by Emmeline MOORE
Skating star Julia Lipnitskaia said she was sad for disappointing home fans as Russia turned their focus for a first Olympic women’s figure skating gold to fellow teen Adelina Sotnikova.
The crowd had been looking to Lipnitskaia, winner of the team gold, to lift spirits hours after Russia crashed out of the ice hockey tournament in a pitiful quarter-final display which prompted jeers.
But a fall left the 15-year-old sitting fifth behind South Korea’s Kim Yu-Na, with another Russian teen 17-year-old Sotnikova, surprising by taking second spot in the short programme on Wednesday night.
“We might win gold, but just not with Lipnitskaia,” headlined the Sport Express.
“Lipnitskaia fell on her triple flip, a normally safe jump at the end of the programme.
And in the hall, amid all the Russians’ flags, the hearts broke of the fans,” it read.
Cheers of “Julia, Julia” had rang around the 17,000-capacity packed Iceberg Skating Palace as Lipnitskaia took to the ice for her 2min 40sec short programme “You Don’t Give Up On Love” which had enchanted during the team event.
She glided around the ice confidently opening with a triple lutz-triple toeloop combination which she followed with a double axel.
But as cheers got louder with each element nailed, the pressure mounted and the tiny teen came unstuck on her final triple flip jump.
She picked herself up and finished off her programme, sadly gliding off the rink, despite the hail of flowers pouring down.
“I feel sad,” said the shell-shocked Lipnitskaia, looking childlike and mystified as she was comforted by her coach Eteri Tutberidze in the kiss-and-cry.
“On the ice it was very hot.
I am not seeking excuses but it was hard to breathe.
“I don’t know what happened.
My preparation was all fine.
I wasn’t nervous.
I didn’t feel too much pressure.
The crowd helped me.”
She added: “I can still fight for a medal tomorrow.”
Her coach insisted that high expectations and skating in both the short and long programmes of the team event had not been too much.
“She’s an athlete, not a child,” said Tutberidze.
“It was a technical mistake, she came too close to the boards.
“It was a good try.
She got up and finished the programme very well.”
Lipnitskaia is sitting fifth with 65.23 points, nearly ten points behind defending champion Kim, 74.92.
Less than a point separates the top three skaters with Sotnikova on 74.64 and Italy’s Carolina Kostner third with 74.12.
America’s Gracie Gold is in fourth on 68.63.
“Now I realise Russian support really is the best,” said Sotnikova, overlooked for the team event, who jumped up and down in delight after a clean skate.
She scored high technically for her skate to “Carmen” although her triple-triple toeloop combination jump was less difficult than Kim’s triple lutz-triple toeloop.
“If you really want to achieve something you will achieve it,” said Sotnikova, runner-up to Lipnitskaia at the Europeans.
“The competition was incredible, stepping out on to the ice here was a pleasure,” said Sotnikova, who won her third national title on the Sochi ice in December.
“I have competed in Russia a lot but to perform at the Olympics in Sochi is just something else – it is an incredible moment.” – Sapa-AFP