Russian skating star Alina Zagitova’s record-breaking 82.92-point display in the ladies’ short program was met with widespread acclaim on Wednesday, thawing the frosty media reception she received in recent days.
The 15-year old became the first skater in history to break the 82-point barrier in the event with an elegant showing on the ice, which included a deft execution of her signature Lutz-triple loop combination, itself meriting 45.30 points.
In doing so, Zagitova broke a world record set just five minutes earlier by teammate and two-time world champion Elena Medvedeva. However, the teenager reacted with innocent ignorance upon learning about her world-beating feat.
“I’m pleased with my skating today, and with the score. I’m overwhelmed with emotion. Did I set a world record? I didn’t know, but I’m happy,”Zagitova told reporters in PyeongChang, TASS reported.
Skating fans were in rapture at Zagitova’s performance. Previous gold medalists, experts, journalists and fans were quick to heap praise on her performance.
Men’s singles figure skating double gold medalist Dick Button led the commendations, tweeting: “Zagitova Artistry, Technique, Theatre, strength, and every element one want to see in skating!”
Zagitova Artistry, Technique, Theatre, strength, and every element one want to see in skating !
— Dick Button (@PushDicksButton) February 21, 2018
Zagitova absolutely SLAYED ME. The pure drama made my hair stand on end. Haven’t seen fearless attack like that in a long time. Watch out Evgenia, I really think this is Alina’s gold to lose! We’re in for a truly epic battle of the Russian kweens.
— Chris Schleicher (@cschleichsrun) February 21, 2018
Zagitova was solid. Her loop combos can not be touched! I will always bow down to that lutz loop.
— Jeremy Abbott (@jeremyabbottpcf) February 21, 2018
evgenia medvedeva just broke her own record for highest short program score, and then 5 minutes later alina zagitova destroys it .
— lexy (@selftitledjh) February 21, 2018
However, the performance wasn’t without its detractors. Zagitova had come under fire from some sections of the US media upon first seeing her routine, which features all of her jumps in the second half of her performance. This was described as ‘unfair,’ despite being perfectly within the rules.
Previously, US figure skater Ashley Wagner, who failed to make the US Olympic team, said that Zagitova’s free-skate routine was “not a program;” while American author and USA Today columnist Christine Brennan suggested the skater should be penalized for her “composition of the program” in a piece that attacked her “strategic” routine.
Brennen even had time to take and tweet pictures of celebrating Russian fans waving their national tricolor in the Gangneung Ice Arena.
Texting with US Olympic judge Joe Inman. He would have had it Med, Osmond and Zag in that order because of balance of Osmond’s program, her speed and her interpretation of music’s details.
— Christine Brennan (@cbrennansports) February 21, 2018
Sochi team bronze medalist Wagner begrudgingly awarded the youngster modest praise, before cryptically announcing that she would not live-tweet the ladies’ event because “it doesn’t feel quite right.”
“Some phenomenal skates with the ladies today! [Canadian skater] Kaetlyn Osmond was the shining star of this event for me! Also a very impressive start for Zagitova, we will see what happens in the long…”
Some phenomenal skates with the ladies today! @kaetlyn_23 was the shining star of this event for me! Also a very impressive start for Zagitova, we will see what happens in the long…
— Ashley Wagner (@AshWagner2010) February 21, 2018
The winner of the women’s figure skating event will be crowned on Friday, after the ladies demonstrate their free programs. So far, the first two places are occupied by the two Russians, who are competing under the name of Olympic Athletes from Russia (OAR). Canada’s Kaetlyn Osmond currently sits in third place, more than four points behind Zagitova.