video_content_type: Davis/White run away with ice dancing gold
It was a historic first for the U.S. as no dance team – or pairs team, for that matter – had ever won Olympic gold. Virtue/Moir took their grievances to the press the following day, saying their shared coach Zoueva had favored the Americans in the lead-up to the Sochi Games. Davis and White are the only Americans to have won multiple medals at the Games up to this point.
Embedded video_content_type: Meryl Davis and Charlie White chemistry on ice was 'kismet'
Sotnikova’s Sochi shocker
Yuna Kim. Mao Asada. Yulia Lipnitskaya. You could go four or five skaters deep in the “who-can-win-an-Olympic-gold” conversation leading up to the ladies’ event and 17-year-old Russian Adelina Sotnikova’s name was not on that list.
Embedded video_content_type: Adelina Sotnikova gold medal routine
But the boisterous teenager delivered two stand-up performances, skating aggressively in the free skate as fellow top-ranked foes Kim and Carolina Kostner were on the defensive. With her gold, Sotnikova became the first-ever Russian woman to claim gold in the sport’s history.
Embedded video_content_type: Sotnikova: 'I win'
Judging controversy sweeps figure skating – again
With Sotnikova’s name freshly etched into figure skating history, much of the sport’s fan base and insiders were scratching their heads: How, exactly, did she win? Fingers pointed to two judges – the Ukranian and Russian – one who had a former suspension in the sport for score-fixing and the other who is married to the former head of the Russian figure skating federation.
Embedded video_content_type: Sotnikova, Kim free skate routines side by side
But numbers experts deep inside the sport were doing their own pointing: Sotnikova executed one more triple jump that Kim did in the free skate and performed a technically more sound program than the reigning gold medalist. Rumors of official challenges swirled in the days following.
Embedded video_content_type: Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski break down ladies' free skate
Yuna Kim calls it a career
With silver around her neck, South Korea’s beloved Kim made it official that she was leaving the sport for good after the Sochi Games. The 23-year-old, a massive celebrity in her home country, seemed to squash any hopes for an appearance at the Pyeongchang Games in 2018. “The biggest thing I felt was relieved was because it was over,” Kim told reporters after the ladies’ event. Kim failed in trying to win back-to-back gold medals at the Games for the first time in 1988, when Katarina Witt completed the Olympic double.
Embedded video_content_type: Yuna Kim: 'I've been waiting for this moment'
Social – and real-life – celebrities
What will the Sochi Games most be remembered for? The skating will certainly top the list, but social stars Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir won’t be too far behind.
Embedded video_content_type: Johnny Weir's most outrageous fashion moments
The former Olympians made a splash as NBC Sports commentators, calling the live action on NBC Sports Network with plenty of creativity – and style. Jason Brown was an Internet favorite, as well, the 19-year-old “Riverdance” star and his exuberant demeanor not dimming during the Sochi Games – and perhaps only shining brighter.
Embedded video_content_type: Jason Brown ignites crowd