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WRAP: Figure Skating at its finest

24 February 2014

FIGURE SKATING: After the disappointment of missing out on the Vancouver Games, the bubbly duo of Danielle O’Brien and Greg Merriman finally made their Olympic debut and reached all their goals in competition.

The pair came to Sochi with the goal of reaching the free skate, and did so with flying colours, finishing their short program with a season’s best score of 52.68.

"It's just the icing on the cake of 15 years of dreaming, hoping, waiting and wondering what it would be like. It's all of those things put together,” O’Brien said. “It's the best experience ever."

“To be out there in the rink and know the weight there is on being at an Olympics was amazing,” Merriman added. “We wanted to put it all out there, show people how much work we have done. It was important for us to take it in as much as possible, it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

Meryl Davis and Charlie White won the first Olympic ice dance gold medal for the USA, taking out the event with an overall score with 195.52 points. The score pushed them ahead of the 2010 Olympic champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir of Canada who took silver on 190.99 points. The young Russian couple of Elena Ilinykh and Nikita Katsalapov danced to the bronze with 183.48 points.

O’Brien and Merriman’s childhood friend, Brendan Kerry, also made his Olympic debut competing in the men’s individual event. Kerry gave a spirited performance but was disappointed to make some costly errors early in his piece, ending his short program below his best on 47.12.

“Practice [for me] has been terrible since getting here,” Kerry explained about his issues adjusting to the Olympic environment. “I have been distracted by the cameras and all the people and I wasn’t focusing on what I was doing.

“I felt really stressed until I got out onto the ice and then I actually felt really comfy,” Kerry said. “But just when I was skating around I kept thinking in my head ‘I’m going to miss this first jump’ and it just kept going that way.”

Despite being disappointed with his performance, Kerry is only young and will take a lot from the experience with him into future competitions and future Olympics. At just 19, Kerry’s talent as a skater is unquestionable, but he has identified that his focus and mental strength is something he will need to work on.

Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu took home the gold medal after setting a record score of 101.45 points in the short program, the first man to crack 100 points. Patrick Chan of Canada finished second to earn the silver medal, while Denis Ten of Kazakhstan surged from ninth place after the short to pick up the bronze.

Holding up to the pressure of the occasion was 18-year-old Brooklee Han in the ladies’ individual event. Han stumbled early in her short program but recovered to finish 22nd and secure a spot in the free program. Han executed a solid free program earning 94.52 for a total score of 143.84. The strong score saw her climb the final rankings two places to finish 20th.

“I definitely feel like this has been a very special experience,” the 18-year-old said. “Representing Australia at the Olympic Games is something that I have wanted to do since I was very little so finally being able to actualise that dream and skate is incredible.”

It was a dramatic fight for the podium, with the gold eventually going to Russia’s Adelina Sotnikova. The 17-year-old put together a strong technical program which saw her gain a huge personal best of 149.95. Defending gold medallist Yuna Kim was faced with the tough task of beating Sotnikova on her home turf. The Korean put together a flawless routine but it was technically inferior to her Russian rival, and she was left with the silver medal. Italian veteran Carolina Kostner took home the bronze.

Russia dominated the pairs event, taking gold and silver with Germany taking the bronze.

There was also a new event at the Games, the Figure Skating Team Event. Team Russia skated to victory in the inaugural event, giving Russia its first gold medal at the Sochi 2014 Games. With strong performances in every phase of the competition, the Russians, led by 2006 Olympic champion Evgeni Plushenko scored a total of 75 points. Team Canada took silver, trailing the champions by 10 points, and team USA earned the bronze.

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