Well, it’s official: Alina Zagitova has Tara Lipinski-ed Evgenia Medvedeva.
It was at the Nagano Games in 1998 that Lipinski landed seven triple jumps in the long program, or free skate, to overtake Michelle Kwan and become the youngest Olympic gold medalist in the individual ladies’ figure skating event.
On Thursday night, with Lipinski calling the competition with Johnny Weir and Terry Gannon for NBC, another 15-year-old overtook her celebrated countrywoman for gold as Russia’s Alina Zagitova bested Evgenia Medvedeva. There’s an adage in figure skating that you can’t win the gold in the intensely concentrated short program but you can lose it there. Yet, in a sense, Zagitova did win the gold medal in the short, recording the highest score there and following it up with a near-flawless performance in the free skate, flitting around the ice like a prima ballerina to Minkus’ “Don Quixote.” Medvedeva’s Anna Karenina was a mature artistic presentation – all the more remarkable when you think, What does an 18-year-old girl know about playing an adulterous married woman and mother – but in the end, it wasn’t enough.
Medvedeva – who revealed the little girl behind the steely young woman at the end of the program, sobbing in relief – was gracious in defeat, hugging Zagitova. But it had to hurt: This was the two-time world champion’s shot at gold in a profession in which a second chance isn’t always guaranteed, the talent in Russia being that deep.
Kaetlyn Osmond of Canada held on to the third spot for the bronze with a brilliant skate to Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake.” The South Korean and Japanese skaters impressed. The Americans didn’t. We need to incentivize the U.S. program to restore American skating glory and create technically secure skaters like the Russians.
It is those Russians we’ll remember from the ladies’ figure skating competition, their rivalry and the words of Aristophanes: “The truth is forced upon us very quickly by a foe.”