To tell you the truth, I’m an emotional wreck right now. I’m absolutely thrilled for Carolina Kostner – what an amazing short program she performed in Sochi, I’m equally enthusiastic for the Olympic comeback of Queen Yuna, but I’m heartbroken for Mao Asada. Following her since the beginning of the season in her journey for an Olympic gold, loving every second of her wonderful, intricate short program skated on Chopin’s “Nocturne”, I found myself numb with bitter sadness at the end of her routine. Mao approached the boards not saying a word and waited her scores in a silenced, icy atmosphere; as if everyone accompanying her in the Kiss and Cry intentionally kept the distance in order to let her live her failure with dignity; before leaving the bench, she murmured to her coach: “Gozaimashta”. As for me, all I wanted to do was to embrace this incredibly talented skater and tell her just that: Mao, you’re golden to me, you’re golden to us.
by Florentina Tone
Actually it seems that everyone wanted to comfort Mao at the end of her routine – and at the end of the ladies’ short program in Sochi. In a matter of minutes, Javier Fernandez wrote on his facebook account: “Hard day for Mao… But still you are amazing!! One of my favs!”. Jeremy Abbott was equally distressed by what had just happened: “I just felt my heart break! Mao is a great champion and will be stronger than ever come tomorrow”. Daisuke Takahashi encouraged Mao too: “It’s not over yet. Hope she can enjoy her skate tomorrow”. And Jeffrey Buttle wrote on twitter: “So much respect for Mao. Pushing the boundaries not only technically but artistically as well”.
Mao is 16th now, out of the fight for the Olympic podium (she’s 18.61 points behind Carolina Kostner, who is third place after the short) – but at least tonight she’ll skate her free program without any burden on her shoulders. Of course, there’s this immense regret that she ends her career with the disappointments of not getting a medal at her second Olympics. But with or without an Olympic gold around her neck, Mao is a true fighter and a true champion; an incredibly gifted skater who made history for her country and entered the history of the discipline (need I remind you that in Vancouver she performed no less than 3 impeccable triple Axels?)
Distance vs. togetherness in the Kiss and Cry
Before Mao’s short program I was still a happy girl. An enthusiastic one, actually: I had just been amazed – once again – by Carolina Kostner and her ethereal “Ave Maria”. To me that program was the highlight of the Europeans in Budapest, a month ago, but also the highlight of this particular event at the Olympics. Skating her short program with ease, with grace, with happiness, I was touched by Carolina’s magic. I love her musicality, her long arms embracing the air – and I love her beautiful large smile when she nails everything perfectly.
Last night in Sochi, Carolina was divine – and justice was made: after two Olympics full of disappointments, with the Italian skater melting under pressure and ending up on the ninth place in Torino-2006 and on a 16th place in Vancouver-2010, Carolina Kostner skated a flawless short in Sochi and she’s now on the third place of the intermediate podium, with a personal best: 74.12 point (0.80 points behind Yuna Kim, first after the short, and 0.52 points behind Adelina Sotnikova, second after the short). As opposed to Mao, who waited her scores at a considerable distance from her coach, Carolina gathered around her, in a warm embrace, Michael Huth, her longtime coach, and Lori Nichol, the choreographer of the masterpiece. Lori was teary when Carolina left the ice, greeting her with: “I’m so proud of you. You did it”. Yes, she actually did it. And she should enter the free program with a large amount of confidence. Do watch her tonight. She’ll charm you with her Bolero.
The Queen is back and on form
Well, everyone says that – so I’ll just say it once again: there’s a reason why they call her The Queen, Yuna Queen; she just doesn’t melt under pressure. During the warm-up she was actually a little bit annoyed – you could see that on her face – that she just couldn’t practice her jumps; two times she tried, two times someone other skater appeared in the same area of the rink. So she left the 6-minutes warm-up with this particular feeling of not doing what she wanted to do – and I was just afraid it might affect her during the performance. Well, it didn’t. The Queen is back and on form.
Looking retrospectively, her program hasn’t touched me as much as Carolina’s – Kim entered the ice almost in the middle of the event and I might have been unprepared to watch a masterpiece at that particular moment – but the South Korean nailed a wonderful short, both technically and artistically. She nodded as in “so in so” while seeing the scores (74.92 points, a Season Record for the short), but managed to keep the crown until the end of the event.
The Russian audience? Well, I don’t think I like it
One thing it bothered me though: the inertness, the numbness of the audience, probably in her vast majority a Russian one. You have this amazing skater trying to make history in front of you – if she gets her second Olympic gold, Yuna Kim will stand on the same page as Katarina Witt, with her two victories in Sarajevo-1984 and Calgary-1988 – and still you’re completely untouched, barely cheering and applauding. Waiting for the home favorites, Adelina Sotnikova and especially Julia Lipnitskaia, the Russian audience failed once again to be fair-play, to show support and recognize the greatness in front of it; this might have been actually the least supportive audience that I have ever seen during a figure skating event – and I truly miss the enthusiastic international crowds from the Europeans and the Worlds.
Pretty much the same thing happened when Carolina Kostner took the ice; even if a rock would have been touched by her “Ave Maria”, there was no standing ovation for the Italian. Watching Carolina’s performance live, last night, in Iceberg Skating Palace, the Canadian ice dancer Kaitlyn Weaver had the same regret when it comes to the public; and she shared that regret later on her facebook account, with a note of irony: “Still thinking about how lucky I was to witness the Olympic ladies short program last night. It was SUCH an incredible event, with many dream-skates and heartbreaking moments. Carolina Kostner, watching your program was the highlight of my Olympics so far. It brought me to tears and I am so, so happy for you. I was upset that the whole audience was not on their feet at the end but I’m sure it’s because they were paralyzed by your performance”.
Julia melted, Adelina delivered
Of course, the audience was hyper-enthusiastic when the Russian ladies took the ice, chanting “Ro-ssi-ya! Ro-ssi-ya!” for minutes – and, unfortunately, 15-year-old Julia Lipnitskaia, already a star of these Games, just couldn’t hold the pressure anymore: she fell on her triple Flip and ended the night on the fifth place (9.69 points behind Yuna Kim, the leader).
Adelina Sotnikova, on the other hand, mastered exquisitely the loudly arena; as if the cheers gave her wings, Russia’s figure skating champion delivered a flawless performance on “Carmen”; one that would have made Katarina Witt proud. Attempting the triple Toeloop, Adelina left the impression she was going for a quad – that high was the jump. Getting bonuses for every element she performed and receiving a total of 74.64 points, the 17-year-old Russian breathes down Yuna’s neck; that close she is of an Olympic medal.
The American Gracie Gold stands on the fourth place of the intermediate podium after the short program, with 68.63 points, but I was actually more impressed with Ashley’s performance: named in the US Olympic Team in extremis, after she had been fourth at the American Nationals, Ashley Wagner wanted to leave a mark on the ice last night; and she totally did. Jeremy Abbott wrote on twitter: “@ashshort program is like watching a panther let out of its cage”.
A final note and a reverence to the following ladies: Kaetlyn Osmond (I loved the attitude), Haejin Kim (following in Yuna’s footsteps; can’t wait to see her again), Polina Edmunds (great performance and great color for the dress; the color of the champions, actually: Polina took a picture with Yuna last night), Anne Line Gjersem (elegance and musicality), Nathalie Weinzierl (she and her coach, Peter Sczypa – a wonderful “family” photo), Valentina Marchei (“Ti amo”, screamed someone from the audience; and I love her too: she’s been an absolute joy to watch throughout the season), Zijun Li (great skater, but the tango doesn’t do her justice), Akiko Suzuki (what a dress and what a skater, breathing musicality through every pore of her body)…
All these ladies rose to the Olympic expectations and I can’t wait to see them all tonight.