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Sotnikova pulls off stunner, gives Russia first gold in women’s figure skating

AdelinSotnikovRussicelebrates winning women's free skate figure skating finals following flower ceremony Iceberg Skating Palace during 2014 Winter Olympics Thursday Feb.

Adelina Sotnikova of Russia celebrates winning the women's free skate figure skating finals following the flower ceremony at the Iceberg Skating Palace during the 2014 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)

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Updated: March 22, 2014 6:41AM

Bursting from the shadow of her adored teammate, Adelina Sotnikova gave Russia its first gold medal in women’s Olympic figure skating.

While much-heralded Julia Lipnitskaia stumbled, Sotnikova soared. When she won the free skate Thursday at the Sochi Games, she denied South Korea’s Yuna Kim from defending her title and confirmed Russian command of the sport once more.

“This is the happiest day in my life,” Sotnikova, 17, said. “I simply stepped on the ice today and realized how much I like what I’m doing and skated really good.”

The Russians have won three figure skating gold medals at these Olympics: team, pairs and women’s. Only this latest one was a surprise. A huge surprise.

Sotnikova, two years older than Lipnitskaia but far less accomplished, was considered a long shot against skaters such as Kim, who announced her retirement after the free skate; Italy’s Carolina Kostner, who took bronze; and even Americans Gracie Gold and Ashley Wagner.

But Sotnikova, seemingly far more relaxed than nearly every other competitor, won it all. Lipnitskaia was fifth. Gold finished fourth, Wagner seventh and 15-year-old American Polina ­Edmunds ninth.

Sotnikova trailed Kim by just .28 going into Thursday, and she overcame that by winning the free skate 149.99 to Kim’s 144.19. The final totals were 224.59 for Sotnikova, 219.11 for Kim and 216.73 for Kostner. Kim had one less triple jump than Sotnikova, and her artistry couldn’t make up the difference.

Halfpipe skiing

Bowman golden in pipe’s debut

Her braid whipping in the chilly mountain air, Maddie ­Bowman of the U.S. soared to the first gold medal in women’s Olympic halfpipe skiing, edging Marie Martinod of France in the final on a night the sport paid tribute to late Canadian freestyle skiing icon Sarah Burke.

“Sarah has inspired us on snow or off snow,” Bowman said. “She would have been very proud of how all the girls rode tonight.”

A 20-year-old from South Lake Tahoe, Calif., Bowman was third in qualifying but found a rhythm in the medal round after overcoming some jitters that she joked made her want to “barf.” Stringing along a dizzying series of spins and grabs, Bowman performed the two highest-scoring runs of the night.

Sun-Times wires

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