SOCHI, Russia -- South Korea figure skater Yuna Kim entered the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics as the prohibitive favorite to capture a second straight gold medal in the Ladies’ singles competition, but heads were turned and mouths left agape as the 23-year-old fell to Russia’s Adelina Sotnikova on Thursday night at Iceberg Skate Palace.
The 2010 Olympic champion Kim announced her retirement shortly after the shocking upset that handed host country Russia its first medal in ladies' figure skating since Irina Slutskaya won bronze in the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin.
In a sport that’s been marred by questionable scores from judges countless times, Sotnikova finished more than five points ahead of Kim with a score of 224.59 to 219.11. Italy’s Carolina Kostner came in third at 216.73.
There will be cries that Kim was robbed and Russia was handed a medal for hosting the Games, considering Kim was nearly flawless in both of her skates, but according to the scorecards Kim just wasn’t daring enough.
Components scores are supposed to mark a skater’s overall skills as well as the degree of difficulty in a routine. Kim squeaked by Sotnikova 74.50 to 74.41, but was hurt in the technical elements, as Sotnikova outscored Kim, 75.54 to 69.69.
It’s important to note that the 17-year-old Sotnikova stacked her program with more high-flying and risk-taking moves, including seven triple jumps with five combined compared to six for Kim.
In the post-competition press conference, Kim remained poised and wouldn’t allege any sort of scandal. The first question she received was about the fairness of the scoring.
"Well, the scores are given by the judges so I am not in the right position to comment on it,” Kim said. “There's nothing that will change with my words. The most important thing for me is to participate in these Games. This was my last participation in the competition, so I'm happy with that."
Kim was attempting to become the third woman to win consecutive gold medals in the event, after Sonja Henie in 1936 and Katarina Witt in 1988.
Kim, who was the final skater of the event, entered the free skate as the leader after the short program. When her score was announced, the arena was buzzing with mixed emotions. The pro-Russia crowd burst into loud cheers, behind derisive whistles from South Korean and foreign spectators.
In the arena's corridor, English-speaking fans could be heard expressing their displeasure with the judges' decision. There were phrases like "What a joke," and "Only in Russia," and "What a travesty" overheard from exiting spectators.
Russian fans were seen hugging one another, as they basked in a victory following the heartbreak of the men's hockey team's early elimination.
Meanwhile, the U.S. began the final medal stage with three skaters in contention for a medal, but Gracie Gold finished fourth with a combined score of 205.53, Ashley Wagner was seventh with 193.20, and Polina Edmunds came in ninth with 183.25.
Bobby Ilich contributed to this report from Sochi.