Olympics: Valieva makes history as Russians win gold
BEIJING – Russian figure skaters claimed the team gold medal at the Beijing Games on Monday, with Kamila Valieva landing the first quadruple jumps by a woman in Olympic competition.
The United States took silver while Japan clinched the bronze.
The Russians had sewn up the gold even before the women’s singles free skate component but 15-year-old sensation Valieva capped the day’s competition in style.
Women’s singles favorite Valieva landed a quad salchow at the start of her program and a quad toeloop in combination before falling on another attempted quad toeloop.
Despite the mistake, she easily claimed top spot with a score of 178.92 ahead of Japan’s runner-up Kaori Sakamoto (148.66) and Canada’s third-placed Madeline Schizas.
Stanislav Pozdnyakov, President of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC), warmly applauded Valieva’s skate as her team mates shouted ‘well done’ from their box.
It is Russia’s second Olympic figure skating team gold, having won the first during the event’s 2014 debut in Sochi.
The ROC went in as favourites for the title, carried by Valieva who dominated the short programme earlier this week.
The Russians had earlier outdone their rivals in the pairs event on Monday with a top-place finish for Aleksandr Galliamov and Anastasia Mishina despite a far-from-perfect programme that saw the duo crash onto the ice with seconds left.
Galliamov lost his balance under the weight of his partner in the last lift, incurring a deduction, but the pair did more than enough to keep the ROC top of the table.
“I just lost my balance, I just couldn’t hold,” Galliamov told reporters. “I had to force myself all morning because I need to be upbeat all the time.”
Mishina said lack of sleep might have been to blame.
“We had a practice at 6 a.m. This is what happened. This is what might have had an effect on our little mistakes … I like to wake up early but not at 4 a.m.”
Team Japan’s pair came in second with a season’s best. Both were visibly pleased, Riku Miura could barely contain her excitement while Ryuichi Kihara pumped his fist in the air as they left the rink.
The US pair were not so lucky, with Alexa Knierim bungling a combination jump and losing her balance a few times, leaving the ice with partner Brandon Frazier clearly disappointed and finishing in last place.