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Hometown Hero Triumphs In Women's Figure Skating


This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.


And I'm Audie Cornish.

We turn our attention now to the Iceberg Arena in Sochi, Russia. That's where the women's figure skating competition wrapped up for the Winter Olympic Games. And it was a big night for Russia. 17-year-old Adelina Sotnikova won gold. In a come-from-behind victory, she beat out defending champion Yuna Kim of South Korea, who placed second. Carolina Kostner of Italy won bronze. And NPR's Sonari Glinton was at the finals and joins us from Sochi. And, Sonari, it was Yuna Kim's match to lose, right? What happened there?

SONARI GLINTON, BYLINE: Well, she skated this flawless performance after skating a flawless performance yesterday. But, you know, ice skating is a judged sport and it's a bit of a hometown advantage. Both of these women skated nearly perfect performances. Kim came last and I was standing in the press tribune near the athletes. And the athletes sort of inhaled when they saw this upstart, Adelina Sotnikova won, and the crowd erupted. I mean, this is sort of a fairytale victory for this 17-year-old woman who just sort of came out of nowhere and landed on the world stage.

CORNISH: So aside from the athletes on the podium, who were the standouts?

GLINTON: Well, there is another Russian, Yulia Lipnitskaya, who sort of surprised everybody by coming on during the team event. And it was a preview and it was an amazing performance. At 15, people thought, like, this girl has a chance to win gold. It turns out that she sort of stumbled during the short program and then she came back gloriously. Mao Asada from Japan had a gold medal performance also. She was sort of shortlisted to be in the top three and she came in 16th yesterday. But her performance was so great today that she was really in striking distance of gold. It was a lot of gold medal performances this evening. And if you don't know a lot about figure skating, this is the program to watch.

CORNISH: And there was so much buzz about the U.S. team going into the Olympics. But how did they do?

GLINTON: They did respectably, nothing unbelievable. Gracie Gold came in fourth, Ashley Wagner came in seventh, and Polina Edmunds came in ninth. Polina Edmunds is our 15-year-old phenom and she's probably one of the toughest competitors I've seen or heard. She can talk trash with the best linebackers in the NFL. They were never thought to be medal contenders but they all sort of had the performances they needed or career performances and season performances. It was a good showing, a respectable showing, but they got outskated by Korea and Russia.

CORNISH: One more thing, Sonari. Obviously, figure skating is a big deal during the Olympics. But here in the U.S., it's seen a decline in popularity. I mean, are there any new signs of life in this crop of athletes?

GLINTON: Yes. Ashley Wagner has a lovely and expressive face, and she's become a meme in and of herself. Jason Brown who skated with the men is one of the few YouTube stars in the figure skating world. But when you talk to the athletes, they want to broaden the sport. I mean, tonight they skated to "Bolero" and "West Side Story" and "Phantom of the Opera" and "Yentl." And you get the feeling that the sport might be a little broadened if maybe they skated to Beyonce.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Sonari Glinton in Sochi. Sonari, thanks so much.

GLINTON: It's great to be with you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sonari Glinton is a NPR Business Desk Correspondent based at our NPR West bureau. He covers the auto industry, consumer goods, and consumer behavior, as well as marketing and advertising for NPR and Planet Money.